“Dude, we should totally start a podcast.”
If you’re a millennial and have said more than 10 words in your lifetime, those have probably been seven of them.
And now, thanks to our willingness to blabber, there are something like 766,555 active podcasts out there to choose from, according to Podcast Industry Insights.
We’ve compiled a list of nine, local podcasts by hosts who we think were actually right when they thought that other people would care about what they had to say. They include history shows, a horror movie rewatch podcast and a songwriting experiment. They’re entertaining; they have a Kentucky flavor; and they might expose you to a different perspective. Listen up, then listen in.
The Humanity Archive
School books didn’t give most of us a broad and nuanced view of history, so, to really learn about the stories and scars of the world, we need to seek out other outlets. With The Humanity Archive, host/researcher/historian Jermaine Fowler dives deep into the underreported aspects of the past. He takes notable people or hidden situations and does heavy research, resulting in electric, social-justice-focused case studies that tell us more about our collective history and why we are the way we are in the present. The podcast has covered Pocahontas, Ida B. Wells, Queen Nzinga, the history of policing in America, the Black Death and much more. And 22 episodes in, The Humanity Archive is broadening, but its principles remain consistent: Fowler’s passion and deft storytelling digs with purpose and diligence.
“It’s been evolving a lot, but I’ve still been sticking with that core ethos and idea of trying to bring humanity to historical figures and to tell the stories of the historically unheard, the marginalized of history, so I’m just applying that to different figures,” Fowler said.
Humanity Archive’s greatest trick is blending an intense educational drive with a well-structured, smooth component that makes it consistently interesting. Every episode is like an edge-of-your-seat documentary. For Fowler, above all, it’s about one thing: the truth.
“I think that it’s just given me more of a love of searching for truth for truth’s sake,” Fowler said. “Without really any agenda, just finding the truth in any certain story or narrative and exploring different angles.” —Scott Recker
Reely Queer: An LGBTQ+ Movie Podcast
I’m a visual person so podcasts aren’t my first stop for interest-based entertainment. I gravitate towards something I can see or touch… but someone, ok, Ms. Sydni Hampton, made a whole podcast episode about “Chopping Mall,” the 1986 sci-fi/horror/thriller movie about killer robot security guards in a shopping mall. It’s a movie that when you know, you know, and if you don’t… damn it, find out. It’s fun, and we all need that.
Hampton is a local drag queen who took her love of film and turned that into a horror movie night at PRIDE bar + lounge in New Albany. After COVID shut down earth, Hampton started Reely Queer: An LGBTQ+ Movie Podcast, which takes her model from the in-person movie night — a spin on Elvira and “Mystery Science Theater 3000” while using a queer lens to discuss the films — and subverts the doldrums of quarantine with the power of the internet. The podcast allows Hampton to have deeper discussions about the themes, tropes and characters of “some of our most beloved films, from masterpieces to cringe-y, guilty pleasures.” Each episode features a special guest to discuss the films. From “Serial Mom” to “Hereditary,” catching an episode of the Reely Queer podcast is never a bad time, and I’ve found a podcast that suits my cheesy horror/sci-fi film taste. Find Reely Queer anywhere you listen to podcasts and follow Reely Queer on Twitter and Instagram: @ReelyQueer. —Erica Rucker
Kenny Coleman and Ryan Cecil just wanted to talk about bourbon.
So, in March 2015, they set up shop in the basement and started talking bourbon.
“We were trying to educate ourselves more, and learn more,” Cecil told LEO. “So, we just made it about interviewing anyone that had stature in the bourbon industry and knew what they were talking about. Our goal was to interview them and extract their information and share it with our audience.”
Six years, 300 episodes and 35,000 subscribers later, they’re still talking.
How did they turn Bourbon Pursuit (bourbonpursuit.com) into the top-rated bourbon podcast?
“We just kind of emailed, begged and pleaded with anyone who would let us interview them,” Cecil said. “And we’d go around to Central Kentucky and interview distillers or anyone who would talk to us.”
They are quick to point out that the organic growth of the pod is thanks in large part to those early guests. “We definitely had a few key people that had a very large audience, in the very beginning, that we road their coattails on,” Coleman explained. Among those include Blake Riber, founder of the Bourbonr blog and the authors of BreakingBourbon.com.
Most important, however, was when best-selling author and renowned bourbon authority Fred Minnick joined the team, along with production manager Lauren Coleman.
But they almost didn’t make it to 300 shows. Coleman said they were getting burned out, spending 30 hours per episode without any return, on top of their day jobs. With some feedback and support from their listeners, they focused on building the brand. Now they have two bourbon labels of their own, Pursuit Series and Pursuit United, currently sold in four states… and growing. —Aaron Yarmuth
My Old Kentucky Podcast
Us news nomads get our state government updates in piecemeal chunks from local news stations and newspapers — whatever comes across our Twitter feed. We’re not starving. But, are we satisfied? There’s something about all the most important updates, appearing in your weekly podcast queue unprompted, ready to gobble up, with a delicious side of context. That’s what My Old Kentucky Podcast is — an audio newsletter of sorts, with discussion about bills, government initiatives and — since 2020 — regular bulletins on COVID and the Louisville protest movement. It’s all from what co-host Robert Kahne says is a “progressive point of view.”
“I think the point of view kind of helps contextualize it into like, what is this change going to mean?” said Kahne, who appears every week alongside Jazmin Smith. “It’s really hard for somebody who works for the Courier Journal or for somebody working with WDRB, to be like, hey, this bill is really bad, because it’s going to really increase the number of people who are incarcerated for things that probably shouldn’t even be a crime.”
Kahne has a masters in public policy and Smith is a public defender, and they both know Kentucky well. Almost every episode also features a guest from the world of government, from U.S. Rep. (and LEO founder) John Yarmuth to Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Morgan McGarvey, as well as some fellow policy nerds, such as Jim Higdon, who wrote the book on the Cornbread Mafia. Enjoy your brain food. —Danielle Grady
Butter Pecan Pod
Focusing on the intersection of food and racism, the Butter Pecan Pod uncovers the troubled histories of ubiquitous household items, and longterm practices. From mac’n’cheese to gravy to dieting, hosts Darryl Goodner and Kelly Nusz provide deeply-researched stories behind things society widely consumes on a daily basis, including a four-part series on Coca-Cola.
“As we started to look into Coke and marketing practices, and how that tied into Atlanta, we kind of realized that there was this whole story that we could tell that hadn’t been told that way yet,” Goodner said.
Goodner, who owns and operates the ice cream shop Louisville Cream in NuLu, said that the podcast was born from conversations during the Breonna Taylor protests.
“It started by us just really having conversations at work, especially during the summer of really, really heavy protests,” Goodner said. “And eventually we kind of came to the question that really kind of started it: Is butter pecan ice cream a Black thing or not? I grew up eating butter pecan ice cream, it’s my mom’s favorite ice cream, and I would be able to just know what ice cream a Black couple wanted when they walked in, but I wasn’t sure why?”
Now, the more they look behind the curtain of everyday items, the more Goodner and Nusz have realized there’s a plethora of stories to tell.
“The more we go with the podcast, the more we realize there’s an infinite subject matter if we’re willing to do the research.” —Scott Recker
Hosted by Dr. Kaila Story and Jaison Gardner, the Strange Fruit podcast is delightfully funny but serious enough to tackle tough conversations about the plight of disenfranchised communities. The show features two Black queer voices who highlight universal narratives across gender, race and identity. As hosts, Story and Gardner have the chemistry of two intelligent, funny people who seriously enjoy each other’s company.
“We want to create more visibility and dialogue about Black, queer, trans, Southern and other historically disenfranchised communities. With each episode, we try to highlight these identities and communities and bring them to the forefront,” Gardner said.
In addition to the wealth of knowledge Story and Gardner provide on their own, they never fail to find remarkable guests. From nationally published journalists like Sylvia A. Harvey to guests like Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a leading scholar on race and discriminatory policy in America who has a doctorate in African American studies.
Strange Fruit is an absorbing and thought-provoking listen, not only because of its unflinching look at identity but because of its raw honesty about topics that dominate our news cycle. Strange Fruit feels urgently of the now and proves that you can still retain a sense of joy as the struggles of marginalized groups very much continues. —Jermaine Fowler
My Skeptical Sister
It’s a podcast format that’s been shown to work: Two women, chatting casually about the weird and sometimes gruesome aspects of life, such as the paranormal or true crime. But, with My Skeptical Sister, there’s a twist. One host, Erin Sexton, is a loyal believer in all things ghostly. Her sister and co-host, Meghann Mattingly, is a skeptic first and foremost. Together, they talk about their own paranormal experiences (or lack thereof) and read submitted stories from listeners. The sisters may be on different sides, but their exchanges are still jovial, making it a fun listen for everyone regardless of whom you agree with more.
“I mean, we do debate a lot, but I feel like we do it in a way that we’re very respectful of one another and each other’s beliefs,” said Mattingly. “And so I think that’s kind of needed right now, you know? There’s lots of different opinions out there in the world, and things are kind of blowing up left and right, so, you know, maybe if you wanted to go deep with it, it’s just kind of a way to show that it’s okay to disagree, and you don’t have to get mad at each other for disagreeing.”
As is key for any podcast with a similar format, the sisters have good chemistry with each other (not shocking since only four years separate them). You’ll feel like you’re listening in on a conversation between your two, fun aunts. Trust us, it’s worth making room on your feed for. —Danielle Grady
For nearly 25 years, the Kentucky Author Forum has brought nationally-renowned authors to Louisville for intimate conversations.
When COVID-19 forced the Bomhard Theater to close, the Forum — known to PBS viewers nationwide as Great Conversations — was forced to either go dormant or adapt. Adapt they did… quickly.
“We just wanted to be able to share the same kind of content — stimulating, intellectual, educational, entertaining material — with our audience … in a more socially, safe format,” Associate Producer Evie Clare told LEO.
In May 2020, Robert Siegel, former host of NPR’s All Things Considered, introduced the first episode of Great Podversations, featuring David Frum and Chuck Rosenberg. Siegel has continued to introduce guests for all 20 episodes, including Peter Bergen, Malcolm Nance and Philip Rucker. And, just recently, Louisville Orchestra’s Teddy Abrams had a conversation with Grammy-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
As it turned out, the disruption and subsequent change had its advantages.
“The main advantage is that a lot our authors, who normally maybe wouldn’t be able to stop what they’re doing and fly to Louisville, have been able to join us,” Clare said. “We’ve actually had a wider array of authors. We’ve had Timothy Snyder recorded from Vienna, Austria, and Eleanor Beardsley recorded from Paris, France, and Isabel Allende recorded from California.” The podcast is also convenient for listeners, Clare points out, allowing more listeners to enjoy the conversation without attending the Author Forum in person, or finding it on PBS.
While Clare looks forward to getting back into the Bomhard Theater, she expects to continue reaching new authors and new audiences through Great Podversations. —Aaron Yarmuth
Howell Dawdy’s Fast Track
In the local music and comedy world, Alex Smith brings his unique and captivating style to numerous projects. There’s his indie band Lydia Burrell. There’s the genre-spanning, satirical music of Howell Dawdy. And he also stretches that alter-ego into his comedy show, Big Howell & Possum. He also used to have a podcast called “Probably Not,” where he interviewed local musicians in a format somewhere “between a game show and a talk show.” There’s another defunct pod about Def Leppard.
Lately, he’s been commissioned for a few theme songs, which has made him more deadline oriented. That inspired him to put hard release dates on the two albums he released during the pandemic.
All of this — the comedy, the music, the deadlines, the audio show experience — has led to Howell Dawdy’s Fast Track, where he and a guest brainstorm and write an entire song in 30 minutes and share the end result.
“It’s a great exercise to force yourself to make decisions and finish things,” Smith said. “So, I’d always been thinking about doing a music-related podcast, but this one grew out of the idea of, ‘Hey, I really like to give myself arbitrary deadlines. What if I force funny people that I know to have an arbitrary deadline as well?’ And then see what kinds of funny things fall out of their heads.”
From a songwriting aspect, listeners get a look at the creative process. But, with Fast Track, it’s not a tortured one — he invites charismatic, quick-witted guests to help him create something lighthearted. With Smith’s experience, it always results in something solid, hitting the best of both worlds. Currently, there’s a new episode available each Friday, with bonus episodes through Patreon.
“We’re not going to write the world’s most impactful ballad in 30 minutes, while we’re joking around,” Smith said. “So the song is going to have some sort of goofy quality to it. But, I like to think that I usually write songs that are funny and — quote, unquote — good. That’s always the goal.” —Scott Recker