“I’m excited to have talent of Sandy’s caliber join the team,” Mike Fredrick, an executive with station owner Hubbard Interactive, told industry website All Access. “We’re committed to having strong multi-faceted morning shows on all of our properties.”
“It’s an amicable split,” Hager said. “They’re focusing on other things right now and I’m using this time to see what the next 20 years of my media career will look like.”
Hager said he’s thankful for the time he spent at Bob Cole’s Austin Radio Network – time that helped strengthen his love of radio.
“I do believe in Bob Cole and he was very generous to me,” Hager said. “It was cool to work with him. I was given a lot of freedom and was able to do a lot of things that would make most programmers cringe. It wasn’t your typical morning jibber-jabber.”
Hager’s not ruling out a return to radio one day, but he says he’s in no hurry. He’s excited about working with Empowering a Billion Women 2020 and continuing to write a column for Austin Woman magazine. He’s also involved with several local businesses, including Driveway Austin Motorsport Academy, Uncle Billy’s Brew and Cue, 24 Diner, La Mancha Tex-Mex Tavern, Hangar Lounge, Onairstreaming.com and Wheel mobile video.
“It’s a time for reinvention,” Hager said. “It’s very, very bizarre not being on the radio. I really enjoy it. It’ll be odd to get up and not do that every morning. My wife and daughter aren’t used to seeing me in the morning. I think I’m already getting on their nerves and throwing off their routine.”
Austin Radio Network will, at least for now, run straight music in the mornings on Classic 105.3. The group’s other Austin stations include 104.9 The Horn and 98.5/99.3 KOKE-FM.
Hosting the morning show on Classic 105.3 isn’t JB Hager’s only gig these days.
Hager, who has been helping Central Texans wake up for the past 19 years, was part of the team that developed Ferris, a video-sharing app.
He also helped get On-Airstreaming, a mobile recording studio, off the ground. The studio, which is housed in an Airstream trailer, searches out up-and-coming musicians, giving them exposure through a content partnership with Yahoo.
Ferris, created about two years ago right here in Austin and initially backed by a team of angel investors, recently lined up $2 million in funding from Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures.
“All my friends became the initial angels and advisers who pushed us into really going for it,” Hager said. “I don’t know if we would have gotten our legs without them.”
Hager and pals came up with the idea for Ferris, which the radio host proudly points out currently has a perfect five-star rating in Apple’s iTunes store, after noticing just how many people are shooting video at concerts and other events these days.
“We found ourselves saying, ‘I wish there was a way to pull video content from all these people’s phones,’ ” Hager said. “We knew there had to be a way to make this seamless.”
As work continues to make Ferris bigger and better, much of the development has shifted to California. Hager said he had a chance to tag along, but he wasn’t about to uproot his family and leave his radio gig behind.
“I took a backseat,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave Austin and walk away from this.”
Hager just marked his one-year anniversary at the Austin Radio Network, the locally based owner of Classic 105.3. Before that, he was with Mix 94.7.
When Hager joined the Austin Radio Network team, he helped launch alternative-leaning the Fringe, a station that was replaced by Classic 105.3 in March. While the decision to change to a music playlist featuring hits from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s was unpopular with some, Hager said it’s proving to be a wise move.
“It’s filling a hole for a lot of people,” he said. “There’s a nostalgic feeling that really takes you back.”
Longtime co-host Sandy McIlree opted to depart when the station’s format flipped, and Hager admits it’s been an adjustment.
“I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I had Sandy to play off for two decades.”
Still, Hager said, listeners have been supportive, which has helped make the transition easier – and also reinforced his decision to stay right here in Austin.
“People say they really like the show,” he said. “They’re definitely sticking around. That means a lot.”
Hundreds of Central Texas children will get brand-new bicycles this Christmas thanks to longtime Austin radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree.
The morning duo, who joined 105.3 Fringe FM this spring after spending almost two decades at another local station, said reviving their annual Bikes for Kids campaign was a top priority after settling into their new gig.