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James Reflects on the Best and Most Memorable Podcasts He’s Published Over the Years

This past weekend, I published a podcast interview with a friend of mine named Beth Peroutka. Beth overcame a major injury that completely derailed her career as a professional musician and is now a successful entrepreneur in the Health and Fitness industry.

It was easily one of the best, most meaningful interviews or podcast episodes I’ve ever published, for reasons I’ll explain in more detail soon.

But it got me thinking about some of the best and most memorable podcast interviews I’ve published in the last 6 years or so.

When I decided to get into the podcasting game back then, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I think what has been the biggest (and most pleasant) surprise is how willing – longing even – people are to share their story.

We all love to talk about ourselves. We all have stories we just wish someone would ask us to share, don’t we? So when some dude named James sends a message on Facebook messenger asking if they want to do a podcast, more often than not, the answer was a quick Yes! and we were off to the races.

Obviously, some people get asked to do interviews quite often. Those folks are a bit more difficult to get a commitment from. And truth be told, following the principle that scarcity increases the value of something, those aren’t the best interviews. They may be the most downloaded interviews because of the notoriety of the guest, but they’re not necessarily the best.

A lot of that has to do with the skill, the risk-taking nature of the host. Who wants to answer questions they’ve been asked a hundred times? No one.

I’m digressing here, so let me get on to business.

Unfortunately, I’m an awful administrator, so I sadly don’t have links to some of these episodes from shows I’ve produced from years past. The shows are no longer online, and I shot myself in the foot by not saving the archives. The comments from my memory will have to suffice.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. A tribute to William Vacchiano. Trumpet Dynamics podcast, published January 2016.

This is easily the most fun I’ve ever had doing a podcast episode. And because I invested way more time than is justified or sustainable, I haven’t done one like it since.

I read a book titled, Next Stop: Carnegie Hall by Brian Shook, who basically published his doctoral thesis in book form. Brian had interviewed William Vacchiano, former principal trumpeter with the New York Philharmonic, multiple times, along with many famous trumpeters who were his students over the years.

I interviewed Brian, which was more or less the foundation of the episode. Then added in other interviews/commentary from well-known trumpeters (who were some of my personal heroes) such as Manny Laureano, Gerard Schwarz, and Ronald Romm, all of whom studied with Vacchiano.

As a little bonus, I recreated the opening scene from The Godfather. I changed the script to make it centered around musicians. Hired a voice actor on Fiverr and everything.

It was well-received by the audience, but again, the investment of time and resources was not justified at the moment – although the idea of a thematic podcast that is intended to share principles in an entertaining way hasn’t left me. There may be more to share on that soon.

At any rate, I encourage you to check out Brian’s website devoted to Mr. Vacchiano.

2. Joshua Messick. Musicpreneur podcast, January 2017.

In September 2016, I attended a men’s retreat with the congregation I attended in Asheville, NC. While at the mountain lodge where we stayed, I saw a flyer for a concert that was being put on by a hammered dulcimer player, and Josh was the featured artist.

It struck me that hammered dulcimer isn’t exactly well-known in the United States. It’s not made available to learn in the public schools. If you choose that, instrument and play it at a level high enough that people will part with their hard-earned money to hear you play, you’ve got to be 1) really good at it; and 2) an outside the box thinker.

So I contacted Josh, and he was happy to accommodate. He essentially made things happen completely by the bootstraps. He played his hammered dulcimer outside a music shop in Houston, TX all day. Basically busking for tips, maybe selling a few CD’s. He eventually relocated to Asheville where there are more like-minded people and musicians.

He eventually made his name so well-known that he was contracted by Studio Gibli (Japan’s equivalent of Pixar) and was the featured artist for the soundtrack of one of their recent films (the name escapes me as I type this).

All in all, it was memorable for all the right reasons. Josh is the real deal. Check him out on the web and listen to his amazing musicianship!

3. Anonymous. Trumpet Dynamics podcast, March 2018.

Remember, I said the best and memorable. This one is memorable for all the wrong reasons, so much so that I won’t mention the name of the person I interviewed.

It was a woman trumpeter that was recommended to me. She’s done really well for herself, and our interview was focused on her and her career. We both really enjoyed it, and we parted ways so I could edit and publish it.

The day of publishing, someone posted a comment on the Facebook group I had for the show, saying something like, “Can women even play trumpet?” I don’t remember exactly what was said by the fellow, but I really didn’t think anything of it. Well, another female trumpeter in the group certainly did, so much so that she sent me a private message saying it was inappropriate and that I should ban the person from the group.

I basically told her to mind her own business, and don’t tell me how to run mine.

Later that day, I received a lengthy email from the guest explaining the difficulties she’s experienced as a female in a male-dominated field. It was really thoughtful, and I asked if I could post it on the site’s blog. She immediately said, Yes!

But then it occurred to me that maybe this person has an agenda of some sort. Why would she send this email when the topic of gender didn’t even come up in our interview? Turns out this young lady I had shooed away earlier in the day told this other lady, the guest, well, whatever she said did not put me in a flattering light.

Next thing I know, a guy I had quasi-contracted to help out with social media posted on the biggest Facebook group for trumpeters that I was a sexist, a misogynist, that he was embarrassed to be associated with me and he had just quit.

Shameless virtue-signaling at its finest – and it’s a big reason why I more or less shun social media these days.

My big mistake with this incident was I allowed myself to become emotionally attached to this scenario, which in hindsight is comical that it even occurred. Had I remained aloof to it, I could very well have built my audience rather than alienate people, which I did because I took offense and tried to “hit back” – whatever that means.

As you can probably tell, this isn’t a pleasant memory for me. But it’s important I share it to perhaps help someone avoid the mistake I made.

If someone attacks you, especially on anti-social media, don’t take it personally. Use their silliness and puerile attitude to build your credibility and influence. As the saying goes, “Monetize your haters.”

4. Brian Foster. Outside the Music Box, March 2016.

This is my very first podcast interview ever. So it’s memorable for that alone, but the story behind it is kind of amusing.

Brian Foster is a physics professor at Oxford University. As a little side project, he’s published and presented on Albert Einstein and his love of music. I saw an article about this, and thought he would be a great guest on my brand new podcast focused on music.

But…a physics professor at Oxford? Probably best to get a few reps under my belt before speaking to someone of that stature.

So I sent him an email, certain that even if he agreed, he was way too busy at the moment, but could do it in a few months.

Perfect.

He replied saying he’d be happy to do it, and he’s available on Thursday (I sent the email on a Monday.)

What do you do? Do you lie, and say, “Sorry, I’m terribly busy right now, but I’ll have my people call your people?”

Or do you just do it? I chose to just do it.

Sure I would have preferred to interview my mom for my very first podcast interview ever. That would have been the easy route.

It was not to be. And to this day I have yet to interview my mom.

So the time for the call comes, and I’m ready to go. I’ve got the questions I want to ask written down, I’ve got “the perfect intro” ready to go in my head.

I hit record… and…

Silence.

I. Completely. Froze.

I gathered my wits enough to apologize to Professor Foster, that this was my first interview ever, etc. He’s patient and allows me to gather my thoughts.

I draw back to my days as a musical performer. “It’s just another performance,” I tell myself. So after a few moments, I begin the interview. For a first time, it was definitely respectable. Probably a bit more formal and stiff-upper-lipped than I would do today. But hey, the guy is British. They’re sort of known for that, right?

5. Beth Peroutka. Trumpet Dynamics, December 2020.

This one was a long time in coming. I met Beth on Facebook around 2008-09 timeframe, and didn’t actually speak to her voice to voice until December 2020 when we discussed the logistics of a podcast interview.

Beth was killing it on the trumpet at the time, and I had asked to interview her several times before. She politely declined, saying she had suffered an injury of some sort and didn’t feel comfortable speaking publicly about it.

Okay, no problem. So we stayed loosely connected, I continued to follow her on Facebook and what not. First she’s going to pre-med school, then all of a sudden she’s posting a bunch of stuff about nutrition, plant-based eating, and then opening a private gym as a personal trainer.

So I messaged her again, this is probably 3 years or so after the initial invite. She says she’s happy to do it. Great!

After hearing her story on the phone, it’s clear to me this one will be special. Beth has 1) never done a podcast interview before that I’m aware of; and 2) is talking about something that is most likely a painful memory.

So this one will get my A-game – with all due respect with the amazing folks I’ve interviewed before.

The interview goes splendidly. Beth clearly has some emotions in her voice as she’s telling her story, but it’s a story of overcoming intense negative emotions and disappointment to be the servant of others she is, musician or not. I was even able to fit in a recording of her incredible trumpet playing with her husband Aric on vocals.

“This one’s going to be a tear jerker, have some tissues handy when you listen,” I said to Beth while I was editing it.

It didn’t disappoint. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.


Obviously, I say all this with all due respect to the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing over the years. Everyone that I’ve interviewed has brought their A-game, and for the most part has outshined the person interviewing them.

There are a few commonalities in these stories, however.

First, they wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t focusing on a specific niche. You don’t hear stories like this on “general interest” shows like Oprah. I mean, you do, but not to that level of detail. The masses are not interested in the details like your niche is. It’s that niche from which you can build a community of listeners, and eventually patrons who are happy to support you in any way they can, financially and otherwise.

Second, focus on producing great content and the results will work themselves out. As you can tell, I’m not savvy on social media. I would much rather produce a high-quality product that a guest is eager to share with others, be it on Twitter or elsewhere.

The more I produce podcasts, the more convinced I am that quality is an absolute must in all areas. I’m tired of “sound engineers” thumbing their noses at podcasts because they’re quick and easy money. It’s time for podcasts to up their game in all elements: editing, post-production, copywriting, etc.

If more podcasters have this attitude, maybe then it will be regarded as a first-tier medium. It’s making huge gains, but there’s still a way to go.

And it begins with the ones hitting “publish”…

I hope these memories made you smile a little bit. They sure did for me, even #3 ha ha.

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