Jim Gellatly is a Scottish radio presenter, DJ and unwavering supporter of unsigned singers and bands. The presenter of Drivetime on XFM Scotland until it’s recent closure and also currently presents a weekly showcase on online/DAB radio station, Amazing Radio, that launched in July 2010.
With a highly tuned ear for good music as well as raw talent, Jim has been responsible for assisting with the early careers of the likes of The Fratellis, KT Tunstall, The View, Biffy Clyro and Amy MacDonald, to name a few, by giving them their first radio airplay. Coventry’s The Enemy have credited Jim on several occasions for picking up on them while unsigned. He’s also played a role in uncovering many of the most important bands around, including Oasis, Snow Patrol and Coldplay.
This commitment to supporting new musical talent led to him receiving the Radio Academy’s prestigious John Peel Award for Contribution to Radio in 2008. Previous winners include Kenny Everett, Richard Park, Alan Freeman, Tony Blackburn, Steve Wright, Pete Tong, Chris Tarrant and John Peel himself (the award was renamed after his untimely death).
Widely recognised and respected as the voice of new music in Scotland, Jim has over 20 years of experience in unearthing talent tucked under his belt. It’s by no means restricted to music from north of the border, but he makes no apologies for any Scottish bias.
He hosts a weekly podcast ‘Jim Gellatly’s New Music’ that can be found on iTunes and Radio Magnetic (nominated for the 2010 BT Digital Music Awards), writes a weekly new music column for the Scottish Sun, and regularly DJs and hosts events throughout Scotland.
I attended an EP launch he was hosting recently and had fun hanging out and chatting with him. I got the impression he’s a bit modest and reluctant when talking about himself personally but was much more comfortable talking about what he does, the music and artists… his passion and enthusiasm for those came across loud and clear.
Q&A with Jim Gellatly
You began at Moray Firth Radio in the late 80’s as a volunteer and currently host your own show on Amazing Radio, was presenting / radio DJ something you always wanted to do?
My passion was always sharing the music I was discovering, going right back to when I was at school. I still get a massive thrill hearing something for the first time, and the magic of radio is being able to spread the word. I really don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t involved in radio.
Why did you go the unsigned music route rather than mainstream music for your show?
It was a main reason for getting into radio. I’ve never really had ambitions to use radio as a platform for getting into TV or doing a breakfast show. Also I’m not that best or slickest presenter, so I’ve focused on something that I’m passionate about.
What singers / bands influenced your early musical tastes and how much have your tastes changed from then to now?
New Wave and Punk were the initial catalyst, but I’ve always had fairly wide tastes. I still like noisy stuff as long as it has a great melody, but I’ve always loved pop music.
You’re credited with being a big help in the careers of some big bands i.e. Biffy Clyro, The Fratallis and The View to name a few; how does that make you feel?
It’s nice when acts thank you privately, or publically, but I’m only a wee cog in the wheel. It does mean a lot when a listener thanks me for introducing them to a band or song. That possibly means more as I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
How important do you think social media is for artists & bands these days?
It’s incredibly important if used well. They need to remember that social media is an opportunity to engage with their fans, not just for selling their product. A lot of acts are guilty of using social media to spam other accounts… far better to post great content that grows organically.
Do you think it’s important for artists to support each other in the current industry?
Totally. Even when it comes to playing gigs, a lot of acts might only tell people about their own performance, when all the acts on a bill should be working together to maximise the publicity. It’s great when one band shares content from other bands on social media if they think their own following would appreciate it. Also, one band can learn a lot from the experiences of another.
Music festivals… what’s your best memory of one?
I’ve been to loads over the years and my memories do tend to merge into one! I tend to be working at most festivals I go to, so it’s a different experience now. My first festival experiences were Reading back in the 80s, and then going to Glastonbury for the first time. I really like the vibe at Wickerman, but T In The Park has probably given me the most enjoyment over the years. Folk always complain about the T In The Park line-up, but I do think there is something for everyone. No one is forcing you to see a band you don’t like! Personally, I like the opportunity to see something I wouldn’t normally see, like The Saturdays or The Wanted in previous years.
Best gig attended to date, what made it special or memorable?
Impossible question! Usually it will be something that’s still fresh in my head. One of my favourite gigs last year was Monogram at King Tut’s. It’s also pretty special getting the chance to see bigger acts at small venues. Gigs that stand out include The Killers and The stokes at King Tut’s when they were starting out, or Biffy playing the XFM launch a couple of years ago.
Music is obviously a huge part of your life, not just your job, what do you do for fun or to relax when not working?
I don’t get to go on holiday as much as I’d like, but I do enjoy travelling to new places. I also follow Dundee FC….sometimes fun but rarely relaxing!
What’s the best part of your working day?
Trawling through lots of average demos, to find something pretty special. That really makes it all worthwhile.
You’re stuck at home for 3 days with only one album to listen to, what album would you choose?
Sound like hell to me! Maybe Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks.
Finally, can you give us two Scottish unsigned Jim Gellatly recommended hot picks for 2016?