In between songs by Toby Keith and Carrie Underwood, those who listen in across north Georgia hear a live human voice – something of a rarity nowadays in radio. And if you listen carefully to that deejay on WKHX in Atlanta, you will hear the sweet inflection of a Carrollton accent.
Sari Rose is the hometown girl with the well-modulated voice. In a career that has only lasted just about a decade, she has moved up the radio dial to now sits behind the console of a top-10 station, spinning hits and delivering crisp, witty introductions in between.
It has been a quick climb in an unexpected career.
“Radio was not actually what I studied in school,” said Rose. “I went to (the University of Georgia) thinking that I wanted to be a (TV) news anchor, and it would be glamorous, and I was going to be on television. And I got a job at a TV station and I realized I didn’t like it. So I had to go back to the drawing board.”
She decided radio offered the challenge she was looking for, and after working at stations in Atlanta and Macon, the Carrollton native finally wound up back in her hometown, hosting a morning show – Jack and Sari in the Morning – at WCKS. She worked there for two years before taking the job at Kicks.
In country music radio, she has found what she discovered missing in television: a real link between the audience, the artists and the industry.
At some stations, where the music is pre-programmed and pre-packaged, the deejay is almost superfluous, his duties perhaps limited to weather and traffic updates. But country music, Rose says, is run old-school, with radio stations playing an integral role in connecting the artists with their fan base, and in helping the fans shape the sounds those artists produce.
“Country artists still come by the station; we still have access to them at the concerts and they really use radio to keep in touch with their listeners,” she says. “We’re one degree of separation for them, so I think that’s something that’s very different in country than any other format I know of.”
Her friend Heather Russell, songwriter and lead singer for the Carrollton-based Paris Luna band, agrees.
“You have a group dedicated to a certain country station, almost like you would to a football team,” said Russell. “In turn, those diehard fans listen to what artists the deejays play and (suggestions) of what concerts are going to be good. It’s where the fans feel ownership of their radio station and their artist.”
Sari Rose thinks that the “ownership” fans feel for their favorite stations and artists comes from the singular difference between country music and other genres.
“The good stories in country music, I think, are what most people relate to, more than necessarily the beat. With hip-hop, a lot of times, it’s the beat that (has) you moving your head, but country really is about the story.”
When Rose was going to Carrollton High School, country music was not part of her life. The daughter of a local chiropractor, her first musical interest was hip-hop and rap – but that changed when she went to Athens, where her college friends were into classic rock. Her interests shifted to country when she began working for Kicks.
Rose admits that, like a lot of young people growing up in Carrollton, she wanted to “get out and do something.” But her family still lives here, as do many of her friends, and she has warm feelings for the town she credits for shaping her destiny.
“I feel like wherever you are shapes who you are,” she said. It was in Carrollton that a high school class in mass media determined her profession, and where she acquired her most valuable professional asset — her voice.
“In radio, you’re not supposed to have a particularly strong accent, so I kind of picked up at school the Carrollton accent and then combined it with my parents’ Brooklyn accent, so it kind of was a good mix, in the long run, for radio.”
Rose and her husband, Zach, who works with Bank of America, have no children, but they do have Phillie, her cat since college, and a constant reminder of her interest in working with rescue animals. She is frequently back in Carrollton to visit her family and friends.
She does not know what the future will bring; right now, she is just enjoying her job and her unique role as a country music deejay.
“The favorite part of my job is making that connection with people. To me, that’s more exciting than playing the latest song or meeting Zac Brown. I would rather sit down and have a conversation with someone, or be able to give them a pair of tickets. I know tickets won’t change (their) life, but it might make their day. So just having the opportunity to that for people is my favorite part of the job.”