[00:00:00] Speaker A: Hey, Stuart. Here. We're working on new episodes, so in the meantime, I wanted to play an old Three Clips episode, one of our other cast host originals. Along with J a. Kunzo, we unpacked a really cool podcast called Forever is a Long Time. It first aired in October of 2021. Host it was hosted by Jay Akunzo, produced by Andrea Moraskin, and edited by me. Enjoy.
[00:00:28] Speaker B: Hey, it's Jay. And I think the world needs more sensitive creators. I don't mean sensitive as in the sort of wilting, flower weakness that is.
[00:00:39] Speaker C: The current understanding or misunderstanding, I should.
[00:00:41] Speaker B: Say, of that very word sensitive. I mean that we, as communicators creators, storytellers, as podcasters, need to sense the world around us, to take in inspiration, content, interactions, to find story threads and ideas, to sense things, and then, through our own perspectives, translate those things into some kind of content that moves the world, that moves our listeners and makes things better. And I think that we've become so surrounded by these epic narratives, these stories, whether it's true crime and the intrigue that that offers, or historical nonfiction, or people who are wildly successful being interviewed or telling their stories, I think we're so surrounded by these grand narratives that maybe we've stopped paying attention to the day to day. But I think right there is so rich with story and ideas, even if we ourselves don't create narrative podcasts, I think all around us as we move through the world, our friends, our families, our daily routines. Sitting there in the seemingly day to day is so much inspiration and great material for amazing podcasts, if only we'd be more sensitive to it.
Welcome to Three Clips, where podcasters take us inside their process a few pieces at a time. I'm Jay Acunzo, and this is a Castos original series. Three Clips is very specific in our goal. We want to demystify the creative process behind great podcasts to bring out all the micro decisions and hidden moments, all the tiny techniques that can help you go and create the show that you aspire to create. So we want to inspire greater creativity in your work and to help us today, we're going to learn from Ian, coss of Forever is a Long Time. Forever is a Long Time is a narrative podcast about divorce, and specifically about every marriage in Ian's family that has ended in divorce, which is most of them. And yet Ian, as someone who's been married for several years, decided to wade into that family history to learn more about those relationships and those people. It's a five part series, and Ian released all five episodes at the same time in August of 2021. Each episode features one or two of Ian's relatives in conversation with Ian, as well as reflections from Ian and his wife, Kelsey. Ian also scored the podcast and created an original song for each episode, although, as we hear, the music actually preceded each story, forever is a Long Time has been featured by Apple Podcasts and on the public radio show and podcast Snap Judgment. And as I hinted at, Ian does a lot of a lot for this show. It's created by him, hosted by him, produced by him, and he works with a wonderful editor that you'll hear him mention as well. Ian is an audio producer, composer and sound designer at PRX. Although Forever Is a Long Time is an independent production, another big idea that we dive into with him. His many podcasting credits include Blind Guy Travels and The Great God of Depression from PRX's Radiotopia, as well as Detours from GBH. He reports and writes music for the nationally syndicated public radio show The World as well. Ian's work has been recognized with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Sound, among many other awards, and his audio productions can even be found at museums and even the rivers around Boston. So he's quite the audio artist and producer. But before we break down the show piece by piece, let's first meet our guest, Ian Koss.
[00:04:35] Speaker C: Would you identify as a musician first, podcaster second, or where did your relationship to audio begin and how did it lead to a show like Forever Is A Long Time?
[00:04:45] Speaker D: I think if you'd asked me that question five or six years ago, I would have said musician first, and if you ask me today, I would probably say podcaster first. And this project is really my first serious attempt to bring those two together.
[00:05:01] Speaker C: Why the switch?
[00:05:03] Speaker D: I think a fair number of people came to narrative audio from a music background. That's how I learned how to use microphones, and that's where I learned what a compressor is.
I was one of those teenagers who had recording equipment in my bedroom and was, like, tinkering around with making records and recording songs and making weird sounds. So I come to audio from music and sort of stumbled into it, like I said five or six years ago, as a way to take my love of sound and bring it together with my interest in big ideas and big questions and my love of just talking to people, telling stories. So it has ended up being kind of a perfect place for me to be. And the music piece was always there.
When I produce narrative audio, I often will score my own pieces. I've produced a number of shows about music, but I had not, before this done a show where I was really trying to bring together myself as a songwriter and artist with myself as a storyteller and documentary maker.
[00:06:18] Speaker C: So that's interesting. There's a meta challenge of your skill sets combining, in addition to why not make the subject matter super personal and talk to your family and your wife about marriage and you weren't challenging yourself enough on the skill set level. You also have to use the topic to make it nearly impossible for you.
[00:06:38] Speaker D: Although in a way, I almost feel like it had to be this way.
If I had just gone out and said, I'm going to do a narrative documentary series about whatever, about the Boston Red Sox, and then I'm also going to create a whole album of original songs, I think it would have felt a little odd. And the fact that the content, the subject matter was so personal, I think lent itself to this sort of mix of narrative and music. Or at least that's how it felt to me.
[00:07:15] Speaker C: When did you first start thinking about the series? Whether it was in your head, the way it came out, but this inkling that you wanted to tell stories about your family and marriage and divorce, where did that begin?
[00:07:26] Speaker D: Well, that's part of the answer to your question about format, too, is that it started out as music. And for me, personally, songwriting, for me, I think of it as a way to sort of explore the subconscious, to take a whim or a thought or a momentary feeling and just sort of run with it, dramatize it, illustrate it, and in ways that are maybe biographical but not strictly factual. It's just a way of kind of exploring my own feelings. And so the songs that are on Forever is a long time predate all the interviews. I wrote all the songs first, and it was a body of work that I had just been accumulating for a number of years without really thinking of it as a concept album or even as a unified body of work, necessarily. But at some point it did sort of dawn on me that I was fascinated by not just love songs and romance and how two people come together, but then how that unfolds in year three and four and five and six. And of course, that was the reality I was exploring in my own relationship. The love songs after the initial burst of New Love has, I don't want to say faded, but it's passed in a way. And so I think that's where I was in my songwriting and in the backdrop of that was this awareness that, like many people, I come from a family where divorce is not only present, but it is the norm, where essentially every member of my family who has ever been married has gotten divorced that I know. And I think that added a little bit of searching and I suppose anxiety, frankly, around the future of my own relationship. And that's how I went from having this group of songs to thinking maybe I need to actually explore this in a more deliberate way and just go talk to those people.
[00:09:30] Speaker C: We're going to hear some clips of you talking to one person in particular, which is an episode I'm really excited to dive into with you. But right before we get there, I'm curious to know moving from this very emotional place to now, the sort of craft that you've developed as a storyteller, as a musician, as someone in audio, you're starting to put shape to things, and it's almost like you're moving from something very emotional to almost cold. Even though I love the craft. But now you're sort of approaching something emotional in a very utilitarian way to get a story told. What is mapped out? Heading into the production, heading into talking to your family, do you have something very rigorous or were you just open ended about it and let the interviews go where they might and then put structure to it later?
[00:10:12] Speaker D: Right? And I'll just say hanging over everything, it is a little challenging to balance your producer brain. And you're like, hey, dad brain.
Because in all the interviews and all the production, there's part of me that's like, oh yeah, this person's going to be a great talker. I'll put them first.
That sort of like real, practical, almost crass.
Got to make something entertaining brain with all characters, right?
[00:10:43] Speaker C: Like, let's be serious. We're in production.
[00:10:44] Speaker D: We're all in production.
[00:10:46] Speaker C: They're people as characters.
[00:10:47] Speaker D: People as characters. They are raw resources for my production, but they're also my family members. So that is an interesting challenge whenever doing this kind of personal work. So going into it, one thing that I had from the very beginning that is really not a given in most projects, but actually it was like a great source of stability and clarity for this one is just I knew from the get exactly who I was going to interview. I knew exactly who I was going to talk to for the whole project. I wanted to talk to every living relative who had ever been divorced. And that's unusual to go into a project. And sort of by definition, by the concept of the project, you've already defined who all your interview subjects are. You know them, you know how to contact them. So in that sense, I started with a really solid framework. I did not know what order I would go in. I did not know exactly how I would structure those seven interviews. So it's seven interviews total. Parents, grandmother, four aunts and uncles. There was a lot of uncertainty around the actual format of it, but I knew who I was going to talk to. Moving from that to actually producing it, I did in a very kind of sort of cautious way. And I think this comes from my own doubts about this project. This was a project that existed only in my head for a long time, for probably a year or so before I talked to anyone about it. And I had a lot of doubts about whether it would be interesting, whether anybody would want to hear this, whether my family would even be open to the idea of talking about their experiences of marriage and divorce. And so when I started, I just did one interview at a time and I kind of went about it so that I would do one interview, I would edit that interview, I would sit with it for as long as possible, and then I would talk to the next person. And then I would talk to the next person. Rather than approaching it kind of efficiently and sort of like sending out all the emails at once saying, I'm doing this family documentary project, I'd like to interview you. This is the time frame. No, it was very drawn out. I did the first interview in April 2020, right after the COVID shutdowns began, and the interviews ran through into the beginning of 2021, so almost a year. And I essentially worked in the order of people I felt most comfortable asking.
[00:13:22] Speaker C: Is that how it aired? Because we're going to pull from episode two, okay? The way it's published is not the way you interviewed people.
[00:13:28] Speaker D: It's very close, actually, but I ended up rearranging it a little bit. The first interview I did was actually my grandmother, which is my grandmother has just always been a totally open book, as you maybe gather from listening to the episode. She loves to tell her story, and when you catch her in the right mood, she loves to talk.
[00:13:49] Speaker C: I want to play that clip for people. I think it's worth diving into. We're going to pull all of our clips, by the way, from the second episode of the five part series, which is my grandmother, Marianne. That's the episode and just a little context. So this episode is all about Marianne, your 90 year old grandmother, and she is very forthcoming with her story, as you mentioned, and in the clip we'll play first we're going to hear a little bit from Marianne on the subject of marriage. And then in your narration, you basically introduce her as a character, like we were talking about family members as characters from your own perspective and relationship with her in the family.
[00:14:22] Speaker D: Let's take a know.
[00:14:25] Speaker E: The whole institution of marriage has nothing to do with love.
To me, all the papers are basically work of the devil if you ask me, period.
[00:14:42] Speaker F: All the papers are basically work of the devil if you ask me, period.
[00:14:50] Speaker G: Close.
[00:14:55] Speaker F: Those words can tell you a lot about my last remaining grandparent, my father's mother.
She is, in her own words, an old woman and born in the old world, but she has never felt old fashioned.
She was the grandmother who would arrive at our house each summer in a new used car that she had just bought in New Hampshire so that she didn't have to get car insurance on it.
The grandmother who, when I was in high school, would let my friends and.
[00:15:25] Speaker D: I show up at her New York.
[00:15:26] Speaker F: City apartment at two in the morning after going to a concert and all sleep on the floor.
She never sent presents for birthdays or holidays and didn't expect us to either. She seemed to resist anything that felt like authority, convention and tradition, which is why it's so strange that she was once married to my grandfather, a Harvard educated lawyer named Robert Goldscheider.
[00:16:05] Speaker C: Of all the ways you can introduce someone you've known for your entire life, who you're close to, who is a loved one, introducing them now as a character, you sort of stitched together a few different memories in order to describe her. Why was that your approach? Because there's another maybe the opposite end of the spectrum would be something very cold and journalistic of, like, the facts of who this person is. Right. And you went to the other extreme, and there's a lot of ground in between. So why did you pick the approach that you did?
[00:16:30] Speaker D: So when I started producing the series, I was originally imagining it as less narrated than it ended up being. I feel like I go through this with a lot of projects. I start with this sort of artsy conception. Oh, there's not going to be any narration. It's going to be just like dreamy and soundscapey, and it'll just flow from one thing to the next. And then as I go along, I'm like, no, I should probably explain what's going on. But when I first started editing these interviews, I decided, well, I'm going to need something up front, kind of a character sketch of each person, just because I know who these people are. And it's very difficult when you're interviewing somebody you already know.
It's difficult to draw out the things that you already know about that person. It doesn't feel natural in conversation to be like, introduce yourself and tell me who you are, Grandma.
So I decided I'm just not going to go there. I'm going to keep the conversations as natural as they can be and talk about the stuff that I am genuinely curious to hear about and don't know. And I'll just do that kind of work up front of bringing listeners into each of these people as I know them.
I think part of the reason I wanted to frame them the way I did is I wanted to introduce when you know somebody in your own family and I think this is one of the revelations that comes out in so many of these conversations for me is, you know, a very particular side of this person and a really incomplete our family members, we know them really well, but we have really incomplete knowledge of them. Right. Especially older relatives, people maybe we grew up with but don't really never knew about what they were doing when they were in college or they were teenagers or young adults. And so what I wanted to do in these introductions is basically introduce these people as I know them from my memories, so that you then come into the conversation with an understanding of where I'm coming into it from. Because in every single conversation. I'm learning things about their marriages and their stories that I didn't know, even though I've known them my whole life.
[00:18:54] Speaker C: It does leave a little mystery in a positive sense about who they are. Right. You get that incomplete picture. It's so vivid. It's almost like when I first heard that clip, I was thinking of a wedding toast, but a good one. Like a rare type of wedding toast where it's like I first met so and so, and you tell the whole life story that you have with them, but through your narrow keyhole of your relationship with them and through like five or six little moments. You're just trying to deliver to someone else as a shortcut to them, knowing the person the way you do. But now both of you have an incomplete picture. And so I sort of thought of this as I'm up to speed the way you are about your grandmother.
[00:19:33] Speaker D: Exactly.
[00:19:34] Speaker C: And now let's go fill in this knowledge gap together about her relationships and marriage and her perspective on that. So I kind of felt that shoulder to shoulder almost like GUIDELIKE relationship that I now had with you as the host and narrator instead of someone who's so far ahead of me that I can't relate to you.
[00:19:55] Speaker D: Yeah. And that is exactly the hope.
[00:19:58] Speaker C: Were there any questions when you went to her and said, hey, first of all, does she understand what you do? Let's start there. Does she understand what you do? My grandparents have no idea what a podcast is. They have no idea what I do for a living outside of podcasting. You know what, when it finally clicked for them, is I showed them a video of a speech of mine and I gave them a copy of my book and then I saw them sort of well up and get it.
[00:20:20] Speaker D: Okay. Yeah. I think a couple of people in my family maybe had some understanding of what I do.
I think most of them did not.
And I think most of them didn't realize that I tried to convey this, that this wasn't just, like, for my personal edification, but that I was actually going to share this and that I didn't know how many people but a few people were going to hear it and a few people have heard it and that I was going to be editing it and using music.
It was a little tricky because at the beginning, as I mentioned, the format of it and structure was not entirely clear to me, but I gave a little spiel to everyone that, hey, I'm interested in this question of divorce. I'm making this sort of podcast meets album about it.
I honestly don't know that my family really understood what I was doing.
[00:21:17] Speaker C: Yeah.
[00:21:18] Speaker D: So, for example, with my grandmother, my uncle sat down and actually played back her whole episode with her not that long ago. And her response was that she was surprised that it was so edited. We talked for like 2 hours. She's like, oh, it was so short.
Do you really think I was just going to put out a two hour long rambling conversation between us? Maybe that was her expectation.
[00:21:48] Speaker C: Yeah, because zero podcasters think that way.
[00:21:52] Speaker D: Right?
[00:21:52] Speaker C: He says incredibly sarcastic.
[00:21:54] Speaker D: Yeah, exactly.
She has the wrong podcasting, grandson. If I were name your chat cast host, then yes, her entire two hour rambling story of marriage and divorce could have been published to the world. And I'm going to hazard to guess that not that many people would have listened to all of it.
[00:22:17] Speaker C: Well, speaking of the audience, is that something you had a clear picture of where this show would live? Of course you can subscribe to it wherever you get your podcast discreetly, but also it was distributed elsewhere. So can you just walk us through? When did that happen? When was that agreed upon and where did it actually go? Out into the world to find listeners.
[00:22:34] Speaker D: So this show was an experiment for me in a number of ways. Obviously doing something so personal, doing something that integrated music and narrative in this way, very new. And then the other piece of it that was very new was distributing it independently. I'm somebody who has worked on a ton of podcasts over the last five, six years and every single show I've ever done has been distributed by some kind of station or network or something. I've always had some kind of institution behind what I've done in the audio space. At least as a musician, I was always used to kind of doing my own thing and just putting it out there and seeing what happens. And so with this project, I decided very early on that I would not pitch it to anyone, that I would not try and get it distributed or picked up or bought or something that I wanted to just put. It out there on my own, under my own name, and use it partly as an experiment in just being an independent producer, which is something that your audience may know far more about than I do. It was very new experience to me. Even just navigating the mechanics of setting up the feed and getting everything loaded into publish, dealing with the metadata, most of that is not stuff I have had to engage with in my day to day work as a podcaster. And I think my reasoning for that was partly that it was so personal and that basically I wanted to kind of be in control and just sort of do it on my own terms. And I was a little unsure about the idea of pitching it to some podcast company and then having it like an executive producer or bringing other people. I was just kind of unsure about that. Honestly, I didn't think it would get anywhere.
And this is one of the things that I'm kind of maybe proud of about the show, is that when I look out at the podcast landscape, by the nature of our increasingly commercial industry, so much of what gets out. There is stuff that has to navigate a pitch, meeting or distill really well down to a one pager and fit into some audience demographic model or something.
And I just wasn't sure if this show would ever survive that process. I didn't really have a clear enough conception of it, of what I was doing. And I certainly didn't have the track record or social media following or any of the other things that one might look for in saying, hey, we want to pick up this show and send it out to the world. It didn't have any of that going for it. It was just this sort of half baked idea by somebody who's never really put out much under his own name at all. And so it felt both kind of right and inevitable to just take this as an experiment for myself and doing it on my own. I will say it's been really gratifying.
[00:25:45] Speaker C: Did it get picked up once it found a little traction or people started to hear it? I think I recall it landing somewhere. Like I saw a snap judgment website page, right?
[00:25:54] Speaker D: Yeah. So I guess when I say pitch or I did pitch it to individual shows for cross promotion and that's a huge part of the reason that as many people have heard it as have heard it.
What I mean when I say I didn't go to spotify radiotopia wondery. I heart media serial.
I own the IP, I own the feed. There are no ads on the show. I decided not to try and pursue advertising again. It just felt a little weird to be like after the break, more from my grandma. But first, I did have this great idea for a Casper mattress ad that kind of writes, know, moving new. Need a second?
[00:26:55] Speaker C: Um, I will say after our break, more from your actually, we don't actually have a break. We don't have a a we do have a little chime. We're going to play a little transition song. But we are going to hear more from your grandma. So I wouldn't be doing my job as a host if I didn't say, let's maybe go to the next clip.
[00:27:12] Speaker D: Awesome. Let's do it.
[00:27:13] Speaker C: In this clip, we're going to hear more from Marianne. She's talking about meeting Robert, the man who would become her husband while she was a student at Mount Holyoke College. And then we're going to hear your wife, Kelsey, and you reflecting on that part of Marianne's story. A couple quick notes for context here for the listener. It's worth mentioning that you do this elsewhere in your narration, but I want to bring it up here. Marianne is from Germany, where she lived through the Holocaust as a girl. And as a disclosure, we did make some internal cuts to the clip you're about to hear just for brevity. So let's go to that clip.
[00:27:44] Speaker E: I wouldn't really calling it falling in love.
It was pure lust, had nothing to do with love. But nevertheless, I was aware that he was exactly the type of boyfriend whom the Mount Holyoke girls the biggest achievement at Mount Holyoke was a fancy engagement ring. And the girl would always get up and everybody was singing something happy, blah, blah, blah.
[00:28:22] Speaker D: And was that sort of in the back of your mind when you never.
[00:28:26] Speaker E: No, I came from a totally different place.
My life had been miserable in Europe. Basically I was a total cynic. I still am a cynic and I'm looking for some term. I was sort of wandering through life like an innocent beauty.
[00:28:53] Speaker H: I still don't understand why she married.
Like it feels like she did it because it was like the cool thing to do amongst her Mount Holyoke friends. But she still doesn't quite want to admit it. That's what it sounds like in that.
[00:29:12] Speaker F: There'S what she said at some point.
[00:29:15] Speaker D: About sort of drifting through life.
[00:29:18] Speaker F: I don't know, I think in some ways just didn't care or not she didn't care, but it's like she'd already given up on herself or on life or the world in some small part of herself and so she just went with it.
[00:29:38] Speaker H: I don't know, it's like she remembers a lot of what happened but it's all just it happened and she was there for it rather than she caused anything to happen.
[00:29:53] Speaker C: There is so much in that tiny clip. I could spend the whole episode talking about it, but just I think the obvious place to start is no amount of production experience prepares you for the moment when grandma talks about her lust.
[00:30:07] Speaker D: Well, like I said, my grandmother is an open book.
[00:30:10] Speaker C: Never really ready for that moment, but.
[00:30:12] Speaker D: It'S a good one. Oh, yeah, there's more.
I edited a lot of stuff out. Not out of modesty necessarily, but.
[00:30:25] Speaker G: She.
[00:30:25] Speaker D: Has no problem sharing.
[00:30:27] Speaker C: The other thing I noticed is when she talked about being a cynic actually saw you on video here during our conversation start to nod and something was going on there. Why did you react to that word cynic?
[00:30:44] Speaker D: Our family is complicated. My grandmother is a very complicated person but also just kind of self aware in a strange way.
We're all very flawed and I think the flaws of myself and my family members are fairly transparent in this story. But I don't know, just hearing herself describe herself that way, it kind of.
[00:31:13] Speaker C: Becomes moving, maybe a bit of a handle. I kind of hear again thinking about character development. I hear a subject say something like that and I kind of think, okay, now part of my job is to try and spot where that cynicism might appear. Where else? I kind of think, AHA, it's a handle. I can hold onto. It's a through line. It's a trope. And I can kind of use that to give listeners something to latch onto and make sense of this story. And even when you went to the tape with Kelsey, which I want to talk to you about in a know, you said to, you know, maybe she'd sort of given up on herself. So there was an interplay, whether in the moment you were thinking about cynicism or this was something in the edit that you put together, I was able, as a listener, to connect the dots between what she was saying with that word and how you were trying to interpret it. So it becomes a bit of a through line, which I think I don't know. In character development, you're always kind of looking for some of these at least to establish some sense of rhythm to the character, even if later you break it in a delightful or surprising way. There has to be that sort of defining character, the most extreme cartoonish version of which is like a sitcom, right, where you have the funny one and the serious one and all that, but you're doing that with your family. So that's kind of what I latched onto. And I wonder if you felt similar.
[00:32:33] Speaker D: I think in general, with the series, I try to avoid psychoanalyzing my family too much and trying to understand why they do what they do beyond their own accounts. But I think in each story, the moment that tends to be the most perplexing is why they got married in the first place.
Because that's one of the takeaways for me out of all these stories, is that the divorces actually seem quite logical. And it's really the part that's harder to wrap your head around is why they got married.
And that's so much of what the story of divorce is about, is, like, how people fall into this institution called marriage, why they feel drawn to it or obliged to enter into it, even against their own better knowledge of themselves and their world, I think. And so I think this is one of many moments in the series where I run into a decision that is just hard for me to understand.
And her own account of it is kind of hard to understand. In her telling of the story, she gets married almost planning to get divorced or expecting to get divorced.
And and like, she's but in but also in this moment of feeling just very adrift in life.
This is, as I said, one of the not so common moments where I do try to kind of wrestle a little bit with what was going on inside her head.
[00:34:13] Speaker C: I do sense, having listened, that that is a defining question of the show is why are these people why do we get married? Even the title, even the name of the show, when I first heard it, what I heard in my head was a friend sort of standing next to you being like, are you sure you're ready to get know? Forever is a long well, you decided to get married. And so Kelsey, who doesn't appear in episode one, by the way, and I'm curious about that decision, but she appears here for the first time in the series in episode two, as kind of the person to analyze that question and more. Why the decision not to have her appear in the first episode?
[00:34:52] Speaker D: Yeah, Kelsey's role in the show was one of the production choices that I evolved, and I grappled with a bunch. I always knew I wanted her to be part of it, and fortunately for me, she was game to be part of it, which I'm grateful for. I don't think that's a given with any partner that they want to be in your podcast about divorce. I think in my original conception of the show, I was going to do all the interviews, and it would be like episode 12345 with the family, and then I would do one final episode with Kelsey, and it would be sort of like the Big Debrief, where I then basically share with her everything I've learned and we talked about it. That was the original format I had in mind. In my original format, the first episode was also my grandparents sorry, the story of my grandparents. And so I ended up moving around the order of a bunch of the episodes, and I ended up deciding to essentially thread Kelsey throughout both of these choices. I should give credit to my editor for the project, a dear friend and collaborator named Lacey Roberts. She was basically the first person outside of the people I was interviewing who I told about this project early on. And she very gamely offered to work with me on it. And we've worked together on a number of other projects.
It felt kind of right, in a way, for her to help me through this one. And being so close to, obviously, the subject matter, having a good set of outside ears was really essential. I mean, you don't want to know how discombobulated the whole thing would be if she weren't working on it. And so one of the, I think, really helpful suggestions she made early on was, don't save Kelsey for the need. We need help earlier in a just kind of unpacking and understanding the stories themselves, and maybe as importantly, someone to push me and press me to reflect on some of the more difficult aspects of these stories in a way that it's hard as soul bearing as you can be in solo narration. There is something about having an interlocutor to actually pose the question and force you to think about it in a different way that I think is really valuable. So based on that feedback, what I ended up doing was after I'd finished all the interviews with my family and by the way, I made a point of not talking to Kelsey about the show at all. I mean, she knew about it, but I made a point of not sharing. Like, I would do the interviews and I would not tell her what we talked about or what was it's good.
[00:37:39] Speaker C: That you bring that up? Because actually, in the clip or sorry, preceding the clip, I think it was early in episode two. Anyway, when you introduce the very idea of Kelsey and her coming on the show, you talk about closing down browser tabs before, you know, watch Netflix on your computer. You talk about being really furtive and kind of like aloof about the project. And my sense was, yeah, she was aware of it, but was not allowed to peek any of it. Which in my mind, as someone who's been married for several years, I don't know, I can't imagine what that must have been like.
[00:38:13] Speaker D: It was a little tricky, but she understood. I mean, the reasoning was just that when I did share the material with her, I wanted to be able to have that first conversation and record it. And that's exactly what you hear in the show. Basically, what I did is I took the edited interviews roughly in the form that you hear in the final show, and I played them for her all the way through and just said, you can stop me anytime you want and ask any questions you want. I hardly asked her any questions, so in a way, she was sort of in the driver's seat for that session and dictated what we talked about. And when we talked about it, I'm lighting up.
[00:38:58] Speaker C: That's a production detail I love hearing, right, where it's like, oh, you played the actual interview, and she interrupted and asked questions versus this performative interview you did with her based on the knowledge you had of listening prior or something like that.
[00:39:12] Speaker D: This is kind of like talking shop now, but as a producer, one of my pet peeves is co hosted shows with scripted banter like I can't bear.
Nobody can do it. Well, okay, you get that?
[00:39:28] Speaker C: Downturn you go. Yeah.
How's it going?
I know what you're doing now.
[00:39:35] Speaker D: Yeah. So I was just really aware that whatever Kelsey and I did, I wanted it to be really genuine and unscripted. And it's also hard when it's your partner. And it's like a very unnatural setting for us to be like, hey, can you come up to my office and we're going to close all the doors and I'm going to point a microphone at you. So it's already introducing all this unnatural scenery.
The whole conversation is in this very unnatural setting for us, but beyond that, I wanted it to be as natural as possible.
[00:40:18] Speaker C: You speaking of interviews are lasting a long time. Well, we're going to run out of our interview time if I don't move on to the next clip. It comes at the very end of the episode, and it's an excerpt from the song that you wrote and performed specifically for this episode. Although I want to hear order of operations, song versus interview, because you said a lot of this started with music, so we'll get to that. But the song is titled Maybe in Another Life, and we're going to hear a section of that song.
[00:40:48] Speaker G: I don't dare to take your pain where will it stop if I start to dance?
You give me that look and you give me that dance what you don't know is I'm a married man but maybe in another life we could be maybe in another life oh, maybe you don't.
[00:41:34] Speaker C: So let's start with that question from before the clip. Was that song did that song predate the interview and the episode?
[00:41:42] Speaker D: It did? Yeah, I think I probably wrote that song at least maybe two years before I worked on the show. So, yes, this was a song that was part of this sort of baggage collection of songs I've been working on that I then decided to pair with this episode. And that process, even though the songs are not directly about the stories, because I didn't want it to feel like and now the story is dissected in song or something. I wanted there to be a connection between them, but a loose connection.
[00:42:18] Speaker C: You didn't want to have like a Tenacious D vibe where you're like, this is a song about my grandma.
[00:42:23] Speaker D: Exactly. From my grandma grandma. But I think with this song, one of the things I learned about my grandmother through this conversation is that she carries around a lot of regret about the way her romantic life in particular played out, and that there were other loves in her life that she cast aside, that she regrets. And she still thinks about the sort of the other lives that might have been, even though those other lives are in universes where I never exist and my father never exists. So it's hard for me to think about that as a better life, necessarily. But she thinks about that a lot. And that's, in a way, what this song is about, too, is however good things feel, however right it is, however good you feel about your decisions. I'm certainly somebody who's always bugged a little bit by the might have been. So the what ifs that's actually Kelsey calls it that. She calls it the what know, when I get sort of caught in my head about other lives that I could have led, other people I might have been with, other partners I could have had.
And I don't think that's a sign of weakness or failure in a relationship, necessarily, to have those thoughts. And that's what this song is about.
[00:43:52] Speaker C: So much of creating, and I always say this, I started in the marketing world, where there's a tendency to try and over inflate how much you know about doing creative work because you want to sell it to someone in a way that feels certain it's a polished PDF deck to a client or to your boss. It's definitely going to work if we launch this campaign or this content or whatever. The world I came out of didn't match the world of journalism I was in prior to marketing, where I think there's a strong tendency for people to try and stop feeling sensitive about things in the corporate world. But I think being sensitive about things is where great creativity and storytelling comes from. Not weak, in your words. Not weak, but sensing things, thinking through them, trying to let yourself feel what it might have felt like. And it sounds like this show, in many ways, was perhaps an exercise in you doing that along with your family.
[00:44:45] Speaker D: Yeah, it's sort of taking an idea or an anxiety and instead of suppressing it, just really running with it. So it's like taking this nagging feeling that maybe I'm going to get divorced at some point. Maybe I can't actually sustain a life partnership. Maybe I'm not capable of that. And instead of trying to suppress that, just like, really go right there.
[00:45:11] Speaker C: Yeah.
[00:45:11] Speaker D: And in that way, it's a bit of podcast therapy, too. I mean, it's about marriage and divorce, but it's also my way of tending to my marriage.
[00:45:20] Speaker C: This show is quickly becoming podcast therapy for every guest, which I love. I'm for it. We should advertise it as such. Like, if you just did something creatively, draining but meaningful, like, let's have a little debrief, maybe pour some tea, we'll talk about it. One of the lines that kind of made me want to feel and think and sense the world because it hit me like a ton of bricks was right before the song played in that clip. One of the lines immediately preceding it was from you saying, so many of those letters my grandmother wrote are about the awful feeling of living a life you suddenly want no part of. And that word suddenly, for me, was doing a lot of work in that line.
Just talk to me about writing something like that about your family, about your grandmother.
[00:46:07] Speaker D: It's another one of these moments where I don't want to scrutinize and psychoanalyze too much, but I am also just so fascinated by her experience and how she as I say in the opening, I've always known her as this really kind of fiercely independent, iconoclastic, kind of going against the grain sort of person. And the fact that she was like a 1960s, upper middle class New York housewife who went to dinner with the Rosenbergs and she lived that life for a time. And it's very hard for me to picture that. And I know with my grandmother, her feelings and moods can change quickly. And when she told that story of really finally cutting things off with my grandfather, her ex husband, I tried to imagine what that sort of swing, that pivot was like in her own thinking and feeling of having chosen this life and then realizing that she did not want this life. And I can't imagine that it's hard for me to imagine being in that position.
[00:47:30] Speaker C: We have a fourth and final segment which does not contain a clip. Instead, we look ahead to how the show changes people to where they want to take their skill set and their craft and their storytelling. From here, I want to start this segment with a very simple question, which is how has this experience of creating this series changed you.
[00:47:51] Speaker D: On a practical level? As a creator?
I feel like it's gotten me excited about doing independent work, doing personal work, and, yeah, sort of continuing to explore this direction. But also, if you listen to the end of the series, as you have, I learned some things and I came away feeling differently about divorce as not necessarily a flaw or a failure, but in some ways something to be proud of in my family, that all these people in all these different and often difficult circumstances, found the strength within themselves to change their lives in a drastic, costly and in some ways still taboo way. So it has changed me, and it's changed the way I think about my own relationship and my peers, my know how I see the relationships of others around. Definitely, that was my next question.
[00:49:01] Speaker C: It was just about your relationship with Kelsey. How has your relationship evolved, given this experience with Kelsey?
[00:49:08] Speaker D: I mean, it gave us a chance to I don't want to say, like, we'd never talked about any of this. You know, we've been together for a while. We've had some conversations.
But I do think that hearing my family stories and obviously these stories were new to her, too, helped her understand me in certain ways and where I come from and helped certainly helped me understand myself.
And as we talk about at some point, she comes from a very different family where marriages tend to last and where the model and idea of marriage even just carries a very different kind of meaning.
And so I think we've always seen marriage a little differently. And even the idea of getting married was not something that we both came to naturally and at the same time. So I think this project, in a way, helped us kind of reconcile simply our own views of marriage, like why we're doing this thing at all and not simply dating forever.
[00:50:12] Speaker C: I can't thank you enough for the willingness that you had to be vulnerable to do something that requires such an introspective approach to creative work, because I know you've done a lot internationally and a lot facing sort of outward, so to speak. So thank you for the work that you do. The show is forever is a long time from Ian COTS. You can find it wherever you find podcasts. Thank you so much for coming on our show.
[00:50:37] Speaker D: Thank you so much. It was a real treat.
[00:50:41] Speaker B: Thanks for listening. You can find all episodes on our website and support the show by sending a friend to threeclipspodcast.com. This episode was produced by Andrea Moraskin and Stuart Barefoot. Our music was created by Tyler Litwin. My work, including my narrative podcast about creativity, unthinkable and my weekly newsletter for creative people, can be firstname.lastname@example.org. Three clips is a Castos original series. When I first built this show, it was as an independent podcast.
[00:51:11] Speaker C: But Castos acquired it because we see.
[00:51:14] Speaker B: Eye to eye on a very specific thing. Shows are about going deeper in a world trending shallow, deeper with your audience, deeper with your subject matter, trying to make things better by resonating more deeply in a world so consumed by empty reach. And so Castos provides tools to podcasters to both host and distribute the show and also create private podcasts. Whether you're a marketer who serves the team in house at your company, or you're a creator who wants to go deeper with the audience through some sort of subscription or even payment activity, you can learn more about how to create your very own private podcast using castos's tools, as well as host and distribute your public show through them. To learn more, visit castos.com. That's castos.com. All of these links are in your show.
[00:51:59] Speaker C: Notes.
[00:52:00] Speaker B: And now our bonus segment. Each episode, we ask our guests for a podcast they'd recommend that is not at the top of the charts, a show they'd like to show some love to. We call this segment play it Forward.
[00:52:13] Speaker D: Over the summer, I've just been enjoying everything by the poet and cultural critic Hanif Abdurakeeb. So if you want to find his work, he produces this regular music show called Object of Sound, but he also recently did a miniseries all about the Fujis record, The Score, that is out on a Pineapple Street Media show called the 11th. So both those shows are by the writer and critic Hanif Abdurakeeb, and I'd highly recommend both.
[00:52:49] Speaker B: All right, that's it for this episode. I'm Jaya Kunzo, and as always, I believe making meaningful work work like you and I do, creating podcasts to try and matter or say something that matters to the world. It's not about who arrives. It's about who stays. So thank you so, so much for staying with me, and I'll talk to you every Monday with a brand new episode of Three Clips. Until then, keep making what matters.
[00:53:12] Speaker C: See ya.