'It's our job to try things out': Greg James says Radio 1 Breakfast Show is there for artists

'It's our job to try things out': Greg James says Radio 1 Breakfast Show is there for artists

Greg James’ Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 1 can help artists like no other radio programme, the presenter has told Music Week.

James stars on the cover of our new issue alongside Radio 1, 1Xtra and Asian Network controller Ben Cooper to celebrate his one year anniversary in the job, not to mention their Music Week Awards triumph earlier this year.

The pair invited us into James’ studio, where they let us in on how and why they’ve “been able to do great things” with the station together.

James’ Breakfast Show, which debuted last summer after he swapped slots with Nick Grimshaw, and quickly became notorious for skits and in-jokes.

But James stressed just how he and his team are serving the artists they love, with new music a priority.

“The job of Radio 1 and the BBC is trying things out, to say, ‘You like this thing that’s already popular, you also might like Dave, for example,’” James said.

The whole point is to introduce people to things

Greg James

Dave has been one of my favourite guests. He was a bit like, ‘Am I welcome on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show?’ He doesn’t do many interviews. It was the week he went to No.1. We did some stuff with some callers and had a good chat about his album. That’s one of the moments I’m most proud of.”

James reflected on “introducing an artist who’s fairly new, to a mainstream breakfast audience”.

“They might have heard the name and not known anything about him. ‘Oh he’s a rapper called Dave,’” the DJ continued. “Suddenly we were getting texts going, ‘I really like Dave’, ‘Dave’s really funny, what a good bloke.’”

James said Radio 1 can “take those opportunities that you wouldn’t normally hear on the Capital breakfast show” and added, “Sometimes Radio 1 is quietly responsible for an artist, sometimes it’s prominently so. Either way is great. The whole point is just to introduce people to things.”

James is proud that he’s succeeded in shining a light on acts such as Dave and BRITs Critics’ Choice winner Sam Fender on a mainstream show. His slot is the station’s most popular, with 5.69 million listeners, according to the latest RAJAR figures.

“It was important to get the tone right and then work out the moments we’re going to champion something a bit different or new,” he revealed. “The attitude for guests was to add something you wouldn’t get an artist in to do a straight interview. It really breaks personality out, and that’s what really connects an audience.”

James said audiences “want to hear Mumford & Sons pissing around” and said Lewis Capaldi’s success is down to the fact that “people like him as a person and they also like his music”.

“We’ve made sure every guest comes onto the show on our terms, in a nice way,” he said. “They get more out of it, we’ll enjoy it more and the listeners get to see a different side. As long as we have a reason to get behind an artist we go for it.”

James spoke confidently about the future of the station he’s served since joining after university.

“The narrative should always be, ‘Let’s fucking do this,” he said. “Radio is still very important, you know how it can change your day. Our Breakfast Show is very confident, we know what we’re doing and hopefully it continues to work. You can really change things by talking about them positively and we have done.” 

Subscribers can click here to read the full interview with James and Cooper. To subscribe and never miss a music biz story, click here.

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