Interview NAOMI CHRISOULAKIS
im Blackwell leads a glamorous life: the radio host presents Nova’s national drive show with Kate Ritchie and Marty Sheargold, travels the world for guest stints on Getaway, regularly pops up on the Today show and The Project, and has a bevy of famous friends on speed dial. But ask him for a highlight and he offers the most mundane of moments: rolling through the morning routine with his two children, Bo and Alfie, and wife Monique, a yoga teacher, at their home in Sydney’s inner west.
“I’m so lucky to be able to spend the morning at home with Mon and the kids and then just drive off to do [radio] every day at one o’clock in the afternoon – and then be home to read them a story at night. It doesn’t get much better than that,” the 37-year-old says. “I take my daughter to school most mornings and help out with the lunches – we definitely take it in turns, I’m not claiming credit for that – but yeah, it’s really great to have the mornings. My little boy is three so we do the park or take him to the library. I did a lot of years of breakfast radio and I was constantly a zombie, and for that I’m not wishing these hours away, that’s for sure.”
Come 2019, he may face a return to that sleep-deprived state – a third child is due next month. Life will certainly be louder, but Blackwell likes it that way. “My mum always had John Laws on in the house. Even now, in every room in the house, I have a radio on. I just like noise, I always have.” When he was a child, his grandfather bought him a Young Talent Time set complete with a microphone, amplifier and guitar. Blackwell put the guitar to the side, but spent hours reading the newspaper to his mother from his bedroom, the microphone cord snaking out to the amp in the kitchen.
But perhaps it was his stint in the US that made his career path clearest; he moved to Washington DC with his mother and stepfather when he was 13 and revelled in the pop culture of the ’90s. “I got to go to school every day and listen to Howard Stern on my Sony Walkman on the yellow school bus and I was like, ‘Yeah, this is something I want to do,’” he remembers. “As
a 13-year- old, all you did was watch TV and movies by Americans. I was a huge Friends and Seinfeld fan, and I lived there at the peak of those shows.”
Back home in Hobart where he grew up for the later high-school years, he eschewed Saturday morning sport; his father instead ferried him to the local community radio station so he could make coffees and observe the breakfast hosts at work.
It paid off. After graduating Blackwell ping-ponged around Australia as he worked his way up the radio ranks at Nova. In 2002 he made the big move to Perth to host Nova 93.7’s local drive show and was the first voice heard on air when the station launched with a Red Hot Chili Peppers interview. But the bigger milestone, on the same day, was meeting Monique. “It’s the cheesiest radio-nerd story ever – one of the biggest days for my career and certainly the biggest day of my love-life. I had all the big bosses in town, all the news media there. I was shaking and absolutely sh*tting myself but also exhilarated at the same time. Once all that was over, we went downstairs and had this huge launch party and Monique was a part of the promotions team at the time there. She came over and I got the courage to say, ‘I’m new to Perth and I’d love to take you out to coffee or something.’”
Time on different Nova shows in Melbourne and Brisbane followed, and the couple will celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary in December. Asked to name the key to a long and happy relationship, Blackwell replies, “Well, we haven’t actually properly spent any time together in five years since the birth of our child, and now we’ve got a third coming. When we can finally get a word in over the screaming and the laughing in the house, we still love the same things and we still love each other’s company.”
When he’s not busy kid-wrangling and doing his thing on radio, Blackwell dips in and out of the Sydney social scene and counts Peter and Karl Stefanovic as buddies. He admits watching them receive negative attention from the media in recent months makes him want to defend them.
“There’s certainly been times where you realise how the relentless kind of pestering by some parts of the media does start wearing people down,” he says. “They’re not