Jackie Morales has been one of the strongest female presences in the Valley radio scene, having worked her way up from promotions to her current position as mid-day DJ for LIVE 101.5-FM. While you can listen to her promote the latest in music news during the day, she’s also active in both community efforts for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona, as well as a regular nightlife host at places such as Flicka’s in Scottsdale. Read on for how the 34-year-old Phoenix resident, who you can hear Monday’s through Friday’s and every other Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on 101.5-FM, became one of the Valley’s veteran DJ’s, as well as five reasons why she loves living in the Valley.
What brought you to Arizona?
I was born and raised in Douglas, Arizona, about 4 hours away. It’s a really small town. I went to Douglas High School and took classes at South Mountain (Community College), and after that, I went to the Academy of Radio and TV.
When did you first want to become a DJ?
It didn’t really hit me until I was 24. I was just listening to the radio, and I heard a commercial saying, ‘Hey, did you ever want to work on radio?’ With my personality and me growing up in a family of musicians, I’ve always had love for music, so I was like, ‘Hey, I can do that.’ So, I went to the Academy for a few months, and I fell in love with it.
Who in your family are musicians?
My dad, my uncles, my brother and my sister. My dad and uncles had a band that were all brothers, and they were the band in Douglas. Everybody knew who they were — they were called El Paisano. Maybe twice or three times a week, we’d go to my great-grandma’s house where they’d practice, so it was always around. That’s pretty much what kicked it off, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life.
After you graduated the Academy of Radio and TV, what were your next steps?
I stayed home with my son for awhile, but nothing stuck out to me, so I was kind of waiting a little bit. I think it was faith I heard that commercial because it just caught my attention. I was like, ‘This is what I want to do,’ and it just took off after I finished with the Academy. I’ve been doing it now going on my 10th year.
What has your career path been like?
My first job was with Mega 104.3. I started in promotions for 2 years, and I started learning how to run the board at night, then I was on at night from like midnight until 2 a.m., and then I started getting better where they had me on for the weekends and for the full-time jocks, filling in. Before I knew it, 2 years later, they gave me my own night show, but that only lasted for like 5 months because someone called me right after that and said, ‘We want to hire you for this station.’ I went from late nights to mid-days at 95.1 Latino Vibe, and I did that for 2 years. JamZ called me after that. They were brand-new and didn’t have a mid-day person yet, so they called me, and I was very interested. I was here for a short time, for about a year, and they had this huge lay-off, and I happened to be one of the people they laid off. I called a good friend of mine, and he got me into Power. I worked there for 2 years, and JamZ had called me back a couple times, and I was like, ‘No, I can’t do it. I want to stay here,’ but the third time they called me, I came back, and now I’m doing mid-days again. I was first here in 2007. I’m really happy, I’m content here. This is where I wanted to be to begin with, and I never wanted to leave, it was just so crazy how it happened, but I’m blessed to be back here.
101.5 integrates Spanish language into its radio sweepers and promotions. How do you feel about that?
It’s a really cool thing they did that because they recognize how huge the Latino population has grown here and continues to grow. We’re trying to reach out to everyone, and we’re not trying to single anyone out, which is important because the Latin community feels recognized.
What’s community organizations are you involved in?
I try to be as involved as possible with the Kidney Foundation. My dad has kidney failure, and he’s already had two kidney transplants, so I try to do as many events with them as possible. I also want to do a tour around Phoenix and do educational motivational speaking — I have a project in the works for that to tell kids how important education is and to dream big because you can be whatever you want. I want to have everything ready to go with that before the end of this year.
What’s your involvement with the nightlife scene?
I have a Thursday night I’ve been hosting for about the past 2 months at Flicka’s in Scottsdale called Such Is Life Thursday’s. It’s a real kick-back, chill night. We have pool, poker, beer pong, video mixing. They have the bombast dollar tacos there, and the drink specials are awesome. They have $3 Red Bull/vodkas.
How would you characterize radio in the Valley?
Right now, I think the most popular format is pop music. Personally, I’d like to hear more underground hip-hop because you don’t hear much of that here.
What one song would you play for your listeners if you could?
Right now, I’d be playing a lot of Miguel. “Adorn” would probably be the number one song right now.
Is there any artist 101.5 plays that you just can’t stand?
Psy. We were in a meeting, and I said, ‘When can we stop playing ‘Gangnam Style’?” I’d have people calling in and saying, ‘Can you please not play this anymore?’ and I was like, ‘Thank you!’ That’s one that I didn’t care too much for.
Are there any artists in the rotation that you really like?
I really like Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Ellie Goulding and, of course, Miguel, since we just added that.
What are your strengths as a DJ?
I think my strength is having a relationship with my listeners, because that’s always been important to me. A lot of people are more interested in the famous people I’ve met, but honestly, I love, more than anything, my listeners. I really want to build a relationship with them, and I want them to know I’m just like them. They’re listening to me, so I want to know who they are, what they like to listen to, how I can reach out to them and make sure they’re having a good day. That’s what I focus on. When I come in, I just want to make sure that I make people feel good.
How do you get through rough mornings and still sound perky?
I could be sitting back here and have a real crappy morning, but it’s so crazy because it changes as soon as I turn the mike on. This burst of energy comes through me, and I don’t want to have bad or negative energy over the air, so I change really quickly. I put my headphones on, I turn the mike on, and I’m just this totally happy, different person. It’s one of the hardest thing to do as a DJ because everyone has bad days. Everybody has something going on in their lives, but I think about the people that are listening. I always get phone calls where people say, ‘I can always hear your smile when you’re talking,’ or, ‘You’re always so happy,’ and that’s what keeps me going, too, and I want to pass on that positive energy to them.
What makes a good DJ in general?
You have to be able to balance a lot and get creative with your show. You can get a phone call that came through and make it sound completely different on the air. It takes a lot of talent and personality to be able to do it quickly. It’s important to be able to relate to the listeners and be able to multitask. Be in tune with what’s going on celebrity-wise and with concerts and events that are coming through. Being able to balance all that and be involved in the community, as well. There’s a lot to it.
What kind of challenges do female DJ’s in particular experience?
There are politics in every place you work, but in radio, I think it’s hard because a female’s voice in radio can sometimes not be heard. My advice would be to stay strong, to continue to follow your voice in radio and just be prepared to have that tight skin because radio is hard. You can’t let it get you down, because there’s going to be a lot of bumps in the road where you feel like giving up. You just need to stay strong and know you’ve got to work hard and keep pushing to where you want to be. Don’t let anybody try to push you down, because it’s competitive to be in radio. You just have to have that strong mentality that you can do it and stay in it and make your dreams come true.
What are your predictions for the radio industry?
I think that it’s always going to be good. There’s a lot of people that listen to radio at work or while driving around. It can be tough because a lot of people have mp3′s, but I think radio will always be important, especially because everyone wants to know what’s going on in the world.
Do you have any crazy stories from being in the industry?
When I first started, I used to get a lot of gifts. A lot of people would come and bring me earrings, flowers, food — back then it was just crazy. It was different because when I first started, I thought that was normal. I was like, ‘Oh, these are the perks of being in radio. Your listeners love you so much, they bring you stuff.’ I used to work with Ruben S. at Latino Vibe, and whenever I would receive flowers and stuff, he’d just be like, ‘You know what, Jackie, as long as I’ve worked in radio, and I’ve worked in radio a long time, I’ve never seen this before.’ If listeners call or message me that I’ve made their day, those are the perks I look forward to.
What are your goals with radio?
There are times when I’m like, ‘I can’t do radio forever,’ but when I’m away from it, I miss it. It’s so crazy. I could be away for 2 or 3 days, and it’s just something that you need. I have to be there. I want to be in radio as long as I possibly can be in radio, but I’m open to other opportunities. I would like to do TV and definitely go back to school for journalism.
What advice do you have for people who want to break into the radio industry?
In the beginning, no matter what, it’s hard. If your dream is to be on the radio and be a DJ, you have to start from the bottom and work your way up, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You have to experience that. There’s going to be a lot of paying dues, and you have to be really strong because it can be a battle to get where you want to be. It’s a lot of dedication. You have to hustle to be where you’re at. It’s hard work, but it pays off, and it’s so worth it.
What do you do for fun in the Valley?
When I have time off, I like going out for a nice dinner. I love food, so I love going to Si Senor in Chandler or The Salt Cellar. Just recently, as long as I’ve been here, I had Joe’s Crab Shack and fell in love, so that’s my favorite spot right now.
Who is the coolest person you’ve met while in the radio industry?
There are some artists who come through, and I’m really nervous to meet them. And some artists come through and are just really full of themselves. One I did meet that stuck out a lot is Mike Epps. He’s just so awesome, so down-to-earth, made you feel comfortable, so funny. He’s amazing, and Larry Fitzgerald was super-humble and nice.
Is there anyone you’d like to meet?
I’d like to meet Justin Bieber. I’ve talked to him on the phone, and he was just so cool and so humble. I asked him, ‘How does it feel to be compared to Michael Jackson? He’s such a huge icon.’ He was flattered and said he couldn’t believe it because Michael’s one of his favorite artists, too. He just said, ‘I hope I can do the best that I can to be that big.’