Podcasting has reached the top of the format mountain. For everyone that subscribed to "WTF" with Marc Maron back in 2009, saw the zeitgeist grab hold through "Serial" and now has their pick of thousands of shows (including ones recorded in friend’s basements) to listen to at any moment, there are people who still just listen to the plain old radio for their musician interviews.
Especially through local stations KBGA and KFGM, Missoulians can listen to local or touring acts perform, talk about their art, and joke around with the hosts while nervously talking past curse words they’re not supposed to say on air.
But it was smart for Matt Olson to release his own “Ballroom Sessions” in episode form online — although not through your usual podcast app — to reach the maximum pairs of ears possible. Only so many people can (or will) drop everything to tune into the radio at a certain time. But with the episodes available online, no excuse. Get to know your local artists.
Olson modeled the show after Seattle station KEXP’s “Live on” segments (you’ve definitely seen the video versions), in which a band comes into the studio, plays a handful of songs and answers some interview questions in between.
For “Ballroom Sessions,” bands visit the Union Ballroom, upstairs from the KFGM broadcast station in the Union Hall, plug in, play and talk with guest interviewers over roughly 90 minutes.
Season 1 (available to stream on archive.org or through the Ballroom Sessions’ Facebook page) is 10 episodes. The first is an interview with rappers Tonsofun and Wormwood, being interviewed by Cory Lewis.
The two open the show freestyling about the podcast and KFGM, before Lewis gets them rolling about their new album “Speak Nay Scream.”
The chatting is laid back and easy; the 90-minute to two-hour format gives the musicians plenty of time to lay out their thoughts and follow digressions. No terse answers a la “Live on KEXP” allowed.
Other episodes feature Naomi Moon Siegel, Fuuls, Rooster Sauce and Locksaw Cartel, with guest interviewers like Andy Smetanka, Ben Weiss and Mia Soza.
The focus here seems to be more on the interviews than anything else — Olson isn’t going for YouTube clicks. He’s genuinely interested in giving these musicians a chance to talk about their craft and processes, no editing for space.
That’s a rare thing for local bands to get, and it makes for interesting listening no matter how plugged into local music you might be.
The “Ballroom Sessions” don’t assume you know the Missoula music scene and there are obligatory details that friends or fans might know (hometowns and previous bands) but there’s no boring parts.
Rather, you get to hear members of Fate’s Fortune talk about how they got into music: bass player Dan Molgaard played guitar in his first band before being asked by his bandmates to switch instruments after they got a better guitar player, and drummer Joshua Chai was told by his mother that he kicked in the womb during songs at church — eventually that led to picking up the drums and getting into jazz band.
There’s a musical diversity too, that in just 10 episodes runs the gamut of Missoula’s music scene from more established to newer groups, with all genres represented.
Season 2 is coming: Olson teased new episodes in the spring that continue that diversity with groups like River City Players, Tomb Toad and Writ Large filling out the next 10 shows.
“It’s a chance and an opportunity for the bands to express themselves further beyond the music and to explain what they’re doing,” Olson told the Missoula Independent in July. “What experiences propelled you to write this song? That’s all immensely fascinating to me.”