Listening in to local free-media programs

LISTENING PARTY: Matt Johnson produces four local podcasts under his production outfit, ZaPow Productions. Photo by James W. Johnson

A few short years ago, if you wanted to express yourself to the masses via the internet, you would start a blog. In 2016, the podcast is the way to reach niche audiences who actually want to listen to you talk for hours about the stuff that interests you.

Matt Johnson is a staple in the local podcasting community. He produces and co-hosts two programs on his ZaPow Podcast Network — “Figures Sold Separately” and “Illustration and a Beer.” He produces two others — “AVL Food Fans” and “AVL informer.” Johnson studied radio and television broadcasting in college and worked for CBS radio for eight years. “I decided to start and distribute my own talk content on subjects you just don’t hear on traditional radio,” says Johnson of his switch to podcasting. “Topics that serve a much smaller, more niche, but much more enthusiastic and loyal audience.”

Emily Trimnal is a local journalist who added podcasting to her repertoire for similar reasons. “Podcasting is great because it is a free media,” she says. “Unlike with traditional media forms, you aren’t fighting for the same viewership or the same slice of the pie.”

Johnson and Trimnal are part of The Asheville Society of Podcasters — a closed group on Facebook with more than 40 members — where people can share their questions and successes. Member podcast topics range from country music and local food to health and wellness.

Whether you’re a podcast newbie or an enthusiast, these local podcasts are worth a listen.

Figures Sold Separately

“Figures Sold Separately” is a weekly nerd/pop culture show hosted by Johnson, Ken Krahl, James MacKenzie and Renee Hill. The hour-long episodes have cheeky, geeky titles like “Make America Hydra Again” and “Trek Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.” A recent episode starts with Hill sharing her thoughts on musical artists Missy Elliot and Fall Out Boy recording the new Ghostbusters theme song. (Hill is pro-Missy, FYI.) In addition to some charmingly pro-nerd banter, the podcast has featured some prominent guests, including Amber Nash, who plays Pam Poovey on the animated comedy Archer; former WWE superstar Edge; and Adam Copeland, the voice behind the Honest Movie Trailers on YouTube. The program totals about 180 one-hour shows since 2012, so new fans have plenty to catch up on. Listen:

AVL Food Fans

“AVL Food Fans” is hosted by local food blogger Stu Helm with Joe Scully, the co-owner and head chef of Corner Kitchen and Chestnut. Helm says his goal with the podcast is to amuse and inform. “We also try to bring up important issues, like tipping or workplace depression,” he says. “I think our interviews with local food makers, from chefs to farmers to coffee roasters, and even food writers and PR people, serve to connect the listeners with the names, voices and personalities in the food scene.” Recent guests include chef Elliot Moss from Buxton Hall, along with chef and author Chris Hill. Listen: or tune in to WPVM 103.7 FM every Friday at 5 p.m.

What’s Ray Saying?

Raymond Christian is a storyteller living in Boone. He says that he started his show as a forum to highlight his life and the social and cultural history of African-Americans, noting that the black population in Boone is less than 1 percent. The “What’s Ray Saying” podcast is less than six months old, but Christian has some serious storytelling cred. He was featured on NPR’s “Snap Judgment” in June, has been featured on Kevin Allison‘s “RISK!” podcast and makes monthly trips to Asheville to participate in The Moth StorySLAM, which he has won four times. “But the foundation of what I do is tell stories, my personal truth and the truth of black Americans as I know it, as a way of undermining ignorance,” he says. Listen:

Finding Asheville

Trimnal of Asheville Blog volunteered to keep “Finding Asheville” going when the original founder moved across the country. Each weekly episode features a guest speaker from the local community, ranging from entrepreneurs to notable locals. “We speak with them about their business and use the opportunity to educate our listeners on issues or topics that they might not otherwise be exposed to,” says Trimnal. Recent episodes included Michael Spremulli, aka the Asheville Mindreader; Robin Vabolis, founder of The WNC Advocacy League; and N. John Shore Jr., author of the serial novel Ashes to Asheville. “Our goal with the podcast is to have listeners feel like they are getting a personal look at a private, casual, fun conversation between us and our guests,” says Trimnal. Listen:

Appalachian Pi

Blaine Kerr is the administrator of the Asheville Society of Podcasters and the producer of “Appalachian Pi,” which provides listeners with an insightful look at the region. “I try to feature artists, real people or individuals who embody our independent spirit as Appalachians,” says Kerr. “Anyone with a different opinion that may just cause you to nod your head or wag your tongue.” A big part of Kerr’s mission is to break down stereotypes. “Let’s agree we Appalachians are not just dumb, drunk, toothless hillbillies or conservative hicks like the caricatures would make the world believe,” he says. “I guess in their own ways, all of the guests I have spoken with contribute to an opening of minds and breaking those stereotypes down.” His favorite episode to date is an interview with stand-up comedian and activist Lee Camp. Listen:


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About Lea McLellan
Lea McLellan is a freelance writer who likes to write stories about music, art, food, wellness and interesting locals doing interesting things.

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4 thoughts on “Listening in to local free-media programs

  1. Big Al

    I’m a big fan of Slumber Party/Slice of Life on Asheville FM (FM 103.3) but am seldom able to listen live so I download the podcast. This week was the first time in a month or more that the podcast was available on the day after the show instead of a week later. I hope this trend continues. Also, I hope Slumber Party (as well as other shows) will archive their shows.

  2. APPyPi

    Please don’t forget our other shows ASP members have….248 podcast joined these fine folks, fyi we encourage crossover episodes, Davidicus represents here., Jarrod rocks this, the balanced warrior;; Aaron is here,, N. John Shore is here; and you can find the Doug here. WE do love you and thank you Lea!

    • Lea McLellan

      Thanks for sharing these links ! It’s pretty cool how many great podcasts there are in the area.

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