Katie O. on the Radio | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Katie O. on the Radio

One woman, 60 hours a week

CP illustration: Josie Norton

While you're cooped up inside, you can still listen to the radio! In honor of Women's History Month, City Paper will be highlighting women in Pittsburgh's airwaves throughout the month.

Katie Oltmanns really wants to get a dog, preferably a big one. The local music journalist has always been a dog person, but she's facing a considerable hurdle.  

“I think about adopting one all the time, but I don’t think it would be fair to any animal right now with how little I’m at home," says Oltmanns. "I’m waiting until my schedule is more stable.”

From the looks of it, that won't be anytime soon: Oltmanns' voice can be heard middays, Monday through Friday, on Big 104.7;10 a.m.-3 p.m. during the weekends on 105.9 The X; and she hosts a regular 7-11 p.m. Sunday show, Edge of the X. She is also broadcasted outside of the ‘Burgh on weekends in Charlotte, N.C., Indianapolis, and even sometimes in San Diego. Two weeks ago, she was offered a position as a temporary morning host for Philadelphia’s alt-rock station, 104.5.

“If you had told me five years ago that I would be talking, not just to my hometown, but to other cities, every day, just getting to talk about my life and music, I would have never, ever believed you,” says Oltmanns. 

Maybe the dog will have to wait. 

We’re chatting huddled in a hallway before the start of an invite-only show for Check Your Bucket, a new project led by drummer Brian Wolfe and featuring a lineup of accomplished Pittsburgh musicians like Anton DeFade, the bass player for The Commonheart. Oltmanns tries to see at least one local show a week, and managed to squeeze time to talk into her busy schedule. After the show, she has to go back to the radio station. On top of her on-air career (and working 40 hours a week as the marketing director for a local music venue), Oltmanns is the host of Scene Unheard, a weekly podcast covering the Pittsburgh music scene. 

“I don’t get paid for it, and I listen to everyone’s full discography that comes on,” says Oltmanns, “but it’s probably my favorite thing that I do.”

If it seems like Oltmanns is doing a lot, it’s because she is.

“It doesn’t faze me because the reward is so much greater,” she says. “But one thing I do prioritize is time for myself. For someone who talks for a living, I’m quite introverted, so taking time to be alone, even for 10 minutes every day really makes a difference.”

CP illustration: Josie Norton

Oltmanns graduated from John Carroll University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. She took a part-time job as a promotions assistant for iHeartRadio shortly after. It was the first job she could find in media, and initially, Oltmanns wanted to be an entertainment writer. 

“I hated it at first,” she says. “Promotions is a grind. There are a lot of really long days and it’s not always rewarding, but there are a couple moments of super fulfilling days.”

One of those moments was when Oltmanns got called in last minute to work a meet and greet for rapper Jon Bellion. Someone was sick, and Oltmanns' promotions director asked her to be the point person for Bellion’s record rep. 

“This record rep seemed amazing, and she was describing what she did, and it seemed like this dream job that I always imagined for myself, like I didn’t even know that it existed,” says Oltmanns. “I got talking to her about her first job and how she got started, and it turned out it was radio promotions. Then it kind of clicked for me, like, ‘Oh, this could actually turn into something if I changed my attitude and made use of it.’”

The next day, she walked into her director’s office and said, “'I want to be on every meet and greet and every show that has a record rep on it, I want to meet all of them.' And they did that for me,” says Oltmanns. “I made a lot of really great connections, met a lot of really great people, and I changed my perspective and realized this could open doors for me, and I believe that’s what got me my show.”

In April 2017, Oltmanns began overnights on Big 104.7 and one year later was given her midday slot. 

“I spent a lot of time over the microphone when I was overnights, worrying that people wouldn’t like me or that they would think that I was weird or not funny enough,” says Oltmanns. “It’s a job where you are literally being critiqued for you who are. But I’ve felt really welcomed from the day that I started [doing] middays. I think it’s the one place that I’ve found that I’ve been able to fully grow into who I am, and to do it in this way, is once in a lifetime.”

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