MARTY WHELAN does not have an ‘off’ switch.
When a scheduling complication means we miss each other’s calls the day before our interview, he leaves five voice messages over an hour — a monologue of Marty-ness for my delectation.
In person, he’s no less upbeat, speaking at the speed of chat, while bounding between topics like a puppy on rocket-skates. He is charming.
Whelan is promoting a new compilation CD, Marty Recommends, a collection of favourite songs from his Lyric FM morning show, Marty In The Morning.
But it is also important to address his recent, perceived demotion as National Lottery presenter-in-chief, with rakish Nicky Byrne stealing his thunder with a shiny, new Saturday night broadcast.
Winning Streak, his chintzy Lottery game-show, returns over the summer. To him, that is all that matters.
“You never know how these things are going to progress. If a new show came along and we didn’t know we were coming back, maybe we would feel differently. [Knowing Winning Streak is to return] is a great feeling,” he says.
Far from shrinking from broadcasting’s endless uncertainty — he was briefly (unofficially) blacklisted from RTÉ, after jumping ship to the doomed Century Radio — Whelan seems to rather enjoy the adventure of it all. Derring-do is in his DNA.
“You come out and and give it your best,” Whelan says.
“I don’t frighten easily any more. Things change. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to adapt. You have to deal with it and move on. It’s like being a snooker player — you’re always focused on the next ball.”
People had been suggesting for a decade that Whelan curate a CD. However, it was only last year that Universal Music presented a concrete proposal.
In keeping with the eclectic tenor of his Lyric FM show, he collected his favourite songs and artists, from Van Morrison to Imelda May to Ennio Morricone, who is composer of his all-time favourite piece, ‘Deborah’s Theme’ from Once Upon A Time In America.
“I met him in Dublin recently,” says Whelan. “The fact that I knew about his music helped. If you show these people you are knowledgeable about, and respectful of, their work, it goes a long way towards bringing them around.”
As broadcaster, Whelan is proudly old-school. He picks whatever music he likes, without regard to playlists or focus groups.
Listeners appreciate his from-the-gut approach — they have a built-in capacity to sniff out anything phoned-in or fake.
“This morning, I played something from Bob Dylan’s new album and some classical music. By rights, they should be on different shows. Instead, they were side by side. I am happy mixing it up and people seem to like it. I’ve been given a free hand — I don’t have to put up with a computer spewing out music or with being told what to do. “
Some of the selections on Marty Recommends are matters of taste. A few have more personal resonances.
‘Mama’, by 1960s crooner Dave Berry, for instance, was a favourite of his mother.
“She loved it and passed away a few years ago. So that was a reason to do it,” he says.
In person, his enthusiasm for his profession is striking.
“You want to enjoy what you do. I’ve got to pay a mortgage the same as anyone else. On the other hand, I’m up at 4.30am to come in and present Marty in the Morning. What gets me out of bed is love for what I do.”