There’s a quote from one of Napoleon Hill’s books that reads, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” It lands in my consciousness as Amy Brown, co-host of iHeartRadio’s award-winning “The Bobby Bones Show,” doting wife and hard-working mom, lounges on a sofa in her cozy, light-filled Brentwood home.
Amy seems unequivocally kind. She’s modest, too, almost unaware of her status. Or, at the very least, she isn’t entangled in the glorification part of it. She’s a real girl’s girl–the kind of friend you’d phone in a crisis because you’d know her doors would swing open for you. She not only wears her heart on her sleeve, but isn’t ashamed to let it bleed a bit–vulnerably but mostly generously. It’s clear that, more than anything else, she’s decided to be amongst the rare breed of human beings that make other human beings feel happy about being here, no matter how cold and scary the world might turn at times.
If you were to pass her in the produce aisle, it’d be a stretch to imagine that she’s an essential part of the weekday morning routines of millions upon millions of fans across about 180 radio stations in the United States and Canada. Or that she also co-hosts two wildly popular, nationally syndicated weekend programs as well: “Country Top 30 with Bobby Bones” and “Women of iHeartCountry.”
Somehow, miraculously, the recognition hasn’t wormed its way into her beautiful head. Of course, maybe that’s because she never saw it coming, and hasn't had much of a chance to slow down since.
“I try not to think about how widely syndicated the show is, because it can get overwhelming. Mostly, I concentrate on connecting with individuals. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re doing,” she says.
On an unremarkable day in 2005, a 25 year-old Amy, still living in her native state of Texas with no plans of ever leaving, naively Googled: “What do radio DJs make?”
Amy was single, childless and working in sales when her pal, Bobby Bones, asked her to join his established radio show as a co-host. His goal was to form a group of folks around the microphone who lacked formal training, and who were game to show up as nothing other than their colorful, quirky, unrehearsed selves. Ones who’d be willing to shine a spotlight over both the dazzling milestones and dirt-kicking realities of life, along with the unexceptional chapters in between. He had a hunch that she could champion exactly that.
Amy confesses that, early on, she never saw it as a professional move. “I didn’t see radio as a career at first, because it hadn’t been on my radar. At most, I thought it might be a fun experiment for a while,” she says, laughing.
A bit torn about stepping into an unfamiliar world, Amy sought guidance from her mother, who was quick to shout her encouragement. “My mom said to me, ‘Amy, if there’s ever a time in your life where it's a good idea to leave something secure and go try something fun, now’s the time.’ So that’s what I did,” she says.
Amy is a shining example that, though it’s common for humans to wait for the heavens to part and rain down with instructio, perhaps hoping for a sign on the side of the road or an audible voice that’ll reveal their divine purpose, that’s seldom how it happens. Because, most of the time, the answers are sneakily hidden within our innate talents, gifts and personality quirks.
Always at home in front of the microphone, Amy says she was often scolded for being chatty during classes at school, and that she never felt intimidated by an audience. “I didn’t have aspirations for a public presence, but I was at ease being on stage. So, really, I believe this is what I meant to do all along. It just took me a unique way to get here,” she says.
In the early days, “The Bobby Bones Show” was based in Austin, Texas, reaching a modest audience within the pop market. Initially, Brown signed a contract for two years. Then for another two years. Then another. In 2013, IHeartRadio moved the show to Nashville, crowning it its own nationally syndicated entity in the country world.
Over the years, listeners have followed along with Amy’s highest of highs and hardest of lows–from becoming a giddy fiance to ‘Airforce Guy,” to then supporting her new husband from afar through several stretches in Afghanistan, to her mother’s relentless battle with cancer, to seven years of unexplained infertility, and to her unconventional entrance into motherhood by adopting two older children from Haiti.
She’s used her personal narratives as a tool to spark connection and empathy–inviting listeners to search for the resilience within themselves, no matter the struggles they might be staring down. “As we’ve shared our joys for listeners, they’ve found theirs. As we’ve shared our sorrows, they’ve felt less alone,” Amy says.
While some of her favorite memories on air include moments such as being surprised by George Strait or sitting side stage at the Ryman Auditorium, watching Brooks & Dunn perform “Neon Moon” With Bone’s band, The Raging Idiots, there’s one experience that goes down in history as the most unforgettable of them all.
To give some backstory, Amy’s mom, Judy, who was not only hell bent on keeping a tight grip on her sass during her fight against cancer, but to celebrate it, inspired a movement that would accidentally, but most fantastically, go viral.
Knowing her listeners were inspired by her mom’s fiery spirit and cheerful attitude, and that they appreciated being kept in the loop on her progress, and also knowing that her mom had long and daunting hours of downtime to be spent at the hospital while awaiting chemotherapy treatments, Amy decided to create a Twitter account for her. While setting it up, Amy jokingly typed in @Judybepimpinjoy, specifically because @Judychoosesjoy wasn’t available.
It had a nice ring to it, so they rolled with it. Hilariously, listeners joined in with their virtual glasses held high, toasting to the spunky gleefulness of it all.
Soon after, Bobby started encouraging listeners to hashtag “PIMPINJOY.” Within months, it had become a full-on movement that was taking on a life of its own. Its message was simple: Infect the world with kindness. Spread joy to others anytime you feel inclined, as often as possible, in whatever means you can.
As the movement caught fire, Bobby had the idea to host a week-long challenge of joy-filled spiritedness. Listeners were encouraged to strike anyone from co-workers to strangers with a bolt of kindness. Things like opening a door for another patron at the shopping mall. Flashing your cashier a warm smile while in line at the grocery store. Hitting your barista with a sunny compliment.
One day, a woman called, spewing with awe and thankfulness. Except, strangely, she’d never tuned into the show a day in her life.
While in line at the tire shop, the caller had learned that all four of her tires needed to be replaced immediately. A struggling mother, she didn’t have the funds to make that happen, mumbling to the service attendant, “I can only do one today, but I’ll come back and do the others when I can...”
But, as it happens, a fan of “The Bobby Bones Show” was listening from the back of the line, to which he responded, “I’d like to get all four tires for her!”
The woman, feeling a wave of embarrassment, tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted, saying, “It’s Joy Week on this radio show I listen to. I’ve got it.”
Amy says she and her co-hosts still don’t know who the listener is. He never called in to make himself known. But they were able to confirm this: The show was impacting not only listeners, but was seeping into the entire world in wonderfully altruistic and healing ways.
“I still get goosebumps, even now, telling that story. I’ll never forget it. And I’m sure there are other amazing examples of generosity that the show has inspired–things we’ll never know about. I’m just grateful to play a role in it,” Amy says.
Sadly, in 2014, Amy’s mom succumbed to her fight against cancer. In response, Amy had “joy” tattooed onto her wrist, in her mom’s handwriting, in honor of her. Because, in choosing joy for herself in such a dark time, her mother spread immeasurable joy to others as well, almost certainly in ways that continue to outlive her.
Amy is cautious to add that #PIMPINJOY isn’t at all about linking arms with toxic positivity, however, nor is it about denying the graveness of any situation. It’s about letting yourself have hard days or seasons, be honest about them, and then give yourself permission to find the light again, over and over again.
Since #PIMPINJOY's accidental inception, “The Bobby Bones Show” collaborated with The Shop Forward (founded by Meri Barnes), to make an apparel line with 100 percent of proceeds going to various causes and charities. This partnership was the springboard for another brand Amy co-founded with Barnes, she named ESPWA (meaning "hope" in Haitian Creole).
ESPWA is a clothing & accessories line that supports different organizations in Haiti, a corner of the world that is near to Amy's heart. After a visit to what she calls “a beautiful country” in 2012, Amy and her husband made the decision to start a long, five-year process of adopting their two children from an orphanage in Port-Au-Prince; Stevenson, now 11, and Stachira, now 14.
Having been a mom for four years, when she speaks of them, it’s clear she cares deeply for their safety and well-being in the same way any loving mother would. And, though, to the world, it might appear that she rescued them, she emphasizes that they also rescued her. “Our children have given my husband and me the amazing gift of teaching us about some of our deepest wounds,” Amy says.
In addition to her national radio presence and joy-filled entrepreneurial ventures, she’s also got a terrifically successful podcast, 4 Things With Amy Brown, through iHeartRadio. Dr. Oz, Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman are among her roster of eminent guests. She covers topics such as navigating grief, the power of vulnerability and honing the magic of gratitude, to the proper way to dry brush. And, sometimes, she simply answers listeners’ emails.
Not surprisingly, in classic Amy Brown fashion, she continues to find new ways to create possibility within hardship. In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, with an ill father (who, heartbreakingly, would pass away the following year), she expanded her podcast presence, teaming up with iHeartRadio to launch The Amy Brown Podcast Network, which now features a slate of voices in the realm of health and wellness, including OUTWEIGH, which she co-hosts with her friend Lisa Hayim, a registered dietician and wellness expert, covering the nuances of recovering from disordered eating.
She’s so passionate in her mission to dash the world with hope, she once face-planted into a tree. “I was in downtown Austin for the iHeartCountry Festival and saw someone wearing a #PIMPINJOY hat. I shouted, ‘Oh my gosh, Hiiii!’ I was so excited that I ran right into the tree. It was one of those moments where a city street camera would have made for some funny material,” Amy says, laughing.
For Amy, all of this is to serve as a reminder that we’re never alone, and that we each move through unseen struggles as we trek along the path of our individual stories. It’s an invitation to remember that, while none of us are immune to despair, we can show up as evidence of compassion and empowerment for others, in the same way we’ll undoubtedly need someone to show up for us, too. And, most of all? It’s the audacity to find joy and laughter along the way, no matter what comes.