by JJ Jim Johnston
May 20, 2018
Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018, we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones”. Today we are shining the light on Matt Cundill.
I am always on the lookout for talent and am pretty good at finding them. It’s always been my passion and my vocation to help them along. In the case of veterans, it’s about helping them to find new gears. For the up and comer’s, I think more in terms of potential, what they can sound like in time.
Brother Jake Edwards was the first person to tell me about Matt Cundill. He said he had a really good one stashed away (wanted to work with Matt himself) and was hesitant to tell me his name and where he was, knowing I would put the person in the talent bank. After multiple beer o’clock sessions he eventually he told me. When I went to program the MIX in Toronto, Blair Bartrem also told me about this fellow.
On my various trips into Montreal I would always make it a point to say hi to Matt and see what he was up to.
Matt grew up in Montreal. His is the oldest of 5. His sister Elizabeth lives in Costa Rica and brother Josh is married to the mayor of Westmount. (Christina Smith). His brothers Henry and Willy are 13 and 15 years younger.
When Matt was 17 he put together a benefit concert. He went down to CHOM-FM for an interview and saw Terry Terry DiMonte and Peppermint Patty working. He says it looked like the best job in the world.
In 1989 he went to Acadia University and was doing on-airshifts at the campus station where he met fellow 365’er Sara Lanthier there and brought her on his show one night.
That summer, he started working at Annapolis Valley Radio’s Magic 97 in Kentville, Nova Scotia as a summer job where he would do some overnights and operate the foreground programming (“foreground” was a CRTC term for specialty shows with specific talk and needle time as per the stations CRTC requirements). When he did all nights there a very young Fearless Fred called the radio station and told him he was going to be a radio superstar and follow Matt’s lead. Indeed he did, working at Matt’s stops The Bear and Power 97 and of course Fred later ended with his current gig at the Edge.
The summer job carried over for 4 years doing overnight jocks shifts while studying political science and history at Acadia University. The course load in his final year was light so he did the afternoon drive show.
In 1992, Matt graduated and went to Montreal where Ian MacLean took a chance on him giving him all nights on CHOM-FM. He remembers fondly “It was an incredible experience working the shift before Terry Dimonte and then John Derringer in 1993 and 1994 (Yes… remember when John went there to endure a Habs Stanley Cup victory??)” Yes, as you may have guessed by now, Matt has a major Montreal Canadiens fetish.
In 1994, while on his way to a vacation in Jamaica and he stopped in to see Blair Bartrem who was doing promotions at the MIX in Toronto. Matt and I met, and I took his tapes and sent one to Eric Samuels and another to Bob Harris in Calgary (I already had Matt in talent bank).
In August, Eric Samuels called one day and offered him evenings at 100.3 The Bear in Edmonton. The station had attitude and was beyond fun and he loved working for Eric: “Eric Samuels always had a way of working talent to get the most out of them. Often, he would suggest I try things I wasn’t comfortable with like performing in a comedy club, (which I sucked at), and improv which I was good at. I spent 8 years there evolving to music director, assistant program director and afternoon drive host with Jake Daniels. This is that odd gray area where I started to feel pulled between programming and on air.”
As the VP of Programming for Standard radio, I’d go across the country visiting all the markets a few times a year. On one of those visits Matt and I had one of those “what’s the next five years going to look like?” chats. He said he was thinking about being a Program Director and by this time I knew he had the stuff. He says I convinced him that he had a future in programming with Standard radio.
In 2002, with three boys under 2, Standard moved him to Montreal to work as APD/MD at CHOM-FM which had just been purchased by Standard Radio. The station was going to get a fresh coat of paint with the people who put brush to canvas in the first place. Talk about talent! People like Terry Dimonte, Rob Braide and Blair Bartrem. They added in Scott Tucker, Sarah Summers, Maura Grierson, Sharon Hyland and the legendary Tootall (just got into the Hall of Fame at Canadian Music Week. Congrats man!). The results were immediate with a 20 percent increase after the first book. In time he also got to work on special projects like CRTC applications, and music database programming for a few Standard stations that were acquired.
When I went to CORUS in 2001, a part of my mandate was to attract talent. I know where they all are and in my time with the company, facilitated many to come work with us. In 2006, there was an opening for a program director at Power 97 in Winnipeg and Matt was a natural. He said: “The time was right, and the station was right to make the move. Ross Winters and Garth Buchkomade the transition into the PD role seamless. Once again, I was blessed to work with great morning talent like Wheeler and Hal. In 2009 when Hal moved over to talk radio at CJOB, I put together a new morning show of Wheeler, Philly and Rena. I had hired Phil Aubrey 6 months earlier from Edmonton and hired Rena Jae who was actually in a job interview with another station when I called her and told her to get on a plane and come to Winnipeg. We had some great years at Power 97 with great ratings.”
I always ask for funny stories and Matt gave me this true tale: “When I was PD at Power, in 2008 we had people enter online for our Guys Garage contest. We drew from the entries and accidentally drew the test entry and awarded the prize to someone on our own staff. Wheeler and Hal showed up at the door and our web person answered the door. They called in a panic and I said, “no one needs to know that truth… move into improv mode and talk up the excitement.” We spent the rest of the morning talking about how we awarded a new garage to a fictitious listener. (Early internet lesson… delete the test entry)”
In 2012, Corus gave me the task of assembling a team to launch a second Fresh-FM in Winnipeg which led to our team receiving the President’s Award.”
Things were going well but in 2014, but he was CORUS-ized joining the restructured club which just happened to be on the 25th anniversary of his first day in radio. He took the time to breathe and do things that he never seemed to be able to get around to like week long yoga intensive classes and building a home studio.
Matt is a resourceful guy who has a great combination of work ethic, smarts, courage and perseverance. He began consulting a number of stations and working with talent, launching new radio stations and getting the Sound Off Media Company together. He worked with David Tyler in Montreal to get the Voiceover part of his business up to speed, attended radio conferences like the Conclave and NAB, and then found the Podcast Movement in 2016. Matt says: “If you’ve ever wondered where all the overnight announcers went – they were there. I launched the Sound Off Podcast in 2016 and we are releasing our 100th episode on May 29th. The podcast has taught me a lot about how people consume audio on demand and it has led to a better understanding of radio’s future role in our lives.”
There’s no moss growing under this dude’s feet. What’s next Matt? “I have launched a second podcast that pushes the envelope. Not the proverbial media envelope – but mine. The Hot Air Podcast will let me see what I can do when I am not talking radio. Also, I have just become the AC and News/Talk imaging voice some stations in the US stations, working with radio clients domestically on their programming and multi-platform integration and now working with groups to launch podcasts.”
Matt operates out of Winnipeg where one of his twins, Jacob, attends at University of Manitoba studying engineering and playing U19 squash. Twin brother Andre also just finished his first year at university as well at Mount Allison in NB and is a competitive badminton player
The youngest, Daniel, is in grade 11 and plays bass at the School of Rock where he plays The Classic Rock Jams.
Matt takes delight in coaching hockey in Winnipeg and has coached two 14-year-old teams to city championships.
Matt and Avery Rich have been together for 8 years now. She is a Yoga Instructor and he calls her his amazing partner. They love travelling and have been to Bermuda, Spain and Italy over the last few years. “We had the chance to see a game in Barcelona a few weeks ago where Lionel Messi scores three goals! We love going to countries where food is woven into the fabric of the culture.”
You have to give it to Matt. When his term at CORUS came to an end, here he was with three young lads wondering what to do. He took some breathing room and then got busy. He has a great entrepreneurial spirit, and that is evident with him reinventing himself as a leading podcaster here and abroad. Fun, smart, hard working, creative and visionary is how I would sum him up. Now about those Habs…
Thank you, Matt Cundill, the legend, and one of the “The Good Ones”. Feel free to like and share Matt’s positive story.
Who is the subject of tomorrow’s JJ-365 Salutes? As they say, stay tuned.
Jim Jj Johnston is the CEO, President and Chief Talent Coach for JJIMS INC. and works with talent in many different industries worldwide.