Charese Fruge’ Talks To Audrey Drake

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on March 23, 2021 

She’s a second generation radio talent, so it’s no surprise that Audrey Drake has come so far, so fast. She’s the third mic on the nationally syndicated “Dave & Mahoney Morning Show,” based out of Las Vegas on Alt 107.5, KXTE. “I grew up visiting my dad, Cat Thomas (now Program Director at Seattle’s KQMV/KRWM), and I would color on the floor of his office and attempt to bug whoever would let me in the studio,” she says. “I can vividly remember watching the air-talent broadcast at WAPE in Jacksonville, FL and being in awe. Like, it was the coolest job any person could have. I guess you could say I’ve always wanted to be a part of the business that I’ve loved for so long.”

Audrey describes her current role as providing a different perspective to an otherwise all-male show. “I’m a sucker for trends and stay up to date on most things in the pop culture world (Yes, I’m wearing a middle part, and have given up my skinny jeans to be one with the youths) and try to keep Dave and Mahoney in the loop!” She says. “Off air I handle the creative side to our socials and podcasting.”

Audrey started her career in radio with a “cold email” to a PD right out of college at the University of Kentucky. “Regional SVP Michael Jordan and PD Dennis Dillon hired me on part time for: nights on WKQQ, middays on both WWTF & WLLK, and as a morning cohost for WJQQ, says Drake. “Yes, I wore many hats as a part timer! My first ‘big break’ came when Market Manager Dan Kearney and Operations Manager/Program Director JB King took a leap of faith (so thankful) and hired me on as a midday talent for KLUC in Las Vegas. A year later, KXTE Program Director Ross Mahoney called me into his office to let me know I had landed the third chair position for the ‘Dave and Mahoney Morning Show’ on KXTE!”

Audrey took a pretty brave step fresh out of college to get her actual foot in the door in radio. “Soon after graduating I wrote up a cold call email (basically) to Michael Jordan,” she says. “I sent him an email with the subject line reading, ‘Hey #23!’ Very professional, I know. That email screams 23-year-old and I cringe at it today! But it got me a meeting with him, and I started working at iHeart 2 weeks later for WJQQ as a trial run to see what I could do. Thankfully, I didn’t suck too bad, and he later let me tackle tracking for a few stations.”

According to Audrey, one of her biggest accomplishments, was getting her current gig in Vegas. “Joining a morning show before my 5 – year anniversary is something I am very proud of. I am honored to be a part of a team that has had ties to Las Vegas for 15 years,” she says. “I am also honored to have worked alongside and learned from some incredible Programmers like JB King, Ross Mahoney, Dennis Dillon, Mike Kaplan, and Matt Malone.”

One of her most exciting experiences over the last few years was getting a random surprise call from a giant celebrity. “My southern side is about to show here, but when I was on the air at KLUC, Billy Ray Cyrus called to thank me when I played ‘Old Town Road.’ In a time where listeners barely call anymore, I about peed my pants when I randomly received that call from him and his team KNOWING that they were listening while driving around Las Vegas before his show at The Orleans,” she says. “It was sort of my moment where I said to myself, ‘Oh dang. I’m not just turning my microphone on in a room where I’m alone for hours and laugh at my own jokes.’ Billy Ray Cyrus heard me and was like, ‘Yo, let’s give her a call.”

According to Audrey “Without a doubt” 2020 and all its obstacles were the most challenging parts of her career to date. “I think anyone would agree that it’s something that all of us had to learn pretty quickly and make it seem like we knew what we were doing the whole time. When in reality when the mic was off there was a lot of chaos and mini fires that were being put out. Which by-the-way, major shout out to our engineering staff for always being on the ready to take care of everything that needed to be done.”

“Personally,” she adds, “2020 was a cocooning year for me. I use that term and have for years when you’re trying to figure out what the next chapter of your life is going to look like. You hide away in your cocoon and grow, learn, and level up to the next stage in your life,” says Drake. “My husband is a teacher. I got the chance to see how he impacts lives every day by teaching 5th graders and keeping them calm through the pandemic. Seeing him teach and touch the lives of his students during such a trying year is something I would never have gotten to see otherwise.” “Professionally, our show got stronger as we went through a historical and traumatic life experience together,” says Drake. “We were able to come out of the ashes more open than we were at the start of 2020. All in part due to us having to be more vulnerable on air because we couldn’t not be. Our listeners got closer with us, too. We broadcast to the service industry capitol of the country and we were talking to listeners who had been without jobs for almost a full year! Showing compassion to them and wanting to show support/help any way we could was important to let our city know we were there for them.”

During the downtime caused by the pandemic, Audrey stayed busy. “I’ve been focusing on my health and trying to get in the best shape I can be in as I am fast approaching 30. Over the summer I started hiking… and hiking a lot. At one point I hiked 25 miles in a little over a week just so I could get out of the house and get fresh air. That transitioned into getting a trainer and working on my health in other ways, but for the most part that’s what I’ve been binging!” She says. “As far as TV binging goes- I watched every Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings movie at least 8 times. I randomly got into the show Survivor and brainwashed myself into thinking I could last any amount of time on a remote island.”

The Dave & Mahoney Morning Show has been around for a while. It’s an established show with strong personalities. I asked Audrey how she manages to balance working with them. “Dave and Mahoney have known each other for 15 years and have a very strong chemistry. That to any newcomer could be intimidating, but I think I have always been a person to elbow my way into conversations, respectfully,” she says. “I’ve never had the intention of joining the show and being the small docile female voice in the background that’s just there to be a laugh track, and Dave and Mahoney never wanted that either. They have given me a strong role in the show to which I am appreciative for. I’m also very aware that in my role as a third mic that active listening is just as important as talking and takes discipline.

I sort of view it like passing a ball on the soccer pitch,” she adds. “When you’re driving towards the goal and weaving through defenders you usually pass in a triangle. Some passes of the ball, or conversations, go back and forth for a while to drive the ball down the field, but there’s always a third “player” (In our case even four players. Our Producer, Ian Schebel, is vitally important, too) to complete the drive towards the goal. It’s a team effort and we all have the same agenda, and that’s to win.”

Her advice to new female talent who find themselves in the same position as herself: “Well for starters I’ve never viewed myself as ‘woman versus man’ in this industry. I’ve always viewed myself as an equal, and both Dave and Mahoney treat me as such,” says Drake. “I think viewing my worth in this way is important. I come to work every day and use my voice to advocate my ideas/opinions and they listen. My current bosses and previous bosses hear me out. Just because an idea I pitched doesn’t stick or go my way- that’s not because of my gender. That idea may have just sucked. I think the important thing is not to let ego get in the way of your creativity. If you have something you think is worth advocating for- speak up. Having confidence in yourself and in your abilities is important and if you’re having a moment where it starts to falter- tell your imposter syndrome to take a step to the left and keep it pushing.”

“Having someone who believes in your talent is vitally important as well,” says Drake. “Especially when you’re starting out. I would say that my former PD, Dennis Dillon, was my biggest cheerleader, advocate, and mentor when I was first starting out- outside of my father, obviously. He would coach me through everything that I needed/wanted to learn while working with iHeart in Lexington. He gave me creative freedom and with that I was able to test/figure out what worked for me. Which, in turned gave me the confidence to apply for the position in Las Vegas to grow more.”

One of Audrey’s long-term goals is to be known for always being a motivator for whoever needs it. “I love more than anything seeing others succeed in things that bring them joy. Whether it’s work related or outside of work- I want to cheer on others to see how much they can grow.”

What keeps Audrey up at night? “Someone touching my foot when it’s outside of the covers, and wide orbit crashing with no way to turn a hot mic off. Neither have ever happened but I have nightmares about them both constantly.” As for what keeps her balanced, “Spending time with family and friends!!” She says. “Enjoying being social with those who I haven’t been able to see over the last year has been an amazing way to reset and kickstart 2021.”

As for what we have to look forward to from Audrey: “We have some very exciting things that we will be able to announce soon for the “Dave and Mahoney Morning Show” as it continues to grow in syndication.”

Follow Audrey Drake on @audreyonair across all platforms- Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and TikTok