The Matt Mittan Show

Cosmic Koolaid Series - Pt 2: Matt's Perspectives Shaped by Overseas Experiences and Social Activism

October 31, 2023 Cory Short / Matt Mittan
The Matt Mittan Show
Cosmic Koolaid Series - Pt 2: Matt's Perspectives Shaped by Overseas Experiences and Social Activism
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Host: Cory Short

As we navigate the uncharted waters of independent media, we invite you to embark on this journey with us, where we discuss the importance of carving out your own platform. This candid conversation is infused with our personal experiences and entrepreneurial spirit, and we promise you'll gain valuable insights which could potentially culminate in your own independent success story. The ebb and flow of success is a natural part of this journey, and we share how staying true to your creativity can act as your guiding star throughout.

Ever wondered how overseas experiences can dramatically shape perspectives? We take you on a voyage through our personal narratives, from enlistment in the military to witnessing a pivotal protest in Trafalgar Square. These life-altering events not only broadened our worldview but also ignited a deeper commitment to stand against injustices and serve our communities. Buckle up as we navigate through a series of events that made us realize, the world is indeed much bigger than our own pockets.

Finally, we steer the conversation towards the significance of service and the influential role of parenthood. Serving in the military or volunteering in the community — both offer us unique opportunities to understand the essence of responsibility and sacrifice. It's not about the path you take, but the lessons you learn and the growth you experience along the way. So join us, as we share our heartfelt appreciation for those who've served, and explore how these experiences can further deepen our understanding of self and others. So whether you're a seasoned veteran of independent media or just starting your journey, we promise this episode is packed with stories and insights that will resonate with you.

Be sure to visit BizRadio.US to discover hundreds more engaging conversations, local events and more.

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Cory Short:

And welcome back to Cosmic Kool-Aid. I'm Corey Short. This is Matt Matan. We are talking all things radio career. Let's just finish that up and we got a few other major life things to talk about with you. But tell me, what advice would you give somebody young coming into thinking about getting into broadcasts At this point? Let's not call it radio, because that's changing.

Matt Mittan:

I would say figure out how to do it yourself, Own your own platform. Looking for that great gig with a big company or getting a show on a big station or anything? I just think that that's a path that's not only not very feasible I'm telling you right now, it's not sustainable or rewarding for 99.99% of people. And as someone who's been broadcasting since he was a teenager and I'm in my 50s, it pains me to say that. But instead of it being like a doom gloom kind of thing, I would flip it the other way and say how awesome is it that technology and audience awareness has gotten to the point where you can have a sustainable independent Cosmic Kool-Aid.

Cory Short:

Yeah, yeah, here's where we drink some of that Kool-Aid. I mean it's not monetized yet, but it's going to be before and on, it's okay.

Matt Mittan:

Even through what a lot of public would perceive as successful commercial radio presence I shared with you. It was several years of big ratings, big impact, recognized everywhere I go. Before I made enough money to have a small little shoe box house and then it got and I had a lot of success where all of a sudden now I was getting big gigs and doing all this stuff, I got a really great contract and making great money and everything.

Cory Short:

And you were doing NCA stuff like that.

Matt Mittan:

Well, I mean, I'm doing that now but it's because it makes sense to do it and it's helpful. But I'm talking about flying to DC for events and filling in national shows and then, with the ratings consistently being what they were here, eddie Fox and I were like the two highest paid people in radio and the whole greater area and everything and, for folks that don't know, long time great guy on Kiss Country. But how did that turn out? I left it. I walked away from it. Why? Because the corporate milieu was pushing for what I did with that time on the microphone to be different than what I felt was right or important and so I had to leave it. And I'm not the first one to say it, but for anyone that's looking to get into it, I would tell you you're going to be much more successful if you have an audience of 20,000, that you keep 100% of the engagement and revenues, than if you have an audience of 250,000 and somebody else controls that and their profits are being answered to someone else. Yeah, much better to have that freedom of thought and movement and affiliation. And growth or lack of growth is really on you and what skills you learn and how much you hustle and how you bring on new people and delegate things. It's on you and some people aren't programmed to operate in that way, you know, and that's fine. But somebody that's looking to get into media today, into you, know, whatever format that is, I'd say take the time to you, know, learn how to do it yourself, maintain your independence and build your own brand and platform. Own it.

Cory Short:

Freedom man. It's a beautiful thing.

Matt Mittan:

That's right. Yeah, what is a ship really? As Captain Jack said, it's freedom. You know, and that's what this is. Media is a ship. You know you want to be the pirate of days gone old. You say I was born the wrong century. You know vlogging, blogging, instagram, you know TikTok, whatever. Those are the ships of pirates today. Go out there and explore and experiment and, you know, every once in a while, find your bounty. It's not like you get a steady check. It comes in waves. I'm telling you right now, as an independent media person, you're going to go through seasonal waves. You're going to go through periods of great, robust inlays, you know, of money, and then other times where you're like Roman noodles on the menu tonight. Boys, you know, and that you just have to. You have to accept that if you're going to do that, understand that you are an entrepreneur as well. You know, because I think a lot of creative people, they don't think of themselves that way. But if you're going to get into doing your own platform, allow yourself the title of entrepreneur and then seek out the information that ties it and treat it as such.

Cory Short:

Yes, treat it as such. Give it a good logo, give it some time. Yeah, give it the elbow grease, take classes.

Matt Mittan:

You know there's lots of resources available for free to go to classes and seminars and even coaching services on the business side of things. But so many creative people and I don't mean just broadcast, I mean musicians, comedians, anyone that's in the creative force community they're entrepreneurs. If they want to keep doing it, then they've got to have a little bit of an entrepreneurial attitude toward it. And I think carving out a little space to allow yourself to label yourself something that you may not intuitively think of yourself as will give you a better chance of a sustained presence that can evolve over time. Mine certainly has Mine's evolved, but I'm still doing what I started doing when I was 15. And I'm very grateful for that. It's changed a lot, but ultimately, what am I doing? I'm doing what I want, the way I want, with the people I want. That's what I did when I was 15. That's when I'm doing. I'm 52.

Cory Short:

Man. There was this tick tocker, this dude that gets on there and dresses in a Grinch costume and just walks into the frame of the camera with a vacuum cleaner, dancing in a. I already made four point seven million dollars last year. He just goes into different department stores in different situations in his Grinch costume with a vacuum cleaner and dances a little bit. Yeah, and four point seven million dollars.

Matt Mittan:

That's hard to deal with sometimes. As someone that put a lot of, I started off doing the stupid bit stuff but over time, and I think because of contact with people that are really struggling with things and how policies or economics really impact people's real lives, it kind of matured me and forced me to take a more journalistic approach to stuff I was doing for a number of years there. And so when you see somebody built in cardboard forts in a mansion living room, having Nerfgun fights, making millions of dollars, that can make you a little twitchy you know what I'm saying. When you've worked hard and you've invested, you've learned and everything and you're doing impactful kind of stuff. But then I realized I grew past that and I was like no, that stuff, that Grinch dancing with the vacuum cleaner everything that's impactful because life's gotten really crazy and really scary and insecure and it gives people a laughter break, that's important, that's really important. And so if I'm watching dogs and cats cuddling together and I go down a rabbit hole for a half an hour watching videos of that, I needed that, my psyche needed that. So I don't take that kind of like I don't know what the word would be almost like an elitist attitude about content. No, because everybody's going through something and whatever helps somebody get through a day, that's important, that's impactful.

Cory Short:

And like how many times have you ever found yourself watching videos that you know in that moment? Nobody else in the world is watching this right now. Only me I'm the only one thinking of this bizarre shit in this moment. You know what I mean.

Matt Mittan:

But there's so many people in the world today that that's not the case anymore. You know, I mean, look at cocaine bear. I mean, come on, it's like huge, great example, great example. And you know, and people might go, oh God you know. But it's a break that people need because everything is right in your face and from that news standpoint you know we were talking in the last segment of me realizing that you can't wade back and forth on serious issues because, whether it's the size of the population or the change in technology, there are so many radicalized, outspoken, non-empathy, community based people across spectrums of politics that have saturated different landscapes that you can't get into normal conversations with stuff without having the seagulls like from Nemo getting all over you and it just the noise crowds everything out. So what does that mean? That means the media outlets that are supposed to cover the things that are going on our lives get overrun with them and it just is so stressful and it's so discouraging that cocaine bear sounds like a really nice break for a couple hours. You know what I mean. Or going through, you know Bushman videos for an hour jumping out at people here in the same screen for two hours going. I needed that, I get it.

Cory Short:

I get it All right. Give me your favorite moment. We're going to wrap up the radio talk. Give me your favorite moment from your career in radio.

Matt Mittan:

That's a lot of years to dig through my brain.

Cory Short:

You got to sit Because of your career. You got to sit and have breakfast with Billy Graham. Anything, anything you can think of.

Matt Mittan:

Actually the first thing that popped in my mind, and it was. It was a simultaneous flash of a few different things, but one theme and all of it and that is where I was able to serve as a conduit of information to a really impactful, emotional, event based thing that happened. Give you an example Got a call from from a police force member in Brevard one time. Said hey, I got a call from a mom. This was during the Gulf War, the second Gulf War. And said I got a call from a mom. Her son just died in Iraq. He's being flown back to Asheville Regional Airport. There's no one there to greet his body arriving, and with with the casket and things like that. And so she called to see if we might have a couple officers that could come and and he said and you know, we're short staffed, we're going to, of course, we're going to you know, I'll go there personally, but I'm calling you because I know you know a lot of different people. Are there a few people that you might be able to get? This happened at like one in the afternoon. I went on the air three, I opened up the show sharing it. The plane was arriving at four and I went on the air and we started talking about it and everything. And, being a you know, gulf War one vet, you know I've got a personal connection to the. You know to what it means to lose somebody in your unit. We lost two people in mind and so it's. It's a thing where I get on the air and I started talking about it, encouraging people. By the time that plane landed from Asheville Airport, all the way to Brevard, people lined the road, going through Mills River and everything else and this is before social media and things, you know and people were lining the street and had flags and P and I and I used to do this thing where I used to say I'm deputizing the listeners to be reporters and they'd call in and they'd give a report of what was going on and and talk about it and everything. And there was a procession of vehicles from bikers to first responders to just you know people, and the procession was three miles long. Wow, that the turn out of that. Guess what? There were liberals, there were conservatives, there were independence, there were Democrats, republicans, libertarians, unaffiliated. They were rich, poor, black, white. Those kind of things happening are what's most special to me. I remember a blizzard hitting that wasn't forecast and people being stuck on the highways in their cars couldn't get out, and I stayed on the air through the whole night and we played like card games and we were doing trivial pursuit over the air just to keep people and keep them updated, saying here's what's happening. You know, teams are moving through here. And then we had we had some people that were going out with like food and hot pot, the hot pack things that you could break, you know. And and then, you know, during the floods in 2004, I stayed on the air for almost three weeks straight. I was sleeping on the floor and us and the rest of the crew there, we were the only means of communication for the region because we were out at radio ranch where we had generator backups and we had, you know, we had staff on site. The engineers had a bunker apartment down below the building, you know, and we were able to stay on the air and we were it. We were it for not only emergency responders and government officials to get word out, but also for the community to get word in, you know, and they set up like a war room right there at radio ranch because we were the communication bridge. And so I would say, looking back through and there's a lot of moments like that, but that vibe where I had the opportunity to be in the chair on a mic and important, an important, real, authentic moment of need in our community, those are the moments that really I say, that's why I'm here, those were the things that I was. I needed to be there at that moment and be able to do that.

Cory Short:

Fantastic. I appreciate you sharing that. That's good stuff. So, with a great segue there, you mentioned in your Air Force stuff. Let's talk about that for a minute. Tell me about that journey and how I got started. What pulled you in and made you decide to go serve this country. Tell me the story.

Matt Mittan:

Well, you know, multiple factors and I think decades go by and maybe you wax, you know, a little poetic on what motivations might have been. You know, part of it was probably I just wanted to get the hell out of my parents house, you know, and it seemed like a path to do that, to get out and see the world a little bit. But also when I enlisted I enlisted in 1987, I was still in high school, you know I pre-enlisted had my parents once again, you know, had to sign the paperwork and everything and part of it. At that time in America there was a lot of dark outlook about the future of our democracy. Sound familiar, you know, and I know history and today's politics paint different historical figures one way or another based on current politics or societal awareness things. But Reagan had a big impact on me and really made me believe that it was my duty to serve my country and to be proud of that. And being an impressionable teenager and seeing a national figure speak so proudly and stand up to the communists, the way tear down this wall and all those kinds of things resonated because I had in my family, not directly, my dad wasn't in the military, but I had uncles and my grandparents and everything that all served, you know, vietnam, korea, world War II, and so there was already, you know, that heritage of service was there. And then combine that with I want to get out and see the world. I don't want to just be hanging out at the same bridge over the river in my neighborhood. You know that my friends, you know I saw guys that were 10 years ahead of me and still hanging out at the same spot and, you know, talking about the same things that me and my friends. I just didn't, I didn't want that for my future. I wanted to see more. I knew there was more out there in the world to see and I got to do that, you know, for eight years, and I traveled all around the world and got to experience different cultures and different scenarios, different threats, different, you know, mentors from very different lives and different areas that were able to, you know, give me perspectives. I'll give you an example. Like I was stationed in Texas, I was in Wichita Falls and my roommate was from Dallas, and you know, growing up in the family that I did, which was a multiracial family very heavy with adoption, a lot of adoptions in my family and people from all around the world adopted different colors, different, you know, ethnicities, you know things like that. So for me, race wasn't a topic, and while in Texas with my roommate Darcelle, and then going back to be with his family in West Dallas, fort Worth, was an eye-opener for me about race, you know, and it changed my whole outlook. The biggest impact on me was oh crap, this young little Boston guy doesn't know. Crap, you know. And the pain and the lasting impact of different societal ills were very real. They were very tangible in real people's lives, my age, right here and now. That was an eye-opener for me, and so being in the military for eight years gave me several opportunities to have a broader awareness of things because of exposure to them and travel in the world. You know, I got to England and I was like I lived in England for two years and I thought, oh, it's just like the United States. No, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Not like the United States, not in the area I was. I got there and I was like they still got straw roofs on the houses. I was like what you know? I was in the area that I was stationed at back there in the late 80s. I was blown away. You get into London, sure it's. You know there was even an American section town. You go to big cities in the United States. You have like Chinatown and Little Italy. Well, you have Piccadilly Circus in London, which is the American section of town. So it was an interesting experience to go to a place I thought was just like America, but that the fact that their city, just like the city I'm from, has different, you know, ethnic sections of the city. There was an ethnic American section of the city which was you know that's kind of okay. You know America is kind of full of itself a little bit. You know we think the world is us and it's not, and so I'm grateful for the experiences. I got over those those eight years.

Cory Short:

Well, tell me, tell me about the time overseas.

Matt Mittan:

So, like I said, I lived in England for two years. The Gulf War happened while I was there and so, while a lot of people were deploying forward, we were operating there and bouncing back and forth, like I was with the 48th tactical fighter wing. So we had from our base of operation at RAF Lake and Heath, we had our operations there. We had what's called the Third Eshalon Hospital, which was a tent hospital and people were airvacking in, because that's another thing too that I realized the world is not as big as it may seem when you're just staying in your little American pocket. You know, we had flights B 52 bombers were leaving from Alkenbury, just north of our base, doing bomb runs and we count them coming back to make sure they all made it. It's real world. People were getting to us as they're just coming conscious from hitting a landmine, you know, I mean. So it's like the theater of war is a lot different real time than what people may think it is. You know, and so like, if you're talking about current events in Ukraine, it seems so far away. And then here talks about Germany being hesitant about fighter. No, you don't realize. You can hop on a train at lunchtime and be in Kiev, you know, for dinner. I mean, we're not. This is, this is like crazy close proximity of a lot of different cultures and languages and countries, and you know so, being overseas during that, and we had people you know that were, you know, going back and forth in theater, we had satellite facilities and Riyadh, bahrain, insulate Turkey, you know all that kind of stuff. So we bounced all around you know. so there might be a time where I'm in one place and my roommate is a totally different, you know, because I was also. I was a medic, but I was a specialized medic, and so we we did bounce around a lot during that time.

Cory Short:

So how much, would you say, your time there contributed to your stances today politically, how much of the military times shaped that?

Matt Mittan:

Actually, I'd say it wasn't so much the military service, but something that happened while I was in the military station over there had a huge impact, huge impact and that was the Battle of Trafalgar. It wasn't military, it was civilian, and if people Google Battle of Trafalgar in London, I was there for it. I was right in the center of it, accidentally, and it's where England had imposed what's called a poll tax, that when you turn 18, you have to pay this tax to the government so that you can go vote at the polls. It was the poll tax, you know, and there was such a groundswell of opposition to it. My best friend growing up, jay, had come over to visit and we just went into London to go around and visit. We went to Trafalgar that's where you have the big fountains with the lions and everything. You see them in movies all the time all the stonework, beautiful part of London, and we're just hanging out in Trafalgar Square. All of a sudden we notice what looks like huge ant colonies of tens of thousands of people coming in. Trafalgar Square has roads that intersect, coming in from all different areas. Think of dysfunction junction. If there was a big stone fountain and an obelisk thing in the center of it, okay, and it's just. The streets were filled with people marching toward this epicenter that we're in and we're like, oh, wow, what's going on? I wasn't following the news in England. I was US military, I didn't, I didn't know what the domestic stuff was, and so it was a protest to this thing. They all had their signs and everything we're hanging out. We're like, oh, it's kind of cool. And then it went sideways and it got violent and riots broke out and the police sent in Calvary. They were mowing people down with horses and people are getting beaten and also stuff blowing up. Things are burning buildings, cars and everything. And me and Jay just got into one of those big fountains and crawled up in the center of the fountain holding the center part of it, thinking we're going to die, you know. And to see people fight so fiercely and be willing to endure what they did to oppose being taxed in order to be voted, to vote, all of a sudden made all the things about growing up in Boston hearing about the Tea Party and hearing about, you know, paul Revere and all this. It all changed because I was right there and I'm seeing people with blood running down their face, I'm breathing the smoke from the burning cars and that had a huge impact on me, on people's willingness to fight for freedom and self determination and representative government, and that that had a lasting impact on me. You know some of the crusade type things that people would associate with my time, especially during Take a Stand, where we led caravans to the state capital and you know where. You know, just, we had a. You know, as a community we had a lot of injustices happening to us in the wake of those floods. You know of people not dispersing money that we had prepaid into emergency reserve accounts and everything on the state. They weren't dispersing the emergency relief money here to rebuild bridges and you know, economic stuff for businesses. They just weren't releasing it and nobody was really addressing it and our elected legislators were just going along to get along like, well, you know, we're trying to bring some of it. I'm like screw that. People are hurting, people are losing their livelihoods and our infrastructure is decimated. Here in western North Carolina we had what 13 people died in landslides, and so I, because no one else was doing it, I took up that, that mantle, I ran with that, you know, and then through that realized the reason they weren't releasing the money from the emergency funds is because they were corrupt little accounts set up by key leaders that were passing bags of cash in bathrooms and restaurants in Raleigh and all that. And we helped to expose all that corruption. And so I think that's where I got painted a little bit as a political activist, whereas for me I was just like no, you got to freaking, pay my neighbors the stuff we prepaid for this exact situation. It was never that I was going after politics is I was trying to make sure that the right thing was done by my neighbors. Sure, you know. And so I don't know that I would have been as militantly resolved and those fights and fighting that corruption if I had not gone through the battle of Trafalgar in London did they ever make any movies about that battle? There's a documentary on YouTube about it. I'd love to take that. Yeah, and yeah, it's pretty wild, especially when you see Calvary mowing down people. It's like this was you know this is modern history. This isn't like back in 1860.

Cory Short:

You know so in the, in the Air Force, how did you end up taking the the Meta crowd as opposed to landing in, I don't know, top gun school yeah actually, when I enlisted, you know I said earlier I was always involved in the outdoors and everything and I was.

Matt Mittan:

I was pretty good marksman shot, you know, and I used to shoot in like turkey shoots, which are marksman competitions and everything. And so when I enlisted, I actually enlisted it with a guaranteed job in combat arms. I was like that's cool, I get to work with guns. You know, I'm good at it, you know and. I break down my own guns, reassemble them and maybe or maybe not, isolate some different pin alterations that go fully auto on an old 60, a Marlin, anyway, you know. And then when I got to basic training and they do the different testing things, they pulled me aside and they're like yeah, you've got a guaranteed job in combat arms. However, they're like we really really think you should consider either going into public affairs or medicine. I'm like public affairs, yeah, you know, I was like, oh, there's no way. And in medicine I was like I actually kind of like that. You know, there's a lot of nurses and everything. My mom's a nurse, my aunt's a nurse, a lot of medical people in my family, medical service people and so I was like, yeah, I could do that. That actually sounds really. And I loved it when I worked in medicine. I loved it. As a matter of fact, I planned on doing it the rest of my life. I was gonna be happy to be like a little house on the Prairie, family Practitioner pay me with eggs which I said that before eggs were so valuable, you know and I was gonna be happy to do that. I just wanted to be in a community and serving, you know helping people and so that was really attractive to me, and when I get out of the service I had every intention to continue with that and finish out pre-med and do all that. And I had to wait a year for my residency to kick in in North Carolina until I could get the in-state tuition for my GI Bill. And in that year I was, like, you know, I really liked when I did my TV show and they did say maybe I should do public fairs. And so I was doing the temp job at the Citizen Times and I was like, yeah, I'll do this for a year. I'm gonna do medicine the rest of my life. I'll do media for a year just to do this. You know, public communications thing. And the publisher was doing a radio show at the time, a weekly radio show on a local station, and I just hung out. And then when I moved to the Tribune, same thing the publisher and the editor were doing a weekly radio show and I was hanging out and I got a little bit chirpy. And then, you know, somebody was like you ever thought about doing radio? I thought they meant sell ads. I didn't think about doing it on air. And they said be here Monday morning at 4.30. I wasn't too long out of the military, it didn't phase me. I was like, okay, yeah, I'll do it. I'm working newspaper during the day, I'll come here in the morning. I need extra income. Whatever, you know I was young, I'll do whatever. And yeah, I was 27 years ago. I never got back into medicine, you know, but in a weird way, what I had hoped to achieve, where I could be, that little house on the prairie kind of doctor, pay me with eggs that's kind of the existence I've carved out for 27 years. I've been able to help my community in different ways. There's times, yeah, I've made good money, but most of the time I just get by and I'm okay with that because I'm doing something I love and it has impact and it touches people's lives.

Cory Short:

Massive impact?

Matt Mittan:

Yeah, so that's I'm good. If my ticket gets punched tomorrow, know that. You know I can go upstairs going. I was a good run.

Cory Short:

So how long did you serve? Four years.

Matt Mittan:

Eight years, eight years.

Cory Short:

And your son Aaron followed in your footsteps.

Matt Mittan:

Yep nine years Army. He was with the Corps of Engineers, yeah.

Cory Short:

Okay, awesome. Would you encourage the youth of today to enlist?

Matt Mittan:

Whether it's enlistment or if it's in like the Peace Corps or anything. I think there's a lot of value to coming out of what our education system structure is and doing something that's part of a larger service, calling for a little bit out of high school, you know, even before you go to college. If you're gonna go to college, I think having at least a couple of years where you go out maybe it's a mission trip or maybe it's, you know, the Peace Corps, or maybe it's the military or you know something like that I think there's a lot of value. You know, I talked about being exposed to different people and different cultures and different experiences that I still carry with me today. I think it's good. I would encourage people if not military, some lane of service, you know, even if it's volunteering for a nonprofit for a year or two, you know, and then work a side job to pay your bills you know which in Asheville four jobs to pay your bills, you know. But yeah, I would encourage some kind of service early on, before you have life responsibilities, marriage and kids and mortgage and all that kind of stuff. Get out there and serve a greater purpose for a little while. Get that experience and that exposure.

Cory Short:

All right. Well, thank you for your service to our country, sir. That was something I never achieved, and I'm thankful to you for yours, and to Aaron as well. Talk about parenthood, grandparenthood, outdoors and a lot of other fun stuff with Manitane. I'm Corey Short. We'll see you next time. We'll see you next time.

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