Charese Fruge’ Talks To Sarah Pepper

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “The Bigger Picture” series, written by Charese Fruge on February 4, 2022 

She’s the Host of the morning show with Jessie Watt in Houston on Mix 96.5 (KHMX-FM). Sarah Pepper has been in H Town since 2008, first with Hot 95.7 (KKHH-FM) (Now The Spot) and now with KHMX since 2017. And yes, Pepper is her real last name, and she has a daughter named Parker. She’s hysterically funny and always commands the room. She’s also one of the original creators of the “What’s Goin on at the Court House” bit. I remember working with her in Houston and her spending countless hours at the Court House trying to get the best possible content for the bit, and she always did.

Sarah’s first break in the radio industry is an interesting story and has always been one of my favorites. “I went to college for communications but after graduating I found it hard to get a job. So, I moved back home to Evansville, IN and went back to waiting tables,” she explains. “One night, a man and his wife came into the restaurant. I carded him, noticed he was from New Orleans and asked why he would be in this small town in Indiana. He told me he had moved here for a radio job, and we got to talking about how that’s what I went to school for and by the time I brought them their check, he gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him about a job. I called the next day. That Thursday I had my ‘interview’ at the restaurant again, in between cutting pizzas. One week later I was hired as the show’s producer. That man was Brad Booker, whom I did mornings with for YEARS and moved to Houston with. He was my first mentor in this business. Great guy. Talented guy. Great mentor.”

Sarah has been fortunate enough to have many great influences in the industry. “I have had the pleasure of learning from some amazing people in this business,” she says. “Brad Booker obviously is the first one who really taught me about the business. I met Mojo at Boot Camp years ago and he has been such a great friend and mentor over the years. Being able to sit in on his show is like watching magic happen. Norm Schrutt was my agent for years and was always a great person to talk to, I miss him daily. Sarah Frazier, my current market manager, whom I have worked with for almost 14 years, Tim Huelsing, Mark Adams, Bruce Logan, Charese Fruge, Falen Bonsett, Jeff Garrison, Brian Purdy, Jaleigh Burger, Jessie Watt, Melissa Chase, and the list goes on. I have been very blessed to work and come in contact with some of the best in this business and they have been extremely gracious to teach, coach and mentor me.”

Not only has Sarah been blessed with great mentors, but she also has amazing stories to tell. “Being able to broadcast from the Grammys was one of my favorite memories ever,” she says. “Also, the stunts that Brad Booker and I did in our early days that I can’t believe we ever got away with and would never fly now. I got to skydive twice to do a car giveaway and I got to host the Houston Pride Parade. Everything we get to do with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is always amazing. Calling the Olympic-qualifying soccer games for the USWNT. I have been very blessed in my career and truly have too many memories to share.”

Sarah’s career hasn’t come without its challenges though. “Working from home with a toddler during the beginning of the pandemic was very challenging. Luckily, I work with a partner in Jessie Watt who was compassionate and understanding. Jessie would sing and dance with her on the video and was extremely patient during those moments where there were serious tantrums. Giving yourself a little grace can go a long way.

Working from home with a toddler was an experience to say the least,” she adds again. “My daughter’s pediatrician has said multiple times how advanced her language is and that’s because she sat in a highchair while I did a radio show. Also, she picked up some very choice words along the way. It taught me to be a better mom and prioritize in my life what was and wasn’t important.”

Sarah admits to jumping on the pandemic bandwagon. “Like a lot of people, I got a Peloton, and I am addicted,” she says. “I have a sweatshirt and a water bottle. I’m all in! My daughter is at the age that she’s playing soccer and doing gymnastics and that takes up most of my weekends. Plus, my mom has moved down to live with me to help me with Parker and showing her around Houston and teaching her to drive on the freeways has been an experience all in its own.”

One interesting fact about Sarah is that she says she has massive anxiety speaking in front of crowds. “I think people just assume because we work in this industry that we love it. It is a struggle for me every time.” The good news is, I have seen her get up in front of crowds and introduce the likes of Justin Bieber, host massive events like Pride and The Houston Rodeo, and her anxiety is not noticeable, even for someone in the industry. It’s something we all do in this business, toss our cookies behind the curtains before we’re handed the mic, then power through it like a boss when the lights go on. It’s part of the job and there’s no question that she masters it.

What keeps Sarah up at night is the same for most parents: “I want the world to be kind to my daughter. I want her to have friends and be happy,” she says. And while she’s got a full schedule with the morning show and being a single Mom, she tries to find a balance. “I’m not sure I’ve mastered it yet, but therapy is helping. If anyone has any tips. I’m open to them,” she says. “The one piece of peace that I have found is being kinder to myself when it comes to my job and being a parent. I’m not going to be perfect. I can strive to be but I’m not going to be and that is okay.”

As for Sarah’s outlook on 2022, “I think, like most in this business, I’m excited to get back to live music” she says. “It is the part of this job I love the most and being able to hear music live again makes my heart smile.”

Follow Sara Pepper on Instagram @realsarahpepper, Facebook: Sarah Pepper and follow @mix965houston on Instagram and Twitter