If you tune in regularly to country radio in Rock County, you recognize “J.B. the DJ.”
From 2 to 6 p.m. each weekday, Justin Brown hits the airwaves on WJVL (99.9 FM) to entertain listeners across the latter part of their workdays.
A 1996 graduate of Three Lakes High School, Brown got his start in radio as a weekend news, sports and weather reporter at a station in Eagle River. He continued working part time while studying at Nicolet College in Rhinelander, eventually transferring to UW-Whitewater. Despite receiving full-time radio jobs from stations in Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Battle Creek, Michigan and Stevens Point, he held out for a gig at WJVL in 1999.
Brown has been recognized by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for his commercial, promo imaging and on-air work, and he was a member of the on-air team that was named the WBA’s “Station of the Year” (WWOM) while working in Madison in 2014.
Away from work, Brown kicks back with family including his wife, Mary, daughters Mallory, 12, and Abigail, 8, and the family cat, Jack.
To learn more, visit “Justin Brown Radio” on Facebook, “@justinbrown radio” on Instagram and “Justin Brown Voice Over” on YouTube.
1. You live in a house divided as a Green Bay Packers fan with a spouse who favors the Chicago Bears. How does that work? It’s always interesting in the fall, for sure, but we have fun with it. It was maybe more so (of an issue) when we were dating and before we were married with kids. We had a lot of Packers-Bears parties and would get into the games a lot. I took her to two games in Green Bay. She’s no longer allowed. The Bears won both times.
2. When did you first decide you wanted to be on the radio? I don’t know that I decided. I think radio found me, and I found radio. When I was in fourth grade, my stepmom came up with the idea of putting my AM/FM-cassette boombox next to my sister’s, with hers playing music (on tape) while mine recorded. I would mimic things I heard on the radio or even skits from “Saturday Night Live” (which I wasn’t supposed to be watching). I did a fake radio show playing “Name That Sound” or pretending to take requests and making my sister act like a caller. My dad had a recording of it for a long time, but I accidentally recorded over it during high school. I would find my way into a radio job a short six years later while still in high school.
3. You make a living by talking. Are you naturally an extrovert, or would you say you’re an introvert hiding inside an extrovert’s body? Extrovert, for sure. I’ve always been outgoing, just like my dad. He’s a talker or “people person,” and I turned into one, too. But I must say as I’ve grown older, in certain settings or situations, I can be a bit of an introvert. There’s a time for talking, and there’s a time for listening.
4. Have you ever been somewhere in public completely unrelated to your job on the air and had someone recognize you solely by your voice? It’s happened. On the phone or in person at the checkout, or even in the drive-thru. “Are you Justin Brown from the radio? I thought I recognized that voice.”
5. People would be surprised to know that I: Still own and use an Android S4 for my cell phone. I think it might be time to upgrade to an S8. Maybe I’ll get crazy and finally get an S10.
6. At the grocery store, what is the one thing that goes into your car whether you need it or not? Full disclosure: My wife does the grocery shopping. I’m really an “in and out” kind of shopper. I know exactly what I want/need, so I go in, get it and get out. That said, it’s hard to pass up those Starbucks Frappuccino coffee drinks by the register.
7. Have you ever cried over a movie? Not ashamed to say I cry during a lot of movies. Just watched “Up” the other day. The first five minutes and the end has me in tears every time.
8. George Strait or George Jones? I’ll “Check Yes” for George Strait. You can’t argue with more than 60 No. 1 songs, and they don’t call him the “King of Country” for nothing. You obviously have to respect “The Possum,” who recorded one of the greatest country songs of all time with “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
9. You’re into outdoors activities such as hunting and fishing. How did you get into those, and what do you get out of them? I started taking an interest in hunting at around 10 years old because my dad was a hunter. He hunted deer, ducks, geese and squirrels mostly. After getting my hunter safety certification, I harvested a buck my first year out. It was very special, and I’ll never forget it. Today, my time in the outdoors deer and turkey hunting (my favorite) is what I like to call my tree-stand therapy. It’s a great time to gather my thoughts, reflect and enjoy what God gave us: the great outdoors. It’s a bonus when you’re blessed with the opportunity to harvest the animal you’re seeking, but it’s not a deal-breaker when you don’t. That’s not why I’m solely in the woods.
10. Favorite type of cheese? If you’re making me choose just one, I’d have to say Swiss. But being from Wisconsin, I can’t think of many types of cheese I don’t care for.
11. Have you always been a fan of country music, or is that something that came with your career choice? I’ve always told people, “I’ll play polka if it pays well.” Seriously though, I was familiar with country music because my dad was a fan (Don Williams, Roger Miller, Alabama, Randy Travis). When I first started in radio, I don’t think I’d have called myself a fan yet. Garth, AJ, Brooks & Dunn, Blackhawk, Shania and Tim McGraw made it pretty easy though for a high school kid to suddenly find country music cool. But while I was listening to those, I was also listening to everything from Van Halen, the Spin Doctors, Michael Jackson, Will Smith and Alanis Morissette.
12. What is the most difficult aspect to being an “on-air personality” that most people don’t realize? I’m human. I make mistakes. It’s just mine happen in the open for others to hear. But it comes with the territory. I learned early in my career that I will never please 100% of people 100% of the time, and there are people/listeners who will not like me no matter what. That’s just how it is, and I fully accepted and came to terms with that years ago. I still try to treat others the way I want to be treated regardless, but I won’t go out of my way and be fake just to get you to like me. The ones who like me, love me (OK ... I stole that line from a Brantley Gilbert song), but you get the idea.
13. In what year did you get your first radio job, and how has the business changed since that time? 1994. I was 16. My dad was at the local station (94.5 WRJO in Eagle River) recording a public service announcement for the Three Lakes Lions Club when the general manager offered him a job as the weekend news, sports and weather reporter because she liked his voice and gift of gab (the apple didn’t fall far from the tree). He talked her into allowing me to come in to audition. I got the job, which required me to be at work no later than 5:30 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday. Naps would come in handy after some late nights with friends.
14. Can you name a popular television show you either have never seen an episode of or that you don’t understand why it is popular? “Game of Thrones.” I’ve never seen an episode. “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.” I don’t get a lot of what is called “reality” TV these days.
15. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? How to be more mechanical. My dad was the “Hold the flashlight!” kind of guy, and it was just easier for him to do repairs himself than to teach me how. It’s not his fault. Most times, I didn’t show an interest, or it was an emergency repair and time was of the essence. But I wish I would have paid a bit more attention to those type of tasks. Thank you, YouTube “how-to” videos.
16. What is your favorite food, and where is your favorite place to get it? I’m a basic meat-and-potato kind of guy who likes his venison steak on the grill. I do enjoy meatball subs from Chubby Bubba’s, taco pizza from Mac’s Pizza Shack and breakfast at Park City Restaurant.
17. Who is your favorite Muppet? Kermit the Frog because he was genuine and the group leader, Rowlf the Dog because he was calm and cool, and Fozzie Bear because he was funny ... or tried to be. “Wocka Wocka!”
18. Which do you dislike more, mowing grass on a hot day or shoveling snow in freezing cold? Shoveling snow. Not that I don’t like the cold or winter because I don’t mind it. I just don’t care for shoveling, and I LOVE to mow the grass. I’m a bit like Forrest Gump that way. I could probably get a riding mower, but I enjoy the push mower, and it’s the much-needed exercise this radio boy needs.
19. Since your voice is your most-used work tool, what do you do to make sure it is always in optimal condition? I try to avoid yelling out in larger gatherings such as concerts, etc. If I feel a slight cold coming on, I start consuming water, vitamins, orange juice and lemon tea (supposed to be good for the vocal cords). I drink a ton of coffee, and I think it helps keep the vocal cords loose. Coffee, believe it or not, is full of antioxidants. But I don’t have golden pipes like Don LaFontaine (movie trailer voice guy “In a world...”) that I need to take out an insurance policy on my voice. Not yet anyway.
20. Your show is broadcast to thousands of people every day. Do you ever get nervous thinking about that? It’s been a long time since I felt nervous on the air. Most of those jitters are long gone, but there are moments where an emergency pops up or I’m forced to go on the air unprepared or in a hurry. But generally speaking, a golden rule in radio is that you’re not talking to thousands of people at a time, even if you are. I was taught to speak one-to-one instead of to a group. I just talked about this with my daughters, who are both big YouTube watchers and have their favorite YouTube “stars” they follow. One thing that drives me crazy is that 99% of these video personalities start out by saying, “Hi guys!” or “Hey everyone!” It’s not personal. On the air, I avoid saying “guys” or “everyone” or “folks” because those words can make anyone listening feel as if I’m not talking directly to them, but rather a group. I want you to feel as if I’m speaking to you directly.
Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.