Thu. Dec 13th, 2018

Nick Kayal Learns Southern Hospitality is Real

What’s a watchmaker without a pair of hands? What about a pilot without a set of eyes? Or better yet, what’s a sports radio host without a voice? 

Picture yourself trying do to a daily radio show without the ability to speak at full capacity. There’s no way it would work. Now, imagine establishing yourself as a successful sports radio host, only for it to be put on hold because you suddenly lost the most critical tool needed to be on the airwaves. 

That exact same situation recently occurred to Nick Kayal, now a host of the “Morning Drive” on 102.5 The Game in Nashville. Last February he shared the story exclusively with BSM of how his sports radio career almost came to an end.  

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But this is a story of overcoming a big setback because that’s exactly what Kayal has done since regaining his voice and finding a new opportunity with 102.5 The Game in Nashville. After many tough nights and emotional struggles, Kayal has turned, quite possibly the biggest obstacle a broadcaster can face, into a renewed career that shows a ton of promise.

Though he is eternally grateful for his new opportunity in Nashville, the road back hasn’t always been stress-free. There was changing his diet, which consisted of a strict plan to keep acidic foods out of his system. There was also moving to Nashville and having to leave his family behind so the house could sell. There was learning a new market. But all of that has been worth it to capture a dream he thought he had lost. 

Sometimes it takes a setback to make us realize just how fortunate we are. Kayal didn’t think this is where he’d be just a few years ago, but life has a funny way sometimes of changing your path when you least expect it. Though he had to fight to overcome the odds and adjust to new surroundings, Kayal is thrilled to have pursued a new direction because he now feels better than ever, and it’s showing in his on-air performance.

TM: How was the morning show progressed since you started? 

NK: It’s been good. We’ve been up, from a ratings standpoint, 58 percent for the first session of the fall book that came out. It’s really cool because it’s definitely a different show than what they had before. To come in and join Braden Gall as well as former Titans receiver Derrick Mason and a new producer who also sounds good on the air, it’s a show with 3 or 4 voices that has just went really well. 

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TM: Any setbacks with your voice since you’ve started the show?

NK: No, I’ve really had very minimal problems. By the fourth hour it starts to get a little tired, but after I get home and unwind for an hour, it’s back to normal and feels pretty good.

I would probably say its 90-95 percent of what it used to be, but it’s still vastly better than the way it was. Literally, I just did not want to talk to people. A five-minute phone call? Gone. 

TM: How much happier of a person are you since you overcame your voice issues and landing with a great station? 

NK: Still waiting for my wife and kids to get down here, because they have to sell the house, but yeah, definitely happier. I think when you go through that, not only losing the ability to do what you love to do, but also losing out on the simple things. For instance, I have 4-year-old twin daughters and when they were just 9 months, I lost my voice. The next month, I lost my job.

For the majority of my daughter’s lives, I haven’t been able to be the person or the father I wanted to be. Since you have to talk a lot to them at a young age, especially loudly, because they’re screaming, yelling and all over the place, I was just physically unable to do it. We’re at a point now where it’s much better and a totally different experience. Very satisfying and very gratifying. 

TM: Has the Nashville market transformed more into an NFL market than it’s ever been?

NK: It’s actually funny you say that, because it’s become 50/50 between hockey and football, with the emergence of the Predators. They have the star power, personality, they have elite talent. I would say, if it had to throw out percentages, it’s 40 percent Preds, 40 percent Titans and 20 percent college football.

Obviously, the Vols dominate college football talk, but there’s so many transplants in Nashville that it would say it’s 60 percent Vols, 20 percent Alabama fans and some other scattered SEC fans along with a small Vanderbilt contingency. 

TM: What’s one thing you didn’t know previously about the Nashville market that you’ve come to love?

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NK: From just the market in general, southern hospitality is a real thing. Without question the people are just so laid back and courteous and respectful. It’s not a cliché.

As far as football goes, and I know how big it is in the south, but the fans aren’t as hardcore angry fans like you get in the northeast. Having done sports radio in Philadelphia, Eagles fans are great, knowledgeable and passionate, but they’re very angry. Even when the Titans are struggling, there’s not that anger behind it. People talk football, but it’s not as intense as I thought it would be. 

TM: When you’re trying to establish chemistry with a new set of hosts is there an “ah ha’ moment when it happens or does it just happen over time? 

NK: I think in this specific case, it just happened instantly. We did a couple of shows and trial runs in a side studio and it just clicked. I think it was a little robotic at first, I was the guy driving the show, teasing topics, doing promos, setting up Braden and Derrick and then it kind of morphed into the three of us letting it fly. Sometimes, I’m the one coming out of a break with a take and they react of that. Sometimes I just set the scene and let them go and interject when I need to. I think it’s just evolved to the point of three guys bouncing things off one another.