Gordon-Smart

The Influence Room Podcast - Changing the dialogue: Gordon Smart - Broadcaster and Journalist

On this week’s podcast we have the brilliantly talented, Gordon Smart, broadcaster, businessman and father. He talks to us about his long career in journalism, his other ventures and plans for the future. Gordon Smart is a former showbiz editor of The Sun, Editor of  The Scottish Sun and currently Radio X evening show host. A lifetime spent on both sides of the media fence gives him a unique viewpoint on what makes great storytelling.


Overview

An enthusiast at heart, Gordon expresses how he love for meeting new people and hearing their stories and experiences is integral to his career choices in life. This passion has assisted in a very successful career in journalism.

“I've been really lucky to meet all my heroes and travel the world and hear from some of the most interesting and some of the most vacuous people in the world.”

Before turning to journalism, Gordon played with the idea of pursuing a career in football to compliment his love of the sport.  He was asked to play in a 5-a-side football club in Italy that was linked to Bologna, which remained only a conversation as unfortunately after breaking his leg he was not able to pursue this. When moving to London,  Gordon coached  a  football team for a company called Coerver. But with an excellent qualification in journalism behind him, he decided this was the focus 

With the amazing opportunities he was given whilst playing football to meet interesting people, Gordon discusses how he working at a newspaper opened up new connections at the age of 18. Working with many talented journalists allowed him to connect with big personalities in sports and other industries . Years later when he became showbiz editor at The Sun, he noticed a cultural shift where people suddenly became famous through reality tv. Whilst he acknowledges that The Sun probably accelerated that culture, he had a personal rule where only people with a talent would appear on his column.

Gordon's values, focus and strive are  now focused on creating a foundation for his family. He discusses how he is building a structure to ensure his kids have the same solid foundation and opportunities that he had. 

With a year left of his radio contract, Gordon looks to the future in terms of his career and family.  Whilst also working at Radio X, he also runs his own company called Restless Natives. Additionally, he is the co-found of Copper Dog, where he advises on how they should work with talent and is a consultant for Jaguar Land Rover.

Five quick takeaways:

  1. Regardless of how successful or how much you’re struggling people always measure themselves against other people.
  2. If you’re a brand and you want to work with talent, identify what you need and work with good people. 
  3. Everyone Gordon idolised from a talent point of view was famous for a reason.
  4. Networking is key - Gordon was friends with incredibly talented people such as David Beckham, Rob Stewart, Sean Connery, Beyonce and Andy Murray.
  5. If you really put your mind to something and set your target and goals and you behave appropriately, and treat people right things will work out for the best.

If you enjoyed this episode and don’t want to miss the rest of the series, you can follow The Influence Room Podcast on Spotify and Apple iTunes podcasts.


 

Full audio transcription

- Bronagh

Hello, and welcome to The Influence Room podcast. This is the show that brings together talent, brands, influencers, and industry thought leaders to discuss what influence means from different viewpoints.

- Bronagh

Our guest this week is Gordon Smart. Gordon's been a friend of the brand for a few years now, and his energy, infectious personality, laser sharp memory, and ability to tell a story is just some of the many reasons why he's been such a success in a number of ventures. These include journalism, broadcasting, brand consultancy, and crisis management.

-Bronagh

In the interview, we'll cover a bit of Gordon's influences growing up, his perspective on the talent evolution, looking at his time as Showbiz Editor of The Sun, to championing new artists as a radio DJ on Radio X. And his aspirations for the future, advising brands such as Copper Dog. Enjoy the interview.

- Bronagh

Hello, and welcome back to The Influence Room podcast, the show that explores all ends, on this circumference of influence. We're really excited to have our first guest of 2020, who's a very good friend of mine, a fantastic broadcaster, fantastic journalist, and brand ambassador, Gordon Smart.

- Gordon Smart

Thank you very much, Bronagh. Do I owe you money? I think I probably do, actually. Thanks for having me guys, it's great to see you.

- Alex

It's very nice to see you. Happy New Year, how was your new year?

- Gordon Smart

It was very quiet, very civilised. Listen, I'm 40 in two months, and it's really beginning to dawn on me that I'm nearly a 40 year old man. It was very quiet, watched Uncle Buck on New Year's Eve.

- Alex

Stop it.

- Gordon Smart

Yeah. That's where I am in life, right now.

- Milly

What is that?

- Gordon Smart

It's a film with John Candy, written by a guy called John Hughes, who made Home Alone.

- Alex

By chipping in, you've just made us all feel old. If you have to ask what Uncle Buck is, it's not a good start.

- Milly

I can't help.

- Alex

I'm June so I'm four months behind you.

- Gordon Smart

Alex we're from a great generation, aren't we?

- Alex

We are indeed. I think we had the best of it.

- Gordon Smart

It's good to see you. We have. Am I comfortable with turning 40? This isn't what this podcast is about. I don't think I've wasted a minute right. I've had a good life and a good career and interesting stuff has happened. But am I at the half way point? Am I past the half way point?

- Alex

Don't do that. Let's not do that. Like mature wine.

- Gordon Smart

I've got a great beard.

- Alex

Exactly.

- Gordon Smart

I thought it was toothpaste, really.

- Alex

We've done a few of these, haven't we? Over the last few months. I think I'm as excited to be doing this one as any we've done so far. I'm almost sad we've got 45 minutes to do it because we could talk to you for weeks on end. Where do we start?

- Gordon Smart

I'm no James Haskell, can I just make that clear?

- Alex

Which is an enormous relief to all of us, let me tell you. How would you describe yourself now?

- Gordon Smart

I'd say I'm a broadcaster and a business man, really. And a father. That would be the three things that stand out for me. I was just talking about this this afternoon actually. Really interested in lots of stuff. My only problem sometimes is that I can't settle on one thing. I am a restless native. That was the name of the company that I have and I just love being involved in enthusiasm. I'm an enthusiast. That's what I am. That would sum it up. I really enjoy the beginning of things. I like getting people motivated and started. And if you can play a part and connect with people as well that gives me a huge thrill.

- Alex

Yeah, you're very, very good at it. If you've got a 2020 to-do list, what's at the top of your to-do list at the moment?

- Gordon Smart

It's a really big year for me because my radio contract... I've got a year left and I've been living a slightly odd life for the last three and half, nearly four years, where I've been commuting between Scotland and London and I'm very conscious that my kids... I've missed quite a lot of them growing up.

- Gordon Smart

Listen I'm not going to complain. I'm not in the army. I'm not fighting on the front line, down in the pit, or any of that but my son in particular is reaching an age where I think I need to be around. He's entering some choppy water in his life that I think I need to be present for.

- Gordon Smart

And my daughter. I'm terrified about raising a daughter because... yeah, I'll leave it there but yeah, at some point I've got to be a bit more present than I am. Our time together is magical but you speak to everybody that comes on this is about your balance. The balance in life.

- Gordon Smart

I listened to this brilliant podcast recently with Matthew McConaughey and he was talking about that. He said every now and again he sees his life as the legs of a table and maybe one leg of that table is his relationship with his wife and now and again he'll ignore that bit and the table will start to fall over so he's like, "Right, we'll have to do something. Just you and me. No kids, no work."

- Gordon Smart

Every now and again, my table just tilts in the wrong direction. Fortunately, all the cutlery and the glassware is comfortably on the top but inevitably life does kick the table away every now and again. It happened at Christmas, I lost my beloved dog and I thought I was hard as nails. I thought I was a robust human being and I was rubble.

- Gordon Smart

Things like that make you realise, it's manageable in the moment but long-term, I'm going to have to solve that conundrum.

- Bronagh

I've been listening to various interviews that you've done in kind of the run up to this. One through passion but also one through research and I listened to your conversation with Si Ferry on Sunday. Shout out to Open Goal podcast and one of the things that I really liked was when you talked about how your Scottishness has been one of your biggest assets, which I think is very true as someone who comes from Ireland. I'm very proud to be Irish. I think coming to London, that is a real unique selling point in how you deal with people and how you maintain relationships.

- Bronagh

One of the things that we like to talk about in the podcast is your influences in life and I think your Scottish mafia almost is... that's some of the biggest influence to play the part in your career.

- Gordon Smart

Definitely, yeah. I love people. I love meeting people. I love meeting new people. I like meeting strangers. I talk to folk in the tube. I am that bloke that will bother you. I really enjoy it.

- Gordon Smart

I remember...I think it's why I'm a journalist, really. I was asked to write a piece to get into university about the most interesting person I'd ever met and I'd once met Hell's Angel in a pub in Edinburgh. I sat and listened to this Scottish guy who'd traveled the world. He was covered head to toe in tattoos and I just sat and listened to him for eight hours and asked him questions. He'd driven from one side of America to the other. He'd visited Vanuatu and Polynesian islands. He'd been in the Navy briefly and hated it. I'm just sitting there like, "God, this guy is amazing," and I love people.

- Gordon Smart

I think when you meet people... immediately looking for that point of interest that's adjoined. I think you can communicate through. For me, it's often sport, quite often music. But I think being Scottish and the people I grew up around really played a big part in that because I've been surrounded by amazing characters all my life.

- Gordon Smart

My father-in-law is this sort of huge personality in Scotland. Jim Leishman MBE, Provost of Fife, Fellow of Carnegie college.

- Bronagh

You've recently stepped back from.

- Gordon Smart

I've recently taken a step back. Just been apart of that Fife dynasty, the royalty.

- Milly

Too much pressure.

- Gordon Smart

Yeah, exactly. Couldn't handle it. I mean, the intrusion from the Dunfermline press was horrendous.

- Gordon Smart

What an amazing character this guys was, right, and he was the last Dunfermline player to score a winning goal at Ibrox, he was captain of Scotland under 21s, he's a huge philanthropist. His charity in memory of his wife, my mother-in-law, has raised a million pounds and his stories are off the scale. He's this big personality in my life, sort of later on in my teens when I started dating his daughter.

- Gordon Smart

My dad is a GP, so we were...by the nature of his job, thrust into this world of different people. I'd go in the car with him to his house calls. I remember once I was quite keen to be a doctor at the time and he went out on a Sunday afternoon to put a new urethra in an old man's private parts and I thought, "Nah, maybe not for me."

- Gordon Smart

But again my very early memories, my dad qualified as a GP in Edinburgh and he was working in Western Isles and Sighthill, which is a really tough part of Edinburgh. I just remember all these punks walking about.

- Gordon Smart

Edinburgh, I don't know if you know, was the AIDS capital of Europe at the time. There was a huge heroin problem and I've always been really tuned in to people and emotions and things that are happening around me. My dad tells a story about us walking through the meadows in Edinburgh and I spotted my first drug deal happening. I said, "Dad, why is that guy giving that guy money?"

- Gordon Smart

I've always been really street wise and aware of what's going on. I just love meeting people and hearing their stories and experiences and then obviously becoming a journalist just set that on fire. I've been really lucky to meet all my heroes and travel the world and hear from some of the most interesting and some of the most vacuous people in the world.

- Alex

They always say never meet your heroes. Would you stand by that or would you say some of them stack up?

- Gordon Smart

Some of them stack up.

- Alex

Who stacks up for you?

- Gordon Smart

David Beckham was incredible.

- Alex

Really?

- Gordon Smart

He wasn't really a hero but he was somebody I admired as a sportsman. He speaks beautiful Spanish. He never did that because he didn't want to let himself down in front of the cameras or be picked up on a slip of the tongue. He's a great story teller. An unbelievable sportsman, we can all agree on that, and he's just great company. I thought he was pretty good.

- Gordon Smart

Rob Stewart was quite entertaining.

- Alex

Really?

- Gordon Smart

Sean Connery, I met him. Lived up to expectations and more. Who else? People like Beyonce... just a formidable, determined, motivated, articulate, successful, brilliant, inspiring human being. Wonderful.

- Gordon Smart

Andy Murray.

- Alex

Very funny.

- Gordon Smart

Love him. Brilliant crack, brilliant crack. I get quite nervous around sportsman because I would give anything to be an elite athlete. I would love to be able to play at the top level of any sport.

- Alex

You were quite close...football.

- Gordon Smart

Yeah, I was a decent footballer but know yourself Alex, you played rugby. Every now and again you meet someone who is elite and you think, "Right, yeah. I'm not good enough."

- Gordon Smart

I've spent my life surrounded by people saying, "I could be good enough, I could've done it, I could've made it." I like saying, "No, I wasn't good enough." I played with people who were good and you know.

- Alex

When did you play?

- Gordon Smart

When I was younger, I played for a team called Kinross colts which means nothing to anybody and I lived in this place between Perth and Dunfermline and about 6,000 of a population. My dad was the GP in the town nearby. I think that held me back as a footballer because if I had lived in Fife or Dunfermline or maybe farther north in Dundee, I think my chances in football would've been great.

- Gordon Smart

I played for Kinross colts and then I went to university when I was... what would I have been? 18. At that point, that was a good standard for uni football.

- Gordon Smart

Long story, but the brief version is I broke my leg when I was 18 and that ended my career. By that point I was supposed to be playing junior football in Scotland on a salary with boots and all that kind of stuff but that never happened. I mean, the closest I got to playing at a really good level, I was asked to sign for Bologna-

- Alex

Stop it.

- Gordon Smart

Yeah to play five aside football, weirdly. They had a professional football league in Italy and I played with a Spanish guy called Bosco Jesper who had moved to Edinburgh to go to university and Bosco played for Barcelona. He then played for Bologna at five aside football.

- Gordon Smart

There's a great story about Bosco, actually.

- Alex

Great name.

- Gordon Smart

Great name, isn't it? Bosco. How about this for a talented man? Spoke five languages, he was a professional footballer, and he was a handsome bastard as well. Can I swear on this podcast?

- Milly

A triple threat.

- Gordon Smart

He's a more than that. He's a quadruple threat, isn't he? Bosco, I took him under my wing. I got him smashed in Edinburgh and ruined his athleticism. We played on the same football team in Edinburgh and he said, "You should come and play in Bologna with me."So we all got in touch and I was about to sign to go and do that for the summer of 2000 and I broke my leg and that was it. Couldn't go. I was gutted because it was good money and it was on TV. They televised the... I think it was televised, he told me it was.

- Gordon Smart

It was brilliant. We went to visit Bosco in Barcelona, right? I'd broken my arm at the Sun, playing football. Two screws in my elbow there, you see that?

- Milly

I'm worried about you playing football now.

- Gordon Smart

I'm a danger. I am an absolute danger. I'm a tool, I've always been and I couldn't tape really. I was in this ridiculous sling and a plastic cast. The [inaudible 00:12:28] said, "Go away on holiday for a couple of weeks and get better."

- Gordon Smart

We went to Barcelona and stayed with Bosco. He said, "Gordan, I'll meet you in this restaurant at half past eight and I'll see you there." We sat down in this restaurant and there's a TV in the corner and I'm watching it and it was like... again, professional football in the tele... and I was like, "That's Bosco." It was Jesper on the back of his shirt and sure enough, about half an hour after the full time whistle he turns up in his tracksuit and says, "Sorry, I was busy." Didn't say, "Sorry, I was busy playing football on TV." He was so understated, such s brilliant guy.

- Gordon Smart

After that, I moved to London and I coached football for a company called Coerver, this dutch coaching company. It was brilliant, I loved it. All around Surrey, so it was Chessington, Kingston, Epsom, [inaudible 00:13:13] Feltham.

- Alex

Did you?

- Gordon Smart

Did all that.

- Alex

In the prisons?

- Gordon Smart

No no it was at Tolworth tower. They used to send me to do the naughty boys because I was Scottish and I have a bit of authority. I would just swear at them, stop them from killing each other.

- Gordon Smart

Around that time, I remember I had a trial at Sutton United and then I broke my leg again. I broke my leg and that was the second time in two years. It took me a year to kick a ball again. Eight screws, a metal plate, open fracture in my ankle. It was horrendous. I thought, "Right, I can't muck about with this football nonsense anymore. I'm a qualified journalist. I need to do that."

- Gordon Smart

And that was another long story

- Alex

Gwenyth Paltrow sliding door. Sliding tackles and sliding doors.

- Gordon Smart

I think about that all the time. I am a believer in fate, I think things have happened for a reason and my life is so preposterous and ridiculous that I do believe that there has been some... I'm not particularly religious. This is going to get heavy.

- Alex

I love it. This is what we're about.

- Gordon Smart

Well, let me try to explain this to you. My dad is this sort of solid foundation in my life, he's been brilliant for me. He's one of those guys that seems to know about everything and I was having a discussion with him about religion because I'm not in an way religious and he said, "Well, think of it like this, Gordan. You can't show me what love is, can you? You can't... there's no physical embodiment of it but you know you can feel it and it exists. That's what religion could be for people. It's like this hope, this idea there's something else."

- Gordon Smart

I'm not religious but I do believe in love and I believe massively in...if you really put your mind to it and set your target and goals and you behave appropriately and well and treat people right, things will work out, hopefully, for the best. If it doesn't, it's just totally unfair.

- Bronagh

Just to touch on that point, I think one of the things you're really good at is seeing opportunities that maybe other people can't see. One may be in a story, another in a talent. I think that's something. That you can see something in people and you're very good at nurturing people.

- Bronagh

I just wondered what is your perspective on how the talent space has evolved because obviously one of the things that you did at the Sun was rebranded what Showbiz really meant to people and what Showbiz should be, what the output should be to a mass market. Do you think that talent is evolving in a good way or do you think that because of social media, it's evolving in a bad way?

- Gordon Smart

Well, first of all, Bronagh, that is a brilliant question. I hope that didn't sound personal but that is a brilliant question because I think about this all the time.

- Gordon Smart

When I was growing up, without sounding like an old man again, I had so many heroes, people I really idolised. Daley Thompson, for instance. When I was four years old, the Los Angeles Olympics were on and this guys on TV, the world's greatest athlete. The fastest runner, the strongest guy, could jump the highest, jump the longest, throw the farthest.

- Alex

God save the queen.

- Gordon Smart

God save the queen, yeah. Also outed Carl Lewis. I mean, he's got another side to him, Daley, but I just thought, "That guy, I would love to be that guy."

- Gordon Smart

I remember saying to my mom, "Why am I not brown like Daley Thompson?" I just thought he was brilliant. Incredible. We used to do many Olympics in the garden and was all about... I wanted a gold medal and I think in cultures there's a slighter side. I don't like this idea of everybody wins. I think its important that you have first, second, and third, and people who do come last. I think it helps push you on.

- Gordon Smart

Anyway, the talent thing is a big part of that. I then idolised Gordon Strachan because we shared the same name and he was a brilliant Scottish footballer. '86 World Cup.

- Gordon Smart

Then you get a little bit older and you realised other things you admire so I really admired some of my teachers, which is probably a massively uncool thing to say but I had these really eccentric, really inspiring, brilliant teachers. I'm so fortunate to have a state education that is beyond my wildest dreams.

- Gordon Smart

I had this history teacher called Mr. Mackie, who was massively into music and rock and roll. He looked like a hippie. He had long hair. One of the most intelligent, ferocious characters I've ever met. I had another teacher called Mr. Hawks, he was a physics teacher who'd lived in Borneo, lived around the world, was an engineer, knew how everything worked. I had a great English teacher who's massively inspiring called Caroline Pauler...All these people, right? I saw them as talent.

- Gordon Smart

Then you start to fall in love with music and I loved my dad's record collection. Oasis happened when I was 14. I had a big brother, which helped. I was reading all his music magazines and then you start to idolise musicians like, "God, I'd like to be a musician," because I played a bit of piano and loved music. Then you start to hero worship bands.

- Gordon Smart

Everyone I idolised from a talent point of view was famous for a reason. You were a great sportsman, great musician, a wonderful politician maybe. I actually was quite interested in politics later on in school. So, people like Donald Dewar and there was a big conversation about devolution in Scotland at the time and the Constitution. That interested me.

- Gordon Smart

I love people like Robin Cook and Gordon Brown. The new labor movement was happening when I was a teenager. Politics excited me because for the first time, it was accessible to me. It wasn't Michael Heseltine or a really awful Norman Tebbit style character who was waving his finger at Scotland. A Tory party who was making my granddad kick the TV in. It suddenly felt like, "This speaks to me and I like this. God, these guys are in charge of the country and they're relatively young."

- Gordon Smart

Tony Blair was a young man when we was Prime Minister and I was thinking, "Right, these guys are talent in their own way." Then, of course, you go off and do your university stuff and all the rest of it. I worked at a newspaper when I was 18 and I worked with talented journalists so I had to meet some big personalities of footballers and things like that through that.

- Gordon Smart

Anyway, the point I'm getting to is, I eventually ended up being the Showbiz editor at the Sun and this mad cultural thing happened where people suddenly became famous for no reason. So, Characters like Jordan, or Katy Price, who arguably you could say was a model with a modicum of talent. I mean, fair play to her she built an empire so she can't be daft, right? She made a lot of dough and lost it, so there's a talent there somewhere but I just hated-

- Alex

Nasty Nick was almost...he was kind of the tip of the spear.

- Gordon Smart

The first Big Brother, wasn't it? Kind of this new and suddenly I was interviewing people for a newspaper, thinking, "I'm much more talented than you are." I've worked my ass off and you're suddenly famous for no reason. Listen, the paper I worked for, The Sun, probably played a part in accelerating that culture. It was a big cultural movement but what it really made me do, I had a rule at the Bizarre, was you would only really appear in my column if you had a talent. I refused to write about the Kardashians, for instance, or Paris Hilton. Or certainly ignore them as best I could unless the editor told me to do something.

- Gordon Smart

No, just brilliant bands, just great people. I'd write a lot of nonsense well, a lot of mischief, but you had to be talented or famous for a reason. Then after I left newspaper, I was then in a management position where you were deciding what was on the front page, you're considering it again, the TOWIE thing never really sat comfortably with me. The Only Way is Essex or Made in Chelsea.

- Gordon Smart

I hate the idea that privilege is your fame. That gets on my tits. Really, really boils my piss. I understand a few of these guys are probably listening and are members of the Influence Room. It's nothing personal. It's just having to work my ass off and work harder than other people without a relative or money opening doors for me. I just think it should be a level playing field on that front.

- Gordon Smart

That's where I come from on a talent point of view.

- Bronagh

And in terms of the shift in media, obviously you've been across the heyday of PR and print journalism and really, over the past few years, it is getting a bit touch and go for a lot of print outlets. Did you feel that shift is that something that all of sudden you just realised? Excuse my french, fuck, what is going to happen to newspapers? What's going to happen to magazines?

- Gordon Smart

Yes, massively. I qualify, just to put this in perspective for anyone who's a bit younger than us... I was born in 1980. I qualified as a journalist pretty much before the internet and before mobile phones so I used to phone my copy in from a phone box. I used to do short hand and write stuff down.

- Gordon Smart

We had a system called Atex at the courier in Dundee, which was before email. That's where I started and when I started at The Sun, on a Saturday we sold five million newspapers. Five million newspapers bought. At 30 p, maybe 50 p a copy. Now you do the math yourself and work out how much that was generating every single day.

- Gordon Smart

Then I suddenly realised, the more you climb the latter of the paper, about the business, you understand that 10 percent and then 12 percent and then 15 percent, a decline is happening in sales. It doesn't take a mathematician to work out long that industry has. So, very early on I realised I need to add more strings to my bow, I need to have another interest that I can rely on should this all end.

- Gordon Smart

Anybody who works in newspapers, or any kind of media, that doesn't have a plan B, is daft and they need to give themselves a shake. So, yeah I could definitely feel it, I could see it. Weeks I went through this mad spell where we suddenly had this huge online staff and then suddenly we scaled it all back and then there was a pay wall. If you wanted journalism, you had to pay for it but then people didn't want to pay for that so then we gave it away for free again and nobody, really, has come up with the answer to solve that massive conundrum of, "How do you get people to pay for journalism now?"

- Gordon Smart

It is working in the Broadsheet Press, but for popular journalism, tabloid journalism, nobody's found the answer. Listen, that's why I'm not there anymore amongst other massive reasons. You have to survive.

- Alex

What are the other reasons?

- Gordon Smart

Alex, you're a good journalist, aren't you? Broadly speaking, without going into too much detail about it because I would probably get quite upset about it because it was a huge thing for me to take the brave pill and leave The Sun after 14 years.

- Gordon Smart

Brutally honest, Alex, I was desperately, desperately unhappy and really stressed and worried about what it was doing to me as a human being. From a health point of view, that's mental health and physically. And just what lay ahead. My next job potentially, and realistically, could have been editor of The Sun.

- Gordon Smart

Did I want to edit the paper through Brexit? No. Did I want to make 40 percent or 30 percent of the workforce redundant? No. Did I see myself as the flag bearer and the proud front man of what The Sun produces? No. Did I like a lot of the people in senior positions who I would have to manage? That's a tricky one.

- Gordon Smart

As you think and as you become older, you realise how much fight is left in the dog and I thought to win those battles is going to take a piece of me and I was very conscious that in the time I had with my family, I wasn't the person I thought I was. Because I think I'm a very positive, friendly, decent person. I noticed people also, "You work for The Sun, you must be a dick," and this is a constant battle of face.

- Gordon Smart

I just became this quite lonely, quite angry, quite frustrated person because I felt there was something else for me in the world. Politically, the paper was in contrast from the position I was in and also, I really struggled with things... historical things like Hillsborough. Trying to explain what happened in 1989, I'd upset a huge part of the country, people just like me. I worked for that company and 30 years on I had to defend what happened and I couldn't. I just couldn't do it honourably.

- Gordon Smart

It's the hardest thing I have. When I meet people from Liverpool, I immediately turn into a different person and need to get away because I just know at some point they might clock where I worked. I couldn't deal with it. I couldn't handle that and it is a big, big problem for me. I had friends who didn't speak to me anymore because I worked for The Sun.

- Gordon Smart

I was a bit younger and a bit more naïve. I just thought, "You're no loss to me if that's how you feel," and then I got it. I totally got it. I grew up and understood it. Life is a massive compromise.

- Gordon Smart

When I started working at The Sun, I was skint. I was [inaudible 00:26:12]. My wife was a singer. She was struggling. We had nothing, we had no money. I was really worried about debt and suddenly you're offered a job at the biggest newspaper in the world. What's the ethical decision there? Are you prepared to work for this newspaper that has a certain reputation? But then provide for a family, travel the world, meet your heroes. That's the decision and straight in front of me, there it was. So, when I was 23, I took the job and I made the best of it.

- Gordon Smart

I think I... this is the same for anybody who works for a big company. If you work for BBC, if you work for Sir Philip Green at Topshop... people have Sky. That's the same company... Murdoch, right? You do, Alex. We've had this conversation.

- Gordon Smart

You have to justify to yourself and when it reaches a point when you can't justify to yourself, you either got to leave or just decide you're going to suck it up and take the money. I decided I'm leaving, I'm done, I'm finished, I'm out.

- Alex

This is so interesting on so many levels. I could give a very similar trajectory of what's happened in broadcast media. You were talking about reporters dominating the space of five million copies.

- Alex

I worked at Sky in the days when we were getting half a million viewers a weekend on a rugby match and now it's five, 10, 15 thousand. The viewing figures on live sport outside the premier league. It comes with a flaw. I stepped away at a relatively similar time to you to start up this.

- Alex

When you took the brave pill, how long did it take you to think, "I'm through the storm and the dip." Did you jump straight into radio? Because obviously you had Restless Natives as well. How did you move on?

- Gordon Smart

It was a long-term plan, a long-term project. Again, I've got some brilliant people in my life who are wonderful mentors and they always said to me, "Try and have some other stuff up your sleeve, other ideas." So, when I was about 30... when I had my son, Jimmy, I thought, "All right, I need to have something else."

- Gordon Smart

I loved music. I was involved with a club night called This Feeling, which was a big indie club night around the country with a friend of mine, Mikey. I'd also been a night club promoter back in the day but this is just too big a story to involved in, so I had this other interest. I thought, "Okay, I really, genuinely love bands and music and want to help them out."

- Gordon Smart

I ended up getting a gig on XFM. I had a show on a Sunday and I loved it. I thought I really would have loved to have been a DJ years before but I thought, "Get a good foundation as a journalist and other stuff will come from that."

- Gordon Smart

Then when I was doing that, I started to understand the commercial implications of radio and newspaper. I thought I needed to have business interests as well. So, I had the radio and then there's a developing brand in Copper Dog Whisky, which I was really involved in from the start, and I had some consultancy stuff going on. I was appearing on TV. So, I started my own company, we started to generate an income from that.

- Gordon Smart

Then suddenly I was made editor of the Scottish Sun and had to give it all up. Conflict of interest. That was such a big job, I didn't have the bandwidth to concentrate on anything else. I knew when I was in Scotland that I had three years there that I thought, "All right, I can have a really good go at this and growing up," because it was time for me to grow up.

- Gordon Smart

Then I came back to London and within six months in London as the deputy editor, I thought the time was coming for me to do something else. But I knew the whiskey was doing well because I was still loosely involved. The TV stuff, I knew I could pack up a little bit if I pushed and I'd always kept in touch with the radio guy. When I was back in London, I went back on on Sundays at Radio X, as it was known then. The conversation had developed to, "If you ever want to do this full-time, we want you."

- Gordon Smart

And that was it. I knew I would leave, be full-time Radio X, have Copper Dog, and wanted to set up my own company, Restless Natives with a friend of mine, Paul, who you know. Paul Smernicki.

- Gordon Smart

I had some work with Jaguar Land Rover as a consultant, we had whisky on the go. We've done some consultancy with sports teams about how to cope with fame and social media pressures and things like that. I was doing quite a lot of crisis management for people.

- Alex

There's a show in that.

- Gordon Smart

Yeah, so people in their darkest hour. At that point I had a business that was turning over enough money for me to comfortably leave The Sun without having to sell the house. That ultimately was the equation for me. Everything for me is making sure my kids have the solid foundation I had growing up. I had a brilliant childhood, it was magical.

- Gordon Smart

I want them to feel safe, loved, and happy in this house in Scotland. Have a great education so they have the same opportunities I had. That's all that really matters to me, Alex. Everything else is just about fun and games, really. If they can have that, I've done my job and I'll be pleased with that.

- Gordon Smart

So, the answer to your question, three years on I feel confident and comfortable that I will always have an earning power but emotionally, I have still not properly recovered from the experience of newspapers and I don't know how long it will take. I have good days and bad days.

- Gordon Smart

I spend a lot of time on my own because I live in London on my own, so I get back to the flat at 11 O'clock and I sit for hours and my mind... another problem is my mind just races with ideas and opportunities and things I want to do. That normally then manifests itself in, "Shit, I'm not doing well enough," and then that goes to, "I'm just the guy from The Sun and people think I'm a dick," and then that goes to, "Why did you work there," and then the next part of that conversation is, "Let's go to the pub."

- Gordon Smart

I've got demons I need to deal with but I'm really lucky, again. That I think I'm open enough to talk to folk about it and I've become really friendly with Foxy from SAS Who Dares Win and-

- Alex

You did the show.

- Gordon Smart

Well, I did the precursor for it to test the brutality on somebody and then-

- Alex

You were the guinea pig.

- Gordon Smart

The horror-

- Alex

But you won it, didn't you?

- Gordon Smart

You don't win or lose, you pass.

- Alex

You pass? You passed it.

- Gordon Smart

Yeah, they tested the brutality on me and then told me I wasn't famous enough to go on it, which-

- Milly

Brutal, that's the worst bit.

- Gordon Smart

Harsh, isn't it? I would love to be... that's the next thing for me is how can I be successful in a way where I can be famous for the right reasons? For being good at what you do. Like Piers Morgan, who's not a dick.

- Alex

Good luck with that.

- Gordon Smart

You can see the conundrum.

- Milly

Trying to think about how that would work.

- Gordon Smart

Alex, I don't know if you're even aware of it, but you'd been part of the self-help club. Bronagh has been a huge help to me in the last two years. We've had some great... I remember you told me you were filming a bulletin on a mobile phone because resources had been stripped back.

- Gordon Smart

I remember feeling this comradery with you because I was like, "Yep, I remember those."

- Alex

What's so interesting, though... I kind of want to lie down and darken the lights a bit, but I listen to you talk and I wonder what the hell I've been doing for my 40 years given your CV. And I have had the demons, but I don't have the demons as much as the, "What am I doing," kind of thing.

- Alex

When I left Sky, it was a proper rug from under the feet kind of thing and I didn't have... I had The Influence Room which was just ticking over but I didn't have the really clever pathway and I wasn't expecting to be told, "Thanks, a lot. Goodbye."

- Alex

I'm really fascinated... You've got so many fingers in so many piles, I would never worry about you in the slightest but I just was interested in that transition from the such an empire on The Sun, like Sky was for me, and then how you kind of... I actually find way more oxygen outside the Sky boundary than I had when I was inside.

- Gordon Smart

That's so true, Alex. I remember thinking when I was there, for every door The Sun opens, five shut and then you leave. And I realised for every door The Sun opened, 50 shut. Listen, and it did bring a certain power to it. You had a position... and I always talk about this.

- Gordon Smart

There's this great Harold Macmillan quote and I'm not really fond of quoting politicians or Tories either but he said, "Nothing rolls out as quickly as the red carpet," and man, that's true.

- Gordon Smart

When I wasn't the Showbiz editor at the sun, my fair-weather friends evaporated and I got sucked in to thinking I was mates with famous people, particularly some certain people, and they just disappeared. Suddenly, I was deputy editor at The Sun and they were back again. "What have you been doing?"

- Gordon Smart

"I've had two children, I saw a helicopter crash, a bin lorry tragedy, editor at a newspaper through a referendum and Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup. Yeah, not much. You want to be my friend again because you want favourable coverage."

- Gordon Smart

And it wasn't just celebrities, politics was the really ugly part of it. They do say politics is for ugly people, don't they? It's so funny-

- Alex

That's incredible.

- Gordon Smart

It's true, isn't it? To extend the metaphor or analogy slighter further, it's so true. You got the Prime Minister and all his spads and advisors at random. Then you've the party who supports him, then you've got the public.

- Gordon Smart

Beyonce, for example, you've got her manager and her agent and the record label around her. Then you've got the fans and the people who actually buy the stuff. It's exactly the same, just smells different. One has gout and the other doesn't.

- Gordon Smart

It was pretty scary. I'm the same as you, Alex. When I was deputy editor, I remember one day... the first time I edited the big Sun, there were 850 people I was responsible for that day. When you really go down the brass tax...journalists, production staff, distribution, all the rest of it. You're ultimately responsible for that and it was weighing heavy on my shoulders.

- Gordon Smart

For whatever anybody says, I have never taken any thrill in upsetting people with editorial. I wasn't that kind of journalist and it's probably why I wasn't cut out for The Sun, really, in the long-term. For instance, the Ben Stokes story that ran last year, I think I would've probably had to resign over that because I just couldn't have lived with myself.

- Gordon Smart

And another thing... you're the same... you meet these guys and there's an "us in them" attitude in newspapers. I think so because we're all the same, right? We're all exactly the same and I'm a huge believer in this.

- Gordon Smart

One of my biggest pet hates in the world is snobbery. I will not tolerate it and I won't let it happen in front of me. If somebody doesn't speak appropriately to a waiter or... we're all the same.

- Gordon Smart

I think when I was at The Sun, it went well for me because I had a great relationship with the messengers and I think I managed upwards pretty well too.

- Bronagh

I think we should do a part two.

- Alex

I was literally going to say, "Can we call this part one of five?"

- Bronagh

Yes, so we are currently recording this in Soho Radio, which is a really popular destination, the center of London, and we've just been given the five minute mark but I feel like there's so much more we need to chat about.

- Alex

Next time we need to do it with a bottle of Copper Dog. Actually, that would be quite good fun. They do, I think, drunk histories where they make you drink as much as possible.

- Milly

And then you do it.

- Alex

We should do some drunk podcasting. I'd be quite up for that.

- Bronagh

Because that is what-

- Milly 

And name is something different like "Whisky Talks" or something.

- Bronagh

Yeah because that is one of the things I wanted to chat about. You now advise Copper Dog and how they should work with talent and I guess that is something that is so unique to every brand. They each have a tone of voice and I guess music is something that you've really injected into the brand. You've also advised massive companies like Jaguar Land Rover on how to work with talent

- Bronagh

I'd imagine, internally, people are as flippant about talent...its just shows you what a disposable industry it is.

- Gordon Smart

People over complicate it, it's actually really simple. Work with good people. It really is as simple as that. I was talking to my father-in-law, the football manager, and he gave me some brilliant wisdom. He said, "I'm not the best tactician in football but I will surround myself with wonderful football men who know everything about strategy, structure, tactics, all that." He's a motivator, that's his strength.

- Gordon Smart

If you're a brand and you want to work with talent, identify what you need and work with good people. If it means having somebody slightly less famous because they're going to be more invested in it and it's authentic, then it'll work.

- Gordon Smart

The Copper Dog story is brilliant because I'm a co-founder of that. I remember meeting Jimmy Iovine. Have you seen The Defiant Ones?

- Alex

Yes.

- Gordon Smart

It really stuck with me. I remember watching the documentary and the whole thing about getting everybody to wear the headphones. I thought, "I'm giving out bottles of other people's booze to promote the bottom line for a huge drinks brand. I should do it for myself."

- Gordon Smart

All it takes is some confidence and the right people around you and you can do it. You back yourself. If you really understand something, know it, know the market, know what you're talking about... Like I know whisky, I know Scotland, I know rascals, I know pubs, I know people. I know that, so I know the right people to associate with that and how to bring them in to make it to the consumer, to the person who's going to buy that, real and genuine.

- Gordon Smart

That pisses me off with talent is where I've seen somebody's been given 12 grand for a tile on Instagram. You just think you'd, never in a million years, do that if it wasn't paid for.

- Bronagh

And that's the thing, you've got teams of people who try to quantify talent by data, but talent is not something that can be defined by a number. I think that is one of the detriments of the explosion of social media. Everyone's having a crisis of confidence because they don't feel like they don't have enough followers or engagement.

- Bronagh

You cannot define talent by a number. It's just something that's indescribable sometimes.

- Gordon Smart

Definitely, yeah. Like you said, making it a graph or an algorithm is dangerous, isn't it? Because actually people use

- Gordon Smart

That's what I loved about you, Bronagh. You remember the people and the spirits and the characters involved. Not just-

- Alex

Stats and data and engagement rates.

- Gordon Smart

I think that's probably a really nice way to finish this off, right? Because I think there's a lovely message about that. Regardless of how successful or how much you're struggling, people always measure themselves against other folk, right?

- Gordon Smart

I think that's a culture that has to be challenged and people should talk about because I'm terrible for it. I look at Instagram and I go, "Fuck's sake, Ian Stirling got another job I would love. He's a younger, hairier, funnier Scotsman," but that's not healthy. You can't live your life like that and it happens on a very personal level for people as well. They look at Instagram and they think, "I'm not thin enough," or, "My body doesn't look right."

- Gordon Smart

I've showered with a lot of men in my life, Bronagh, and the most confident guys aren't the ones with the biggest willies. Should we finish it now?

- Alex

End on that bombshell, end on that profound note. I love it. You're an absolute legend. We could do this for so long.

- Gordon Smart

I can't believe I just said that.

- Milly

It's out there for the world to hear.

- Alex

That's our titled quote on the podcast. I just love spending time with you. I think it's fascinating. I think you're an amazing character and I'd love for that to continue and we'd love to do [crosstalk 00:41:09]

- Gordon Smart

Every time I see you, this group of people, I just think this is going to take over the world. Do you have that feeling?

- Alex

One small step at a time.

- Gordon Smart

Yeah, we'll do it. I have complete faith in you. Thank you for having me.

- Alex

Thank you so much for coming and for sorting out the studio.

- Gordon Smart

For 45 minutes.

- Alex

Exactly.

- Gordon Smart

Seriously, thank you.

- Bronagh

Thank you so much for listening to the Influence Room podcast. If you'd like to learn more about what we do and become a member, please head over to TheInfluenceRoom.com, or you can follow us on Instagram at The Influence Room.