Thank you to my sister blog Kreyolicious for conducting this interview of my colleague and friend Chris Jacques. I am such a big fan of this man’s work ethics, drive and ambition. I am very proud to be associated with such a prominent Haitian American who is so self-aware and definitely making a name for himself as a veejay, promoter and business man.
Chris Jacques is a force to be reckoned with in the world of radio. Jacques is the co-host of “The Bridge” which airs every Friday from 6-8p.m on 980 AM. The show is based in Boca Raton, Florida, and its title refers to the point where Haitian culture meets the American. His mic partner for that show is his father Leslie Jacques, who hosts Creole-language shows on that same station.
Chris Jacques doesn’t just read the news to his listeners, he offers analysis to his listeners, as well as his own take on current events. Jacques doesn’t stop there; he is also a promoter of events, holding Kiss and Tell, a monthly meet-greet-dance-and-party show that he’s conceptualized. He is very much attuned to what is going on in the Haitian-American community, and uses his knowledge of that demographic to formulate radio segments that speaks to them, and dance parties that will draw them. He is also involved with The Wall Street Group, a consortium of other go-getters.
Q & A
Why don’t we start off with you telling us about yourself?
Where do I begin? I was born in Massachusetts, moved to Florida at age ten, son of one of the most prominent voices in the Haitian community, and I’ve been known to be a bit eccentric. In a good way of course.
So you’ve been doing radio since you were 13?
Yes I have been under my father’s tutelage since 13, I began helping around the office, running what little tasks and errands I could. I even spoke on the air for a show called kids corner, we discussed life lessons and educational concepts. I graduated and went away to Virginia where I later got my degree in broadcasting and have been on the air since.
What goes into preparing for a show?
It all depends. For “The Bridge”, being current is an absolute must. I run a news program daily on 980 AM, so I am consistently tuned into all the events happening around the world. Before every show, it is important to brush up on your facts. We like to practice balanced broadcasting on our network so I usually find most of the major objections to whatever point I want to convey that way I wont be too surprised when we open up the phone lines during our live shows. If I have guests, I make sure to brief them and have them be aware of what to expect. Lastly, I make sure that before I open the mic I am in a relaxed state of mind and that my thoughts are clear and concise.
Now in addition to being a radio host, you have another venture called The Wall Street Group. Wall Street Group is a collection of like-minded movers and shakers in the Haitian American community. Our goal and mission is help change the perspective of what it means to be Haitian American to the rest of the world, while providing high quality inclusive events that all walks of life can enjoy and leave with a deeper appreciation for our rich Haitian Culture. Our first venture into this has been our super successful event Kiss and Tell. We decided to fuse everything great about the South Beach American club scene with the beauty and exotic nature of Kompa and Zouk. This formula has taken a life of its own and people from all backgrounds look forward to experiencing our unique event every single month. In the future we plan on doing many more diverse events and we are not a company that exclusively caters to the Haitian Community we just made sure to give them first priority.
Do you think that with the competition from the Internet, video games, online streaming, and television, radio has a chance?
Absolutely, radio is unique in a sense because audio imagery is still it’s own art form. Internet, video games, and streaming won’t hinder radio because radio can still implement itself into these various platforms. Right now 980 AM is live streamed every day on our website. All you have to do is click RHAI TV and you can watch and hear our programming. It also saves shows that have already occurred so people can view their favorite programming no matter what time they have available. Instead of competition we view these platforms as innovation that will only maximize our listenership.
What have you come to realize about the radio business that would be a big surprise to some? Who will really support you and who wont. The radio business has tremendous value when it comes to marketing. Especially 980 AM, we provide many sponsors with the opportunity to really explain their products or services at a very competitive price. Yet somehow most people are still in search of a hand out. It’s very strange. When a person goes to the barber and gets their haircut they never leave the chair saying can I get this for free. Yet in radio, people have a tendency of wanting to promote their business to 1.6 million listeners they otherwise could not project to and want to do so without paying a dime. Believe me making money in the radio is not easy unless you have an iron fist. This was a surprise to me because I never knew how the money was made, but since I do now I have a much deeper respect for my father’s work ethic.
Obviously your father was an influence. But who else has inspired your “radio voice”?
Mark MacCrazy former program director for X102.3. He was an instructor of mine and he was the pinnacle of professionalism. The man inspired me in so many ways, one of which was to thoroughly enjoy what you do. We are given a platform to express our thoughts and opinions to millions every day. There is a great responsibility in that, but it can also be a tremendous amount of fun. He has a very distinct and unique voice and is very light on his feet and witty. He showed me a lot in a very short period of time.
You are also a promoter.
Well like I mentioned before Kiss and Tell has become a phenomenon. When I tell people about it becomes second nature for me to go into great detail, like a parent would do for their only child. I will basically tell you what Kiss and Tell means and the rest you would have to come and experience for yourself. Kiss: The kiss stands for the warm embrace that you discover when entering our one of a kind ambiance. From the lavish fusion, to the upscale décor and dress code, even down to the reception you will receive from Team Wallstreet. This event is sure to leave you in a sense of euphoria. Tell: After an experience like that it will be hard for you to keep quiet. Our goal is to provide you such an enjoyable experience that you will go out and tell the world about what you saw. Hence making you Kiss and Tell.
When was the last time you went to Haiti?
The last time I visited Haiti was when I was thirteen years old. I spent six months there. I will never forget that trip and will definitely be returning soon.
What’s your favorite Haitian dish?
Diri a djonjon avèk poul.
What’s the best thing about being Haitian?
Having a rich and powerful heritage. Haitian culture is very vast. There is so much to learn, so much life, so much history. It is great to be bilingual and we have a strong sense of pride. These are just a few great things about being Haitian.
Let’s discuss Haitian music a little. What do you think Haitian musicians can do to bring the konpa genre to bigger audiences?
Integrate more of the methods used by other genres. We have a tendency of sticking to old bad habits. Also becoming more consistent and producing material more frequently. Some artists wait three or four years to come out with new material, this is unacceptable if they want to attain a broader crowd.
What do you have planned next?
So many things, the station is on the verge of producing a ground breaking never-been-done-before event. Wallstreet group will be launching its newest event and venture and it will surely make a huge buzz in the community. Also plan to see new forays into fashion and design soon.
Why do you think your shows on 980 resonate so much with audiences?
Because I speak from the heart every time I hold a mic. My family has been blessed to have the ability to convey our thoughts eloquently and with conviction that can be felt. I try to use that as much as possible so people can really have a sense of comfort when listening to me. I want people to feel like they really know me, even if they don’t.
You can listen to Chris on the Bridge Tonight and Every Friday night from 6-8pm. You can also watch and live chat by just going to www.whsrradio.com and clicking RHAI-TV when it’s show time.