Jason Cupp is 22 years old.
That fact needs mentioning up front, because he's not like most 22 year-olds.
First of all, at that tender age, he's already a radio-business pro whose current gig is doubling up as an on-air personality and advertising sales rep for Payson's KMOG radio station.
Secondly, at that tender age, he knows exactly where he's going, how he's going to get there and what he needs to do in the meantime.
Thirdly, he knows the history of radio better than many of the medium's old-timers and he's not afraid to criticize the medium's current state of affairs. For example, check out this monologue:
"I love radio a lot," Cupp says earnestly, "but I don't believe in the way commercial radio is run anymore. In the '30s and '40s, they were selling things on the radio cigarettes and toothpaste and whatever to fund the programs. Back then, radio offered a lot more; they wanted people to tune in to listen to a quality program, to provide information and news and comedy for everyone.
"Even in the '50s and '60s, where it was the DJs picking and playing the music that they wanted to hear, there were no 'format lines' drawn; you could do different things because no one was saying, 'This is our format, we're a rock format, we're a classic rock format, we are an R and B format.' It wasn't like that.
"Today, programming radio is a formula. To me, that's not what radio is really about, and it's sad to me to be a part of it sometimes ... All it boils down to is competing for advertising dollars, and ironically, the reason I decided I didn't want to be in radio was basically because of advertising and now I'm doing advertising sales!"
See? This is no 22-year-old who keeps his opinion to himself. But make no mistake Cupp is most certainly not "dissing" KMOG.
"I'm grateful to work at KMOG, because we're in a small town, you know the people who are advertising, and you know you have to believe in the product before you can do a job for them. Everywhere else, all it's about is the money. That's not true here, and knowing that helps me out a lot."
Born and raised into early adolescence in Phoenix, Cupp and his family spent five years in Denver before moving to Pine during his junior year in high school.
"My mom worked at Arizona Highways magazine for a very long time before we went to Denver," he says. "When we decided we wanted to move back to Arizona because she loved her job so much, we all agreed we didn't want to live in the Valley. She tried to find a place on the outskirts where she could commute and we wouldn't have to live in the city."
Although he would eventually earn a broadcasting degree from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, his very first job in radio was in Payson at KMOG.
"When I was in high school, I used to run the board for KMOG's remote sports broadcasts, and a friend and I had a little talk show for a while that dealt with teen and high school issues," Cupp says. "I took that experience and also the degree I was going to get and applied for a job at KGZL in Flagstaff, where I worked for three years as a music director and on-air personality and all kinds of other stuff."
At the end of those three years, Cupp decided he needed a hiatus from radio, so he took a job on a three-month road tour with a band called Bueno, "just driving and distributing band merchandise like books, CDs, tapes and T-shirts to help fund their tour."
When the tour ended, Cupp returned to Pine with "no intention at all of finding a job." That didn't last long.
Every now and then, he says, he'd stop in at KMOG just to say hello to the co-workers of his youth, "and one day I just dropped off my application."
Suddenly, Cupp was employed. Now he can be heard on the air every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosting the "Trades and Sales" program, preceded by what he calls "a little music show."
Although Cupp is grateful for the experience KMOG is offering him, both he and station officials know it won't be a long-lasting relationship.
"I'm on a waiting list to go to the Conservatory of recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe, which is an audio engineering school for producing albums," he says. "What I really want to do is to be a producer and a record label owner and along with that maybe own a radio station or a publishing company ... "
This Cupp runneth over with big plans.
For now, though, he is very happy being on the air at KMOG.
"It's fun because you kind of get to be everybody's friend for a little while," he says. "You get to play music that you know people are enjoying. It's nice to have people call in and say, 'That was a great song. Thank you!'
"The feedback is what makes it all worthwhile. I enjoy that a lot."