Radio is in Max Baird's blood. His dad Mike is a former legend of the airwaves in Rotorua and for as long as he can remember, Max has wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.
Now a year into his dream job as the co-host on The Breeze Tauranga's breakfast show, Max still can't quite believe that he gets to do what he loves for a living. "Every day, I think, 'They're actually paying me to do this!'" says Max, 26. "I feel so incredibly fortunate."
A career in radio has been his goal for as long as he can remember.
"I fell in love with radio very early. There are photos of me holding a microphone when I was barely walking. I don't think I've ever had a moment where radio hasn't excited me."
On the weekends as a youngster, he accompanied his dad to his job at The Breeze in Rotorua and during the school holidays learned how to operate the sound desk.
Mike says, "He'd be there saying, 'Ten seconds to go, Dad', and he'd drive the desk while I did the talking. It was awesome."
At home, Max set up his own make-believe studio in the garage and spent hours pretending to broadcast.
"I found some of the scripts he'd written in the garage once," recalls Mike. "I didn't say anything to him because I didn't want to embarrass him, but it was really nice to see him take such an interest. And he was really funny!"
Mike, 58, can relate to that longing to be on air, admitting he used to stand in front of the mirror pretending to talk to listeners before he landed his first radio job in 1986. He's always been supportive of Max, who started doing part-time unpaid promotions work for a Rotorua station when he was 15.
"I did that for a couple of years and learned a lot," says Max, who is also a whiz at the technical side of radio. "Then in my last year of high school, I got offered a full-time contract, so I dropped out of school to work in radio as a promotions coordinator. I wasn't doing very much on air at that stage, but since moving to Hawke's Bay in 2018 to work in radio there, I've been on air and loving it."
Before landing the job with The Breeze in Tauranga, Max worked for More FM in Auckland on a show that was broadcast around the country, as well as doing some news reading. He had a hankering to work in local radio where he could get to know the community, and the Tauranga gig was perfect. Getting to meet listeners is one of the joys of the job, but the new role did come with challenges.
"I'd only done a little bit of breakfast radio before, filling in here and there, and I'd always worked on my own. So working with my co-host Jolene James has been a whole new kettle of fish. Luckily, we hit it off straight away. I think it's pretty rare for that to happen. It's kind of like a mother-son relationship, but we both have a similar way of thinking and can read each other pretty well."
Adds Mike, "They come across as being really warm and relaxed, and as having fun. You can tell the relationship is really genuine."
Max admits it's taken a while to get used to the early starts for the breakfast show, which kicks off at 6am.
"The early mornings suck. I have to get up at 4.15am and it takes some time to get the body moving. I have to be in bed by 8.30 or 9pm, or it's really hard to get up."
His dad jokes, "He definitely needs his beauty sleep."
"Thanks Dad," responds Max. "I've got the face for radio, that's for sure! I've got my genetics to thank for that!"
The pair have always been close but developed a particularly strong bond after Max's parents split up and he moved in with his dad at the age of 14 when his mum shifted to Australia. Mike retired not long afterwards after 25 years in radio because he wanted to spend more time with his only child. "Because I was doing breakfast radio, I never got to see him in the mornings and that broke my heart."
Mike now works as a shuttle driver and also does emceeing work. He listens to Max on The Breeze Tauranga online as much as he can and sometimes picks the station up on his shuttle's radio if his driving work takes him into the catchment area.
"I'll send him a text and say, 'Pop's with you!' and we have a little giggle. I'm so happy to hear him on the radio and over the moon that he's doing so well."
While Mike has helped out over the years with some advice – notably, "Just be yourself" – he says Max's achievements are all his own. "He's got to where he is by himself and I'm so proud of him, it melts my heart!"
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