When he began commuting from Brooklyn, New York, to University Park in 2014, Brian Alfred, assistant professor in the Penn State School of Visual Arts, often listened to podcasts to pass the time. But as he made his way through the catalogue, he discovered a void—one he thought he just might be able to fill.
The nearly 250-mile drive afforded Alfred ample time to explore various podcast genres. Finding a show that offered one-on-one conversations with musicians or actors was quite easy, but a podcast that featured in-depth access to his contemporaries was hard to come by.
“I felt like there was a need to hear artists speaking, not so much in a stuffy lecture format, but in a casual, biographical, day-to-day setting,” Alfred said. “Artists never really get that.”
With the mission of creating a space for artists to casually discuss their creative processes, the award-winning visual artist and professor researched the process of starting a podcast, and in April 2016, he recorded the first episode of “Sound & Vision.”
Two years later, Alfred has recorded more than 100 episodes, and the show, featured on iTunes, has amassed almost 30,000 subscribers who are treated each week to engaging, hour-long conversations with artists such as Chris Martin, Danielle Orchard, and Steve Keene.
Alfred attributes some of the podcast’s success to his simplistic and conversational approach to recording each episode. With no more gear than he can carry, Alfred meets the artists in spaces that are the most comfortable for them, typically their studio or a gallery. The familiar setting can lead to a more natural conversation, which often results in an impactful and fun show.
“I’m really nomadic with it and I’ll go wherever I have to go, which I think is a strength of the show,” Alfred said. “I’m in their territory and while artists aren’t used to talking like this, they’re in their comfort zone. But even then some of them are still kind of freaked out by it.”
The popularity of the show has released some of that tension and as the show gains more listeners, artists are recognizing it as a productive space to speak about their work and their lives, Alfred said.
Building on the success of the show, in May Alfred finished a four-week run of panel conversations at the Williamsburg (Brooklyn) Apple store. While the panel discussion format was a welcomed high-profile opportunity, he has no plans to make any major changes to the production process or the final product.
“The great thing about doing this for fun is that success for me is to just go talk to someone and have it not be forced,” Alfred said. “Because I feel like that honesty, if it comes across—that’s what I want. I want these people just to be heard. Well, that and maybe not to get a parking ticket while I’m doing it.”