Owensboro freshman Ryan Gatton is about to begin an episode of his podcast, "Only Three Remain," in his Minton Hall dorm room.
story by MACIE DOWELL photos by JACOB LATIMER
A red, glowing “on air” light is flipped on. In a soundproof room tucked away in Jody Richards Hall, a recording microphone anxiously awaits the first words of the episode to be spoken. Five WKU students take a seat around the table and slide their headphones into position.
“Whether it’s in the locker room or on the field, behind the clipboard or on the court, home or away, we’ve got you covered. Get ready to enter the ‘RedZone’, your destination for all things sports,” the familiar recording recites, indicating the start of a new episode of “RedZone Radio”.
Later that night, in a Southwest Hall dorm room, two WKU sophomores sit adjacent from one another in desk chairs. A microphone placed between them on a coffee table, a rug and some blankets make up their homemade soundproofed studio.
With the clock striking 9 p.m., the two push aside their previous exchange about their days and get comfortable in their seats. The recording starts, whether both hosts are aware or not, and the podcast begins organically, by the two laughing about a conversation that took place moments before the episode.
Seventy miles away in Owensboro, three friends sit in a spare room, squeezed together on a loveseat, and gather around a single microphone. Ideas and topics for the newest show are discussed minutes before the start of an episode in an effort to create an authentic conversation for the podcast. From the moment the record button is pressed, the three effortlessly throw jokes back and forth, their laughter bouncing off the walls.
While each podcast differs in experience and equipment, they share one key component: connection.
Both in and out of their homemade and professional studios, these podcasters have created meaningful connections with their co-hosts and fanbases.
Senior Spring Hill, Tennessee, native Matthew Hargrove joined “RedZone Radio” his freshman year alongside his current co-host Tory Bowling, a senior from London, Kentucky. The two worked their way from making short, 30-second segments to becoming the faces of the podcast itself, a spot they hold with their fellow co-hosts, Ryan Gooden, Kaden Gaylord and Patrick Carey.
The four cover hot topics in sports, ranging from local games at Diddle Arena to national championships taking place across the U.S.
Hargrove said comfort among their team allows them to perform well in a typically stressful environment.
“I think the thing that makes ‘RedZone’ so special is that we come in here, and we’re just ourselves,” Hargrove said. “That makes us lighten up and not think about the pressure of performing better. We’re not afraid to mess up. We’ll say stuff that is so stupid, and instead of freaking out we’ll just laugh at each other.”
Sophomores Hunter Brooks, from Georgetown, Kentucky and Logan Mills, from Owensboro, share a similar sentiment with their podcast, “The Private Screening Podcast.”
The two were motivated to start their film review podcast last winter break in an effort to stay occupied. While the podcast is relatively new, the duo have already felt positive impacts with their relationship. The podcast balances critical film analysis and witty banter, showcasing movies ranging from “Midsommar” to “Rain Man.”
“I deeply enjoy being able to talk about the movies with Logan,” Brooks said. “Our chemistry is really good. We’re really good friends, and I really enjoy the conversations that come out of these recordings. It’s a good way to relax during the week and have a scheduled time to talk with a friend about stuff that I love.”
In contrast to “RedZone Radio”, the pair didn’t have any prior experience or direct mentors, having to teach themselves the ins and outs of podcasting.
“I did a lot of the behind-the-scenes of getting it started,” Mills said. “I watched a lot of YouTube videos on what to do, and I kind of pieced together what I wanted to do from those, like finding out what I wanted to use to publish the podcast and things like that.”
Brooks and Mills faced setbacks from being self-taught podcasters. After their first episode, the two became aware that their introduction music may have been in violation of copyright laws and created plans to make their own song to be played at the beginning of future episodes.
Even with complications, Brooks urges those who are hesitant of starting a podcast to take the leap of faith.
“Go ahead and bite the bullet and do it,” Brooks says. “There are cheap microphones all over the internet and free recording software that you can get for your computer. We didn’t start with much, and we still don’t have a lot, but it’s just a matter of talking into a microphone, recording it and uploading it to different platforms.”
Aligning with Brooks and Mills’ simple philosophyin regards to podcasting, Ryan Gatton, an Owensboro freshman, started his podcast, “Only Three Remain,” with two of his best friends, Blake Bryan and Leah Smith. With one microphone, one table and limited seating, the three produce hour-long episodes of unscripted commentary for their podcast, letting their topics blend and naturally lead them into the root of each show.
Heavily inspired by “The Joe Rogan Experience” and “Ear Biscuits” podcasts, “Only Three Remain” delves into deep conversations, such as the inner workings of space and the social construct of time, all while maintaining comedic undertones that showcase the trio’s close friendship.
“With everything going on right now, we don’t have a lot of time to spend together like we used to,” said Smith, a student at Body Works Massage Institute in Evansville. “Recording for the podcast gives us a reason to be together and joke around like we did before college. Finally getting to see them gives us so much to catch up on and so much to look forward to. It’s a breath of fresh air, honestly.”
While “RedZone Radio”, “The Private Screening Podcast” and “Only Three Remain” are all unique in the topics they discuss and the equipment they use, once the recording ends, each podcaster turns off their microphone and celebrates with their fellow co-hosts. New jokes are exchanged, yawns form between conversations, and a comfortable silence fills the space.
The “on air” light fades out, friends hug and say goodbye and everyone goes their separate ways, whether by transforming their studios back into a dorm room or heading to their respective homes. Among the bustle of their everyday lives, these hosts anticipate the moment of peace they will have at the next scheduled recording.