You can take the boy out of the Bay of Plenty, but you can’t take the Bay out of the boy. Maria Hoyle talks to the local influencer about going back for his future.

WORDS Maria Hoyle / PHOTOS Garth Badger + supplied

I’ll be honest – I was apprehensive about meeting Jay Reeve. I’d seen the pics, read the bio. Here’s a tall, handsome, motorbike-riding, surfing dude with multiple successful roles – among them DJ, wine brand co-owner and social media influencer. During his time at MTV (they approached him – he’s never had to apply for a job in his life), he jetted around the world meeting the likes of Kanye, Snoop Dogg and Dave Grohl. He has a beautiful wife, adorable twin boys, and a queue of fascinating personalities to interview as co-host of The Rock radio show Rock Drive with Jay & Dunc. His life is fast, busy, glam. And now he has to spend an hour with me. 

However, from the moment we sit down at a café near Jay’s new home in Auckland’s Herne Bay, he’s fully engaged, relaxed, self-deprecating, interesting and interested. Perhaps acting is another of his many skills. But it turns out the truth is far simpler – Jay Reeve is a people person.

Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t disappoint on the rock ’n’ roll quotient, turning up on his Harley, sauntering in and shaking hands with a friend (a fan?) at a nearby table. I’d anticipated the cool – what I hadn’t expected was the warm. He gives me a generous hug, meets my eyes with his velvety green ones (yep, something about Jay brings out the Mills & Boon in me), and for a full 50 minutes, I have his undivided attention. Oh, apart from when another cool-looking guy comes over, launches into some banter, and Jay responds with a jovial, “Mate, I’m in the middle of an interview – I’ll give you a bell”. When his buddy’s gone, Jay explains, “Super-clever guy, rides a Harley as well. He’s the lead singer of Blindspott.” Of course he is. Because that’s the world Jay inhabits.

But… and here’s the big but. It takes only a few minutes of chatting to understand something fundamental about this Bay of Plenty-born 36-year-old. A flash Harley might be what gets him around, but community, family and friendship are what drive him. They shape his past, his present, and will no doubt shape his future. As for people, well – Bay locals, band frontmen, baristas, red-carpet stars, middle-aged journalists… they’re all one and the same to Jay. Apart from Delta Goodrem. We’ll get to her in a minute. 

First things first. Jay has a window of time before heading off to a school visit with his five-year-old sons Oscar and Hunter (who are soon to start at the local primary) to talk me through what exactly he, his wife Anna and their boys are doing back in Auckland. In case you’re not familiar with it, the story goes like this.

Jay grew up on a dairy farm in Te Puna, moved to Mount Maunganui at 15, disliked school but nonetheless ended up, at 21, teaching home economics at Tauranga Boys’ College. (Although he appreciated his parents’ hard work, he had no desire to take over the farm.) It was while commentating and competing in the Hyundai Pro Longboard Tour that he was snapped up by MTV. He stayed there for five years as a VJ, doing the aforementioned A-list interviews, then started to ponder a career in radio.

As luck would have it (to be fair, most turning points in Jay’s life might well start with that phrase), MTV made him redundant, so he walked away with a nice juicy payout and able to pursue the radio career he wanted. There followed six years on ZM’s drive show with Paul ‘Flynny’ Flynn, before the popular duo ‘consciously uncoupled’ and Jay snagged a two-year gig at Radio Hauraki.

At that point, in late 2017, the family packed everything up and headed back to the Mount. For good. “The plan was to stay there indefinitely,” says Jay. “I was done with radio. TV not so much; I’ve still got a couple of show concepts bubbling away in my head.”

The lure of the Bay was the slower pace that would enable them to focus on what matters. “We were well set up financially, and I wanted to spend as much time with my boys as I could before they went to school,” says Jay. He also wanted them to experience a taste of the childhood he’d had. On the farm, Jay grew up milking cows, hosing down the yard and doing other chores he “loved”.

“It was the best upbringing,” he says. “We’d put sandwiches in a backpack and walk to the back of our farm about 5km away, and spend the whole day adventuring. Our farm backed onto Whakamarama, and we had friends who lived on the other side of the river, so we’d meet them and jump off the waterfall. We’d go to Maramatanga Park with my dad and play twilight cricket. We’d hang out in the Te Puna clubrooms drinking lemonade and raspberry with a punnet of chips, while the adults told dirty jokes. I loved growing up in Te Puna.”

Jay reckons that even today, life in the Bay is simpler – that people are just that bit more content than their big-city counterparts. So the question remains: what’s he doing back in Auckland?

It came down to “the guarantee of a salary for a set number of years while we’re at the age we’re at. I’ve always looked at it that between 30 and 40 you make the majority of your funds, and then from that point, you can still be at an age to decide what you want to do. You can pivot, start again at 40.”

Jay wanted to maximise that peak earning potential, but if he was going to slam the thing into reverse and head back up to the big smoke, it was going to be on his own terms. He says any Auckland job “needed to tick every single box. I needed the person I worked with
to be someone I got on with, it needed to be the time slot I wanted, it needed to be on a station I liked, and it needed to be on a network I had respect for.”

He found all that at The Rock. Jay says that, ironically, the move ended up being hardest on Auckland-bred Anna. “She really did love the Mount – the pace of life and what it was like to bring up a family there.”

But it’s working out. So far. Anna’s already in her own groove. “She looks after all the social accounts for the businesses, takes care of all my social-influence stuff as I don’t have time, and looks after the boys. She’s ‘life admin’ for the Reeve family. It’s an unrelenting and perhaps under-appreciated job.”

As for Jay, he’s loving The Rock. It’s not just a gig to earn some decent dough – he and Dunc have worked out a format they’re both super excited about. Jay hadn’t worked with him before, so they had a “feeling-out process” – time spent getting to know one another. A bit like Married at First Sight? Jay laughs. “Ha – that’s a good way of putting it, yes.” 

As well as music and cheeky banter, the pair wanted to give people something that would challenge their existing views, and to bring on guests – like a controversial recent interviewee who talked about trying the mind-bending drug ayahuasca – who would provide a fresh perspective. Jay, an avid podcast listener, admits he can be close-minded at times, but tries to overcome it. “I’ve started listening to a podcast and I’ve gone, ‘F**k this guy, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about’, then by the end of it I’m, ‘Oh my god, I’ve come right around’. I like that education; we’re trying to do a bit of it. Nowadays we’re so quick to go, ‘I’m team this or team that’. But you can sit in the middle and go, ‘Well, tell me more’.

“I’ve always said I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” says Jay. With his four career boxes ticked off, everything else about their new Auckland life has magically fallen into place too. “We needed to quickly find somewhere to live and we’ve just, through a friend of a friend, signed a year-long lease on a house, so we’ve been able to get the boys into the school we wanted,” says Jay. “My work is very close. I’m surrounded by great friends, including close friends of ours from the Bay just around the corner.”

Although he’s grateful, it’s not the same as life at the Mount. “Where we lived, Gordon Road, we knew everyone, we knew each other’s kids, there was a real sense of community,” he says. I suggest he can recreate that in Auckland, but he laughs ruefully. “It’s too far gone! Everyone’s just busy. That’s the vibe of Auckland.” So the Bay is never far from his thoughts. But he knows that “to do our show and our talent and the investment from the radio station justice, the minimum term [for him in Auckland] would be five years”. It’s not that he’s complaining; Jay isn’t a whinger. It’s just the way it is right now.

One of Jay’s multiple roles is “silent but loud” partner in wine brand Master of Ceremonies, launched in 2016, which he co-owns with Anna and friends Mat Croad and Nick Marshall. (They’ve also teamed up with Hawke’s Bay winemaking supremo Rod McDonald – read more about it in Jay’s column in UNO Issue 43.) Did he know anything about wine before embarking on this venture?

“I was a big drinker!” he laughs. Plus, “I like to keep an eye out for things that are just around the curve. Rosé was a thing that popped up on my radar. My wife has always drunk rosé. I have bikie friends who drink rosé, not beer. Mat’s a wine importer and could see rosé was going up at a rapid rate. We’ve seen that in the past four years; there used to be three or four bottles in the supermarket aisle, now there are about 100. Nick came on as the majority shareholder, CEO and CFO. He pays himself a peppercorn wage to keep the business going; he’s such an asset to the business. It’s the people who make the business what it is. It’s cool to do business with your buddies.”

As well as a rosé, there’s now a Master of Ceremonies Central Otago pinot noir and a pinot gris 2018, plus a limited-edition sparkling rosé that’s a collaboration with fashion label Stolen Girlfriends Club. They have plans to export the coming vintage, “a push into Australia, Singapore, Asia”, and exciting plans for expansion. “Nick’s a very forward thinker,” says Jay. “ We’ve been working on something for the past two or three years; it’s very close to being released. It will be well ahead of the curve.”

Are we talking wine here? “Aah… yes and no.” He grins. “I’d love to tell you more, but…” 

Jay has a lot of things on the go, and living life as he does, at full throttle, requires mastering the art of maintenance. How does he keep himself in such good shape? “I fast – it’s a new thing for me,” he says. “I eat between 1pm and 7pm. I also try not to have any sugars or
carbs; it’s predominantly a meat-and-vegetable diet. 

“I met a guy called Nigel Beach, who’s an offsider for Wim Hof [the Dutch extreme athlete known as the Iceman, who pioneered the Wim Hof Method] and does this thing called ‘controlled discomfort’, where you have an ice bath. I get up and hop into a cold shower, or into a cold river, or into the sea. It’s amazing. It’s like going ‘control, alt, delete’. Apart from that, I drink far too much, sleep minimal hours and
really burn the candle at both ends and the middle.”

What about his mental health? Jay has talked in the past about how his relentless positivity has seen him accused of being arrogant. How does he cope when people take a shot at him or when he gets flak for something he’s said or written? Does it bother him?

He strains a little, like he really wants it to bother him. “Hmm… ah…” He laughs. “I don’t put that much thought into it!” What no doubt helps is that he’s always willing to listen. “I can say something, but then if someone more informed comes along and says, ‘You’re wrong and these are the reasons why I think you’re wrong’, then I’m 100 percent open to shifting my position – and I do so frequently. If you’re not learning, you’re just not moving.”

I try him on adversity. Any adversity, Jay, even a smidgen? Er, no. “I choose to be positive,” he says. And he’s aware how lucky he is. “There’s no problem I could ever have, ever, that could compare on a global scale with what happens every day to other people all over the world,” he says.

Okay, let’s try this, then. What about being a parent? Now that definitely comes with its curveballs, especially raising boys in this era of #MeToo. How do you teach them to speak their truth and be respectful of women?

“My wife and I talk about this a lot,” says Jay. “People just want to be treated with respect.” He believes we’ve become so fearful of offending people, that we’ve simply ceased to communicate. “Then there’s a systemic breakdown, then there’s alienation, misinformation. People put it in the too-hard basket. Now more than ever, we need to be talking.”

As for respecting women, or indeed any individual, the key is talk. “Don’t assume,” says Jay. “To be in an intimate situation with a person of the other sex or same sex and assuming they want to take it to the same place as you will get you into trouble. So communicate. But for kids to learn things, they have to see it.”

And then we’re back to the Bay. “I don’t want to say Auckland does a bad job of raising kids, but [provincial New Zealand]does it better,” says Jay. “We just got back from Gore and I didn’t see one kid on a phone while I was there. We did a show out of a bar/restaurant and kids were there with two or three generations of their family, talking across the table with everyone, sitting between adults, being part of the situation.”

For someone who’s met his fair share of celebs, Jay’s touchingly appreciative of these ordinary scenarios and of people showing each other good old-fashioned courtesies. So how does that pan out when he’s meeting the big stars – is he able to apply his philosophy of treating everyone decently, or does he get so starstruck that he acts differently?

Jay shakes his head. There was one person who made him a little gaga. “Strangely enough, Delta Goodrem. She was coming down the red carpet and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s Delta – whatever’.” But as she got closer, the ‘Delta effect’ rendered him speechless. “She was ethereal, like she had a halo of light around her. I was just holding out the mic in front of me. I was with my producer at the time, Bronwynn Wilson, who was going, ‘What are you f**king doing? Just talk!’ It was getting awkward, so Delta looked at Bronwynn and said, ‘So are you guys having a good time?’ and Bronwynn went from being like ‘Grrrr’ to ‘Uh… ah…’ – the same thing. After Delta had walked past I said, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know what happened!’ and Bronwynn said, ‘I don’t know what happened either!’”

It’s hard to imagine Jay being lost for words; for him, striking up conversation is the easiest thing in the world. Be it with A-listers or mere mortals, his favourite opener is, “‘So when you’re not doing this, what are you doing?’ And then they can say, ‘I run I with my dog, I like hanging out with my kids’ or whatever.”

What does that look like for Jay – what’s he doing when he’s at his happiest? “Happiness for me…” he pauses. “It almost makes me emotional thinking about it. This summer, we had this big group of us – all my family, my kids, my wife, one of my sisters, my parents, a big bunch of my friends – and we all rarked it up on the beach. The kids were running around, the surf was pumping, it was a beautiful still day. We were watching over each other’s kids, hanging out, having beers. That for me is heaven. Just heaven. I desperately miss it.”

In the background, Auckland attempts to plead its case: the thrum of traffic, a passing truck, coffee machines going full pelt to fuel the got-to-be-somewhere set. Jay is oblivious.

“You know, sometimes it’s nice to know what you want, so you can miss it and try to get back there,” he says. “It’s solidified for us what we want to do, where we want to be, how we want to raise our family, and what we want to be like as people. For the first time in 36 years, I know what I want.”

And, quite honestly, who wouldn’t raise a glass of rosé to that?