The Story of Episode 1 or How I Learned to Endure Failure and Love My Podcast
Episode 1 was a pain in the ass, to put it mildly. It was an effort that was supposed to be kind of fun with a friend who I knew had a great story to tell about his experience as a Veteran business owner. It was supposed to be something like a trial run, an interview with the training wheels firmly in place. Where I went wrong was in making the mistake of thinking, “ what can go wrong?”
I did the research into buying the right microphone for a beginner podcast. Before jumping into purchases I read tons of articles, reviews, and specs then decided that the Blue Yeti was the microphone for me. So I bought two of them through Craigslist on account that I was doing this all on a tight budget. So then I have mics, a laptop that’s old enough to qualify for Social Security, and of course I had the idea for interviews. It was time to get to work, or so I thought. I discovered that my mics had a buzzing sound which meant that they required external power. Then I discovered that I can’t connect two USB mics to the recording software. AND Then I discover that unlike my previous experience in counseling, a podcast interview is totally different and requires practice in and of itself. So I trouble shoot some problems, get some fixes, and I’m ready to talk to Mike and record Episode 1.
The first time it took me an hour to set everything up which surprised me cause I didn’t realize how much there was to set up; the laptop would make noise if too close to the mics, how we would sit, the echo of the room, and a five year old outside the door being barely distracted by a TV. We start recording and I immediately felt unprepared. My plan for the conversation suddenly felt weird as we start to veer off course. Mike is expertly juggling paying attention to his little girl’s requests for attention and still answering my suddenly inane sounding questions all the while being a great sport against my long pauses, my “ummms”, and “sooo…”, all of which you most likely heard in Episode 1 but trust me it was WAY worse.
After recording over an hour, I play it back over my headphones and I hear robot voice. I don’t know what it is but it’s as if Mikes talking over himself for the whole hour plus. We’re bummed out but Mike’s cool about it.
“No worries bro, we’ll get it in take two”, Mike reassured me.
I still feel dumb and slightly embarrassed to have not only wasted my friends time but to look like such an amateur…which I am, but you never want to seem that way. Turns out I had experienced latency due to the two USB’s issue which I thought I had solved but in fact had not. So I start experimenting with different software and find a virtual mixer that solves the latency issue.
“Awesome”, I think. “All I’ve got to do now is do some trial runs in the kitchen and I’m golden!”
So that’s what I do with the help of my kids. We play podcast in the kitchen for a few days until I think I got it then I arrange another meeting with Mike. This time he has the gym clear, we have a solid two hours, and the office is set up. I do my own set up relatively fast this tiem , do a sound check , a test recording and its great. So we record a really good session that we’re both happy about. I do a quick check of the last ten minutes of the session…I hear echo. His mic has an echo that is so distracting and so bad that I can’t do anything with it. I try editing it for hours afterwards trying to salvage it but to no avail. Now, I’m really fucking pissed at myself. I start to question how the hell everyone else does this?! I’ve spent all this money and time on something that I apparently am not good at, so what AM I doing? For a moment, I consider abandoning the whole project all too aware of the irony in that I bought the equipment from people who’d given up on their own recording ideas. The kid I bought the first microphone from when asked why he was selling it told me, “Turns out I rap like garbage”.
I don’t give up. Instead, I start to break down the recording from the ground up. I record in different places, volumes, distances from the microphone. Turns out that since my tests were done in the kitchen which had echo I had assumed the echo was just from the kitchen and not a microphone volume sensitivity issue not to mention the speakers on the laptop had stayed on. Okay, now that I had the solutions I tested it all out again. This time I tried every variation, combination, and scenario of going wrong from loud noise in the back ground, to music, people talking, dogs barking, recording in my garage which is hotter than hell with less ventilation, and recording in my bedroom which it turns out picks up every sound from the street outside. After hours upon hours of trial and error I have it. I call Mike…again.
The office is set up. We turn off the fan. We turn off the A/C. We shut the door to the tiny office also without ventilation. It doesn’t take long for the temperature to start rising but we go forward. We record for an hour. The conversation turns out to be better than the last. We talk openly, candidly, we had fun. As the session winds down I start to feel nervous. The whole time I’d seen our voice pattern move in the software. We at least were recording, but were we recording garbage? Did I fix the problems? Would Mike do a FOURTH session? The interview ends and now it’s the moment of truth. I move the selection arrow to the mid-point of the hour. I put the headphones on and press play. Mike stares at me with a semi-icy look, the stare of a man that is questioning his restraint to throw something heavy at his friend if the recording is screwed up. I stare back wide eyed as I hear…a good recording. NOT GREAT, but good. I give him a thumbs up, he smiles back, and all is well. My confidence is restored.
Okay, so here’s the thing about that whole mess. It wasn’t just about try, try again, the little engine that could, hang in there kitty poster bullshit. I’ve failed a lot in different things. The Army challenged me in different ways and I like to think that I met those challenges with everything I had but I wasn’t always successful. I’ve matured in many ways from a somewhat hot headed individual with limited patience to an older father of three boys with whom my volatility is measured accompanied by a deeper patience. Failure is going to happen and when it does it’s good to have other failures to fall back on to put things in perspective. Early and repetitive success can be devastating when failure strikes. Failing early though preps you slowly for bigger setbacks that would be crushing otherwise but requires you to keep your head in the game. Perseverance isn’t easy, it’s a learned skill.
I’m still learning this whole podcast thing but my early frustrations and doubt have made me more confident that this endeavor is going to be successful. I know I can push through, solve the problems, and have fun getting better at this interviewing thing. When this stops being fun, then I’ll hang it up but not because I can’t fix a problem.
So about Episode 2, it sounds not-so-great. I recorded it right before Episode 1 and used that experience to fix issues before Mikes third session. My guest Luvina Sabree sounds TERRIFIC, it’s my voice that sounds a bit distant. You can hear me okay but you can hear her perfectly. I’m glad it’s my mic that wasn’t turned up correctly because it’s really about her story and it’s a really good story. Don’t miss Episode 2 coming next Friday.