“I hate being interviewed”
Obnoxious rockstars, ageism and Elton John’s piano: XCity puts BBC Radio journeywoman Jo Whiley on the other side of the mic
t’s mid-afternoon and Jo Whiley is recording a ‘live’ session with the Swedish folk singer José González. During the interview, the bearded troubadour admits he gets manicures in salons, often sitting next to teenage girls, and the control cubicle erupts with laughter. Whiley carries on, undisturbed by the ruckus on this side of the soundproof glass. She’s unfazed when her producer stands up mid-session to film a promotional Instagram video. She certainly isn’t bothered about borrowing Vanessa Feltz’s headphones, her own having been misplaced. In fact, the circumstances are all strikingly laissez-faire.
WORDS: LARRY BARTLEET AND HENRY BIRD So it’s a bit of a mystery when, half an hour later, as we are about to press record on our dictaphones, she gives a surprise admission: “I hate being interviewed.” Can this really be the outgoing Whiley who has written an autobiography, regularly broadcasts to millions of listeners, and fronts the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage while wearing shocking pink wellies? Those four apprehensive words give us a glimpse of Whiley’s other side: private, enigmatic, and uncomfortable on the opposite side of the microphone. As she explains: “I prefer asking the questions to answering them.” And she’s been asking
questions on the airwaves for over 20 years now. Whiley, 49, completed City’s Radio diploma in 1987. She got her foot in the door at the BBC through work experience and never looked back, working on a mix of radio and TV at the corporation, Channel 4 and British Satellite Broadcasting (now BSkyB). We have grown up to the sound of her voice: we were in the early years of primary school when she started presenting on weekdays at Radio 1 in 1997, and we were off to university by the time she moved over to weekends in 2009. In 2011 it was announced that she would