In the ’90s, Jamie “Gunner” Smith was crowned the Hamilton Cheerleader by Brodie Schwendiman – owner and operator of The Casbah. Rooting for Hamilton resonates in Smith’s work even today.
After attending Westdale Secondary School, Smith went to work as a bus boy at the Corktown Tavern. While there, a “nice lady” by the name of Susan Cavanaugh, as Smith recalls, started showing him how to book live shows and bands. This is how he got started in the music industry.
He went on to tour with bands like Junkhouse and the Killjoys, bringing them to large festivals like Edgefest and playing the roles of booking and tour manager and publicist.
While on the road in the 1990s and early 2000s, Smith would listen to talk radio late into the night. He recalls listening to Hamilton’s CKOC as a kid as well. Smith became fascinated with the way on-air personalities would ask questions.
“I could do this,” says Smith of his decision to pursue a dream career in radio broadcasting.
In 2005, Smith graduated with a diploma from Mohawk College’s radio broadcast program. He then worked for eight years as the campus radio’s program director and is credited with redeveloping the station’s brand (c101 to indi101) and building its large audience. He has won many Hamilton Music Awards and taught broadcast journalism courses at the college.
Today, Smith says his passion has turned to telling the stories of Hamilton and its people. “There are people in Hamilton with interesting stories but they don’t have the means to tell them,” says Smith.
“That’s where In the Neighbourhood and the Jelly brothers come in.”
Smith has teamed up with Matt and Dan Jelly for the last few years to produce In the Neighbourhood. Starting as a regular show on indi101, In the Neighbourhood is now a podcast that can be streamed on their website.
“We tour the show,” he says of its unique format. IYN may interview a city councillor one week at a café as well as the café’s owners while the next, the show will stop at The Hamilton Guesthouse and feature its owners along with members of Hamilton’s Winterfest. Essentially, In the Neighbourhood tells the stories where the stories are happening.
So, where does the name Gunner come from?
“I needed an on-air name; it started as a joke and stuck,” he says. “Some people don’t even know or remember what my real name is.”