Production of Trailside Radio has begun. In the last week I’ve conducted three interviews, with more to come. By early April there should be at least two episodes available for your listening pleasure.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have very little experience interviewing people. Over the years, I’ve probably conducted more job interviews than journalistic interviews. I listen to a lot of interview-based podcasts (WTF, Nerdist, etc.) but the hosts of these shows have the advantage of decades of experience in radio and television. Luckily for me, Trailside Radio will not focus on long form interviews like these other podcasts do. There is no pressure for me to seamlessly fill an hour with one unedited conversation. Still, I need to develop a similar set of skills if I want to create the best result possible.
Fortunately, my first three subjects have all been great storytellers who made the process easy for me. I interviewed two people who have completed thru-hikes of the PCT. Both interviews were conducted at a friend’s home studio here in Portland, which allowed me to forget about the recording process and focus on the conversation. Both sessions exceeded my expectations, and the credit belongs to the hikers I was interviewing. I think the secret for me will be to stay out of the way as much as possible. Follow-up questions are great when someone isn’t sure what to say next, but when a story has momentum, it’s usually best to stand back. My goal is to give people space to tell their own stories. In these segments the spotlight should be on the person telling the story.
The first subject was Paul Burdick, who hiked the PCT in 2013 with the trail name Blurr. We discussed some of the differences between trail life and mainstream society, and the difficulties many people face returning to their daily lives after a thru-hike. Two days later, I met with John Brennan, who hiked in 2002 as Cupcake. We talked about trail community, being true to yourself on the trail, and the importance of trail food. It was a pleasure to meet both of these PCT alumni, and they both did a fabulous job of carrying the interviews whenever I stumbled. I look forward to giving all of you a chance to listen!
The other subject I interviewed last week was my mom. (Hi, mom!) She is not a long-distance hiker, however she has plenty of wilderness experience and she’s the one who got me hooked on the wilderness at a young age. We talked about the adventures she took me on as a child, canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. She talked about how she learned the skills she needed to make trips alone and as a group leader. There may also have been an embarrassing story or two about me– but that’s what I signed up for when I invited my own mother onto my podcast.
I have a couple more interviews lined up before I hit the trail in April. This weekend I’m attending the 2nd Annual Cascade Winter Ruck, a backpacking clinic being hosted in Cascade Locks by ALDHA-West, which may provide me with more material for the podcast. This whole process is getting me stoked to start my hike in a couple months! I look forward to sharing the journey with all of you and giving you the chance to listen in.