From a small, anti-Confederation household in Newfoundland to one of Canada’s best-known radio talk shows, Tom Power spoke about his career, and what it’s taught him about his country in a recent interview at Centennial College’s East York campus.
Power, CBC’s newest host of Q, was joined by Centennial journalism students to talk about what it’s like speaking with the biggest stars in entertainment for a living. A panel of students asked Power about everything ranging from his own love of music to the tougher parts of interviewing celebrities as a job.
“I didn’t listen to a lot of radio, I’ll tell you that,” Power said about his childhood in Newfoundland. “I was a musician until I worked for CBC. I used to listen to records.”
Power spoke about growing up as a regular Nintendo-loving kid, until the day his dad bought him a guitar and music became the centre of his world.
Power’s grandparents were born in Newfoundland before it became a Canadian province. Through his family, Power learned an appreciation for traditional Irish folk music, but through that love of music, he discovered legends like Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and k.d. lang. He credits Canadian music as a key factor inspiring his admiration for the country his family now belongs to.
“I heard about what was happening in Vancouver and what was happening in Montreal… through that one particular show (on CBC), Sounds like Canada,” Power said. “I found the country to be really captivating.”
Power joked about his own band, The Dardanelles, saying “both of (his) audience members really like me.” He also mentioned that the band is a huge part of what gives him the confidence to do his job. He can speak to musical greats because he also knows what it’s like to struggle with recording or touring.
“I’ve driven from Toronto to Winnipeg to perform…. I’ve eaten at some of the worst gas stations in the country,” Power said. “I think that’s the reason I can sit and ask these people questions.”
For all of the fun that he has at Q, Power also didn’t pretend that the job isn’t also full of unique challenges. Praised for his quick-wittedness by his co-workers, Power said the only reason he is able to think his way out of awkward conversations so effectively is because of his late father.
“My father was very very quick, he always valued being able to think on your feet. I channel him whenever I don’t really know what to do, and I think of him an awful lot,” Power said.
k.d. lang was one guest who challenged Power on the air. When he asked her what inspired her to keep performing, “She just said ‘singing. I love singing… but I’ll tell you what, I hate this.’” lang admitted that, although she loved music, she hated everything to do with promotion in the industry, including interviews. Rather than panic, Power agreed with her, and was able to connect with lang, ironically, by acknowledging just how disingenuous some interviews can be.
“You and I don’t typically sit and talk to each other with three other people, an audience, and cameras,” Power said. “You can only do an impression of a conversation.”
Luckily, Power was able to salvage his interview with lang. While he admits that some days at the office are tougher than others, ultimately he loves his new role at CBC and was thankful for the opportunity to be the voice of Q.
“In no way is any of this work to me,” Power said. “It’s an awesome job.”