In our latest series, we’re bringing you stories from women who are chasing their dreams and building a life that they love with New York Country Swag’s, “Woman of the Month.”
Each month, we will highlight a different female pursuing her passions. Introducing you to women who are taking risks, working relentlessly and turning their dreams into reality. These are empowering women who serve as role models and should be celebrated.
On this very special National Women’s Day edition of our Woman of the Month, we are highlighting one of New York’s most popular names in country music radio, Katie Neal. Growing up in a small town in Illinois, Neal recalls driving down backroads in her father’s red Ford pickup truck and always listening to country music. During college, as she pursued a degree in TV Production, she had to take a radio class to complete her major. “I was so nervous to record my voice and then have to listen to it in front of other people, I was petrified of it,” she remembers. After a semester of radio, she started a morning show with one of her friends that is still on the air today. She caught the radio bug and after college worked for a local Cumulus station in Bloomington, IL. Working three jobs in order to keep her job in radio, she realized quickly that working hard and working towards a goal wasn’t always going to be easy. When they cut her shift at the local station, Neal decided to take a chance and asked to be transferred to a bigger market.
“I think when I moved I kind of made peace with the fact that I might not get a job on air if I did this, but honestly I was flying by the seat of my pants and I felt like in my heart this is what I had to do, if I had moved somewhere else it wouldn’t have been what I wanted,” she explains. “I love traveling, I love being out and about and I feel like NY was the place for me to be.” Borrowing money from a friend to pay for her flight to NY, she interviewed for a sales position and shortly after packed up her Mitsubishi Eclipse with everything she owned and drove across country to start a new chapter in her life. She laughs looking back at the moment she exited the Holland Tunnel and was right in the middle of China Town, never having driven in New York City, things were quite different from her small hometown.
Sharing a three bedroom apartment with six roommates was the reality, knowing that was the only way she could afford to live in NYC her first year here. Starting her job at Cumulus on January 2nd of 2013, she was there just a few short weeks later when Nash FM was flipped on as a country station for the very first time. It was the first country station in NYC in over fifteen years. “It was strange to get here and to realize that NY doesn’t have a country station so I always took an interest in Nash because it was something that was comfortable and familiar in a place where everything was so foreign,” she tells us. “I listen to all genres of music but country music feels like home to me and I feel like it’s like that for a lot of people.”
When a full-time position opened up as a Nash DJ, Neal had been working closely with the program director and filling weekend and part-time slots so after auditioning she landed the job. She is on air weekdays from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM and entertains her audience with their favorite country music as well as anecdotes about the artists and news relevant to the tristate area. Throughout our interview, she continually discusses how lucky is she is be working in this industry alongside men who support and champion her career every single day. “I can see where it could be very difficult as a woman. We are up against a lot in society but I think it’s a really exciting time to be a woman and not just in this industry,” she explains.
Her one year anniversary as a full-time DJ just past last month and she continues to work closely to help the brand and the station meet goals and reach new heights. She tells us how grateful she is every day to be working for the only NYC country radio station and how it feels like old friends are dropping by when the artists stop by when they are in town. Artists swing by the Nash FM studios weekly, whether they are just doing an in-studio interview to chat about their new music or playing for a select group of winning fans at the Stage 17 studio. Radio has adapted so much with the growing popularity of social media, so each of the Stage 17 shows are now streamed live across their social media platforms. Along with Jesse Addy, Neal hosts these artists and chats about their upcoming music and what they have going on in New York City.