■ The DJ and former pop star, 40, on taking over BBC 6 Music’s Breakfast Show and a dream castaway on Desert Island Discs
Who is your 6 Music Breakfast Show aimed at?
It’s all about the audience of one, as the quote goes. You can’t think of an audience as a mass, it’s individual. I’m looking at bringing in listeners who want an intelligent, engaging breakfast show. And it has to be fun too. Bring those things together and that’s the best kind of radio.
What’s on the playlist? Anything from the top ten?
From a personal point of view, obviously it’s not a chart music show. Alternative music is having a great moment right now, you can access so much music and I have an awareness of what’s happening. 6 Music is about reflecting alternative music and alternative culture, it’s looking out for the next box set you really should see.
Which radio presenters influenced you?
I grew up with John Peel and his Sessions, Danny Baker on Saturdays — and Radio 4 would have been on too. And lots of music — my dad was a musician so it was a musical household.
You made the charts yourself with your group Kenickie. Do you miss being a pop star?
Not in a million years. It was so much fun doing Kenickie at the time. I was 16 to 20 and you’re living this completely different life but it’s a weird introduction to the adult world. I think I did things kind of back to front. But I don’t miss it at all. I feel so at home doing radio, it’s where I feel I belong.
It’s quite a leap from playing in a band to presenting Desert Island Discs. Do you have to pinch yourself?
I’m a great believer in acknowledging being a grown-up. I’m not one of those people who wants to extend their kidulthood. So, as somebody who loves radio as much as I do, to be asked to cover for Kirsty Young while she recovers [from fibromyalgia] was simply unbelievable. It’s an incredible challenge and a real honour, and it’s something I care about a lot.
You have to interview everyone from astrophysicists to Olympic divers to actors and politicians. Do you feel out of your depth?
If you are someone, like me, who’s never been to university and you find yourself surrounded by and working with people who have, then you could find it intimidating. I’ve seen that in other people. But my experience is that what you can offer, what you can bring to the job, is a different kind of perspective and that’s really valuable.
How do you see the presenting role on Desert Island Discs?
It’s about listening. You’re celebrating extraordinary lives and achievements. You really have to focus on the other person and your role is to bring out the best in them.
Any tips for aspiring radio presenters?
You’ve got to be who you are, not pretend to be someone else. It’s about making a connection. But you do have to change your approach depending on what show you are doing. When I do Late Night Woman’s Hour, you’re talking about women and their working lives — that’s a different kind of connection.
You’ve mentioned John Peel already. Any other big radio heroes?
Chris Evans is just phenomenal at what he does. Myleene Klass on Classic FM, Annie Nightingale, Jo Whiley… I really feel like, when it comes to radio, I’ve found my tribe.
Has anyone you’ve interviewed on the programme so far been really surprising?
I can’t say I’ve been surprised by anyone. What I’ve found is that everybody’s story is totally different.
Did you draw up a wish list of interviewees when you started? Who would be on it?
Yes, I did, but there are too many to just reel off a list. What I’ve always said is that if there was one person I could interview it would have to be Little Richard, who in my eyes is just a total music god. And his life is so off-the-page tremendous. So it would have to be him.
What if the tables were turned and you were the interviewee rather than the presenter? What would your three top tunes be?
Hang on a minute, I can’t choose three — that’s an impossible question, why don’t I get eight like everyone else? But I can give you one. It would be Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles, which has a special significance for me. For one thing, it was the first song at my wedding.
And, always the killer Desert Island Discs question, what would be your luxury?
It’s funny, I think the luxury is where people often reveal things about themselves but it’s not something I’ve ever really worried about. My answer is quite simple, really: A record player.
Laverne presents the Breakfast Show on BBC 6 Music. Desert Island Discs is on Radio 4 on Sundays at 11.15am