x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

How Danny Cee found his radio voice

The Radio 1 DJ worked his way up from the club circuit, toiled day and night, and made it all up as he went along.

Daniel Creighton feels at home in the Radio 1 studio, and hopes his listeners feel the same way.
Daniel Creighton feels at home in the Radio 1 studio, and hopes his listeners feel the same way.

DUBAI // His voice may be the one most 25-to-34-year-olds in the UAE tune in to each morning, but that does not mean Daniel Creighton likes hearing it. Creighton, 27, better known to his fans as Danny Cee, is a weekday co-presenter on Radio 1's breakfast show from 6am to 9am.

"Even now, if I listen back to my show I hate the sound of my voice. But I realised a long time ago although you can never change your tone, how you feel about yourself comes across," he says. "Confidence changes the way you sound, so I have to have faith in myself." According to the 2009 Ipsos MediaCT radiometry survey, which tracks listening trends across the region, 21 per cent of listeners in the UAE prefer Emirates Radio 1 and its sister station Radio 2. Radio 1 was also the favourite for the 25-44 category.

Creighton may rule the airwaves now, but he says his confident - sometimes arrogant - on-air personality took time to nurture. He moved to Dubai from Market Harborough in Leicestershire, England, at 18, with dreams of following in the footsteps of his uncle, Mark Creighton, who was a presenter on Radio 1's The Big Breakfast under the pseudonym Marky Mark. But he needed to gain experience, so he worked as a DJ in a local club at nights and spent all his spare time during the day with his uncle in the Radio 1 studio.

"Every time I got the chance I'd leave the nightclub and go and sit with my uncle," he says. "Eventually I began recording demos but compared to Mark's smooth and composed style, I felt pathetic. I can't tell you how many times I recorded a demo but didn't submit it. I didn't have any confidence in myself." His first break came in 2004, when he entered a competition called Jock Idol at Sharjah's Sahara Centre - the prize was a spot on Radio 1.

Although Creighton did not win, the station contacted him later to do voiceover work, and subsequently offered him a once-a-week afternoon slot. Eventually, he earned the 2pm to 4pm slot, two months later picking up the coveted "drive time" slot from 5pm to 7pm before moving on to mornings. "I never really sat back and thought 'Yes, I've made it'," he says. "I was really just getting through one show to the next. I was always up against something and thinking about the next thing - the ratings, the competitions, the regular spots. I didn't have time to reflect."

Creighton's schedule was gruelling. Holding down a job as a nightclub DJ and a morning radio presenter was exhausting. "I would get to the club around 9.30pm to prepare for my set," he says. "I wouldn't finish until about 4am and I'd have to go straight to the radio station for the breakfast show, which went on air at 6am. Once I was done at 9am I still had to prep for the next day's show. It was the kind of lifestyle I couldn't maintain."

Radio 1 asked him to quit his DJ job, matching his salary and taking him on full-time. After a few shuffles, a change in ownership and a break back in the UK, where he briefly considered a career change and leaving the UAE for good, he was back on the breakfast show. "I like the attention," he says, grinning. "Plus, I realised how much the UAE offered me. You can come here and do things that you could never do in the UK professionally. It is a newer industry, there is more chance, more opportunities and you can work your way up quickly."

On air, Creighton does his best to make the show natural and spontaneous. He often does not brief his co-host on some of the more outrageous quizzes or tests that he writes for the show. "I want their reactions to be genuine," he says. "So I will spring it on them without warning." Surina Kelly, Creighton's co-host since January, says: "You can relax and be yourself in the studio, which means we have a lot of fun. The listeners really respond to that. I've co- hosted with a few people in the past but this was the best experience ever. What you hear is what you get."

Creighton values his interaction with his listeners as well. "If I get a text or an e-mail where someone is trying to get to me I will read it out straight away," he says. "For example, if someone says I am pathetic I want to address it. I think that straightforward attitude makes us popular. "Also, the music I play is important. We are given set playlists, but if I hear something that needs playing I will go to the music schedulers and discuss it."

His tastes run towards popular music from the international charts, with a leaning towards the urban genre. In his own rise up the charts, Creighton says a desire for self-improvement has proved invaluable. "Every day I learn something about my job," he says. "I always want to get better." @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae