Tom Baker Header

Tom reached out to us a couple weeks ago and I was impressed when I heard about his passion for radio. Really interesting to look through the eyes of a youngster… Enter Tom!

1. What are you up to presently? I’m the Creative Services Director at WLTL-LaGrange, my high school’s radio station; I’ve also been doing some freelance street audio for Jeff Thomas’s imaging service: Phantom Producer.

2. Who are your radio idols/mentors? Who influences your work? My radio influences are stretched a little thin right now, one thing I’ve learned is that no one in radio is scary once you start talking to them. I’ve been to a few conferences and thought “that person won’t want to talk to the high schooler,” and then I introduce myself and 9 times out of 10 we exchange cards and have a good discussion about radio. Mentor-wise in the industry that would have to be Jeff Thomas who gave me my first break in radio, and also my radio teacher Chris Thomas (no relation that I know of). Mr. Thomas (Jeff) has provided me with some great advice on how to improve my sound and how imaging works. Other Mr. Thomas (Chris) gave me the radio bug and helped me develop my early interest in radio while teaching me what it’s like working in a radio station.

3. What is your dream gig? If I had to be specific, it would be awesome to work as Production or Imaging Director for a rock station in any major market; Q101 here in Chicago would probably be my first dream pick but it would also be nice to not be in a climate that isn’t Chicago (I was born in Tampa Bay and even though it’s been 9 years, I still haven’t adjusted to snow).

4. Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies/kids your age trying to make it in the radio industry? I’ve been “working” in radio for 4 years now, all at WLTL so excuse me if these tips are a little thin. 1. Find what interests you the most in radio and follow that. I don’t mean pigeon hole yourself but if I want to work in Imaging/Production one day, learning how to soder cables like an engineer isn’t on my priority list. 2. Reach out to others. I’ve had the opportunity to get constructive criticism from some really awesome people and the people in the radio industry are really nice from what I’ve seen and someone’s always willing to help take your skills to the next level. 3. Ask me again in 20 years and hopefully I’ll have a third tip.

51198255. Where do you want to go to college and why? I’m looking into Lincoln College in Illinois; are you like 99% of the world and don’t know where Lincoln is? Get a map of Illinois and point to the middle, that’s Lincoln, IL. I like their radio program WLNX more than others because at top radio programs like Columbia College Chicago, more dues are paid and it’s a little more of a competitive environment. WLNX is a lot like WLTL where you can show up, chill in the production room and experiment. That kind of environment has really helped me build my craft.

6. How do you schedule/prioritize your work? I like to think my scheduling abilities are about as on par with most high schoolers meaning they suck. At WLTL we only have an hour every day to get our stuff done and I’m a department of one so I mostly make time after school and on the weekends to get my work done.

7. Which production system do you use and why? I use Adobe Audition CS6 at WLTL and CC when I need to make quick edits at home. I like it because it’s all I’ve ever used and it’s something we can teach our staff in an hour where Pro Tools is very complex. I would like to get and learn Pro Tools one day soon hopefully. (Side Note Andy: I can help here)

8. What are your favorite plugins? I mainly use stock plugins, they’re basic but they work and I probably like them because of the basicness of them. I would like to start experimenting with VSTs like Stutter Edit and get into the Waves stuff soon. I’ve been playing around with some Blue Cat plugins and they’re really cool and really free.

9. What gear do you use? We use E-V RE20s as mics and dbx 286s for processing. There’s not much more to say, just a really good mic with a really good processor.

adobe10. How has new technology changed the way you work? First, let me pick up my cane and put my glasses on. Well back in my day (freshman year) we used Cool Edit Pro and now we use Audition so nearly nothing has changed, just a few cool improvements software wise.

11. What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? Never underestimate the power of De-Essers, my voice is usually a sibilance ridden mess. Standing up helps me deliver a more powerful voiceover and I’ve heard eating green apples is like nature’s De-esser.

12. When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? WLTL pays for all of its own equipment with the help for our fund raiser “Rock-A-Thon”, but besides that never underestimate free plugins because one day a cheap/free plugin will save your life and you will owe it to them.

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