Nashville’s been pumping award-winning sounds onto airwaves since WSM first broadcasted country music in 1925. But there’s another enchanting sound being produced in Nashville: podcasts. Seasoned reporters, dynamic experts and skilled storytellers are making waves nationally with local podcasts that often feature Nashvillians. A comical look into Nashville’s gruesome crimes? We’ve got it. A captivating journey into the life of an overlooked neighbor with a unique but relatable story? We’ve got it. Musicians making a run of it away from the hum of Music Row? We’ve got it.
Turn up the volume – we round up the best of local podcasts across genres.
Emily Siner (right), host of Movers and Thinkers of Nashville Public Radio.
Movers and Thinkers
Nashville Public Radio
Put together an award-winning radio reporter, three people doing fascinating and often unseen things, and a live audience and you have a recipe for a podcast that Nashville can be proud of: Movers and Thinkers. The show is the brainchild of Nashville Public Radio’s Emily Siner, and launched a little over two years ago.
“I wanted to create something that was open to the public and an interesting evening out,” she says. During the 25- to 30-minute episodes taped at WPLN studios, Siner interviews three people – many of whom she met while putting together stories for Nashville Public Radio – who are “doing interesting things across different genres.” She conducts pre-interviews to guarantee guests will be thoughtful, reflective and able to tell stories well.
A sign language interpreter, English- Spanish interpreter and banjo player come together in an episode titled, "When Interpreters Can’t Translate Everything;” Vanessa Carlton, journalist-turned-educator Chris Echegaray and former country music manager Chip Peay find common ground in “What It’s Like to Start Over.”
A memorable episode for Siner: “How Crisis Responders Keep Calm Under Pressure.” “I talked to a crisis (public relations) person, a trauma person who is on call and a police chaplain, who is basically the person who the police call when there’s a death and they need to notify the family," Siner says. "There’s something about that kind of work that attracts someone who is good under pressure. It got me thinking about how different people work and what attracts them to it.”
The show has been wildly popular online – the latest show had almost 100,000 downloads at the time of print – and the same goes for its live tapings. The studio, which holds 60, has been full for each show.
“It’s just been really cool to see a community build around this thing that didn’t exist before. The fact that people show up for the episodes, that we have regulars who come every time and know each other,” Siner says. “There’s something so fulfilling about something I’ve created that has other people talking about it. With the podcast, you have this deeper connection to the (listeners).” – Ameila Ferrell Knisely
Listen: iTunes, Google Play, NPR One, nashvillepublicradio.org
Something's Not Right
Genre: Society & Culture
Olivia Lind and Thashana McQuiston explore Nashville true crime cases. From murderous road rage incidents to tragic and brutal disappearances to boner talk (you’ll just have to listen to understand), the show takes a deep dive into local murder history. The cases are serious and dark, but Lind and McQuiston find a way to make the hourlong shows funny, entertaining and light. If you’ve never thought you could laugh while listening to a crime podcast, Something’s Not Right will prove you wrong: Think a local version of My Favorite Murder — one of Lind’s inspirations for the podcast. The show is currently working at consistently getting out one episode per week.
The pair has already put out an impressive 12 episodes since early March. Weekly is tough when you can’t devote fulltime hours to producing and researching; right now it’s very much a labor of love. “Thashana and I both love doing it,” Lind says. “I wish I could make it a full-time job.”
The episodes have gotten stronger and stronger as the first season has gone on with both hosts finding their comedic voice and building the sort of rapport with listeners that makes for repeated listening. The first episode digs into the 1969 torture and death of a 12-year-old Nashville girl named Kathy Jones.
I was hooked after this first episode — I liked that Lind called out some less-than-perfect reporting from newspapers in the past, the amount of research that seemingly went into every episode and I loved the relaxed, Southern voices I heard behind the microphone. Not to mention the cursing and host theories thrown in the mix — the cursing might not make this one right for everyone, but it’s worth a chance even if your ears are tender. –Amanda Haggard
Jakob Lewis, host of Neighbors.
Nashville Public Radio
Genre: Personal Journals
Jakob Lewis has a gift for sharing the human experience – the beauty, the grit, the triumphs, the “I can’t believe this is my life” – because he has lived quite the human experience. A musician with a religion degree, Lewis found himself in Nashville building log cabins when he started listening to podcasts to keep sane during eight hours a day of sanding and lacquering.
An episode of This American Life, “Long Shot,” about a Kentucky Derby horse that comes from behind to win, changed Lewis's life.
“The way the story was being told, and the idea of feeling behind and knowing my potential then getting ahead and winning, that was a really profound story to me. It tapped into something,” Lewis says.
He quit cabin making, took on another job with flexibility and forged into the Nashville community to tell stories with memorable sound bites, carefully placed “background noise” and thoughtfully selected music.
“My job is to pay attention to the people around me and follow my gut,” Lewis says. “The truth that I keep finding is that the smaller the story, the more universal it is; the more intimate and honed it is, the more universal it is.”
An episode, “The Tuba Man,” reveals the curious and inspired life of a man who plays a sousaphone on a busy Nashville road during rush hour; “Every Breath is Precious” details the life of a little girl in East Nashville with a rare genetic disorder that causes her to stop breathing in her sleep.
A few years ago, Lewis created The Heard, a podcast collective that shares episodes from Neighbors and other indie podcasts like it. Lewis also paired up with Nashville Public Radio, and now the fulltime storyteller is reaching even more listeners with his enthralling scripts – he’s had over 1,300,000 downloads in the last 90 days.
Get ready to feel, learn and possibly cry when you listen to Lewis tell you about your neighbors. – AFK
Listen: iTunes, nashvillepublicradio.org
The Local Wave
Conversations with the Nashville Underground
Alex MacWilliam has made it his mission to expose Nashville’s underground music scene, showing off Music City’s unknown acts in his podcast The Local Wave.
“I believe that the best bands in the country are playing house shows in Nashville,” MacWilliam said, citing the likes of Body Origami, Mountains Like Wax and Daisyhead. “I wanted to bring light to this crazy awesome scene that we have here.”
MacWilliam himself has a background in Nashville’s local scene, formerly acting as the tour manager for The Chariot and blues band ‘68. Currently, he performs as lead singer for a band called Overwatcher.
It’s no secret that Nashville has an overflowing cup of musical talent; the secret is that many of the bands remain largely hidden. The Local Wave hosts the best of Nashville’s underground music scene, many of whom are still playing house shows in the Middle Tennessee circuit.
A part of Nashville’s vibrant music scene himself, it’s obvious that MacWilliam carries the utmost respect for other musicians’ work, part of his inspiration in hosting The Local Wave.
“This is my way to get to ask all the questions I could ever want to all these musicians, big or small, that I look up to. (They) are the soundtrack for my life,” he said. – Brinley Hineman
Listen: iTunes, thelocalwavepod.com
Annie F. Downs
That Sounds Fund with Annie F. Downs
Nashville-based Annie F. Downs is known for her honest, encouraging writing in her five books, and her relatable, dynamic public speaking. Her ability to connect with people is now being shared – along with her infectious laugh – in a podcast, That Sounds Fun. The name gives way to Downs’ inspiration: “It’s an opportunity to introduce my friends who are doing and creating cool stuff to my friends who are listening. I only have people on who sound fun,” Downs explains.
Launched in 2016, the audio feels like you’ve pulled up a chair at a coffee shop where Downs and her friends – including Duck Dynasty alum Sadie Robertson, Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman and author Ted Dekker – are discussing life, travel, books, faith and more. “The number one thing I’ve learned along the journey of podcast is that people love meeting your friends,” Downs says.
That Sounds Fun has more than 800,000 downloads, and Downs – who is currently working on her sixth book due out next summer – says the reaction to the podcast has made her alter her writing to reach a more diverse audience.
“Most of my audience for my writing is adult women,” she says. “The podcast reaches more than my book audience. It pulls in really different people; it’s changing how I write the new book.”
While faith is a common subject on the podcast, Downs says she has people on the show who “don’t agree with what I agree with, or don’t believe what I believe.” “It’s been really fun to see the episodes that connect with people. Every episode connects with a different group,” Downs says.
Later this summer, Downs will host a live recording of her podcast, dubbed “That Sounds Fun Weekend,” in Nashville. More information on the event can be found at www.anniefdowns.com. – AFK
Listen: iTunes, anniefdowns.com
Genre: Personal Journals
Hey Human spotlights conver- sations between the show’s host, Susan Ruth, and the guests, who come from wildly diff erent socio-economic backgrounds, occupations, religions and perspectives.
Ruth, a professional songwriter and abstract painter, first began work on the podcast in July of 2016.
“I was feeling like I was losing hope in humanity, to be honest,” Ruth said. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be a way to connect us.’ Everyone is so angry, and people are seemingly unable to see themselves in others. So, I thought if I could just talk to people, whether or not I agreed with them, my hope was that for the listeners hearing these stories, that they would see themselves in the other.”
Ruth said that she chose the name, Hey Human, because, often, people view difference or unfamiliarity as lesser, and she thought the name assisted in her ongoing goal to forge connections between people of vastly different backgrounds.
When she started the podcast, Ruth said that she had created a “long list” of people who she thought would make interesting subjects for conversation. “Sometimes I would read an article and follow that trail,” Ruth said. “Sometimes something online would catch my eye, a video or a news report, and then I would follow that trail and try and find the person that was being talked about.”
With 54 episodes under her belt, Ruth’s conversation subjects have included a Grand Dragon in the KKK, a female escort from New York, a Vietnam War historian, a woman who was on the phone with her husband when he was murdered, a woman who takes photographs of terminally ill children and many more. “The world is full of the most interesting people,” Ruth said. “I’m there to learn about them and hear their story." – Andrew Wigdor
Listen: iTunes, Google Play, heyhumanpodcast.com
If you’re an avid reader of The Contributor, you’re likely already familiar with the great and enigmatic Mr. Mysterio and his Hoboscopes column. (I personally rely on the column to make many life decisions.) You may be wondering who exactly he is, but that part isn’t as important as who he isn’t. As he’s been known to say: “Mr. Mysterio is not a licensed astrologer, a trained therapist or a registered nurse. He also should not be confused or associated with Doctor Mysterio, Rey Mysterio or just plain Mystery.” Often off-kilter and, yet oddly reassuring, the astrologist who’s run his words in the street newspaper for years has taken the words to a fun and enlightening podcast.
Written much in the same tone as ‘scopes, Mr. Mysterio runs his show from a tanning and video rental joint called the Wandering Hills Video and Tan — much of it taking calls through an answering machine. From the first episode, you can tell that Mr. Mysterio is on as much of a journey as the listener, and as the podcast moves through its first season, you become addicted to his personal (even if totally fictitious) story. Will he ever connect with the folks on his answering machine in a real way? Will his boss at the tanning joint ever be less of a jerk?
The bi-monthly podcast was created, written and produced by Mark Lemley and edited and produced by Tasha A.F. Lemley, who is also the founder of The Contributor. It features voice acting from Aaron Muñoz, Evelyn O'Neal Brush, David Ian Lee, Lauren Berst, Chris Bosen, Tamara Todres, Colin McCann, Chris Brush with sound engineering by Chris Brushm and additional direction by Evelyn O’Neal Brush and music by Winston Harrison. – AH
Tom Moran knows a thing or two about the music industry. The music veteran has over four decades’ experience working along- side big-name musicians, cutting his teeth at “Billboard Magazine” in the ‘70s.
Today, Moran is the host of Inside Nashville, a podcast dedicated to “pulling back the curtain to the country music business.”
Moran got his start in podcasting after being recruited by longtime country radio programmer Ed Hill. “When I left my last label job (Hill) was on my phone immediately press- ing me to start a podcast,” Moran said. “He was convinced that I had something to say and an ability to make it interesting. It was his belief in me that got me to start the podcast.”
After biting the bullet and decid- ing to take a step into the world of podcasting, Moran noticed that shows on country music were nonexistent.
“From my travels during a career that spanned over 40 years, I knew that people outside the business loved hearing stories about the music business,” Moran said. “I decided to be the first to fill that void and so far it has exceeded all expectations.”
Focusing on country music, Moran brings guests from every part of the industry on his show, from producers to artists, to discuss the aspects of Nashville’s music scene, priding himself on “giving you (the) honest perspective.”
“I’ll keep doing it until nobody listens,” he said. – BH
Listen: iTunes, insidenashville.net