Perspectives

Alumni Spotlight: Tige Rodgers, '03, and Daniel Baker, '03

BILLBOARD COUNTRY UPDATE

THE STARK REPORT PHYLLIS STARK phyllis.stark@billboard.com

Crammed into the middle of a love seat, shoulder to shoulder with iHeartMe-dia personalities Tige Rodgers, ’03, mass communication, and Daniel Baker, ’03, radio, television and film, (known professionally as Tige & Daniel), Lauren Alaina looks bemused and more than a little confused. As Tige lobs knock-knock jokes at her, a stone-faced Daniel occasionally interjects, at one point randomly asking Alaina, “Do you think people ever look at me and think I dress like a tiny spy?” The singer-songwriter is one of the latest to make it onto Tige & Daniel’s hilarious Tiny Couch video series, which encapsulates in fewer than three minutes the essence of their CMA Award-nominated daily radio show, heard in afternoons at WSIX Nashville and syndicated as an evening show to about 30 more iHeart stations, including ones in Milwaukee, New Orleans and Raleigh, N.C.

While funny in his own right, Tige, a married father of one, plays more of the straight man on the show. Daniel, the kind of person who adds an extra syllable to the word “fruit” for comic effect, is the goofier half of the partnership who cuttingly jokes that their show comprises “hi-larious social commentary, and Tige.”

photo of Tige Rodgers, left, and Daniel Baker

The pair were friends before they began working together on-air and their chemistry is palpable, even when they spend much of the show busting on each other. Daniel mocks Tige’s taste in clothes and says his partner went from being “a little bit of a dad to the dadest dad in the world” after his son was born a year ago. “He’s one second away from wearing his cell phone on his belt.” Tige points out that every time they use a drive-through and the Muppet-voiced Daniel does the ordering, the cashier invariably mistakes him for a woman and asks, “Will there be anything else, ma’am?”

“We just pick on each other,” says Tige. But they have a vision beyond that for their show’s content. Explains Daniel, “I like to picture if you’re riding home after work with your closest friends, what would you guys talk about in the car? You’d rib on each other, but also talk about what’s going on in the news and what’s going on in your lives.” Adds Tige, “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.” Indeed, their bio on the WSIX website ends with the line, “Sorry they’re not more attractive.”

Off the air, Tige says he acts as Daniel’s social navigator. “Have you ever seen a politician and he needs a handler to tell him who everybody is?” he asks. “I’m that guy for Daniel. We go out and I’m [whispering], ‘He’s our boss, Gator.’ ”

That boss, iHeart senior vp programming Gator Harrison, calls their program “the anti-radio show. They don’t sound like everybody else, and they’re authentic … You’ve got two guys that are completely self-deprecating, and they do it authentically on and off the air. But you can tell they have that chemistry and you know deep down they really love each other. That’s what makes them unique. Plus, they look at the world in a very different way, especially idiot Daniel.”

They met and became friends when Tige hired Daniel to do a weekend shift at WMXA Auburn, Ala. After they expressed a desire to do a morning show together, their employer at the time, Qantum Communications, moved them to WGTR Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 2010 and later began simulcasting their show on WYNR Brunswick, Ga. Says Tige of their partnership, “Ours wasn’t an arranged marriage. We chose each other.” They later joined iHeart, which moved them to WTQR Greensboro, N.C., and then to Nashville in 2015 originally for nights before quickly shifting them to afternoons. At WSIX, executive producer Mari Mueller holds all of the show’s moving parts together.

Tige says their personalities complement each other. “I’m a huge worrier and always scared of the next thing, and Daniel is the opposite, so he can talk me down. And when he’s being a bit silly, I can say, ‘Let’s reel it in a little bit.’ ” While they spend an hour or two a day on show prep, they leave room for unexpected moments. “Daniel is so spontaneous. He can just come up with something that I think even he is surprised by sometimes, last minute,” says Tige. “I see those gears turning, and I know he’s about to do something and I’m going to be ready for it.”

On the air, some of their comedic bench-marks include “Sensual Shoutouts” and “Tige & Daniel Relate to Teenagers.” In the former, they reward people who have followed them on Facebook by saying their name on the air, followed by a creepy come-on. (Sample line: “Did you sit in Frosted Flakes? ’Cause your butt looks grrrrrreat.”) In the latter, they might talk on the air about, for instance, how “we’ve got to run to Walgreens and pick up our Instagrams we had developed,” explains Daniel with a laugh.

One adjustment they’ve had to make to their show is tightening things up. “When we were doing mornings, we were doing three-and-a-half-minute breaks,” says Tige. “Now I’m like, ‘How did we do it? How did we talk about something for three-and-a-half minutes?’ It’s a content-driven show, but it exists within the world of PPM.” Adds Daniel, “In mornings, when we did a break, we could give you the whole gallon of orange juice. In nights and afternoons, we give you that concentrated tube your mom would put into the [pitcher] and pour water on top of.”

But fans can still find long-form content and extended artist interviews via the pair’s newly launched Not Too Good Podcast (the name a reference to something Daniel’s uncle used to say any time he was asked how he was doing). In artist interviews, the pair loves to go for unexpected questions, but also allow their interviews take surprising turns when “you just kind of relax and let it go,” says Tige. In their latest podcast, they got Trace Adkins to talk about how he “almost killed” Donny Osmond, his pledge to “capture Bigfoot completely naked on live television,” his desire to be an eyebrow bar technician and his favorite Blizzard flavor at Dairy Queen. Adkins called it “the least profound interview I’ve ever done, maybe in my whole career.”

The Tiny Couch series, inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts, has also resulted in comedy gold, particularly the time Brantley Gilbert pranked the duo. With everyone — even their radio colleagues — in on the gag, Tige & Daniel were told in advance to expect Gilbert to be “gruff and combative,” and were warned not to ask him silly questions. They did anyway, including asking if Gilbert ever danced around singing into a hairbrush, causing Gilbert to tell them just two minutes into the interview that if they asked one more stupid question he was going to turn violent.

“I really was afraid,” says Daniel. “He got up and threatened to beat both of us. He had all these rings on, and I just remember thinking, ‘I hope he hits Tige first.’ ”

(Shared with permission from iHeartMedia Markets Group) 

Last Updated: April 26, 2017