“It’s quite weird when you’re looking through loads of stuff, I’ve never really stopped before and looked back to take stock of what I’ve done on Radio 1,” says a nostalgic Nick Grimshaw as we reflect on his incredible 14 years with the station.
Having joined the BBC in 2007 as Annie Mac’s sidekick on her Sunday night teen show Switch, Grimmy – as he’s affectionately known – has risen through the ranks to become one of Radio 1’s biggest stars.
He’s fronted the Weekend Breakfast Show (“I was 24 and I was going out a lot. Trying to get me to stay in on a Friday and Saturday night in 2008 was…. [laughs]”) and followed in the footsteps of the legendary John Peel as the host of Radio 1′s late-night new music show. Then in 2012, Grimmy landed the biggest break of his career when he was handed the keys to the Radio 1 Breakfast Show after its longest-serving presenter Chris Moyles stepped down.
“People really, really loved Chris, so it was very daunting to take over from him because he is a huge personality and so loved by people,” he says of his Breakfast predecessor.
“He had that thing that was attractive to me about Radio 1 in that it felt lawless and anything could happen on that show, so it definitely felt daunting to take over, but it also felt right. I felt confident that I could make a fun, inclusive, lawless show. I really like Radio 1 when it’s a bit live and loose and guests come in who are hungover.”
An “open-door” policy – as Grimmy describes it, adopted from his late-night show – meant that a day would rarely go by without one of his celebrity pals popping up to regale listeners with tales of their antics – Rita Ora was practically a regular (“I just love her… She’s one of those people who you meet at Radio 1 and you’re just like ‘you had to be a pop star, because I don’t think you’d survive if you weren’t a pop star’”), while Harry Styles once drunkenly co-hosted the show after he and Nick pulled an all-nighter at the Brits.
“I always just liked hearing the real lives of the DJs on Radio 1 when I was listening,” he says, explaining how his pals became so synonymous with his show. “I always liked how Sara Cox would talk about her night out or Chris Evans would talk about going down the pub – I liked that openness as a listener.”
After moving to the drivetime slot in 2018, the Oldham-born presenter is now hanging up his headphones for the last time on Thursday, as he says goodbye to the station he dreamed of being a presenter on “since he was a kid”.
Here, Grimmy reflects on the gossip, gaffes and guests from 14 years behind the mic…
The morning I got the Breakfast Show, I thought I was about to be fired
“I remember going in to meet my boss that morning and thought maybe he was going to change the nighttime show or fire me, I just didn’t think it was good news.
“When I got there, he said he wanted me to take over the Breakfast Show and it was a really surreal moment. It was a dream of mine as a kid, and for it to actually happen still feels surreal because it’s all I ever wanted to do.”
I always thought if you were up past 12 on Brits night, you might as well just stay out
“Everyone who works at Radio 1 is so passionate about it, the music and the Brit Awards, so to be able to go to that is so exciting. The adrenaline is through the roof and everyone is geeing each other up. We’d really go out, out.
“The first one was 2013 and we went out as a Breakfast Show team. You’ve got to get up at 5 but I always think it’s worse to go to bed. So we made the executive decision to just stay up. At about 2am, my producers decided to head into the office and have some sleep. I was like, ‘Really?! OK!’.
“I turned up after having a house party back at mine – there was me, Jaime Winston, Harry Styles and a cardboard cutout of Robbie Williams on air at 6.30am with a giant bottle of vodka that said ‘Grimmy’ in diamanté and no producers. We went on air and did the Breakfast Show and by the time the producers woke up, we’d been on air an hour.
“One poor guy, it was one of his first days as an assistant and he had to try and produce the Breakfast Show with all these drunk people chatting shit. The most stressful day ever for him.”
The guest who exceeded my expectations? Kim Kardashian.
“I didn’t really used to get the fascination. Yeah she’s pretty, but I never really got why she was the most famous person in the world. And then when I met her, she was so charming, so nice to everybody – and not fake nice – I just really liked her and really got her. Everyone in the studio loved her.
“I saw her in Ibiza a year later, and I never go over to a guest and am like, ‘Hi, I’ve interviewed you,’ but I saw her and she was like, ‘Hey, how are you? How’s the radio? I had so much fun that day!’
“She’d just got married and was gossing about the wedding. She was just dead normal and warm and a great story teller – really open and chatty.”
Rita Ora is the dream guest because she just chats and chats
“I only met her through radio. We just sort of really clicked when we started doing a lot of radio and telly together around the same time as me starting Breakfast.
“She’s so funny, scatty and charming and very sweet, and she’s like what she is on the radio off air.
“We used to do the Radio 1 Teen Awards together for a few years and we always used to want to go out on the Sunday night afterwards. But the problem was we’d have probably woken up at 6am that day to get there, so we’d always go out then we’d have a sleepover at mine because I lived right by Radio 1. Then we’d go in on a Monday morning.
“I sit back now and I can’t imagine what that sounded like, me and her chatting absolute shit in the morning.”
My biggest gaffe saw me land a world exclusive and then press play on the wrong song
“I don’t remember doing this but someone tweeted me the other day, but I introduced the new James Bond song by Sam Smith and gave it a really big, amazing intro – it was a first play – but then I played the wrong song: Peanut Butter Jelly by Galantis. Everyone was like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ Not great.”
One thing listeners might not know about Radio 1 is that it has the strictest canteen
“You think it would be really fun and LOL, but actually the strictest canteen I’ve ever been in. I always get food during Newsbeat, and they’re always like, ‘Sorry, we’re not serving chips for another minute,’ and I’m like, ‘Could I have them now because the news is going to end?’ And then they are like, ‘Sorry, we don’t serve chips til 6’. It’s 5.58!
“It was a nightmare for Annie Mac every night, but it will be Clara’s problem now!”
Co-hosting with Annie is my favourite Radio 1 memory
“First our Sunday nights together and then getting to chat every single night on Drive.
“Annie told me a little while ago that she was thinking about [leaving]. She’s such a good planner and she knows where she’s going and what she wants. She told me in her garden and then I told her [I was leaving] a few weeks before I made my announcement.
“Annie is so safe and one of my best friends in the world and when I called her and told her, she is very measured and was like, ‘OK babe, let’s figure out how you want to do it and what you want to say’ – she’s exactly who you want to speak to for advice.”
Unlike her, I haven’t planned my last link yet
“I’m not very good at planning things like that. I work best under last minute pressure, it’s the only way I can do things. So I’ll think about it the night before.
“It is a big deal, but I’m not dying. I want to say something poignant, but it is a funny one because people send you really nice messages and comments and it is a bit like you have died, you know what I mean?”
I definitely want to have a little break from radio
“I really love it but I didn’t want to leave and start another radio job straight away. I wanted some separation from it and some time to take stock of it. I’ve done a daily show for 12 years, and every day I wake up thinking, ‘What the fuck are we going to talk about today for four hours?’ So I just don’t want to do that for a little bit. I don’t want to stop doing the radio, I’d love to do it again in six months or a year.
“I want to try and commit to some things I’ve not had the time to commit to before and start building my interiors business and do some TV I’ve not been able to do.”
There’s some great new Radio 1 talent I’m going to be following
I really love a new DJ called Sarah Story who is going to be on Friday nights. I heard her doing some cover and she was really lovely and funny and warm and northern, and has amazing taste in music. Then I met her at Annie’s leaving party and really clicked with her.
“I also really love Sian Eleri, who does The Chillest Show. It’s so good and she’s amazing. Both Sian and Sarah are really special.”
I’m not going to have to leave the What’sApp group. Am I?!
“Annie I speak to constantly and more off the radio than on the radio. Then we have a What’sApp group of me, Greg [James], Clara [Amfo], Scott [Mills] and Chris [Stark]. Everyone really does get on. I’m not going to have to leave the What’sApp group. Am I?!
“No, I don’t think so…”
Nick Grimshaw’s last Radio 1 show airs on Thursday from 2pm.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.