Podcasters in (and from) St. Louis are making their voices heard.
There are more than 1 million podcasts available on Apple's platform. We're talking shows — not individual episodes. So whether you're interested in food, the arts, music, philosophy, ghosts or Peloton, there's a podcast for you. Or probably a few dozen.
Podcasters in (and from) St. Louis are making their voices heard too. Many offer up shows that will be of interest specifically to local listeners. Others have broad appeal.
St. Louis native Jack Sippel is co-host of “Again From the Top,” a dance-themed podcast with a particular focus on Broadway artists. Also hosting the show is fellow choreographer Brendon Stimson. Sippel and Stimson were both part of the choreography team for “The Prom” on Netflix.
Sippel says the podcast is intended not only for established theater artists but also those who aspire to a career in that realm.
“Brendon and I teach master classes all the time,” he says. “And having people feel seen right now is a really big area that we wanted to cover. So we bring on guests from choreographers to Broadway and LA dancers to musical arrangers to actors — anyone who has ever touched the 5-6-7-8, as we call it.”
Podcast guests get the opportunity “to share their journey: how they got started with dance, and to show that their path is possible, and that there is a way to make it happen. We’re just bringing dance to the forefront.”
“Again From the Top,” Sippel says, steps onto a new podcast stage.
“I didn’t want to do just another theater podcast, because there are plenty of those out there,” he says. “I had the great idea about making it dance-centric. I pitched Brendon the idea and he was game, and we went off to the races.”
Among the more notable guests so far is Muny favorite Rob McClure, a Tony Award nominee for his lead performance in the musical “Chaplin.” McClure, Sippel says, “talks about where he started in his career and how dance works into it.”
“Again From the Top” is presented in association with the Broadway Podcast Network and available weekly. By Calvin Wilson
Cody Beck grew up in one of America’s most haunted towns, and Troy Taylor made a living writing about it. Together they host “American Hauntings."
Beck, now 31, remembers walking into Taylor’s bookstore in Alton as a kid, attending one of Taylor’s ghost tours there as a teenager, and trying to break into Alton’s supposedly haunted McPike mansion more times than he can count.
Beck, who works on a movie website called CinemaBlend, wanted to start a podcast. One day, he drove by the mansion and got inspired. “I thought, who better to do that podcast with me than the man who literally wrote the book called ‘Haunted Alton’?” Beck says.
He wrote about five drafts of an email proposal before sending it to Taylor, now 54, and they met for lunch to discuss the idea.
Five years and more than 80 episodes later, they’ve become close friends and haven’t run out of spooky fodder to pick apart. Taylor lives in Jacksonville, Illinois, and Beck in Creve Coeur. They usually meet at a hotel in Alton to record their show.
The first season centered on Alton, the second on St. Louis, and subsequent seasons have circled out to Midwestern ax murders, New Orleans stories and haunted Hollywood. Each episode begins with Taylor narrating a researched history of the topic, and then he and Beck discuss it, giving a balanced mix of information and entertainment.
Their age difference actually helps Beck come up with questions for Taylor, and they try to separate fact from fiction while digging into the origins of a story.
“Troy’s an amazing storyteller, so they love that,” Beck says of listeners. “And then there’s all these follow-up questions that they don’t get the chance to ask. That’s why I‘m there, to ask these questions. We’re silly and goofy with it, too, and we don’t take it too seriously. I mean, we do, but we don’t. Troy is going to be the first person to say, 'OK, here’s a really, really good ghost story, the only problem is, nobody ever died in this building.'”
“Or it’s not true,” Taylor chimes in.
“People really appreciate that about it,” Beck says. By Valerie Schremp Hahn
Available on YouTube, Instagram and Anchor.fm
"Backroom Beats," named in memory of the backroom of long-gone downtown venue Lola, is designed to bring music lovers closer to their favorite artists while delivering archival content “for the culture.”
Hosted by Lamar Harris (aka DJ Nune) and singer C. Jay Conrod, the show “talks to different artists and asks them questions that normally they don’t get asked,” Harris says. “And one of the things artists have said in every interview is they’re pleased with the questions asked because they’re not the same generic questions.”
"Backroom Beats," which began in January, has recorded seven episodes so far. Guests have included Joanna Serenko, the Kirkwood singer who fared well last year on “The Voice,” and a special edition with female St. Louis singers Paige Alyssa, Be.Be of Be.Be and the Neosouls, and Valencia. National acts have included Carmen Rodgers and Durand Bernarr.
Harris and Conrod wrestle with what makes a great guest. “If we had our way, we would just interview people we like all the time," Harris says. "But we also want to challenge ourselves and find people we can learn more about.”
Harris says people often tell him he should be an interviewer. A cousin pushed him to start the podcast.
Mark de Clive-Lowe was the first guest to respond when Harris sent inquiries. “He surprisingly said 'yeah,'" Harris says. "And after he did, I called Conrod and said, ‘Hey have you ever thought of doing a podcast?'” By Kevin C. Johnson
Katie Duke comes from a family of nurses — her mom, aunt, sister, cousins. The St. Louis native (Notre Dame High School, 1999) is a nurse practitioner herself, but after spending years in hospitals, she’s steering onto a less traditional path.
“I actually quit my full-time job a few months ago and am pursuing my podcast and my social media content creator and mentoring work full time,” says Duke, who lives in New York City.
She launched her podcast, “Bad Decisions With Katie Duke,” in December 2019. A second season started March 16.
“I had kind of secretly wanted a podcast for a while, but I did not have the wherewithal to put it together,” she says. “So around October 2019, these two guys based in Nashville — they own a production company — they reached out to me. ‘Hey, you need a podcast. We would like to work with you.’ It kind of haphazardly, in a good way, fell in my lap.”
Duke usually records a few months of episodes at a time — “a lot of talking in a matter of a few days,” she says — but it works with her schedule.
“I always knew that I wanted to make ‘Bad Decisions’ sort of my brand, and when you really think about my whole life story, that pretty much sums it up,” she says. “We all make bad choices. And instead of just wallowing around in our grief of what we’ve done, we have to realize that there’s actually a very good lesson buried somewhere in there that can make us a much stronger person or contribute to our story along the way.”
Most of Duke’s audience works in health care, she says, but “Bad Decisions” isn’t intended to be a health care podcast.
“(Nurses) need people with a public platform to say things that they might not be comfortable saying,” she says.
Early in the pandemic, while working a crisis assignment at a New York hospital, Duke contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized herself for two weeks. The three episodes in which she details that experience and her long recovery are the show’s most popular. Other top episodes address job burnout and abusive relationships.
“I just try to make it very conversational to where you can listen to it driving to work, you can listen to it at the gym, you can have it on in the kitchen while making dinner with your husband — but not your kids, because they’ll be cursing up a (expletive)storm.”
Duke acknowledges that “Bad Decisions” isn’t for everyone. But she’s OK with that. She just wants to make content that’s authentic to her and her passion.
“A lot of people are like, ‘My god, do you have enough bad decisions for a whole ‘nother season?’” Duke says. “Actually, yes. Yes I do. It’s good podcast content.” By Gabe Hartwig
Tom O’Keefe, the manager of booking and marketing at Family Arena, has been able to keep busy as the venue has handled COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. But he and his wife, Crystal, have also had their hands full with their podcast, “The Clip Out.”
The show, which they started in 2017, features weekly conversations about Peloton, the popular brand of exercise equipment. They do interviews with celebrities, instructors and others.
He says “The Clip Out” gets 40,000 downloads a month and is closing in on 200 episodes.
The running gag on the show is that O’Keefe doesn't use any Peloton equipment, while his wife is all in.
“My favorite thing about the podcast is that my wife and I have built it together," he says. "It's the perfect marriage of our skills. She's a project manager, so her attention to detail combined with my radio background (and willingness to say stupid things in front of people) has been a successful pairing." O’Keefe also reviews movies weekly on KTRS.
“The Clip Out” guests have included Andrea Barber (aka Kimmy Gibbler from “Full House”) and Monica Ruiz (from an infamous Peloton commercial in 2019).
“The Andrea Barber interview was really funny, and she could not have been nicer," O'Keefe says. "Monica Ruiz was very candid about what it was like being at the center of an unintentionally viral marketing campaign. It was the one-year anniversary of the commercial, so she had enough distance to have perspective, but it was still fresh in her mind. We were actually her first interview on the topic since her ‘Today’ show appearance with Ryan Reynolds a year prior." By Kevin C. Johnson
Nick Main and Travis Randolph really like food. They especially like St. Louis food. Their common interest began their now-two-year journey into podcasting. “Eat Me in St Louis” focuses on reviewing smaller, locally owned restaurants on a biweekly basis. Randolph says this makes it a little harder to review the restaurants because they get to know the owners and their stories.
“Once we got into it, we were like, ‘Oh, there is so much love and passion behind the people running these restaurants,’” Randolph says. “You know, we're not looking at chains. We're not looking at the big places — we're looking at corner places in St. Louis. So this is people's dreams.”
The two friends wanted to approach the podcast with a “normal guy perspective.” They try to conquer the booming restaurant scene, especially pre-COVID-19. The goal, Randolph says, is to review the food for people coming in from outside the city so they have an understanding of what to try.
Their year-in-review episodes are some of Randolph’s favorites. Main and Randolph, along with their friend Francie Futterman, get to recap the restaurants they’ve reviewed and feature some of the ones they may have missed.
“I guess you could call it the full buffet,” Randolph says. By Jenna Jones
'I Only Listen to ‘90s Music'
Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podchaser, Player.fm and YouTube
With its spirited conversations, passion for the music and guests appearances by R&B stars, the fun “I Only Listen to ‘90s Music” podcast is quickly finding its niche.
Hosted by St. Louisans Scott Hilliard, Stacey Stringfellow (in Texas) and Darryl Frierson, the show grew from a Facebook group called “I Only Listen to ‘90s R&B."
Stringfellow and Hilliard started the group in 2019, and in March 2020, Frierson helped create the podcast. He and Matt Whitener were building their own podcast network, SOLC. The slight name change helped broaden its appeal, mostly adding hip-hop to the mix.
“I started doing it, and it really gained traction,” Frierson says. The podcast gained some early notoriety when Omar Wilson noted that the show had joked about his remake of Quincy Jones' 1990 classic, "The Secret Garden. The original featured Barry White, AL B Sure, James Ingram and El DeBarge; Wilson's remake featured Sisqo, Shawn Stockman and Raheem DeVaughn. Wilson did an interview with the podcast before the song’s release.
“He let us get his first interview, for real," Frierson says. "That’s what made it blow up."
One week singer Garfield Bright (of Shai) left Stringfellow stunned by a surprise appearance.
“She couldn’t talk the first five or 10 minutes," Frierson says. "She was just sitting there listening.”
“Staci and Scott run the engine," he says. "They’re so good at what they do — the concepts, contacting people. They come up with things. They know their stuff. I’m just there.”
More than a dozen shows are part of the SOLC podcasting network, including “Common'tary,” “Politics as Usual,” “The Scenario,” “Scenario Sports,” “Just Kickin It,” “Soccer Cast,” “Mic Checka,” “Headz or Tailz” and “Hiphopcracy.” “We Comin’ for You,” a wrestling podcast, is the most popular in the network. A show with St. Louis hip-hop legend DJ Charlie Chan Soprano with Rhashad Whittier is in the works. By Kevin C. Johnson
Reporter Alexis Zotos has recorded more than 130 episodes of KMOV’s “Meet St. Louis,” but she still thinks of the podcast as her and producer J.J. Bailey’s “little baby.”
“I get this complete sense of pride when somebody tells us that they've discovered a new restaurant or a new brewery based on the podcast or when someone tells me they have a growing list based on our episodes,” Zotos says.
“Meet St. Louis,” available weekly, features interviews with chefs, restaurateurs, brewers, small-business owners and others from across the region’s cultural spectrum.
For Zotos, no stranger to interviews, the podcast is an opportunity for a more conversational approach.
“We typically go about 30 minutes,” she says, “and my favorite ones are the ones where all of a sudden it's been 45 minutes or longer and we're still chatting.”
One vivid memory is the episode with Mike Johnson, owner of Sugarfire Smoke House and Hi-Pointe Drive-In.
“We did it in the middle of lunch rush at Hi-Pointe, packed into a little booth with our equipment and Mike and his kid,” Zotos says. “And it was just this most rambunctious episode, and he's got so many funny stories to tell.”
Sometimes, listeners ask Zotos if she is worried about running out of people to interview.
“To me, that's hysterical,” she says. “Because no. There's so many people in the food and drink and small-business scene in St. Louis that we could do so many more episodes.” By Ian Froeb
Although "Office Ladies" isn't about St. Louis, three of "The Office" ladies were from this fair city. One of them, Jenna Fischer, chats on this podcast with another costar from the sitcom, and she mentions family who still live here.
"The Office" ran from 2008 to 2013, and in late 2019, Fischer, who played Pam Beesley, said she missed being on set with her real-life best friend, Angela Kinsey, who played Angela Martin.
“And I think the hardest part for me about the show ending was not getting to see you every day, Angela," Fischer says on the podcast's first episode. "Me too," Kinsey says. Awww.
So now they work together again every week on "Office Ladies," in which they go behind the scenes of the show and break down some of the things that happened. They discuss trivia — like the time Rainn Wilson hit Steve Carell in the head with a real shoe (not a foam one) and Carell cut his pants open with a knife.
Those dramatic events were from the podcast's 67th episode, "Survivor Man," inspired by a reality TV show Carell really watched.
That Carell used a knife to cut his own pants was a shocker for Fischer: "We'd have a safety meeting for a lit candle."
Fischer also does some deep research into different background elements, like how many weapons Wilson's character, Dwight, has hidden during the show. Then she describes the history of blow-dart guns, so this podcast is truly for "Office" nerds.
Listeners who haven't memorized every TV episode might do well to rewatch the week's episode before listening to the podcast.
Since these podcasters were already known actors, they clearly had a leg up when getting national attention for their show. In January, “Office Ladies” was named Podcast of the Year by iHeartRadio Podcast Awards.
Each podcast episode is an hour long, so there's plenty of time for Fischer and Kinsey to chat about personal trivia. Fischer doesn't like peaches in cobbler, and when growing up, her family's big birthday month was March. (She, her sister and her mom have birthdays this month.) Meanwhile, Kinsey remembers that she never got a birthday cake on set, so Fischer promises her a Fudgie the Whale ice cream cake from Carvel this June.
Yes, there's an "Office" story behind that. By Jane Henderson
Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Anchor.fm
Life is always ready with a swift kick or two in the behind, but fighting back from it is always key. “I give you the tools to figure out ways to do that,” says Charles Poole, whose “Poole Proof Wisdom” podcast launched in December.
Poole, a former Anheuser-Busch executive and St. Louis native now living in Los Angeles, wants listeners to know that, no matter how hard something is, it’s going to be OK — and he’s proof of that.
He is now chief communications officer and vice president of marketing and public relations for Prospect Medical in Culver City, California.
“I have withstood every challenge," he says. "I preface things by saying when I tell you this, it comes from the experience of a man born in 1963 who has seen the dark side of the world and who has seen great joy. Lots of times I’ve gone without. Lots of times I’ve had plenty.
“I took on a sense of responsibility years ago to connect with people in ways that uplift,” says Poole, author of three books (under the name Charles K. Poole): “I Am My Own Cause: An Unfiltered Blog-View of Life as I See It,” “I Am My Own Cause, Too” and “I Am My Own Cause, the Third Act: Surviving and Thriving.”
He also likes to encourage people to be individuals in a time when many are clamoring to be like everyone else.
“I tell those stories, share those experiences, remind people what they’re capable of, what they’re responsible for and how to take accountability for being a good human being,” he says.
Using his many nuggets, he believes he can help people with “being the best self they can be, understanding who they are and pursuing that.”
While Poole considers himself a private person, his voice is one he feels needs to be heard as people navigate challenges.
“I’m here to serve a purpose," he says. "Everybody has a purpose. You must seek it out and serve it.”
“PooleProof Wisdom” has been attracting all kinds of listeners, he says, though especially those in their late 30s on up who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives.
Poole isn’t interested in drawing in throngs of listeners. Rather, he's interested in impact. "On any given day, what I say hits someone at any given moment.” By Kevin C. Johnson
‘Rock Paper Podcast’
Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and iHeartRadio • rockpaperpodcast.com
Shane Presley discovered podcasting after seeing comedian Jay Larson’s show. He immediately was hooked. He began his podcast, "Rock Paper Podcast," in 2014 with friend Chris Bumeter. After about a year, Bumeter stepped down to focus on his family. Nearly 900 episodes have come out featuring local musicians, comedians and others.
“I love being able to sit and talk music with some of my favorite locals like Steve Ewing from the Urge, Radio Rich Dalton and Lern from KSHE 95,” Presley says. “I also love being bands’ very first interview and helping others discover great new talents like Bleach, Dead Format and so many others.”
Presley says the show allows him to get out to meet new people, see the city and experience all that St. Louis has to offer. Before the pandemic, Presley found his guests by attending shows and approaching the artists afterward. Now, COVID-19 has helped Presley extend his podcast to national talent with the assistance of Zoom.
The host also prefers to leave his shows largely unedited, enjoying the way the show sounds like a conversation.
“I enjoy the rawness of it,” Presley says. “I like to press record and see what happens. The editing part is fun, though, adding the theme song and cutting up to making the show come to life.” By Jenna Jones
'That’s a Gay Ass Podcast'
Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify
The title of Eric Williams’ new podcast says it all.
"That's a Gay Ass Podcast" features interviews with LGBTQ celebrities and comedians, some from St. Louis, and discusses early queer influences, coming-out stories and more.
“It’s a comedy podcast that brings LGBT and straight people together and examines what makes us gay as hell," says Williams, an actor-comedian from St. Louis who now lives in New York City. "It’s an examination of the pop culture that shapes us and lends to folks feeling seen in part of their lives they think are specific to them. We’re also celebrating the things we’re obsessed with.”
Since making its debut five weeks ago, Williams says, the podcast has been getting a great deal of attention. It launched at No. 47 on Apple Podcasts.
“Straight people are tuning in," he says. "We’re shedding light on enough range of subjects from a place of love and examinations that speaks to people not just in the LGBT community.”
Guests so far have included “RuPaul’s Drag Race” finalist Heidi N Closet and actor-comedian (and St. Louis native) Zach Noe Towers. Upcoming shows include comedian Jay Jurden and podcaster Catherine Cohen.
“Growing up in St. Louis, I have experiences to tell about having three brothers, doing shows at the Muny," Williams says. "I’m bringing very specific stories of growing up and how that shapes us now. There’s a universality to it. Everyone has felt as if they were not accepted in some way."
He has also performed as Buddy the Elf in a tour of “Elf the Musical” and as Danny Tanner in an off-Broadway production of “Full House the Musical.”
Williams decided to start the podcast after feeling creatively stifled and unable to perform for audiences during the pandemic. While watching movies such as "Death Becomes Her" with his husband, he decided to share his commentary on Instagram.
"I got so much engagement from people," Williams says. "People are so passionate about these pieces of pop culture. I said, ‘You know what — these are gay as hell.’ The response was so great that a lightbulb moment hit, and I wanted to continue talking to people.”
He plans to expand the concept with “That’s a Gay Ass Book” and “That’s a Gay Ass Show.” By Kevin C. Johnson
‘We Live Here’
Available on Apple Podcasts • welivehere.show
Jia Lian Yang and Lauren Brown are schooling listeners on issues pertaining to race and class with “We Live Here,” which was launched in 2015 by St. Louis Public Radio.
The podcast was introduced after the unrest in Ferguson in the summer of 2014.
“The station really had to look at itself and its coverage and see where there were any gaps,” co-host and lead producer Yang says. “Since then, the podcast has been a platform to discuss issues of race and class and do deep dives focused on storytelling in St. Louis and beyond.”
“We Live Here” has covered topics including inequity in education, Black mental health, xenophobia and environmental racism. These topics are treated as overarching themes for various episodes, with subjects such as environmental racism covering issues including food apartheid, illegal dumping and vacant home demolitions.
The podcast works to educate listeners about issues that are close to home, even if those issues only selectively affect various communities.
“We really see St. Louis as a place where a lot of really important stories related to race and class are happening,” Yang says. “We’re able to connect these big issues to a story that can show people the reality of life for someone or why people should care about something that someone is experiencing.” By Micah Barnes