Since making the transition from the financial world to the entertainment industry, Phyllis Klein (Front Row Phyllis), has built a strong and loyal following in the Chicago market for her live segments regularly featured on FOX-TV’s Good Day Chicago and on the nationally syndicated WGN Radio.
Widely considered the region’s “go to” personality for all of the inside scoop on the hustling Midwest entertainment industry, Klein’s interactive segments, which include interviews with artists like Imagine Dragons, Fifth Harmony and Cheap Trick, have reached more than twenty million viewers.
AXS recently spoke with Front Row Phyllis in this exclusive new interview.
AXS: Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment?
Phyllis Klein: Although I've always loved music, a career wasn't something I originally thought about. I actually worked in the financial world for almost twenty years. Then when things changed with the market I suddenly found myself waking up one morning to find that 60,000 people were being laid off in three days. I quickly realized I had to change my lifestyle.
AXS: How did you get into radio?
PK: One day, I ran into a girl who I used to work with and told her I was looking for a new career. She told me that she had some connections in radio and thought I’d be a good fit. I was a bit skeptical at first but wound up getting the job. That's when I decided to create a niche. I realized that people love content, music and entertainment, but everyone is on information overload. I wanted to create something where they could gravitate to. Somewhere where they can find out about all of the concerts coming through Chicago, where to get tickets and to see interviews with the artists. A place that’s easy to access and a one-stop shop where they can get all the information they need.
AXS: How did you make the transition to FOX and Good Day Chicago?
PK: Television was the next logical step, so I presented my idea to FOX-TV's Good Day Chicago about coming in each week to talk about concerts and interviews. At the time, they were mostly news and were trying to be a little bit lighter. I've been there for five years now as their music maven.
AXS: What makes the Chicago music scene so special?
PK: The Chicago area (and the Midwest in general) is so huge and with so many people that just want to be entertained. The politics around it are all about entertainment. They’ve also taken venues that have not been in very good shape and made them even better. From theaters to arenas and outdoor venues, it’s a place where all of the artists want to come through and perform.
AXS: What would you say is the biggest challenge about what you do?
PK: There aren’t enough hours in the day [laughs]. Geographically, it can also be challenging because sometimes I'll need to cover two or three shows in one night and have to get from point a to point b really quickly. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
AXS: What have been some of your most memorable interviews?
PK: Dolly Parton was one. She couldn't be any cuter and is absolutely stunning. She's such an incredible, sharp woman who has it all. Another was when I interviewed Fifth Harmony. I remember pulling up to the theater and the line was literally eight blocks long. I’d never seen anything like that before. They have very loyal fans.
AXS: What’s next for Front Row Phyllis?
PK: I’ve been honed in on the Chicago and Midwest markets and now the biggest thing we’re doing is looking at how to take it on a national level and bring it to some of the bigger cities.
AXS: What gives you the most satisfaction?
PK: Getting a chance to work with some of the most amazing, down to Earth people in the entertainment business. I've been hanging out with some of the most incredibly talented artists and have gotten to know them on a personal level. But it's almost like when one door closes and another door opens. Only when you're going through that first door you don't think any other doors will open. Then you start thinking about how to change your mindset, find a new career and start over. A lot of it comes from just challenging yourself and figuring out how to survive. You just have to do it.