Tommy is an up and coming Indianapolis-based DJ who recently started his own radio show on 99.5 ZPL. You can tune in on Saturday nights to check it out, or watch the Instagram livestream that he does before each show. Read on to learn how he became involved in music and radio, and what kind of music he’s listening to right now!
Julia Bluhm: Tell me about your background. How did you become interested in music?
Tommy: Music was never a part of my family, still to this day I am the only one in my whole family that has ever gotten their feet wet in the music industry. However, when I was really young, I got fascinated in the music that my dad would play, which was 80’s classic rock. I never really saw myself in the music industry until I was 15 years old. I went to my first real concert which was G-Eazy at the E room on his “These Things Happen” campaign run. While everyone was having a great time partying, I just thought to myself that I could do what he’s doing. I realized it didn’t take a superhuman to make music and reach an audience. With all of that in mind, I started creating music and took it from there.
JB: How did you become a DJ and get interested in radio?
Tommy: When I started, I was actually rapping at the time, and thankfully not a lot of people were aware of that. When I was a senior in high school, I took the music sound production class at J. Everett Light, which is like a trade school. The teacher, Mr. Hendrix, gave me an opportunity to try radio via their station at the school, which was 89.3 WJEL. Around that time, I linked up with Rambo who’s the guy that runs the Naptown Connection blog. I told him what I had and we used that platform to launch The Turnip Show. The whole idea behind the show was to shine light on local music. We hosted live interviews every week and previewed music from new artists every week. While all this was going on, I continued making music but I had also bought my first pair of turntables. I got a couple of requests to DJ sets at shows. I really didn’t know what to do though since I was still very invested in making my own music. I did some soul searching until May of 2017 when I got the opportunity to DJ for Lil Pump. It never actually happened because a bomb threat was called at the Emerson theater during one of the opening acts, but I took it as a message from God that I was meant to DJ because I would be more successful in that. The day after that show, I completely threw away making my own music to support others in the form of DJing. And once I was able to invest all of my time and work into that, I really just took off with it.
JB: Tell me about your radio show. When did it start?
T: Ever since my senior year of high school, I’ve been very interested in radio, especially with how good of a run Rambo and I had with The Turnip Show. I entered the high school radio contest for Indiana, and It was a great opportunity and I actually ended up taking third place at the contest. After high school, I didn’t have an opportunity to extend my radio career and honestly I had no idea how the radio industry worked. Fast forward to late freshman year of college, I was accepted to work in the promotions department for Entercom after applying for about 10 other radio stations. Entercom owns the brands ZPL, The Mix, and CBS Sports. This was my first choice and I’ll never forget where I was when I got the call for the job. After working on the promotions team for a few months, I worked an event with Jackson, who I later realized was the talented guy that beat me and won first place at the radio contest I competed in during high school. And through networking with him, I was able to land an on-air spot at 99.5 ZPL.
After lots of training, I started my radio show the first weekend of October. Jackson is also on Sunday nights for his all-request show, so if you’re reading this check that out too!
JB: How would you describe the overall style/ vibe of your radio show?
T: Very upbeat. The different part of my radio show which a lot of people don’t do is that I will go live on Instagram for a few minutes before the show. TV, radio and media in general is very restrictive. Going live and giving people an opportunity to see my face, ask me questions and have conversations helps me knock down the barrier between me and our listeners. At the end of the day, I’m completely fine talking to a large group of complete strangers. But, I’d like to try everything in my power to make those strangers feel close to me and for myself to be close with them.
JB: How can people listen?
T: It’s very easy. On Saturdays from 8p-Midnight, hop in your car and tune into 99.5 ZPL or download the radio.com app and look up ZPL.
JB: What’s your advice to young people who may want to be a DJ or have a music-related career?
T: Network, network, and when you think you’ve networked enough, keep networking. Aside from that, follow your dreams and pay attention to God’s cues. Do what you want to do and not what society wants you to do. Try everything.
JB: Who are your favorite musical artists right now?
T: I don’t know where to start. Certain music and certain artists have touched me in different times and life situations. I like to think of it as Lil Wayne raised me into liking hip-hop music, G-Eazy changed me into the way I look at the industry today, and Tory Lanez saved me from rough times in my life. But recently, I’ve really been rocking with Marshmello, Lauren Sanderson, and the people I work with like Cartier, Fazle, Ky, Lil Flex, XP, Christian Taelor, Aares and more.