Shaping the future of public media content, talent and technology.
Inside the Podcast Studio with Love + Radio
On this edition of Inside the Podcast Studio, we get some time with Nick van der Kolk, creator of the Love + Radio podcast. The show recently returned from a hiatus to drop its fifth season, with an opening episode plot twist that caused a flurry of reactions from fans on social media. Learn how Nick, based in Richmond, VA, both conceptualizes and creates the show.
On the Podcast
Tell us about how the podcast came to be. What makes it unique?
I felt like there was a vacuum in the public radio universe for a non-didactic show that invited the audience to interpret things for themselves. I started Love + Radio because no one else seemed to want to make that type of show.
Where do you find stories for the show? How do you typically find the characters presented in each episode?
All over the place. Sometimes we feature stories that have been covered before in the media, but we feel we can offer our own unique spin on them (like A Girl of Ivory).
Sometimes it’s complete serendipity, like when I met magician Eva Julia Christiie while stomping through an abandoned circus building in Moldova. Increasingly, we’ve relied on outside pitches from the very vibrant international community of radio producers.
What is your philosophy on presenting edgy material? Have you ever gotten backlash or excitement around an episode?
I don’t really have a philosophy of edginess: I just make the stories that I’m interested in. If people want to interpret them as edgy, then they’re free to do that. But people who think that’s the defining characteristic of the show are mistaken. I turn down a lot of pitches that have sensationalist elements because there isn’t much more to the story besides those elements. I think A Red Dot, produced by Steven Jackson and Chloe Prasinos, divided a lot of people; I can’t think of another episode that was praised and critiqued on so many different levels. I consider that a good thing.
You have a pretty minimal presence in the show itself, is that by design?
Yes. I want to remind people that there is a guiding hand behind what they’re hearing, but I want all attention on the subject, not me.
What makes your show ideal for the podcast format?
As much as I’ve always considered myself a ‘radio guy’, I really cut my teeth in audio production through podcasts. The slow narrative builds, the subtler sound design elements that require headphones, the honest conversation about adult topics, are all things that are made possible (or at least much, much easier) through podcasts.
Moreover, I think audio generally has one big advantage over visual media: by stripping the visual element, I believe the audience isn’t as prone to come to a snap judgment of someone. It invites them in.
On the Space
Where do you literally do your work? Can you walk us through that space?
I have a studio downstairs from my apartment that I share with my wife, who’s an artist and animator. My work primarily involves moving pixels around on a glowing rectangle, so her side is far more interesting to look at. I record my host tracks in a soundproof closet, which, considering I used to do it under my duvet, feels obscenely professional.
Do you have a thinking of reflection space? Somewhere you go outside the studio to gather creative inspiration?
I go for walks around Richmond’s Belle Island, just down the hill from me, or I get cocktails at L’Oppossum (depending on how badly my day went).
How do you envision the future of the podcasting landscape?
People say we’re in a golden age of podcasting, which I think is more accurate than a lot of folks realize. The golden age of Hollywood (1930-1960) was a period when the basics of narrative film had been established. There are obviously lots of great movies from that era, but I’ve always personally gravitated toward what came later in the 60s and 70s, when major studios began supporting unconventional structure with a more comfortable relationship with moral ambiguity (à la Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde, etc). I’m looking forward to when we reach that period in podcasting.
Subscribe to Love + Radio in iTunes, and check out the latest episode, out today, called Upper Left.