Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for brevity.
Like so many of us, FM radio mainstay Jimmy Fink’s been working from home since mid-March when the pandemic walloped New York.
The Westchester resident and DJ on The Peak who’s been part of New York’s rock radio scene since his days with WPLJ spoke with River Journal about how, amidst the ravages of COVID-19, he maintains a tight connection with his family and listeners.
Question: How has working from your home studio changed your approach to putting the show together?
Jimmy Fink: Technologically speaking it’s a little more tedious because you have to log into a server that’s in another location. All of the music at The Peak was always on a hard drive – it’s just an issue of accessing it. During Tropical Storm Isaias, I had electricity but had no cable or internet for a week. I used my phone as a hotspot and got my show on the air.
Q: Many of your listeners are at home instead of in their cars or in the workplace. How have you adjusted?
JF: It really hasn’t affected the music mix but there’s a stronger connection between the listeners and the personalities on the station. There’s more people listening than before, more people looking for something special and that’s why we do things like the 10@10 and the After Six section of my program. There are so many ways that people can listen to music now – whether it’s iTunes or Pandora or satellite radio – and the fact that they’ve chosen a local radio station is very humbling and flattering.
Q: What are listeners looking for that’s different?
JF: There’s a lot of desire from people whose lifestyle was wrapped up with going to live shows. And they’re not able to do that right now. Over the course of the past 16 years we had the Peak Performances series – more than 100 artists came and played live at the radio station. So we’ve stuck in these Peak Performance pop-ups – a song that was recorded at one of those performances – a couple of times a day.
And as part of The Homestretch at 5 p.m. every Thursday I do a Peak Performance Playback, a couple of songs from that series. What we try to do is create certain times of the day that are destination radio – even though they’re not leaving work and in their cars between 5 and 6.
Q: You’ve been on the air during some difficult times including after John Lennon’s death. As a familiar voice for listeners tuning in for respite, have you gotten more personal?
JF: Definitely. One thing I try to do is to talk about things that have happened to me, because at the same time I know they’re also happening to other people, rather than always just talk about the music. I like to throw in some personal things, such as what it’s like to be eating outside at a local restaurant underneath one of those heaters when it’s 35 degrees.
For me to say, “That was Bruce Springsteen and that track was on the ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ album,” everybody knows that. But if I say, “I was listening to ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ and it was a great soundtrack while I was driving up The Hutch …”
Q: You’re a lifelong Westchester resident who graduated from Eastchester High School and married his high school sweetheart, so obviously you have deep local roots. What are some of the things you love most about living here?
JF: My house is alongside one of the fairways of Saxon Woods golf course. In the summer I can’t see it because of the leaves on the trees, but in the winter I like to walk out on the course.
I like to walk along the trails alongside the Bronx River Parkway, walk up one side of the Kensico Dam and down the other. I love going to where Playland is, not the amusement park itself but the park starting where Rye Beach is, to walk the boardwalk and out to the dock. And I just discovered how beautiful Tarrytown is along the Hudson where there’s another walkway.
Q: Your 10@10 daily feature (“10 great songs from one great year” wrapped around sound bites from the news, movies and TV) is so much fun to listen to. What do you envision the 10@10 for 2020 will sound like, given that few will recall 2020 as “one great year”?
JF: We just got finished with the top 107 songs of the year, so the 10@10 would be drawn from that. And of course the election saturated the news.
There’s a lot of negatives surrounding COVID, with the deaths and the closing of businesses and people losing their jobs. And that’s all true. But they’ll talk about how families got back together, new businesses were created.
For example, all my kids [son Robbie, 31, and twin daughters, Lucie and Allie, both 28] came home and lived with me all summer. I was an empty nester. And they all came back. Strong family bonds were reborn because of COVID.