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Monday, April 15, 2024

Morning Masters: Getting Friendly With Bestie-winning Brian Cody and Chrissy Cavotta of WGNA

The cohosts of WGNA’s 'Brian & Chrissy in the Morning' are just as likable off the air as they are on it.

When you listen to them on the radio, Brian Cody and Chrissy Cavotta, cohosts of WGNA’s Brian & Chrissy in the Morning, seem like people you’d like to be friends with. And when you meet them in person? Let’s just say that after less than two hours together, the three of us already had an inside joke.

Brian, who was born and raised in Albany, knew he wanted to be in radio early on and got his degree from the Capital City’s New School Center for Media. He worked at a small radio station for a few months before being hired as a night host at pop station Fly 92.3 in 1993. The same year, Chrissy, a Mechanicville native with a teaching degree, accepted her first full-time radio job on Long Island. Over the next decade and a half, she’d work at radio stations in West Palm Beach, FL, Buffalo and Portland, ME, before returning home to the Capital Region to host Fly 92’s morning show in 2007. Brian was then moved from the station’s afternoon slot to co-anchor the newly minted Brian & Chrissy in the Morning.

“And the rest is history,” says Chrissy, at the exact same time Brian says, “And here we are.” (They do that—in addition to finishing each another’s sentences—a lot). After becoming Capital Region household names at Fly 92, the pair made the jump to country music station 107.7 WGNA in March 2017. But while the station they work for may have changed, their partnership has only gotten stronger. “When you grow up together—when you get older together—you go through ups and downs,” Brian says. “You start to figure out what’s really important. [We’ve become] a better team, because we don’t put as much pressure on each other. We’re just kind of like…”

“…it is what it is,” Chrissy says.

“It is what it is,” Brian echoes. “But we still come to work every day with the intention to entertain first and then inform. That has never changed.”

“A huge part of why our show works is because we are who we are on air,” Chrissy says. “We always have been. And there’s a trust there, even after switching stations.”
That trust has carried on throughout the pandemic, too. When the world was turned on its head last March, Capital Region listeners knew that every morning, day in and day out, they could tune in to 107.7 and listen to two people, whom they might’ve never met before, but could, undoubtedly, consider friends.

And now, here’s our exclusive Q&A with the stars of Brian & Chrissy in the Morning.

What were your first impressions of one another?
Chrissy: Originally, I really thought, “Oh my god, his sense of humor and my sense of humor—I feel like he’s a male version of me,” which was good because we bounced off each other so well. Like a brother I never wanted.

Brian: I remember her being somebody who was just so personable and just fun-loving. Like Chrissy’s personality off the air and on the air are very similar. That genuine sort of laugh and that genuine happiness that you hear on the radio really is her most of the time, to the point where it can be almost obnoxiously like “who is always this happy?” And it’s her.

Chrissy: Aww, thanks, Brian. I just said I don’t want a brother—that sounds so mean.

How has Brian and Chrissy in the Morning changed since you started at Fly 92.3?
Brian: I think people’s listening habits have certainly changed. When we first started, people were still purchasing compact discs. Now, there are so many other things that people are doing that have replaced listening to the radio, which we totally get. So, over the years we’ve had to be a lot tighter a lot more concise because people’s attention span is so much quicker now. I don’t think our show as a whole has changed a whole lot—I just think the way we’re expected to execute it has changed to fit people’s lifestyles and their needs.

Chrissy: On a personal level too, so much has changed in our lives and we’re very open and honest on the air. So when Brian goes through something, or I when I lost my dad, that’s all out there. People feel very comfortable with us and we feel comfortable with them, so we share a lot. Over the years, we’ve gotten more comfortable because they’ve gotten more familiar.

How did your job change with the onset of COVID?
Chrissy: That was the weirdest time for us. You don’t have commuters—our hours changed, so they put us on later to later…

Brian: …because no one was doing anything. We were on the air for the first week and we literally asked our bosses, “Is anybody listening?” There was no real way of telling, but you can tell through contesting and topics—like, when you give the number out and nobody calls, it effs you up.

Chrissy: And then you’re like, “I gotta rethink everything I’m doing—is this gonna last?”

Brian: Then we’re like, “Are we doing this the right way? Are we giving people proper information?

Chrissy: It was uncharted waters. We didn’t know anything—we’re not doctors.

Brian: Do we tell people to wear masks? Do we tell people not to wear masks? Country listeners tend to be a little bit conservative and what if they saw that as “snowflake” and “weakness” and “demo-rat” and all the things they thought we were when we came to WGNA four years ago. And we’re like, “How do we communicate with these people?” A, we don’t know if they’re there and B, we don’t know if our beliefs line up with their beliefs. So we pretty much played a lot of common sense, straight down the middle, political views, thoughts, opinions, CDC guidelines…

Chrissy: …how our parents were reacting, things like that.

Brian: We ended up getting feedback from our listeners saying, “We were there—you may not have known we were there but we were there and thank you,” which was unbelievably gratifying.

What is it like broadcasting in your hometown?
Chrissy: It has been a blessing and a curse. At one point a family member wasn’t talking to me because of something I said on the air, but that blew over. Everything’s fine. But those were the things I was worried about in the beginning. But it was a cool moment, eventually. A couple years in I was just like, “OK, I’m here for the long haul.” It’s very comfortable. It was like macaroni and cheese—comfort food.

Brian: The show’s pretty open and honest, and I think I remember Chrissy being apprehensive to dive deep into personal stuff fearing that someone would have a problem.

Chrissy: I was holding back a lot because I wasn’t sure how part of my family would react to some of the things. Now it doesn’t matter—we’re open and honest. I incorporated my mom into the show, and now everybody knows my mom. It was kind of nice. It actually melded well because Brian does a lot with his family, so it was just like, “Hey, here we are here’s our family.”

Brian: You either have to not give a s*** or have a pretty decent relationship with your family if you do the kind of show we’ve done for so long, because we expose them and we don’t ask permission 100 percent of the time. I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but I’ve had situations where I’m driving home and my sister will be like “Bri, you gotta be careful about what you say about Mom.” Because these are like emotional things that, when I look back on my childhood, I think are funny. But there are things that my family wants private that I disregarded. Those are the things you don’t think about when you’re doing a show in Long Island.

Chrissy: Exactly. Like in Buffalo, I’d just make a joke or whatever and nobody would hear it. But here, I really did have to be careful. But my family’s been great. My sister Nancy is a pediatric dentist in Latham, so I also have to be careful with that. When I mention Nancy and our childhood—we’re only 11 months apart and we’re very close—I might talk about a childhood thing that we did and then kids go to her office and they’re like, “Oh my god, Nancy, I didn’t know blah blah blah.” A couple times she’s called me and she’s like, “Chris, please…”

Brian: Like, “You can’t talk about the time Mom shoved soap down Michelle’s throat because they think It’s me, Chrissy, they think that you’re talking about me!”

Chrissy: Right, because I have another sister so when I say “my sister” I have to say “Michele” or “Nancy.” For the most part, we’ve been pretty cool with things.

What’s the biggest misconception about your job?
Chrissy: The main thing is this: “Oh, so you guys are on the air ‘til 10am and then you just go home?” That is the biggest thing people ask me. “Wow, those are really good hours!” They ask, “What time do you get up?” And I say “3:30am.” “And then you go in, you do the show and then that’s it, right?” And I’m like, “You have no idea.”

Brian: Townsquare puts a big premium on digital content, so we have to write blog posts—10 of them a week. For me that’s twice as hard as the radio job.

Chrissy: I’m not a journalist, I don’t know…

Brian: We had to learn.

Chrissy: People don’t understand the time it takes to do that side of the job. So I think the hours are the main thing that I hear.

Brian: But what about the work that we do? People think it’s fun…it is…Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not.

Chrissy: I would think that is what people probably don’t realize: Yeah, it’s fun and I love what we do, but we are on. Like you’re on—like onstage, however you want to equate it—for four and a half hours. There’s no downtime, really. It’s really mentally draining every day. We try to make it comfortable for each other, but at the end of the day…That’s why I don’t remember anything.

Brian: Sometimes when we’re in a segment and it’s going well and we’re jiving and we’re vibing and we’re doing improv but we’re also staying on course, your brain is…

Chrissy: …trying to think of the next thing.

Brian: When you’re on the radio, you catalog things, and you’re constantly searching your brain to pick that piece out that makes sense in that moment. So you file away a gazillion things in your head and you just hope in the moment it’s useful. To rifle through that catalog is very exhausting. What people need to understand is that there is a strategic science to it even though it sounds just completely spontaneous.

Chrissy: That’s a great point. And it is exhausting.

Brian: But it’s also, though, I’ll tell ya…

Chrissy: …it’s rewarding.

Brian: As exhausting as it is, it beats the heck out of having a real job.

Chrissy: My dad always said, “It beats working!”

Brian: Sure does.

What’s the most memorable moment from your time working together?
Chrissy: It would have to be Jacob Shell [a Burnt Hills Ballston Lake student who was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer in 2009]. My cousin reached out to me and he said, “There’s this 8-year-old boy who loves you guys. Can I get him a tour of the studio?” That was one of the most amazing and rewarding things that we’ve ever done. It was spontaneous, it was precious and people came out of the woodwork to help. We made it Jacob Shell Day. It was bigger than us. I felt like, “Wow, look at what we’re able to do for this little boy and his family. Wow, we have the honor to do this.” And we embraced that and I thought we knocked it out of the park. I’m still very good friends with that family and they’re doing well. He graduated from high school. We had Demi Lovato call, remember?

Brian: We turned Fly 92.3 into Jacob 92.3. It was his station all day. And there were all these surprises.

Chrissy: We did stuff for his sister, Hannah, too, because we didn’t want to leave her out.

Brian: And a very young Demi Lovato called into the station to talk to him and we didn’t know she was. So she’s like, “Hi, um, I’m Demi, here to talk to Jacob?” And I’m like, “Alright, hang on.” It turned out it was her birthday—and I love Demi Lovato now, but I didn’t know who she was 10 years ago.

Chrissy: It was her 16th birthday and she wanted to talk to Hannah who was a huge fan. So we had her on hold for, no joke, like 25 minutes. She was like, “That’s OK”—we kept checking with her—“That’s OK, I’m here for them, so whenever you guys are ready.” She was such a sweetheart. But anyway, that’s probably my happiest memory of what we were able to do. One of the funniest things are our April Fool’s Jokes. We love those. The first one was that we legalized prostitution. And then we did the dinosaur dig in Latham Circle Mall. Oh, and the census. We made people go out and write numbers on their houses—otherwise they’d be fined. It was hilarious. So much so that the census bureau came in—this is when we were at Fly—and we had to have them on the air so they could clear up some facts.

Brian: We were like, “The Census Bureau is driving around neighborhoods” and we told people where they were going to be and we said you have to…

Chrissy: …display the number of people in your home.

Brian: You have to hold up a sign that says how many people are in your home.

Chrissy: Or you can put it in your window. Or on your lawn. That was such a good one—the garbage cans…they were writing the number four.

Brian: People were spray-painting “7” on their lawn. That was fun. We would tell people “If you have any questions about the census or if you want to see if you got counted, go to such and such a website.” So the payoff would show someone holding up a sign that says April Fool’s Day or something like that. The next morning, we would always come back on and let everyone in on the joke, kind of like, “Here’s how we pulled it off.”

Chrissy: And then replay some of the outrageous ones.

What music do you listen to in your own time?
Chrissy: Silence. Just kidding. You know what lately? This is so weird. Lately, on the way in, I listen to the rock station. I love it. I love Def Leppard. I don’t know what it was, but when I was younger…I still do I love it. I don’t know why, but I get into ruts. Sometimes it’ll be 80s Go-Go’s and stuff like that. Sometimes its classic rock. It all depends on how I’m feeling.

Brian: I’m so sports obsessed that it’s rare that I’ll just listen to 30 minutes of music straight. If I’m listening to something in the car, it’s usually sports talk. But as far as music goes, I like Brothers Osborne and I like Mumford & Sons and Lumineers, a little Dave. I’ve never been anybody that clung onto a format. If I’m with my son, we love Ed Sheeran. It really depends on what I’m doing.

Chrissy: I can’t pick a genre. I really do like the country format.

Brian: Me too.

Why do you think local radio is still important?
Brian: Terrestrial, local radio will always have a place. There’s a need to feel connected and radio has the ability to do that when it’s done properly. When its live and engaging, you can really interact and connect with someone on a personal level. While I think podcasts can be very entertaining, I don’t know that they have that ability because they’re not something that’s necessarily happening in the moment, designed and tailored specifically for the people of the area. So, I guess if I were to sing the praises of local, terrestrial radio, it’s that it has the ability to reach people in that moment, in that instant, strike an emotion, make them laugh, make them feel connected.

Natalie Moore
Natalie Moore
Natalie Moore is the director of content at Capital Region Living and Saratoga Living.

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