Time to Talk

My dad really liked to talk.  As a child, trips through town took hours, with us constantly stopping to chat to people I’d never seen before.  I’d hop from foot to foot, bored to tears as he went from talking about the weather, to gardening, to goodness knows what.  Just when I would think we were done he would ask another question and we’d be stuck for another 5 minutes.

Its strange but over time we all turn into our parents.

For years talking to people has been a major part of my life.  From radio to TV interviews I have had the chance to speak to film stars and Olympic Champions and men who have walked on the moon. One of the major frustrations has always been lack of time. So many times, I have felt that I’ve only just started getting to know and getting to understand an interviewee only to hear a producer say into my ear that its time to wind up the interview.

I get it, there is only so much time a broadcaster gives you, so you have to get to the point, get the story and move on.  ‘Keep it tight’ they would often say.

In recent years the world has changed especially for broadcasters. Thanks to the internet anyone can set up a podcast or YouTube channel and become their own radio or TV station.  What that means is that there are no rules anymore.  You can be as niche as you want to be and talk for as long as you want to about just about anything.

For many people Podcasts have taken over from traditional radio.  So many people in their twenties and thirties spend as much time listening to their favourite podcasts as they do to their favourite musicians. One woman in her twenties told me last week she listens to podcasts until mid-morning and then music for the rest of the day before switching back to podcasts for her journey home.

A lot of the established broadcasters have their own online shows, but it’s also allowed complete newcomers to find an audience that’s not restricted to time zones or broadcast wavelengths anymore, and it’s exciting.

I’ve been meaning to start podcasting since lockdown last year but with one thing and another, well, you know what lockdown is like.  It was only because I kept on getting asked to start that I finally got around to it. Last year when I presented the Late Show on Radio Wales I invited legendary entertainer Johnny Tudor to come onto the show every week and share some stories from his life time in entertainment. Even though we gave Johnny 5-10 minutes every week we always seemed to run out of time too quickly. Every week people would email us both saying they wanted to hear more.

So, in January, Johnny and I sat down and started chatting.  He sat down in his house near Cardiff and I sat down in my house in Swansea and using our computer cameras and microphones we started talking and I started recording.  It took me a while to stop constantly looking at the clock.  It didn’t matter if the chat went on for 20 minutes or 40 minutes, we just kept talking. When the stories stopped we said our goodbyes and I just edited the recording into some sort of shape.

Now most podcasts have a special name.  It could have to do with the subject they regularly cover, something to do with sport or a hobby.  It was difficult for me and Johnny because we wanted to talk about lots of things and chat to lots of people.  In the end we called it ‘The Mal and Johnny Show’ as that seemed to give us plenty of room to grow and change.  We registered a web domain, set up a YouTube Channel and started posting.

One of the interesting things that Facebook, YouTube and Twitter do is give you insights into where your listeners and viewers come from.  Now Johnny and I have travelled around a bit and we are talking about some very famous people we have worked with but all of a sudden you’ll see you have people joining you from Italy, Australia, China, Hungary…the list goes on and it makes you think.  With these tools available to so many people in the world there really are no limits anymore.

Johnny and I have done special shows about artists like Dorothy Squires.  As Johnny knew her well we found that Dorothy certainly deserved a 2 Part show.  Last week we chatted to Mike Doyle the comedian.  We have just released 2 shows with him, and we are already looking to see if he has some time in the future to come back and chat some more.

As someone who now likes to chat and likes sharing a good story these new podcasting tools are incredibly liberating. No longer do I have to wait for a gap in the schedules or a guest slot on a radio show, now I can plug everything in and press record.  

Last week was the perfect example. I was writing my blog about Swansea born director Nick Evans who had put together a virtual production of Romeo and Juliet. I rang him up as I wanted to make sure I had all the facts correct.  We must have chatted for 20 minutes.  It was only after I put the phone down that I thought to myself, well, if I found that interesting I wonder would the world of podcasts also find it of interest?  I rang Nick back, asked him if he had some time that evening, we recorded a podcast, I edited it together with footage from the production and just after midnight it went out into the world.

What I also love is that without an official deadline you can go back and ask some more questions.  This week I recorded an interview with James Fox.  James became an overnight sensation when he entered the Fame Academy and decided to not let the experts have it all their own way.  After that he sang at Eurovision, went into the West End, performed on Broadway and traveled to Afghanistan to entertain the troops. Oh, and along the way he has had to fight an addiction to gambling. 

With no time limit we were able to chat about all of those topics and give them the respect they deserved.  As I was getting ready to edit the podcasts I started watching James on YouTube in the Fame Academy House.  Having spent nearly an hour chatting to James I couldn’t believe the difference in the man and that boy.  I realised we had a very special gift.  Nearly 20 years later James could see himself on that show and we could chat about how he viewed himself in hindsight. 

If this had been a traditional Radio or TV show it would probably have been too much trouble or too expensive or too late to do anything about it. But not now.  I rang James and explained what I had found and suggested he watched it too and we went back to our computers to record a bit more before releasing the podcast. We did and it makes so much more sense now in telling the complete story.

So now I have 2 podcasts, ‘The Mal and Johnny Show’ and ‘Mal Pope in Conversation’. There are no limits to the choice of podcast guests and no limits on where the stories can go in this interconnected world; and with no one watching the clock there really is time to talk.

‘Mal Pope In Conversation’ is also available as an Audio Podcast on all leading podcast services.