How many times have you and your best friend decided to start making a podcast? I’d wager you’ve done it at least once, probably while incredibly cooked in the backyard of a house party at 4am. It all sounds like a great idea at the time, but so many ideas just don’t hold up the next day but if they do, how the hell do you get started?

It can be a daunting process, especially if you’re not really sure about the gear you need and how to get your podcast into the ears of those who might be keen to hear it. To get a better idea of what starting a successful poddy looks like, I spoke with Angus Isles and Joseph Walker, the two legends behind The Jolly Swagmen, a podcast which covers a huge range of topics and guests.

Here are some tips from the fellas for starting a podcast of your own.

Choosing a topic for a podcast

“There is no rhyme or reason to the topics we select, although they do tend to converge around certain interests: philosophy, financial markets, politics and tech entrepreneurship,” the pair told PEDESTRIAN.TV via email. “We saw a severe lack of long-form podcast conversations for an intelligent Australian audience – right as the golden age of podcasts was taking off – and we aimed to fill it.”

In other words, don’t feel like you need to limit yourself. While sticking to a niche is often a good strategy, try to find one that can draw from a whole range of topics and subjects so you’re not limiting your options. The thread that ties The Jolly Swagmen together is interesting talent interviews.

Together, Angus and Joe have interviewed guests like Pete Evans, Alan JonesJaan Tallinn (the co-founder of Skype), Matt Barrie (founder and CEO of Freelancer), and Leonard Susskind (one of the fathers of ‘String Theory’), among many, many more.

Podcast audio quality

While you might think getting a hold of talent is the trickiest part of making a podcast (it’s not, they literally just ask), the biggest hurdle for them was initially audio quality. 

“We went through about 4 separate Yeti Blue microphones, which saw Joe returning broken mics to Amazon and posting mics back to Hong Kong to be reprogrammed,” Angus said. “In our third ever interview, with a married couple who had summited Mount Everest together and had an epic story about their descent, we had the Yeti set up on the middle of the table, like some kind of beacon, with the four of us sitting around it. Totally not how they’re meant to be used.”

“I think we finally learned to use them properly about four months later.”

Try to get decent equipment for making a podcast, even if you’re just starting out because it’ll save you a lot of headaches down the track.

Just start doing it

“If you want to do something, don’t wait until the perfect moment or til you feel ready. Get started asap and get real feedback from people about your real product. This is advice I’ve learned in startups and it applies to podcasts as well as any other creative endeavour.”

Podcast preparation is key to making a podcast

“Some interviews we study for like an exam. Joe did 8 interviews in the US recently and sent the guest a dossier on themselves plus the questions I was thinking of the day before the interview. They were universally impressed/flattered and it led to a much more nuanced and in-depth conversation because you’re not covering old ground.”

Bad guests can happen

“There is definitely such a thing as a bad guest, just as there is such as thing as a bad interviewer. Some people, while very impressive and accomplished, are just not cut out to be featured on a long-form podcast. You need to find people who both have great CVs and can talk engagingly.”

Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good

“But equally, if a high quality of work is within your reach, don’t let yourself fall back on that first adage as an excuse for laziness. There are about 500,000 podcasts in the world at the moment. You’re never going to cut through if you’re not doing something unique and valuable, which takes work.”

making a podcast
Angus & Joe

Naturally, the guys have had their fair share of interesting encounters with guests over the 18 months The Jolly Swagmen has been running, particularly with Australia’s most successful broadcaster, Alan Jones. After rocking up at his apartment to record the episode, they were greeted by old mate rocking a matching green tracksuit.

“Alan thought our whole mic setup was ‘eccentric’ and found it very entertaining,” the guys said. “It turned out to be a great interview – many people who know Alan said it was the first time they’d heard him ‘open up’ so much in public. He spoke about success and loneliness, with anecdotes ranging from his time as Malcolm Fraser’s speechwriter to coaching the Wallabies.

LISTEN NOW – PEDESTRIAN PODCAST NETWORKWaiting for a D8: The First Date

Angus and Joe went back last month to catch up with Alan, but uh, it didn’t really go how they expected.

“We went back in June 2018 to have dinner with him and get some advice on growing the podcast…except he slept through the whole meeting,” they said. “We stayed and chatted to his assistant anyway and enjoyed the views of Vivid from the balcony. Needless to say, Alan was very apologetic. Even for someone half his age Alan has a crazy schedule – up at 3:30am every morning for example.”

And what about Pete Evans, you ask? Turns out he wasn’t the friendliest of guests”. Who’d have guessed?

“We were hoping to dive into his more controversial comments and explore his ideas, but he was really evasive and then when we released he never thanked us, just sent an email saying we’d made a mistake about referencing Hugos Pizza in the intro and that he was disappointed,” Angus and Joe said. “A bit of a shame really.”

If you’re keen to add a stimulating listen to your day, you can suss out The Jolly Swagmen right here, or via whatever podcast app you prefer. I’ll leave you with my favourite of Angus and Joe’s stories, which is the only one that didn’t make it into one of their episodes.

It was with a very well known and revered professor who pioneered ‘psychedelic drugs’ and studies their benefits. Tom Roberts started the world’s first uni course on psychedelics at Illinois University back in the 70s. He is quite old now and has spent his entire life testing these drugs and using them.

Listening back after we finished recorded, it was just an absolute shambles. We spoke over Skype and the first ten minutes of the interview, he’s wandering around his kitchen trying to make tea. His stories about trying LSD, the way he told them was so idiosyncratic we were trying not to laugh. He was incoherent, didn’t answer any of the questions and was an absolute cluster fuck. Tom, if you’re reading this, it was a really enjoyable conversation nonetheless!

Hopefully The Jolly Swagmen have helped you on the path to making a podcast of your own.

Image: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia