Interviewed by Matthew Totsky
Photography by Brett Mountain
Meet Birmingham resident and radio personality Shannon Murphy. Since 2009, listeners in the Detroit area have enjoyed her talents on WKQI 95.5’s “Mojo in the Morning” show.
“When I was in college at Butler University in Indianapolis, I never had any aspirations about going into radio,” she says. “One summer, I did an internship at 93.1 WDRQ here in Detroit and loved it.
“My ‘big break’ — so to speak — was during a presentation I was giving at RadioNOW 93.1 in Indianapolis. After I finished, the program director at the station said he liked my voice. He asked if I wanted to be on the air, threw me a pair of headphones and told me I had two weeks to figure out what I was doing. I gave it a shot and haven’t looked back. I was simply in the right place at the right time.”
How did you feel about jumping right into radio without any formal training? It felt natural to me. When I was young, I always enjoyed the theater and performing. I probably appeared on every community stage in the Downriver area. Two of my favorite roles were the lead in The Diary of Anne Frank and playing Martha Cratchit in a production of A Christmas Carol at Meadowbrook. I still love acting, but never get the chance to do it any more.
When I started in Indianapolis, I worked on weekends and joined the night show from time to time. I ended up staying in Indy for two and a half years before our entire show was moved to Atlanta. I moved back to Detroit in 2009 when I got a phone call from Mojo that asked: “Are you ready to come home?”
What is your favorite on-the-job experience? You’d think it would be the celebrity interviews because I’ve always been obsessed with pop culture. It started as a boy band obsession with groups like Hanson, NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, and continues to this day with bands like One Direction.
But the celebrity interviews don’t really phase me. They’re just normal people; most of them are very guarded. They rarely give out any personal information. My favorite celebrities to talk to are the ones who come to the studio and hang out. Diddy was great because he stayed for our entire show. He brought food and was making drinks. It was like chilling out with a friend. Kevin Hart was another cool one. He dropped by the studio and still calls in all the time.
What I enjoy most about my job are the interactions with the listeners and the different people who call in because they’re far more interesting than the celebrities we interview. They’re always so open to sharing and have so much pride in the city. Our listeners are always more interested in what’s going on locally. I’m laughing when I say this, but it’s true: The gossip from the local hair salon provides great content for our show!
Do you feel that local aspect is unique to the Detroit radio scene? I do. The Detroit market is so much different than bigger markets like New York or Los Angeles. Our listeners want to talk about what’s going on locally, and that’s very interesting to me.
What are you passionate about outside of the radio studio? I love staying active in the community. I’m on the school board of the Covenant House Academies in Detroit. It’s three high schools that educate the homeless, the neglected and high-school dropouts until they’re 22 years old. It’s an incredible place. One of our schools actually serves as a shelter for homeless teens as well, so they can get their high-school diploma and have a place to live and thrive.
I also head up our show’s Time Team Detroit Organization that allows listeners to give back to the city by donating their time. We have an event every month, such as playing Miracle League baseball games with disabled children, spring cleaning and serving food to the homeless at COTS and creating a neighborhood gathering space for the HUDA Clinic in Detroit.
Another organization I work with is FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). I have several food allergies myself so this is a personal one for me.
What are some of your favorite things to do around town? Despite my long list of food allergies, I’m a total foodie. If there’s a new restaurant opening up in the area, my husband and I will be there. Selden Standard in Detroit is one of my favorite spots — their squid ink pasta is something I dream about! You can also find me at Commonwealth in Birmingham every Saturday morning, chasing around my 2-year-old daughter, Lucy.
What is one thing people don’t know about you? I never learned how to swim until I was an adult, which is strange because I grew up on Grosse Ile. I finally took the plunge — literally — when I met my husband. He and his brother own a chain of swim schools for kids called Goldfish Swim Schools, so there was just a little bit of pressure for me to learn how to do it! NS