Growing up in Connecticut, newly hired Silverfish Media assistant PD Jessica “Carsen” Humphreville had little exposure to country music until her early teen years. That’s when her father, who worked for NBC, brought home a videocassette of a Garth Brooks special the network was planning to air. After watching it, Carsen says she went “all in” with country music, converting her listening to the local country station and even dressing like Brooks.
“I was the girl wearing ‘Mo’ Betta shirts because Garth Brooks did. That made me super cool at 16,” she says with a laugh. “I was totally obsessed and enamored with country music.”
That passion drew her to choose a Southern college, and she launched her radio career while still at student at the University of Mississippi. She eventually wound up in Nashville, working in mornings at country WKDF and nights at classic rock WRQQ and rocker WBUZ. Seeking to add PD stripes to her résumé, she moved away to take over programming at Syracuse, N.Y.’s sister rock stations WRKL and WKLL.
But a call in fall 2015 from Silverfish Media director of programming Patrick Thomas ultimately brought her back to country music and Nashville, where she still owned a home. She was offered a newly created job that includes assisting Thomas with music and programming; becoming a part of the syndicated morning show hosted by the company’s principals, Big D & Bubba; and hosting her own syndicated midday show. That show, Country With Carsen, launched Jan. 18 on a handful of affiliates, including WSGA Savannah, Ga., and KANY Aberdeen, Wash. Like the Big D & Bubba show, Country With Carsen is syndicated by Compass Media Networks, and Carsen broadcasts the five-hour show from her own studio inside the Silverfish complex in the Nashville-adjacent city of Berry Hill. Accepting the job meant giving up her hosting duties for another syndicated country radio show, Envision’s The Live Ride, which she had been affiliated with for several years.
Carsen describes her new midday program as being music-centric, but with breaks focused on discussions of pop culture and country artists from a “friendly, fun voice,” with listener calls and artist interviews mixed in. Her role on the Big D & Bubba show is more limited. “I’ll chime in from time to time and offer a different take on things,” she says of the pair’s on-air discussions. “It’s not like I’ll be on every break with the guys.” But her female perspective is likely to add a fresh element to the show.
As for her assistant PD duties, Carsen says, “Patrick and I will be going over the music and working on that together. He’s very excited to have an additional set of ears and also somebody else who can help with filtering through things and making sure that we don’t miss anything. He’s still director of programming, but it’s my understanding that I’ll be his right hand.” She’ll also be contributing imaging and backing Thomas up on scheduling and other programming duties.
Just two weeks into the job, Carsen is thrilled by her new situation and her new bosses, who she calls “humble” and “grounded.” She says, “I am so impressed by what they’ve built and what they’ve accomplished.” She has been equally impressed with their kindness, beginning with the flowers they sent her the day it was announced she was joining their team.
“They are extremely thoughtful, but they are funny too and just genuinely good guys,” she says. “They’ve been not just welcoming, but also so inclusive. I’m very excited to build that relationship and get that tighter radio familiarity. We’ve already started to find things in common.”
But there’s one thing they likely will never have in common. Big D and Bubba are both pilots who often fly themselves to visit affiliates. Carsen, on the other hand, is “terrified of flying,” although she doesn’t let that keep her from air travel. “We’re going to have to have some discussions about that,” she jokes of potential market visits via small private planes. “There’s probably going to be Xanax involved.”
For the time being, she’s more than happy to stay put in Nashville and soak up the country music she has long loved. “The music literally changed my life,” she says. “The idea that I now live and work in Nashville — nobody in my high school would be surprised.”
This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.