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Gavin's Underground

A Southbound Train

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2013-03-03 - More and more people who would have been on-air personalities or become talk-radio hosts and panelists have noted the crumbling state of modern radio and so have moved into podcasting, like it were a new subdivision in the city of broadcasting. Yes, radio isn't dead and, much like film and television, it probably will be around for a long time to come, but there's no denying that the landscape of the medium has begun to change and more talent and listeners are switching to smaller shows found only via an Internet connection.
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Take, for example, A Southbound Train, a Salt Lake City podcast that takes on the traditional format of the two-man talk show, discussing whatever they feel like from film and television, local news and events -- whatever's bugging the hell out of them -- and even interviewing the occasional guest who happens by. Today, I chat with the two men behind the show, Sam Garfield and David Clark, about the podcast and their thoughts on the genre itself. 

David Clark & Sam Garfield (Photo by Curtis Jensen)
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Gavin: Hello, guys. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

David: We are David Clark and Sam Garfield. Both of us moved to Utah more than 10 years ago; Sam from Colorado, and myself from Northern California. I studied Arabic, the Middle East, and film at Brigham Young University until 2011. Sam has a powerful creative mind and he enjoys adventure, DIY projects, photography, and using technology to improve human existence.

Gavin: When did the two of you meet and become friends?

David: Sam was already living in Salt Lake City in 2012 when I moved up here and attended his birthday party. We are part of a vibrant social circle in Salt Lake and we all bond based on our mutual celebration of life and pursuit of adventure.

Gavin: How did you each take an interest in podcasting, and what shows did you first start enjoying?

David: Spoken word is a powerful medium for storytelling. When your audience only has your voice, it reduces you down to a raw honesty. Podcasting attracted us because of the creative freedom it allows us. We can manipulate the formula of our show according to what works well and what does not. Neither of us went to podcasting school, but we have an enthusiasm for the power that the Internet and our microphones have given us. Plus, it’s just really fun! I used to love listening to talk radio, but as far as actual podcasts go, in the beginning I was listening to lots of Jimmy Pardo’s Never Not Funny, Jesse Thorn’s Jordan Jesse GO!, and the SlashFilmCast.

Gavin: Did either of you grow up wanting to be in broadcasting or have a love for talk radio?

David: We both used to listen to talk shows on the radio when we were younger. Loveline with Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew was a show we both listened to. Broadcasting has attracted me for several years. When people hear my deep, manly voice, they all ask me why I don’t speak into a microphone for a living, and our podcast is their answer.

Gavin: How did the idea come about to start a podcast, and where did the name come from?

David: As a creative person, I feel that you can only consume so much content without feeling the urge to produce some content yourself. The urge to produce and create is strong, and the podcast offers a platform for expression and storytelling that is too valuable to pass up. A Southbound Train, the name of our podcast, comes from a lyric in the song by Old Crow Medicine Show called “Wagon Wheel.” The metaphor of a train resonates narratively for me. It denotes the passage of time and space, and I have been on many meaningful train rides that have taken me south.

Gavin: What was it like for you getting all the equipment together and learning how to make a show?

Sam: We started with a single BLUE microphone that David got from his work. We also got a mixer right off the bat so we could do multiple mics, but we ended up not getting everything together for nearly 30 episodes. I ended up buying headsets, but then those wouldn’t plug into the mixer, and so it took a while to get everything together. I should write a book on that, because it ended up being really easy and cheap. Hint: Amazon.

Gavin: Did you do any test shows before the first episode or did you simply just dive in?

Sam: Yes! Someday we’ll dig those out of the archives. Our first episode was recorded onto my phone while standing around my friend’s BBQ drinking too much. It was our best episode.

Gavin: What was the first episode like for both of you, and what made you decide to keep going after the first?

Sam: I took the attitude that we should just get started, and that nobody would be listening anyway. Turned out, I was right because we never even published the first 12 or 13 episodes. We just got through it and got some practice under our belt. Why did we keep going? I guess I’d have to say because we have no shame.

Gavin: The show itself doesn't have much of a format beyond a conversation about whatever you want to talk about. How does it work every week in deciding what you want to bring to the table?

David: We take notes during the week and we research subjects that interest us before we start recording. At our best, we can string those stories together in an arc that aligns well with our guest’s experiences. At our worst, we just say a bunch of words without any throughline and we hope to avoid those episodes, but they might occasionally happen. Even at their worst, I find them highly listenable.

Gavin: What made you decide to start bringing guests onto the show, and how has it been for you bringing in people from time to time to chat about what they do?

David: The show is structured around the idea of having guests participate in conversations with us. We sometimes pull just from our circle of friends and are very satisfied with the stories and the repartee, but we also enjoy meeting new people and bringing in guests who will discuss projects they are working on. We want to encourage creativity and productivity as much as possible.

Gavin: What's your overall goal with the show, and how big would you like to see it grow?

David: The show has been steadily growing in popularity. We started with a small fanbase, made up mostly of our friends and family, and now we have many strangers listening to the show, which we love. The happiest scenario for the podcast, as far growth is concerned, is for it to first gain strong support from local listeners, and then to attract listeners from elsewhere, nationally and internationally. That’s already happening.

Gavin: What are your thoughts on the podcasts coming out of Utah these days, both good and bad?

Sam: Utah is an epicenter for creativity, so there is a lot of great content coming out of the state. A lot of it has to do with the Mormon church. When people decide to fight back against oppression, they come with energy. There are a lot of great local philosophy and religion podcasts with some really smart people.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make these shows more prominent?

Sam: More explosions, sexier babes and more insane conspiracy theories. Because, aliens ...

Gavin: Do you have any favorite local shows you listen to or recommend people check out?

Sam: The Occidental Saloon is an awesome music podcast featuring local artists out of Provo. It’s crazy good. That’s my buddy Dean Cheesman’s brain child. Shout out!

David: I’ve listened to a few episodes of I Am Salt Lake. I quite like that show. In addition to the local programs we enjoy, I must include Doug Fabrizio's Radio West on KUER. His show investigates Salt Lake City and Utah culture on a fascinating level. I would love his job.

Gavin: Where do you see the medium going both locally and nationally over the next few years?

Sam: Probably the same thing as radio -- more networks like Stitcher will be grabbing up good content and trying to become a hub for all of this creative energy; radio, television, music, etc. -- everything indie. Power to the people. There will always be a place for the high-budget media, but those by their nature have to be be commercials for something. The real art is independent.

Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and the show over the rest of the year?

Sam: More babes, explosions, and conspiracy theories.

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Sam: I want people to make time for being creative. Figure it out. Get your creative friends together and do something cool. Make a movie, take some photos, write a song, put up some street art, start a revolution. My plug is for your project -- whatever you’ve been putting off for months or years, get it done.

David: We thank you, Mr. Underground, for asking us these questions. I encourage all readers of this City Weekly blog to listen to our show, sure, but they can also call us at 801-709-0322 and leave a message. We will play your voice on the show. Promise. Also, eat some Brussels sprouts this week.


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