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‘A show that speaks to all Canadians:’ Tom Power’s goals for the revamped q

Tom Power, who is prepping to settle into the host chair at CBC Radio’s revamped arts and culture show q, doesn’t know it all — and he’s proud of that.

“There’s a tendency in radio sometimes to think you have to know everything, to think when you’re the host of an arts program, you need to kind of be the voice of God… ‘Tune into the radio and I will tell you everything that’s happening with music and art and theatre and you will learn everything from me.’ That’s not really how things work anymore,” he told CBC News.

“What’s really missing right now is context,” he continued. “I think that I’m excited to learn with the audience.”

After serving as an affable, recurring guest host of q, Power officially takes over on Oct. 24.

‘A lot of pressure’

Compared to his previous gigs as host of Radio 2 Morning and the music program Deep Roots, the new job is a “bigger endeavour,” with many more producers, drastically larger audience and significantly higher stakes.

Q

‘If you’ve been wondering when my new gig starts, this is the incredible team putting it together. Can’t wait for you to hear it,’ Power posted earlier this month via Twitter. (Tom Power/Twitter)

“There’s a lot of pressure attached to it. The challenge I have is just the responsibility that I feel to every single person in this country who pays for this show — who wants this show to happen, who likes this show and is a listener [of] the CBC — to give them a show that they deserve, to give them a show that’s not snobby, to give them a show that’s open, to give them a show that speaks to all Canadians.”

Originally from Newfoundland but now based in Toronto, 29-year-old Power is CBC’s youngest host of a national radio program since Peter Jennings. He got his start with the public broadcaster at the age of 21 as host of Deep Roots.

Who is Tom Power’s dream guest?1:01

He replaces rapper Shadrach (Shad) Kabango, hired following the high-profile departure of original host Jian Ghomeshi, who was dismissed in 2014 amid allegations of sexual assault and later acquitted of all charges at one trial, with another case dropped after he signed a peace bond and publicly apologized.

Kabango, who hadn’t been able to help q recover its formerly high ratings during his tenure, nonetheless underlined the importance of sharing “a deep humanity with your guests,” Power said.

“These artists that would come in, they’re just people.  We have a tendency in our society to kind of deify them. Make them into gods or make them into something that they’re not.”

What he took from Kabango’s example as q host was that “you can really talk to people even though they’re superstars and billionaires and may have created the greatest art known to man. They’re still folks. They’ve still got to eat dinner. They’ve got people who care about them and they still get lonely sometimes.”

More music, new segments

Known as a music guy, Power said the revamped show will come with a tighter focus on arts, entertainment and music — Canadian acts, gems from the past and live performances — than before.

While Power will continue the long-form interviews that are part of the DNA of q, Power added that there will also be new elements he’s not involved in, such as segments from contributors across the country sharing what’s going on in different areas.

The Dardanelles

Power, centre, also fronts Newfoundland folk band The Dardanelles. (The Dardanelles)

Confirmed upcoming guests include Canadian electronic music group A Tribe Called Red; comedians Mike Myers and Norm Macdonald; and musician Adam Cohen, who will discuss his collaboration with his father Leonard Cohen.

Canadian and international acts such as Tegan and Sara, Sam Roberts and Blue Rodeo will be in the studio as guests and musical performers.

“If we can make an arts show that this country gets something out of … if they can learn something they didn’t know before, if they can feel something they didn’t feel before — it’s a challenge, but man it’s super worth it.”