They’re the hosts with the most and More FM Breakfast veterans Gary McCormick and Simon Barnett are confident their secret to success is the fact that they’re like “an old married couple”.
After more than a decade of waking up Christchurch with their unique brand of humour and straight-shooting shtick, their breakfast show is now being broadcast to many of New Zealand’s main centres, including Auckland.
“It’s a bit nerve-wracking but also exciting,” smiles Simon, a father of five, as he deftly flips a sausage on the barbecue. “Gary is very different from me. He’s a confident player whereas I like to think I’m a bit more humble.”
And therein lies the charm of Simon (47) and Gary (63). Like so many married couples, they’ve come to respect and celebrate their differences. “If you look at us as people, we are polar opposites,” begins Simon.
“Why would they think that?” Gary cuts in.
“Well, one’s a 63-year-old lothario and the other is a conservative small-town guy,” ribs Simon. “The thing is, I really care about Gaz and, over 11 years, we’ve struck up a genuine friendship. We really appreciate each other’s talent.”
Broadcasting nationwide is a watershed moment for the duo and they are confident this strong friendship, quick wit and ability to share a decent laugh will engage a wider audience.
It’s also another opportunity for classic Kiwi bloke Gary to give church-going family man Simon some stick.
“Any good breakfast show is about chemistry and ours comes from our long relationship,” grins Gary. “I love drinking, partying, but, at this late stage of my life, I’m an elderly father of three children under the age of three. Simon is the decent person people perceive him to be.
“But we do understand the nuances of each other and that’s why it works,” he continues. “Sure there have been times when we’ve argued it out but like all good married couples, we’ve found our way through.”
In fact, nothing highlights this uncanny coupling more than the way each revs up for his early morning start.
Gary leaves wife Katherine and his adorable tots at their Lyttelton home as early as 2.30am and drives past the wharfies before arriving at the studio by 4am. Every day, he picks up a steak and cheese pie from his local service station to start the day.
“We have to hit the ground running every morning, we’ve got to keep the energy levels up,” tells Gary. “By 11am, we can’t stand the sight of each other so I’ll head off to the pub and have a few beers.”
“That’s when he sends me all his great ideas,” chips in Simon cheekily. “Gary’s always at the studio before me. I don’t get in until 5.30am.”
It’s also their ability to connect a community, as they did during the devastating Christchurch earthquake in 2011, that they hope will resonate with listeners.
“It sounds rather cliché but I felt like, at that time, it was a genuine privilege to be a radio announcer,” explains Simon. “We were on air during all the shakes and quakes. Gary and I became a conduit for people to tell their stories.”
The duo have chosen to continue broadcasting from their studio at Christchurch’s Addington Raceway because they believe in the city’s rebuild, even though Gary still struggles with the shakes.
“I’m still traumatised,” he says. “When a train goes past, I jump and that’s an ongoing thing for many of us in Christchurch. It was a very good test of our on-air relationship but we got through it and here we are coming out stronger at the other end.”
Photographs by: Tessa Burrows.