#CMchat Exclusive: DJ Steve Oropallo

DJ, and music promoter, Steve Oropallo has started a Facebook Live Show, The Underground, to help indie artists share their music. From spinning tunes on the American Veterans Radio to his current show, he loves helping up-and-coming artists.

What brought you from New York to California?

“At age 18 I actually joined the Navy Seabees and served my country for five years.  Went to boot camp in Chicago then on to ‘EOA’ School in Port Hueneme, CA for heavy equipment operator (construction)!  Then I was stationed in Exmouth Australia,  for three years.  When my tour was up in April of 1984 I headed back to New York. After a couple of months, I realized I was raised in New York but had grown up on the beach after living two years in California and three years in Australia.  So, by October 1984, I just knew I wasn’t going to live another New York winter and loaded up my belongings and headed to Southern California – San Diego that is!”

What was your favorite radio station to listen to when you were a kid?

“Well, I go way back and one of my favorite birthday gifts I was given when I was a kid was (if anyone is old enough to remember) a handheld transistor radio.  I used to love carrying it everywhere and listening to WCSS 1490 AM. At night they had those shows where a narrator told you a story with some basic sound effects but when you let your mind go you were there wherever the story was being told about.  As I got older and found the love of music I listened to 92.2 WFLY a Rock station out of Albany NY.  That’s where the love of music and using it to express my feelings.”

What lead you to a career in radio?

“Well it’s funny I’m actually new to the radio industry, only maybe 7 or 8 years in. But I started DJing way back in junior high school in my bedroom then parties.  I bought a console stereo at Kmart.  Had an 8-track player and a turntable.  Yes, way back.  Then when I was stationed in Exmouth, a very remote little town with two pubs that closed at 11 PM every night, so most Friday or Saturday nights the party ended up at my house where I would spin music all night, while everyone had fun dancing and hanging out.  That’s where my nickname Steve O started.  Mainly because my name Steve Oropallo was too difficult for the Aussies to remember or say. Then an opportunity arose when the local DJ couldn’t spin tunes. My buddy Terry McGowan and I stepped in for a few nights, here and there, or a wedding, and many more parties which continued on when back in San Diego.  Fast forward from the 80’s to 7 or 8 years ago! I was involved in my son’s band managing and doing their live sound. I saw how hard it was for his band to get any airplay, and after some research, I realized internet radio was exploding. I wanted to be part of it and hopefully, help the indie artists so I got on with Armed Forces Radio and later American Veterans Radio hosting a few of my own indie shows.”

Who were your mentors?

“My mentors I’d have to say were DJ Doc Jim (Jim Lederle) and Rose Gallo at American Veterans Radio.  Every time I broke a rule or did a ‘no no’ they were kind enough to correct me and get me on my way rather than sending me packing.  Haha, there was a learning curve for me you might say.  I thank them for teaching me the ropes of Internet radio!”

Who would you say has influenced your career the most?

“That’s a hard question.  I think I would have to say the indie artists who have to work hard for their careers and to be heard.  I truly am inspired by the amazing unheard talent around the world.  The injustice of the music industry to not give the indie artists a break I guess really drives me!  But I was really inspired back in the day by Wolfman Jack, a syndicated national DJ here in the USA, who broke all the molds. Really made radio and us crazier DJ’s what we are today. Loved watching indie artists getting their first breaks right in front of you!”

How did you get involved with American Veterans Radio?

“I kind of left Armed Forces Radio although I loved the mission of supporting the Armed Forces. For an internet station, it felt so corporate and they were holding the man down…Namely me, DJ Steve O.  Haha!  I represented the indie artists and they just didn’t believe they could hold the attention of their listeners. They didn’t like how much I talked about each artist before and after their song I would spin. So, I left and a checked out other internet stations.  What attracted me to American Veterans radio was their mission to support the American Veterans, first responders and the Armed forces.  Then after listening to a few of their shows like the Jim and Vic’s Country Cave Show on Sundays 10:00 AM ET (shameless plug), and heard all the fun and love going around, I knew if they would have me I wanted to bring my indie show to their listeners!”

What’s in store for listeners of your The Underground show that features indie artists?

“Well, I’m glad you asked Haha!  I just started a Facebook Live Show called The Underground where I interview artists like I always have, but now you can actually see them. I get up close and personal, either live in the studio, or if they’re out of state or the country, on video chat. Plus now I can stream their videos in HD live to give it that MTV Vibe!  I’ll embarrass them and show pictures of them as kids, make them laugh and bring in guests to tell stories about them in junior high. Maybe some pranks too! Ha,  just lots of fun stuff. Oh yeah and some great indie music! Also, for the local artists, we will stream live performances for my Moonlight Sessions Show. And much, much more.”

Check out The Underground at DJ Steve O’s Place 

Who is your favorite air personality and why do you like them?

“I mentioned Wolfman Jack earlier.  Today trips in the car, taking my son to school or getting groceries, I love listening to 93.3 here in San Diego to Kramer and Geena and all the DJ’s. They are unpolished and talk to the listeners and you just want to hang out with them. They have some really funny segments like ‘Love em or leave em‘ or ‘Crazy Girl Confession.’ Just a lot of fun like a radio personality should be!”

What is it about the industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?

“Well just so everyone knows I don’t do it for a living. I volunteer many, many hours a week in support of the indie artists around the world and the American Veterans, first responders and the Armed Forces!  Their love is my pay!  Call me crazy…”

What advice would you give people new to the business?

“Since I just told you it’s just for the love of it and the missions, I’d say you first have to love helping people. If you want to stay on the air or have some success, you have to keep it real and be really creative because every show needs to be different. If you’re going the indie artist route, plan on spending a lot of time searching out, watching YouTube, and listening to SoundCloud and iTunes, to find the best indie artists on the planet like I do.  Be the first to get their music heard.  And stay fresh!  Whatever that means.”

What artist would we be surprised to find on your personal playlist?

“Haha! Other than all the amazing indie artists I spin, a mainstream artist you might not believe on my playlist is … drum roll, please… many.  From Luciano Pavarotti to Katy Perry!”

Author: Donna Block

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