James Stewart has made a name for himself since joining Heart Radio two years ago. As well as becoming a bit of a style icon and a regular frow at London Fashion Week, he even finds time to run laps around Clapham Common in preparation for a marathon…
From the moment I start chatting to TV and radio presenter James Stewart, it is as if we are old friends simply catching up. He’s down to earth, endearing and takes the mick out of himself, which is no doubt why he’s soaring to broadcasting success.
Stewart now has his own twice-weekly show on the UK’s largest commercial radio station, Heart FM, presenting his regular Feel Good Weekend shows, but he’s modest when it comes to his impressive social media following (around 19,000 on Twitter, though he reckons he’s not very good at it).
Stewart talks about how he has always wanted to be a presenter, but that it is something that doesn’t have a very clear pathway as a career. He encourages people interested in the job to get as much experience as possible of all different aspects of the role, as then it offers a more rounded view of the bigger picture.
‘I remember watching I’m a Celebrity with Ant and Dec when I must have been about eight or nine, and thinking that it was the coolest job in the world,’ laughs Stewart.
‘I had no idea how I could do it, so from an early age, I started plotting different routes in my head. With acting, you go to drama school and get an agent, and it seems a little more linear, whereas with presenting I think there are a lot of different, less clear ways into it.’
Stewart tells me how his strategy was to work in media, get a job as a runner after university while doing bits in PR making contacts at record labels and film companies.
I worked really hard and got really lucky, I guess
‘I worked really hard and got really lucky, I guess,’ he says. ‘I did a lot of free things and tried to make as many contacts as possible. Commercial radio with Heart has given me a massive boost in the industry now.’
Of course, he remains humble about the whole thing. ‘It was amazing and absolutely mad to get this job,’ he says. ‘I’ve listened to Heart since school and I look at the names on the roster and just can’t believe it. It’s really exciting and it’s made up of such a nice group of people.’
A regular at London Fashion Week, both behind the camera and on the front row, Stewart recently worked with Mercedes to launch the London Fashion Week S/S2017 show. ‘The big partner of London Men’s Fashion Week is Mercedes so myself, Ollie Proudlock and Jim Chapman got together and just had a chat about clothes and cars,’ he says in his easy manner.
‘We introduced it and kicked it all off, which was cool. Guys don’t really talk about fashion as much, but grooming is such a big thing and I want to make it more accessible. I love that we now have our fashion week and I just want to make it something that we talk about more, in friendly conversations like I’m having with you now.’
In fact, perhaps Stewart’s success in the broadcasting industry has something to do with his broad span of interests and his enthusiasm to try everything. He talks about his love of music from day dot inspiring his radio show. ‘I love music and I’m fascinated by music, the processes behind it and how it all starts from lyrics to writing,’ he says passionately. ‘I’m very passionate about music and I really enjoy that side of my job. I love finding old stuff, especially for Heart.’
I signed up for a marathon when I was drunk at the Christmas party!
Of his growing social media following, Stewart tells me how he likes that it can be used, not as the main focus, but alongside his career choice. ‘I love what other people post, I like sharing stuff and it’s cool to see what other people are doing in their lives,’ says Stewart. ‘It’s definitely changed the game for sure and it goes hand in hand with broadcasting because I can use it to supplement what I’m doing for work. I’m trying to get better at it though.’
So where does Stewart like to chill out in his spare time? ‘Luckily when my sister and I were buying a flat six years ago, the only place we could really afford was Clapham North amazingly,’ he says. ‘So we bought a flat there and I love it and the area. Brixton is great and I love the open spaces. I like the fact that you can get lost in the common, plus everyone is pretty chilled. You can have a self-contained day in south-west London, which I think is pretty special.’
And where does he like to hang out? ‘I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym, which is a bit boring,’ he laughs. ‘But I signed up for a marathon when I was drunk at the Christmas party! Clapham Common is good for that too.’
I wonder what is next for the man hitting the high notes in everything, and wonder whether we’ll be seeing him more on our screens in the future. ‘I enjoy radio for the one-to-one intimacy,’ he says. ‘Radio is the most intimate media form still and I approach it like I’m talking to my mates. You can never really replace that. I do really enjoy the collaborative nature of TV though.’
Tune into James Stewart on Heart, Saturdays and Sundays from 1am-6am