For two seasons of Storytellers Telling Stories, Jude Brewer explored the various ways he could combine music and storytelling—because, when it comes down to it, a great songwriter is also a great storyteller so why not marry the best of both worlds?
As with any good creative endeavor, Brewer’s podcasting experience has evolved into Storybound, “a radio theater program” that combines well-known “authors and writers reading some of their most impactful stories,” backed by “powerful and immersive sound environments” created by local musicians.
A writer and producer, Brewer is well connected in Portland creative circles, but support from outside partners Lit Hub Radio and The Podglomerate really expanded his reach with authors like Mitch Albom (Tuesdays With Morrie), Kim Barnes (In the Wilderness, a Pulitzer Prize finalist), local favorite Lidia Yuknavitch, and six other notable writers who all appear in the first nine-episode season of Storybound.
But what’s so special about Storybound is the way Brewer has worked to include the musicians in the process and seamlessly integrate their form of storytelling. He’d start with the writers reading their own works, choose the best takes and add in some sound effects. Then it’s the music makers time to shine, drawing inspiration from the words and crafting a score with very little direction.
“This show couldn’t be what it is without the musicians,” Brewer says. “I’m not telling them what I want to hear. I’m asking them to listen for themselves and follow their gut. And their guts are really what keep the coal burning.”
“If the sound environments we’re creating are powerful, it’s only because these musicians are the real deal,” he continues. “They’re fun to collaborate with because they’re incredibly thoughtful and quick on their feet. They have to be. And I just have to do what I’ve always been doing: adapt.”
This first season of Storybound pairs Maiah Wynne with Mitch Albom (reading an excerpt from his forthcoming memoir Finding Chika), Lidia Yuknavitch reading her short story “Street Walker” backed by Whiston & Warmack, and Pretty Gritty providing the score for Kim Barnes’ Hungry for the World.
Jack Rhysider, a security world veteran and host of the Darknet Diaries podcast, shares an original essay, and the bearded Americana strummer Shane Brown backs him up. “There’s something about Shane’s music where I want to hear it when it’s dark, either late at night or around sunrise,” Brewer describes. “Jack Rhysider’s story is all about trespassing on an abandoned church property with a tense eeriness floating around, and Shane’s particular moody warmth is the necessary counterbalance.”
Colin Hogan of The Colin Trio supports Matt Gallagher, Haley Johnsen is paired with Adelle Waldman, Tim Karplus (The Breaking) joins Nathan Hill, and the emotive Katelyn Convery provides sound design and music composition as Diksha Basu reads from The Windfall.
“Katelyn’s unpredictable rawness, as well as her experiences of living across the globe, make her the perfect match for Diksha Basu’s story,” Brewer tells. “Katelyn’s sound is always evolving, and her live The Rye Room Sessions really capture that dichotomy of tenderness and determination.”
Finally, Stephanie Strange of Strange and the Familiars is clearly the perfect accompaniment for Caitlin Doughty’s Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?
“Any chance she gets, Stephanie is devoted to exploring the nightmare realm with her cat, Nina Nightmare, whether it’s through music, writing or a developing comic series,” Brewer says. “Stephanie’s humor and gloominess are natural companions to Caitlin Doughty’s work as a mortician clearing up misconceptions over death.”
“I knew before we started that I wanted our audience to hear artists they weren’t familiar with,” Brewer explains. “It felt like a no-brainer to basically hand off the whole recording to a musician and ask them to experiment and score it.” Plus at the end of each episode, you can hear the musicians talk about their process.
“I’m still listening to artists that have yet to break out or never really did,” Brewer tells. “It’s not a conscious choice, either. It’s just how it’s worked out for my tastes. There have been solid months where every morning I have to begin my day by listening to Shane Brown’s ‘Ghost’ and Pretty Gritty’s The Rye Room Session of ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream.’ Maybe it has something to do with all those records I’ll still put on from bands that broke up long ago when the touring got too tough or their fanbase ate them alive when their sound evolved. It’s almost like, ‘Please, everyone, quit listening to the Top 100 for just one day of the week and go discover something you’ve never heard, maybe even get addicted to it.’”