Can anyone really be as chirpy 24/7 as Heart FM breakfast presenter Ed James? David Johns chats to the happy chappie – and is left feeling everything is right with the world
Ed James is one of life’s positive people. Anyone who has woken up, showered, got dressed and set off to work listening to the Heart FM Breakfast Show presenter will know what we mean. In another life, you could be forgiven for thinking that he is just too chirpy to be true. But as an early morning radio DJ he fits the bill perfectly. After all, no one wants to start the day listening to a moody, grumpy, old fart over the airwaves.
But the big question I wanted to know the answer to, once I knew I’d be interviewing Ed for Birmingham Living, was: Can anyone, really be so completely and utterly chipper once the On Air sign has gone out and the earphones have been ditched for the day? The answer is: Yes he can!
What you get from six until 10 each morning is how Ed is away from the studio. We’ve all heard of Mr Motivator, well meet Mr Positivity! In fact, Ed is so upbeat and generally ‘everything in the world is rosy’, that he’s planning a book, workshops and online courses to spread his message of positivity and self-improvement to the rest of us.
“It’s based on a strategy that has helped me enormously over the past few years,” explains Ed. “The concept is to make people feel happier. I’m a big fan of positive thinking. I’ve been through some hard stuff, we all have, and it’s how you cope with it that matters. I’ve formulated a strategy that works for me and will I’m sure work for other people too.” Ed’s hard times include the split from his wife and failure of a fledgling PR business.
The popularity of Ed and the Breakfast Show continues to soar. He’s been at the helm for 16 years this January and in that time has shared the airwaves with four co-hosts – Sarah-Jane Mee (now a Sky News TV anchor), Helen Wheels, Rachel New (for nearly nine years) and for the past year Gemma Hill.
“It doesn’t feel like 16 years,” says Ed. “My job is the best job in the world and I love it. You wouldn’t be able to do something for this long and still get a huge kick out of it if you didn’t really love what you do.” And he joked: “Yeah, of course, the older you get the more sleep you feel you need, but early starts have never been a problem for me. And I can say that I’ve had a great time with each of my co-presenters. We basically have a laugh every morning.”
It’s obvious talking to Ed that he loves the interaction with other people. On radio it’s a big part of what gives him such a buzz. “I get up at 4.30am, get to work around 5am or 5.30am, have a coffee and we get started at six. People call in to us, text us, tweet us and we have a great time together. It all feels fresher than ever and right now we seem to be getting a lot of new listeners tuning in which is great of course.”
Hitting on the right chemistry between the show’s presenters is key, and Ed and Gemma seem to have the perfect partnership. “I thought after such a long time with Rachel who became such a close friend as well as a work colleague, it would take ages to get a relationship going on-air with Gemma, but we just clicked,” said Ed. “She is just a naturally crazy person and strange, weird, crazy stuff seems to happen to her all the time…”
Away from the studio, Ed gives as much time as he can to charity – in particular Help Harry Help Others, of which he is a proud ambassador. The charity was set up by Georgie Moseley, the mum of young brain cancer victim Harry who died seven years ago, aged 11. Of Georgie and her tirelessly campaign to raise awareness of brain cancer and to improve facilities, Ed says: “Georgie is a true legend. The fact that she started a drop-in cancer support centre off her own bat is amazing and she has huge plans to open many more centres. I try to help the charity whenever I can and host their annual fund-raising ball.”
Ed also gets behind Heart FM’s own annual Make Some Noise charity campaign as well as taking part in events, including running a half marathon, for the Air Ambulance. As a journalist, he’s also a keen advocate of the local media, having been a past president of Birmingham Press Club, the world’s oldest press organisation.
BEST OF BRUM
Most of all, Ed says he loves Birmingham. “I’ve always been a fan of Brum. When I arrived 16 years ago it felt like we didn’t quite believe we were as good as Manchester, but now we have caught up and gone past them. What we all worked for and hoped for in the city is here. Birmingham has become an amazing place with so much going on and so much to admire.”
Over 16 years it is tough to pick out career highlights but Ed says he has been “incredibly fortunate” to have interviewed some of the world’s top stars on the Breakfast Show – including the likes of Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Lionel Richie and Kylie Minogue. “But the best stuff we do is when we chat with the people who call up on the show. We talk about real things and issues. Things that people can relate to. That’s the reason why, after 16 years, I don’t want to change what I do.”