JP Emerson: Automotive Journalist & Host of The JP Emerson Show

 

Angela Tuell  00:05

Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those who report on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. Today we are talking with JP Emerson. JP is an award-winning automotive journalist with bio lines in many of the most popular automotive magazines in the country. JP covers classic muscle cars and the people who own them with real stories from real owners relating everything from ownership, to car shows, music, road trips, and what everyone has in common, regardless of brand. With articles and stories featured on the pages and websites such as Hot Rod, Ford Muscle, Mustang, Monthly Motor Trend group, and more. JP has supplied brand recognition and worked with some of the industry’s most recognizable names. Welcome, JP. Hey, how are you?

 

JP Emerson  01:06

Great doing well.

 

Angela Tuell  01:07

So I must say you are our first automotive journalist on the show. And I’m not an expert in that area. So you’re going to have to help me.

 

JP Emerson  01:15

Oh, that’s no problem. I’ll help you where I can. So I’m no expert, either.

 

Angela Tuell  01:19

But oh, I know that’s not true. Your career is quite impressive. Will you walk us through the highlights?

 

JP Emerson  01:27

Well, I guess if you can call them highlights, I basically started writing about cars. Well, let me back up just a little bit, actually. I started writing, doing statistics and sports for the local newspaper way back when, and really enjoyed doing that. And eventually, as I grew older, I got interested in the world more things, you know, cars being one of them. And I really focused on that, you know, the car is freedom, it’s the gateway to great things way back then, you know, today it’s more of a cell phone or a tablet. But back then it was the car. And that’s what everybody wanted. And in order to have a car, you had to know how to work on it and keep it running and afford to put gas in it. Yeah, no. So that’s, that’s really what piqued my interest, you know, in working with cars, and eventually they, you know, they became a little out of reach as far as you know, my mechanical abilities. So, I decided, well, I may not know how to work on every car, especially today’s cars with all their electronics, but I can sure talk about them. So yeah, really the highlight.

 

Angela Tuell  02:34

I love how you put that about freedom because I remember that with my first car. I mean, I was before we had cell phones when I got my first car as well. But today, I you know, I think about my children, they will not. It’s not that way. So that will be interesting to see at that time.

 

JP Emerson  02:51

Sure. Sure.

 

Angela Tuell  02:52

Did you always know you want to be a journalist before you had the job at the local newspaper?

 

JP Emerson  02:58

I’m like, I can’t say I always knew it. But I always enjoyed a really good story, which kind of contradicts itself, because I wasn’t a huge reader. I enjoyed magazines, you know, the automotive magazines and not so many comic books, but you know, just anything that you can pick up and put down, you know, in a day and be done with it. I guess my attention span wasn’t long enough. I knew I liked writing and talking about, you know, in this case in the automotive industry. And that kind of catapulted me into Okay, well, let’s, let’s see how this goes. When you’re starting out, you’re really not good at anything. And it kind of kind of turned into you know where it is today. So, as far as did I always know? No, did I know I like to write? Absolutely.

 

Angela Tuell  03:47

Yeah. And you write about classic muscle cars and the people who own them. I know this is a hard question. But what stories over the years have been your favorite or standout?

 

JP Emerson  03:57

Well, I write about all kinds of cars. But by and large, it’s about the people that own them because they’re the ones that have the stories, the cars are just the vessels that get you there. And what started out as you know, classic cars have evolved into everything. I do racing and motorcycles and television media, as long as it has an automotive theme to it. As far as the one that stands out the most. You know, one thing is, you know, I love every story. They’re all great. You know, many people think, you know, my, my story is not important enough or good enough to share. And I say that’s nonsense because they’re all great. But if I had to pick one, there’s a very inspirational one that I did several years ago. You know, when you’re in the automotive industry, everything’s about appearance, you want the cars to look great. You want everything to be perfect. And when you go into a car show, which is you know, kind of how I started working and writing stories. You look for those great cars. But what happens is you miss, some really fantastic ones that may not be at the same level. You know, in the industry, they call them trailer queens, you know, the cars you see on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine, right? Most of them aren’t driven. You know, they’re trailers somewhere. And they’re perfect. And they look great, and they’re wonderful to look at. But there are so many other ones that are that are equally as nice and their owners are proud of them. Usually, you walk past the cars that don’t interest you or don’t, they’re not as shiny, they’re not as fantastic looking. And the story is about a gentleman who had a Dodge Swinger, which is a Mopar product. And when you walk past it, it was it wasn’t as shiny as the other ones it you can tell it had a lot of aftermarket parts on it, when you walk past it the engine bay, you know, it was dirty in there as the wiring was incorrect. And, you know, you could just tell this was something that wasn’t going to win an award at the show. And when you got a little closer, you began to the industry, you know, we call them 20 footers, or 10 footers from 20 foot away, it looks all right, from 10 feet, you can see the flaws. And when you get right next to it, you can really see them. Well, this was probably a 50-footer, because, for 50 feet, you could see things weren’t quite right. But um, when I met the owner, I got the story that, you know, there’s a reason why there are dents in the side of the car, why the paints chipping, why he has handmade pieces on the car. And the reason is, that he’s a quadriplegic, and he drives this muscle car. And when he tries to get into the door, you know, he has to pull a piece of wood out. And it has to go in his wheelchair. And he has to somehow manage to get into the car because not only does he drive this car, wow, he has use of his fingers. He not only drives it, but he dragged races it all, all with his fingers. So you got to understand, okay, now I know why the bottom of the car has these little dings in it, why the paint chip, and why you have these aftermarket parts on it. So if that wasn’t inspiring enough, when you speak to the gentleman, you find out that not only does he do all these things, but he’s a teacher. He’s an educator. And he’s teaching his kids which were middle school kids, how to work on cars, his car, actually. And they would do the work. And he would educate them as you know how you do this and how you do that because he had all the knowledge. He just didn’t have the physical capability to do it himself. And he did this for years. And he, he’s beloved in his community. And everybody knows him and they recognize his car. I wrote a story about it some years ago about him and had him do some nice smoky burnouts in the school parking lot. And you realize, you know, someone might go home with the trophy. But the story was far better than anything else I could have discovered that day. And that’s the one that really just stands out to me.

 

Angela Tuell  08:22

So inspiring. Where was that one published?

 

JP Emerson  08:26

Wow, that was in a bunch of them. I think the Muscle Car Review was one of many of these magazines. Many of these titles don’t exist any longer. COVID shut a punch down. Street Rod Magazine, Mopar Muscle. It’s on, it’s actually on our website, JP emerson.com. It’s under, I think it’s under one of the article pages. You can go read some more, but I think he’s one of the ones that are on there. And you can, you can see him and just, it’s just one of those ones that say, you know, it’s not all about appearance, it’s about getting behind that and finding out what the story is.

 

Angela Tuell  09:03

Yeah, we’ll link to it in our show notes. And that’s what makes you a journalist, or a great journalist, is when you find those stories and tell them.

 

JP Emerson  09:12

Yeah – that one went really well, too. A lot of people reacted really well to it. And you know, I just thought it was great because, you know, I’m about to walk past it, I’d never heard it. Yeah.

 

Angela Tuell  09:24

How do you tend to get your stories you know, some of it like you said at events and things before COVID, I guess, but what you know, how do you tend to find them? Do you work with PR professionals?

 

JP Emerson  09:34

I do work with them from time to time, a lot of it’s word of mouth. You know, when I work with somebody, I asked them you know, hey, do you know anybody? Do you know any stories have you come across anybody or who can you recommend me to? Because when you come in cold you know like a like a cold call. People are very protective about not only their personal information but, their property too. And when you started when I started doing, you know, classic muscle cars, you know, there’s great value in many of them. And a lot of people don’t want to, don’t want to share that information. But you know, you start to earn trust, because you speak to other people. And, you know, they open the door little and you just let them know that look, I just want to share your story. I’m not interested in buying your car or disclosing anything. But PR people I do, I do hear from them quite a bit. Actually, they flood my inbox.

 

Angela Tuell  10:32

Probably too much, right?

 

JP Emerson  10:34

But yeah, that’s, you know, more often than not, they’re obviously you know, that it’s their job to sell something or, and that’s what they’re looking to do. But you know, I do use them from time to time.

 

Angela Tuell  10:44

What’s the best way to get in front of you is email the best? Or…

 

JP Emerson  10:47

Email is absolutely the best. I get a couple of 100 every day, you know, it’s JPemerson.com, I check on probably four or five times a day, and my phone blows up. And really, all I’m looking for is you know, hey, tell me your story. It’s, you know, there’s nothing wrong with your story. I want to hear it. That doesn’t mean we can use them all. But you know, there’s a good chance.

 

Angela Tuell  11:12

Yeah. What has been most surprising about the automotive industry since you began covering it?

 

JP Emerson  11:19

Well, I think, from my perspective, when I thought of the industry itself, you know, you think of these executives and the people in the industry, or the people you see on television that are in the industry, and they seem like they’re, you know, 10 miles high, you can’t quite get to them. Or you have to go through a bunch of people to get to them. And I found that’s really not the case. I would say nine out of 10 that I reach out to actually respond directly. It’s you know, I don’t have to go through a PR person or I don’t have to go through a secretary or, or, you know, someone that’s helping them. They’re enthusiasts. They’d like to connect with other enthusiasts and they want to talk to you, that’s probably the biggest thing that jumps out at me, people you just would never think would answer you. They do.

 

Angela Tuell  12:14

This was for my husband, I had to sneak it in here. He wants to know, what do you think about today’s muscle cars and the resurgence with some of the classic styling, you know, the big three have brought back in recent years?

 

JP Emerson  12:25

I think it’s great because if you’re in the classic car community, you have to keep moving the needle forward. Without the new interest in muscle cars, or what’s considered muscle cars today. The old ones are gonna, they’re gonna fade away, they’re gonna die out, because the owners, you know, be honest, you know, the owners are getting older, they’re, they’re dying. And if you don’t keep up with the new you can’t pull the old along with you. I love them. I Dodge has a great product. And of course, you know, Chevy with a new CA Corvette, you know, that’s a great car. Ford, you know, obviously had the Shelby and the Ford GT. I mean, who’d have thought ever that they would, you know, come up with these today. But that’s, you know, you have to welcome both and mesh them together. So I’m really happy that they’re doing it.

 

Angela Tuell  13:19

So let’s talk about your podcast, the JP Emerson Show. Let me read your description for our listeners because I just love it. It makes me excited to listen, and classic cars are not my hobby. “Nothing says nostalgia like a classic car and no one tells those stories better than the people who live them. In each episode we ride shotgun through the back roads of our memories, talking about road trips, music, humor, and what may lie ahead for the hobby. We’ll meet new folks from across the country, industry insiders, and celebrities with amazing tales to tell and a few secrets too. If you’re all about horsepower chrome reliving the glory days or creating new automotive memories of your own join award-winning automotive journalist and storyteller JP Emerson, as we explore the open road and discover what’s just beyond the headlights.” So how did it start? And how’s it going?

 

JP Emerson  14:09

Well, it’s going phenomenally well, it, it started. Strangely enough, as a result of the pandemic, I was supplying content to many, many magazines in the automotive world. The pandemic slowed things down and then actually on one day 98% of them went away, he got a nice email and said, Hey, look, you know, we can’t do this anymore. And we don’t need you. And that’s what happened with virtually every Freelancer which is what most of us were. Yeah. And that’s unfortunate, you know because you’re you work on stories and interviews way ahead of time. So you’ve got many, many of them already in the can ready to go and then when your outlet disappears, you have no place to publish them and places that will take ’em – you know, you can’t work for free, not for long anyway. So, I’d had a couple of offers that said, Hey, you should try doing this on a podcast, your Power Profiles, which is a series that I did, and still do, would translate well into a podcast. So after some hesitance, I dove in knowing absolutely nothing about how to do a podcast, and reached out to some folks and said, Hey, I’m going to try this, what do you think? And they said I think you should go for it. And like everything else, you know, it starts out slow. And you kind of learn and you make mistakes. And you know, I actually did an entire interview where I forgot to record.

 

Angela Tuell  15:43

Oh no.

 

JP Emerson  15:45

But you know, that’s what happens. And yes, you learn, you learn, there’s a difference between the printed word and how you’re prepared for that, and the podcast world where a lot of work is done, getting ready for it and editing afterward, which is just the opposite from when you’re writing. But it’s going extremely well. We have a very healthy listenership, I guess you could say, I know, we’re heard in well over a dozen countries, and we are pretty much on every podcast platform you can think of. And again, there’s a steady stream of emails that we get people sharing their stories. And well, more than I can get to in a year. So you know, you don’t want to let anybody down. Because I think every story is worth sharing. It’s just a matter of, you know, how do you get to it? You know, it’s there’s, there’s quite a list.

 

Angela Tuell  16:43

Yes. Any favorite episodes or guests so far?

 

JP Emerson  16:47

Well, actually, I love them all. Yeah, I love them. I I’ve, I’ve had everything from you know, we had a nine-year-old, young lady on who those engine codes and paint codes. Oh, wow, just a ridiculous amount of information to, you know, really the biggest names in the automotive industry. You know, professional racers, drag racers, NASCAR, you know, the world’s fastest motorcycle rider. They’ve all been fun, they’ve all been interesting. And they share a heck of a lot more than just what they do. They share. They share themselves, their stories, their failures, a lot of humor, you know, what they listen to when they’re, you know, when they’re trying in their everyday car. It’s really about getting to know them. So, you know, I love hearing from all of them.

 

Angela Tuell  17:38

So before we go, I must ask some questions that I’m sure you get a lot. What is your dream car?

 

JP Emerson  17:44

Well, knowing that a lot of people that listen to this are loyal to multiple brands, but I always say cool is cool, it doesn’t matter what the brand is. I would start with a ’65 Shelby Mustang, I’d love a Hemi Cuda, I love a new Corvette. That’s not to say I wouldn’t want other ones. But that would be a nice start in the garage anyway.

 

Angela Tuell  18:09

And I’m sure you’ve driven a lot of them. What has been the most fun to drive?

 

JP Emerson  18:15

Now the classics or this would really apply to all the classics. I said long ago. In fact, I wrote a story on this also that if you haven’t solved on a starter, many people may not even know what that is anymore. Or turn that actual key or had gas fumes in your car. You’re just a commuter, you’re not a driver, you’ve got to you’ve got to be on the ball. When you’re driving a classic car. There’s no room for error, there’s not many of them don’t have disc brakes, they have drum brakes, they don’t have power steering. Many people have never seen a window that rolls up and down, you know that you have to do it manually. It’s you know, I know. It’s all generational. I love them all. I love the feeling of saying, I’m driving, I’m in control of this car, rather than looking to see what’s on the radio, or fixing my seat or answering the phone.

 

Angela Tuell  19:12

Yeah, not like a Tesla, right? That might not be your dream car.

 

JP Emerson  19:17

Well, yeah, they’re cool, too. And I can tell you, you know, if you haven’t written in one or driven one, they’re extremely fast. Yes, you know, but there’s, that’s a very polarizing subject. And in the automotive world, either you love them, or you hate them. But they’re the future.

 

Angela Tuell  19:33

So have you personally taken on any restoration projects?

 

JP Emerson  19:36

Many, many years ago, you know, I tried my hand at fixing and repairing many things. And like I said, that’s where I discovered, you know, I can do these smaller things with no problem. But you know, pulling an engine or, you know, a rear end or something that’s probably left to people that are a lot better than me, but you know, but yeah, as far as a full-blown restoration. No, no, I, I would buy it next time, I wouldn’t try it myself. I think I’m too old for that no.

 

Angela Tuell  20:08

I know, we’ve all seen that we can’t predict the future. But what do you think is ahead for you?

 

JP Emerson  20:14

Hopefully, our podcast continues to grow. I’d like to see some print media come back, although I know that’s probably a long shot. Many people like to hold something in their hand, other than a tablet. You don’t go to an event or car show, you know, especially when people have their car in a magazine, you know, they want to show that off, they’re proud of their accomplishment. And that’s hard to do with an iPad, if you know, it’s like going to sleep every four or five minutes. You know, they, they want to, they want it in there, on their dashboard people can see or their little sign that they have out front. You know, that’s a source of pride for them. I hope and in whatever way those things come back. Because right now, it’s not looking too promising for them.

 

Angela Tuell  21:00

We all do we I agree with you completely. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

 

JP Emerson  21:05

Yeah, I hope so. I need it.

 

Angela Tuell  21:08

Thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate your time. It was very interesting.

 

JP Emerson  21:13

Well, thank you, Angela. I appreciate it.

 

Angela Tuell  21:16

You can find JP’s podcasts, the JP Emerson show, anywhere you get your podcasts. You can also find him on Twitter at the_JP Emerson. That’s all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We’d love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I’m your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.

In this episode, JP Emerson shares what fuels his love of all things automotive.  He shares with Angela how his knowledge of automobiles, and understanding of the bond between cars and their owners made his niche the perfect platform for starting The JP Emerson show podcast during the coronavirus pandemic. Just like in his interviews, he shares here some of his favorite rides and hopes for the industry.

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