Storytellers Telling Stories
YEAR FOUNDED: 2017
GENRE: Great stories from artists of all backgrounds—from writers to actors to musicians—accompanied by original compositions from local music makers
NOTABLE GUESTS: Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza, Haley Johnsen, Karyn Ann, The Colin Trio, Hayley Lynn, Talk Station
As a novelist, Jude Brewer recognizes the value of a good story. He’s not afraid to look outside the parameters of a piece of paper to find one, either. When he founded Storytellers Telling Stories in 2017, he was actually looking to break away from the cycle of writing long-form pieces: “I was craving something more experimental and a little less predictable,” he says.
Initially, Brewer’s target audience was readers, but his circle has grown: In the second season, which debuted in November, Brewer added musicians to the mix, because what are musicians but storytellers? It follows the notion: “If you love music, here’s a story with it; or if you love stories, here’s a song to match!” On STTS, musicians both accompany writers and tell their own stories, like Stephanie Strange of Strange and the Familiars who adeptly “blurs the lines between story and song” with her poignant tale. For an episode with author Monica Drake (Clown Girl and The Stud Book) and her story about Old Portland’s seeming simplicity, Brewer chose a song local singer-songwriter Katelyn Convery had played for him months ago about “a country being bought and sold.” Other local artists featured this season include Fox and Bones, Pretty Gritty and John Craigie—listen below. On editing those episodes, Brewer says, “They blow it out of the water. I don’t even have to do much.”
When he does have to do the work, though, Brewer approaches it very much like a musician: “My favorite part of the process is sitting down with an unedited, unmixed recording and having to figure out what will bring it to life. I’ll mess around with various instruments, warping and distorting them, whatever sounds pleasing or particularly interesting.” And when he can still surprise himself? “Then I’m doing okay.”
Be sure to tune in for the final episode this season on June 6 when Brewer will bring back every writer (yes, every writer from both seasons) who’s been on the podcast. “I’m still in the final stages of stitching the episode together,” Brewer says, “but I can say that our season two finale is the best thing I’ve ever had the chance at creating.” —Katey Trnka
That Much Further West
YEAR FOUNDED: 2012
GENRE: Showcasing interviews, live sessions, playlists and reviews for the Americana, roots and alt-country scenes of Portland and beyond
NOTABLE GUESTS: Willy Vlautin, John Moreland, Pete Krebs, Jenny Don’t & The Spurs, Mike Coykendall, Kendall Core, Jacob Miller, Jon Neufeld, Lewi Longmire, Fernando Viciconte
Representing a debatably muted voice in Portland’s wide-ranging musical output, the folks behind the That Much Further West Podcast strive to shine a spotlight on roots music in all its various subgenres for the airwaves (er, podwaves). Starting in 2012 as an internet radio show with hosts Eric Kotila and Mike Lee, TMFW found an agreeable production home in Kotila’s basement, dubbed The Helm. In 2013, the podcast version of the internet show officially kicked off, adding Portland musician and writer Phil Favorite as producer and co-host.
The podcast website features a diverse content stream between artist audio interviews, a steady run of curated playlists, and online album reviews and featurettes, keeping things fresh for listeners and readers as well as the hosts.
“Portland has a ridiculously strong roots music [community] with three generations of players sharing the knowledge and wealth of a very, very rich scene,” Favorite explains. “The scene has exploded over the last seven years—locally and nationally, even internationally. A lot of the artists who we were following were somewhat obscure when the show started but have blossomed into international stars,” he continues, citing musicians like Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson.
The podcast moved its recording operations in mid-2018 to the Landmark Saloon in front of live audiences with country rocker Rich West Blatt engineering, freeing up the hosts “to focus on interview content while improving the overall sound quality of the podcast.” Listen to a recent episode with Matty Charles, where he chats about this new project The Jackson County Kills, below.
“We really want to feature artists who haven’t had much exposure from our show in the past,” Favorite says. “Either bands coming through town or up-and-comers in the local scene, and maybe bag a big elephant now and again. We’re also looking to generate more alternative content in creative ways to keep things fresh and offer more to our audience.” —Ryan J. Prado
YEAR FOUNDED: 2014
GENRE: A weekly music podcast that’s full of laughs alongside in depth conversations with local artists
NOTABLE GUESTS: Mic Capes, Skull Diver, Vursatyl, Flint Eastwood, Karma Rivera, Anna Tivel, Mo Troper, Rasheed Jamal
Well into their fifth year, The Haute Garbage Podcast is now widely known amongst local musicians and comedians, who are often the guests of the show. A hybrid of a weekly music playlist and conversations with artists, which tend to have a comedic edge and free-form attitude, no topic of conversation is off the table and hilarious tangents often occur. Hosted by the dynamic duo of Drew Lazzara and Andy Fix, who have varied sensibilities, Lazzara guides the conversation’s line of questioning with his inquisitive spirit and desire to dive into an artist’s mind, while his co-host, Fix, offers the color commentary and currates a majority of the playlist for each episode. Think of Fix as the podcast’s “cool older brother” who has finger on the pulse of a wide range of music and always seems to find time to seek out new jams.
“He has this insatiable appetite for new music (and Taco Bell), and he has the patience to sift through it all,” Lazzara says of his co-host. “But he also has a pretty deep sense of music history, so he has a lot of credibility as a curator and with our guests. To me, his relationship to music and that infectiousness was, and is, the heart of the show from the start.” Nate Baisch is the quiet anchor and producer of the show, with a knack for weeding through the nonsense thrown his way.
The fellas do not shy away from allowing their guests to simply share their stories. They understand that this enables artists to open up and often reveals things about their character, offering listeners the opportunity to get to know their guests more personally, rather than just judging who they might be from hearing their music. Listen to Daniel John Riddle of King Black Acid on the show below.
“We want you to come to a new appreciation of an artist’s music by getting to know them first,” Lazzara explains. “So rather than have a very narrow focus for the questions we ask our guests, we just follow our genuine curiosity, and that helps them to open up in ways they might not in a more traditional interview situation. Hopefully, this lets the audience hear the artists’ intent in the music more clearly.”
At the end of the day, the trio want to a capture a conversation that is authentic and doesn’t come off as too contrived. They want it to feel like a couple of people hanging out in a garage in Portland, which is exactly where the show is recorded. —Dan Cable
DIY Musician Podcast
YEAR FOUNDED: 2007
GENRE: Informative insider expertise for independent musicians from working artists and industry tastemakers
NOTABLE GUESTS: Duff McKagan, Kronos Quartet, Martin Atkins, Jack Conte, The Slants’ Simon Tam
The music industry was long ago turned on its proverbial ear, waving bye-bye to the archaic record label, album cycle, Top 40 paradigm that had dominated its innards for more than seven decades. In the wake of that adjustment emerged a throng of artists no longer beholden to the rules of the old guard who still wanted to profit from their work. We’re well into the 21st century and this isn’t exactly headline news; still, the aftershocks of that seismic shift have yielded super informative podcasts like Portland’s DIY Musician Podcast, a one-stop audio shop for all your independent artist queries.
Since 2007, Kevin Breuner (also guitarist of Smalltown Poets and vice president of marketing at CD Baby) and Chris Robley (an esteemed and decorated musician and editor of CD Baby’s DIY Musician blog) have witnessed and reported on the evolutions in the way independent musicians market and promote themselves through various strategies, online and otherwise.
“When we started the podcast, the idea of pursuing a successful indie career without a label was still a new concept for many artists,” Breuner says. “It’s been a journey to help educate the market, which has come a long way since then. The changes in the music industry and the way people promote and distribute music have definitely kept the podcast interesting.”
Those variations in promotion have yielded episode subjects as diverse in scope as “The Importance of Email Marketing,” “The Truth About Spotify Playlists” and “5 Ways to Ruin a Press Opportunity”—listen below. The team also interviews industry experts—musicians and entrepreneurs, or combinations of both—and as the podcast is a CD Baby venture, there is a fair portion of time harkening to the company’s distribution services, including live conversations from the annual DIY Musician Conference.
“We’re about propping up the entire independent community, so it’s not just about speaking to people who have used our distribution service or trying to sell them something,” Breuner explains. “It’s about extending the brand experience beyond what you get online.” —Ryan J. Prado