The Golden Age of Podcasting Hits Chattanooga

By Andrew Shaughnessy


Photography by Lanewood Studio


The world has entered the Golden Age of Podcasting – audio storytelling with new
and remarkable quality and popularity not seen since the heyday of radio. 
The best part?  Creating and distributing audio stories, in the form of podcasts, is easier than ever before. With audio equipment becoming more affordable and easier to use, and apps and web-based distribution channels allowing virtually anyone to create and distribute their own podcast, the barrier to entry is extremely low. If your content is good, people will listen. And if enough people listen, advertising begins to pay for content. ¶ The result is an explosion of podcasts that run the gamut. From legendary “This American Life” to the popular true-crime drama “Serial” to pop culture programs like “The Nerdist,” there’s something out there for everyone. And as audio storytelling sweeps the nation, these Chattanoogans are producing their own podcasts worthy of a listen.

Around and About Chattanooga

Hosted by Michael Edward Miller

Topic: News, Arts, Culture
Where to Find It: iTunes, Stitcher, Downcast, wutc.org


 


 

Created as a weekly public radio show (broadcast on Wednesdays on WUTC NPR 88.1 FM), “Around and About Chattanooga” is also available to download or stream in podcast format.

“The focus is basically anything interesting that is somehow related to Chattanooga,” said host and producer Michael Edward Miller. “Events, people, fundraisers, artists, musicians, it’s kind of a general ‘this and that’ show.”

It’s that diversity of focus that makes the show an interesting way to keep up with the happenings in Chattanooga. In-depth reporting and frequent audio storytelling gems, along with interviews with the likes of humor-writer David Sedaris and best-selling novelist Arthur Golden, comprise this eclectic podcast.

Guests range from local Chattanooga residents to national experts, celebrities, and authors, each offering his or her point-of-view on the topic affecting the Tennessee Valley.

“You can probably expect more serious news pieces in the year ahead,” said Miller. “There are a lot of really important conflicts going on in Chattanooga right now with gentrification and affordable housing… the economic development and renaissance is great, but there are a lot of people who have been left behind by that. As a public radio station, it’s literally our mission to cover that kind of thing.”


 


Episodes to Start With:

“Arthur Golden Finally Has a New Novel Coming Out”: This interview with Arthur Golden, Chattanooga native and author of bestselling novel Memoirs of a Geisha, is nearly four years old. Yet, according to Miller, people still track down the episode and listen. “It’s probably the most popular episode we’ve ever done.”

“75 Years Ago, ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ Became the World’s First Gold Record”: This episode, which aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” tells a multi-faceted story in just three minutes. Miller packs in the history of Glenn Miller’s song “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” the origin of the “golden record,” and the legacy and impact of the song on Chattanooga.

“She Gave Away the Founder’s Fortune: An Actual True Story”: Miller and Lisa Napoli, author of RAY & JOAN: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away, discuss that time Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, made the largest public radio pledge ever – $250 million to NPR.

 

Open Mic Spotlight

Hosted by Heather Leigh Holt

Topic: Music
Where to Find It:  iTunes, openmicspotlight.com, the Podbean App


 


It all started when local musician Heather Leigh Holt (AKA “Heatherly”), a regular performer in the Chattanooga open mic scene, decided that more Chattanoogans needed to know about their town’s talent.

I knew all these great musicians from open mic nights in Chattanooga, and no one seemed to know about them,” said Holt. “I thought, ‘what if I made a podcast that spotlighted all these artists so that people who don’t go to open mic nights could hear them?’”

Produced more in the style of a radio show than a typical podcast format, “Open Mic Spotlight” highlights a different musician every episode, interspersing interviews with live performances. This weekly podcast offers listeners a way to gain exposure to Chattanooga’s substantial local talent and hear their stories along the way. The sound quality is impressive – a must for a podcast including live music – the artists’ stories are fascinating, and realizing the sheer amount of talent Chattanooga contains is surprising.

Over the next year, Holt hopes to begin hosting bigger-name artists who perform in Chattanooga – a recent episode features the Nashville-based Muddy Magnolia’s – and add in interviews with non-musical open mic performers like comedians and poets.



Episodes to Start With:

Amber Fults: Local singer songwriter Amber Fults, formerly of Amber Fults and the Ambivalent Lovers, performs original songs and covers while talking about her journey as an artist. Highlights include a live performance of an original song about Marie Antoinette, an acoustic cover of “I Will Survive,” and some mean ukulele strumming.

Randy Steele: In this interview with the Slim Pickins’ banjo player, Steele plays tunes on both guitar and banjo, interspersed with stories of growing up in a musical family, touring in Europe to banjo-crazy audiences, and the inspiration of Led Zeppelin.

Lon Eldridge: Local handlebar-mustachioed musician Lon Eldridge plays a number of original tunes and talks with Heather about the first ever open mic night at Tremont Tavern, finger style guitar, gypsy-jazz, and American roots music.

The Camp House Podcast

Hosted by Matt Busby

Topic: Culture, Community
Where to Find It: iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play


 


Though the Camp House podcast has only been in existence since August of 2016, it’s already making its mark on the city. With a structure inspired by popular Peabody Award-winning podcast “On Being with Krista Tippett,” this offering is a series of engaging conversations about culture and community with the movers and shakers of Chattanooga.

“My goal is that people would be more informed, connected, and inspired about what’s happening in Chattanooga,” says Camp House director and podcast host Matt Busby. “The downtown location of the Camp House brings an incredible diversity of people who use this space for meetings and conversations. The podcast became a natural answer to the question ‘How do we take the conversations that happen here, the stories of Chattanooga, and make them more accessible to everyone?’”

“It’s really easy to look around you and see problems,” he adds. “It’s harder to look around and realize that there are a lot of people actively working to solve those problems.”

Busby’s focus remains set on sharing stories that resonate with locals. Among many and with more to come in the future are his interviews with the Chattanooga police chief, tech education organizations, and the pioneers of the innovation district.



Episodes to Start With:

What is The Innovation District? (parts 1 and 2): In this episode, Busby talks with Innovation District leaders Ken Hays and Ann Coulter to get to the story behind Chattanooga’s vision for innovation, all while tackling topics like diversity, digital equity, and Chattanooga’s unique assets.

Community Policing with Police Chief Fred Fletcher: In this interview with Chattanooga’s Chief of Police, the conversation takes on the concept of community policing, the role and challenges of law enforcement in the city, and the changes that have been made to the Chattanooga police force under Fletcher’s watch.

“Urban Design” and “Living the Dream” with Christian Rushing: This two-part extended interview with recently deceased urban designer Christian Rushing tackles public space design, what it says about a city’s ethos, and the history of development in Chattanooga. Part two examines Rushing’s remarkable optimism – even as he was shouldered with a terminal diagnosis, he makes a case for living and dying well as a husband, father, and professional.

Cha Eats

Hosted by John Moss & Carlos Pielago

Topic: Food
Where to Find It: iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Chattanoogaeats.com


 


In this food-focused podcast, Chattanooga Eats founders Jon Moss and Carlos Pielago interview local chefs, food bloggers, restaurant owners, and other industry professionals who are shaping the food scene in the city.

“There are apps and websites that allow people to review restaurants, but we felt like people weren’t getting a full picture of what dining here in Chattanooga is really like,” says Moss. “So, we thought, ‘Let’s create something that highlights what Chattanoogans are doing in the restaurant business. That’s when the idea for ‘Cha Eats, Eat Local’ was born.”

The result has been an entire web-based platform that includes reviews, restaurant coverage, and local culinary news. The podcast, only one part of the concept, highlights off-the-beaten path cafés, restaurants, and dishes while showcasing the stories of the hard working individuals behind many of the local establishments people know and love.

“I’d love to interview some local sous chefs,” said Moss. “…You know, the people that are in the trenches doing the work but you don’t really hear about it. There’s a lot to be learned, and it’s just finding the right people and allowing them to talk, and me hopefully having the wherewithal to be quiet and listen.”



Episodes to Start With:

Susan from Good Dog: In this episode, Moss and Pielago chat with Susan Wybenga, owner of gourmet hot dog joint Good Dog, located on the North Shore. Wybenga shares the story behind the restaurant, their focus on people, and how their creative approach makes customers rethink assumptions about this American culinary classic.

Midnight Snack: Fresh cookie delivery at midnight? Yes, please. This interview with Mark Ellers and Erich Espenschnied, founders of Chattanooga’s first small dessert delivery service, highlights the story behind this creative business, and your latest option for fulfilling your late night sweet tooth cravings.

Pastry Chef Molly Follett: Baking Chattanooga Sweeter: In this episode, the hosts interview local pastry chef Molly Follett. The conversation ranges from geeking out about macaroons and fresh doughnuts to how Follett took inspiration from the Dwell Hotel’s 1950’s wallpaper for her funky and artistic pastry designs.