Matt Peiken’s ‘The Overlook’ brings daily podcast to Asheville

TALKING HEADS: Matt Peiken records the majority of his interviews for "The Overlook" at the Bebe Theatre in downtown Asheville. Photo by Thomas Calder

There are rumors that Matt Peiken sleeps, but evidence supporting these claims is sketchy at best.

The latest example of the Asheville-based journalist’s tireless pursuit of telling others’ stories? After nearly six years of serving as Blue Ridge Public Radio’s arts producer, he resigned Feb. 3 and published the first episode of his new daily podcast, “The Overlook,” on Feb. 13.

“I wanted to show people I am hitting the ground running. I am not going away,” Peiken says. “I’ve always had this ethos of I want people to see that I’m still in the mix — I never left the mix. I don’t know why or even if that’s important, but that’s something that drives me and has driven me to do the things I do, the way I do them.”

Exit strategy

Peiken knew he was going to leave BPR last fall but wasn’t yet sure of his next move.

As BPR’s first arts journalist, Peiken built a reputation as a trusted reporter and storyteller, skills that became especially essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout 2020 and into the following year, his consistently quick turnaround time on stories kept Asheville-area listeners and readers informed about an ever-changing arts landscape and how local creatives were coping with the challenges of a global health crisis. But the time came when he needed to make a change.

“A lot of people stick in jobs when every signpost says to get the hell out, and they stay because they’re scared. And I was not going to do that,” Peiken says.

Before relocating to Asheville in 2017, Peiken produced videos and created podcasts for in Cincinnati, after a decade of reporting for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota.

Throughout his time in Asheville, Peiken says he’d noticed a lack of connectivity among local media outlets, which he’s always seen as a missed opportunity. In more recent years, he’s also witnessed the rise in popularity of daily podcasts. In addition to multiple national examples, he points to City Cast, a network of daily podcasts that currently has 11 locations, including Chicago, Denver and Houston — but none in the Southeast.

After writing out a chart of his options — including returning to Cincinnati — Peiken decided to stay in Asheville and launch “The Overlook,” which he describes as a combination of the New York Times’ “The Daily” and NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross.

“I knew if I didn’t do this now, somebody was going to do it,” he says.

On the air

Peiken subscribes to newsletters from every local media outlet. If there’s a story that he wants “to pull some string on,” he’ll contact the reporter and the editor to inquire about setting up an interview. He also maintains a spreadsheet and a list of headlines with links to stories that he wants to cover.

Along with journalists, “The Overlook” features interviews with local leaders, trendsetters, activists and artists. He also works in a semiregular spotlight on social service nonprofits.

Peiken records most of his shows at the Bebe Theatre on Commerce Street but has done a few episodes in the field, including at Goodwill Industries’ studio. In his preparation, however, he doesn’t write out questions — an approach he’s kept consistent throughout his career.

“I will do a little research and keep it in my head, but when I did my interview with [Asheville Police Department] Chief [David] Zack, it was on the fly,” Peiken says. “I let the conversation go where it goes.”

For his workflow, Peiken plans out episodes a couple of weeks in advance and works one week ahead. He then edits at home and, like “The Daily,” he tries to keep each episode to 30 minutes.

“I am working harder and longer than I’ve worked in years,” he says, noting each show requires as much as six hours of editing to cut extraneous words and gaps between exchanges. “I listen to parts of the interview that aren’t flying and I take that out,” he explains. “A lot of podcasts roll tape and put that post out online, and I’m not doing that. So that’s what takes the time.”

Peiken posts a new episode each weekday for three consecutive weeks before taking a deliberate week off each month. He says the pause allows listeners a chance to catch up on episodes.

“A lot of people have told me they can’t listen every day,” he says. “It’s a lot to ask them, but I think having a daily podcast, knowing it’s daily creates the perception in my listeners’ minds of ‘There’s a lot going on here and I need to keep up. Maybe there’s more going on in this town than I realized.’”

Podcast destiny

From his research, Peiken has discovered that for podcasts seeking national or global audiences, a minimum of 20,000 listeners is required to attract advertising firms, most of whom prefer 50,000. But in a town of roughly 90,000 people, if Peiken can average 1,000 listeners per episode? “I’m gold,” he says.

And various forces are helping him climb to those numbers. He’s recruited help on the social media and marketing fronts, WPVM recently began running a weekly roundup of “The Overlook” each Thursday at 9 a.m., and he’s received several unsolicited offers for advertising.

Additional efforts to grow the listener base will include live recordings with audiences and the launch of a Patreon page to help raise funds. Should these plans bear fruit, Peiken has his sights set on nothing short of a Southeastern daily podcast empire.

“If ‘The Overlook’ is a stable success and I figure out how to do this in a replicable way, I will open up in other cities,” he says. “Somebody go start one in Knoxville; start one in Chattanooga; start one in Atlanta or Savannah. Because if they don’t and ‘The Overlook’ is a success, I will start it.”

To learn more, visit


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

4 thoughts on “Matt Peiken’s ‘The Overlook’ brings daily podcast to Asheville

  1. Curious

    “Peiken decided to stay in Asheville and launch “The Overlook,” which he describes as a combination of the New York Times’ ‘The Daily’ and NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ with Terry Gross. . . .”
    I’m curious as to why, with this ambitious agenda, Matt Peiken didn’t stay at BPR and use it as a launch pad for a national audience, as Terry Gross did from WHYY in Philadelphia or Peter Sagal did with “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” from WBEZ in Chicago”

    • Matt Peiken

      Morning Curious — thanks so much for your question. The short answer is it just wasn’t possible to produce this show or fulfill other ambitions, at this time, under BPR’s current leadership.

  2. Big Al

    Overlook’s interviews (2 part) with the APD Chief was incredible. A perfect example of “Lions Led By Donkeys”.

    Asheville City Council being the donkeys, in case you are confused.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.