Gina Jeffreys loves to laugh. Every single day. Preferably until she’s got tears running down her face.
And the chemistry she shares with her Star104.5 Breakfast co-host Dave ‘Rabbit’ Rabbetts enables her to do just that.
As we prepare to celebrate 100 years of commercial radio in Australia, today we chat to the multi-award winning country singer about her foray into radio on the New South Wales Central Coast, why she loves it – and the serendipity of her on-air partnership with ‘Rabs.’
Gina says Rabs reminds her a lot of her cousin Russell, who used to keep her endlessly amused during their childhood days in Toowoomba.
“I would just look at him and laugh,” says Gina. “Rabs makes me laugh as hard as Russell.”
“I find Rabs so funny. And he finds me funny, too, fortunately.”
“So we can really bounce off each other.”
When Gina was asked to fill in as Rabbit’s co-host one day, she says they just clicked.
And that’s the funny thing about chemistry. You either have it, or you don’t.
“I’m realising you could throw two other highly skilled, experienced radio people in the same room, and it may not have the magic, even though they both might be the best at what they do,” says Gina “It’s hard to find that magic thing that Rabs and I have.”
After that initial day filling in, thoughts of a new future began to emerge.
“I said to my husband Rod when I got home ‘I think it went really well. I really, really enjoyed it!”
“That afternoon, they called me and said ‘You don’t want a full time job in radio, do you? And I’m like ‘No, I’m touring and I own a business …”
“But then Rod and I spoke and we went … actually …”
“So we said ‘Yep! Let’s give it a go.”
“I just had no idea how much I would love it.”
Gina laughs hard when she says “I remember when I first started, my son said ‘Mum, does this mean you’ll talk less at home?’”
Gina says she has loved radio all her life and imagined that one day she might end up working in the industry.
Although she didn’t take what might be considered the ‘traditional’ route, Gina says radio requires the same energy and focus as being on stage demands. It’s the storytelling. Connecting with people through song.
Radio, she notes, is very much the same.
“I didn’t do any training for (radio), but really, I did thirty years of training on a stage. I didn’t realise this was where I would end up,” she says.
“It just feels so natural and so easy. I remember reading somewhere that if a job comes easily to you, and it’s one of your favourite things to do – potentially, that’s for you.”
For Gina, radio is all about simply being herself.
“I’m so honest on the radio. I talk about everything. I guess it’s relatable.”
“Everyone is kind of going through similar stuff. It’s a really nice way to connect with others.”
Taking home the Brenno award for Best New Talent (Provincial) at this year’s ACRAs was the icing on the cake.
“I thought I had won all of my awards for my career in my twenties and thirties. I thought those days were behind me. Then, to be new to radio and win an award in my fifties was absolutely incredible.”
“I think more than anything I loved the joy that my whole table felt when I won, because it was a real team effort.”
“Rabs taught me everything I know about radio. And everyone at Star. It’s such a beautiful place. A beautiful community. It really felt like a win for all of us, not just for me.”
“I guess it’s nice to just feel accepted by your peers. I’ve stopped saying ‘I’m brand new to radio.’”
Gina says fond memories of listening to Toowoomba’s 4GR as a child still resonate to this day.
“I remember feeling like part of something bigger, and – when they would talk about our town – feeling that pride. Feeling like I was part of this big thing. Feeling included.”
Gina says now – as an adult and working in radio herself – she truly appreciates the important role radio plays in communities and regions across Australia.
“You feel like part of something special. You hear your own street get mentioned, or your own town, or the suburb you’re in. Or someone you know gets mentioned. You really get to know the presenters.”
“It feels like a friendship, almost.”
And the impact is much bigger than she ever realised.
“It makes people feel like they’re a part of something.”
“Some of the people who call through (to Star104.5) a lot – we could potentially be the only people they talk to that day.”
As for coping with the early starts her job requires, Gina describes herself as a ‘morning person.’
“I actually have always woken up happily and easily. I’m pretty good at mornings.”
But as she’s discovered, Breakfast radio hours are a different ball game.
“4.30, a quarter to five – that’s not natural to get up that early.”
As Gina’s good mate and 4BC Breakfast host Laurel Edwards can attest.
Gina says “I said to Laurel ‘Tell me that you get used to this.’”
“And she said ‘Nup. I’m sorry, but you just always feel like you’ve got jet lag.’”
“I said ‘That’s not the answer I was looking for!’” she laughs.
Suffice to say, Gina has mastered the art of the twenty minute nanna nap.
Ultimately, what Gina loves about radio is having the opportunity to bring joy and laughter into people’s lives, and hopes to continue doing that well into the future.
“I am the most optimistic person. I am super excited about more time on radio. I love it. I feel comfortable now in that seat behind the microphone.”
“I really love being in that place where people can come to have a lighthearted moment or an honest moment. Radio does that.”
Gina says she recently heard someone say that that laughter and depression can’t live side by side.
“I just want to continue to laugh until I cry every day.”
Australian commercial radio celebrates 100 years on November 23rd.