When Ryan Seacrest was 9 years old, he would pretend to be Casey Kasem counting down the hits, recording himself on cassette.
Now cassettes are out and Seacrest is in as Kasem’s replacement on American Top 40, the legendary syndicated radio countdown that airs on about 175 stations.
It’s one of three Hollywood gigs the Atlanta native is juggling, including host and producer of his new live TV talk show, “On Air with Ryan Seacrest,” and, of course, hosting Fox’s “American Idol.”
After all, “Idol” has proved that they’ll let anyone on TV these days.
“I’m afraid of things going away,” said the tanned, tousle-haired 29-year-old, known for his flat-ironed hair and metrosexual style, during a recent phone interview.
“I didn’t want to just be a gun for hire and a mouthpiece for hire,” he said. “I wanted to set up a business within show business. I said to myself, ’Broadcasting is my passion. What I should do is try to pursue both [radio and television], then hopefully someday set the opportunity up for them to collide.”’
Live, from LA
Seacrest got his start on Atlanta pop station Star 94 as a teenager and attended the University of Georgia. Then, as a Los Angeles radio DJ for 10 years, Seacrest formed relationships with people in the industry and musicians such as John Mayer, one of Seacrest’s first talk-show guests.
“A lot of people believe that (the TV and radio shows) is an overnight thing, it happened because I got a job on ‘American Idol,”’ Seacrest said. “This is something I’ve been working and trying to do for 10 years.”
As co-owner, producer and star of the syndicated talk show, which airs on about 180 stations, Seacrest wants it to reflect his personality. Like competitor “Total Request Live” on MTV, Seacrest’s hour-long show takes calls and e-mails from viewers with questions for celebrity guests.
With interactive Web polls, fans vote on songs they want musicians to perform. Ex-reality-show members fill in as guest correspondents. Viewers are surprised with trips to the show to see their favorite musicians perform.
“I wanted to create a daily syndicated program that was interactive and felt like an event, felt like it was coming together when it was on the air,” he said.
Seacrest enjoys the spontaneity of live television, despite the screw-ups. Last year, he twice read incorrect numbers for the vote spread between “American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard and runner-up Clay Aiken.
“When you do anything live,” he said, “odds are it’s not going to go perfectly.”