Learn this one secret to a great podcast interview
Take it away, Alistair:
You’ve heard the story before – you get asked to go to Molly Meldrum’s house to film a segment for a show on Music Max. While you’re there, you ask him if you can interview him for your podcast. And of course, he says yes. Actually, no, not just yes. He says “of course!”.
I started recording my podcast in March 2015. I had this idea for a show called Coming Up Next. I’d interview my show-biz contemporaries, who were just about to break out into stars. They were “Coming Up Next”.
Episode 1: Nathan Wentworth. He was a child actor, a production designer & my then housemate. He certainly fit into the category of ‘about to make a splash’.
Episode 2: Michala Banas. One of the biggest working actors in Australia. Episode 3: Damian Walshe-Howling… Episode 4: Samuel Johnson… Episode 7: MOLLY EFFING MELDRUM… Suddenly, my little show about the next generation of Aussie creatives was gaining the attention of some of the biggest stars in the country.
So, how did I approach interviewing these huge names? How do I calm my nerves, create an outstanding interview & get over my fan boy jitters?
The answer is at once both simple and complex: trust.
I trained extensively as an actor & as a filmmaker (and recently as a coach), and the most valuable lesson I’ve taken from my education centres on self-trust & certainty. By certainty, I mean that ability to drive the interview (or performance, or making of a film), must always be greater than the interviewee’s (or audience’s) uncertainty.
Now, I have added even more complexity to my interview style, by insisting it must be
1. Of the highest standard
2. Be conversational
3. Have depth, connection & intimacy
Not the simplest of tasks, when getting someone to speak in a forum you’re going to beam to the world (let alone if it’s your first time meeting them).
Let me ask you – what does trust mean to you?
See, our definitions are paramount to our experience.
For me, trust means that “I’ve got this, no matter what”. Which begs the question – how do I get this trust & certainty?
The best way I can answer that is through an example.
Let me set the scene.
My brother (who used to produce my show), and I arrive at Molly Meldrum’s beautiful, treasure-filled home in Melbourne, Australia. We have grown up watching him on Hey Hey It’s Saturday, and know his legend inside out. A familiar Akubra peeks through the crack of the door, before Molly’s face appears with a huge smile.
Majestic sculptures, divine art work & a world class collection of music paraphernalia adorn his home.
As my brother and I put our equipment down, and ready ourselves for the recording, a particular piece catches my eye. It is a hand signed piece from The Beatles, with ‘Dear Molly’ written all over it.
Suddenly, I am reminded. This is the man who broke the story of The Beatles breaking up to the entire world. He had the interview with John Lennon. Plus. Prince Charles. David Bowie. Princess Diana SAT IN THE SPOT I’M SITTING IN.
Nerves kick in. Heart starts racing. Palms get sweaty.
“Settle down. You’ve got this.”
And I did.
I opened my laptop and went to my notes.
I seldom prepare questions. That’s a lie. I prepare two questions for every interview. The same two. I guess it’s not really preparing then, just re-writing:
1. When was the first time you entertained anyone?
2. What makes you silly? (This is the very last questions of every interview.)
As I said earlier, I prefer to have a conversational flow in my interviews. This is just the style I’ve chosen. So, in lieu of a shopping list of questions, I just do as much research as I can via the interwebs, books, the youtubes & podcasts, write out the key points, and then let the conversation take its course.
So, I gather as much information as possible, and then I throw it out the window, trusting that I can guide the conversation the way I want it to go (and yes, I have my laptop there with my notes to refer to if I get really stuck, or if I want to quote something).
Beyond the trust, this style of interview requires quick rapport, great listening skills and the ability to be completely present.
Once the interview is over, often there is a massive post-interview high – akin to a really deep meditation, due to the level of presence and connection.
How do you get there?
1. Set an objective/intention.
Always making it about the interviewee. This is their time to fully be themselves, without any sort of media spin or agenda. Make it about them, then hold the space and ask outstanding questions to provoke interesting discussion.
2. Listen well for cues
By listening well, you can pick up on cues you need to hook into the subjects important to the interviewee. This way you’ll uncover passion and personal, intimate stories.
I’d be lying if I said that all my interviews have gone off without a hitch. I’m not sure Molly was quite prepared for my questions around the meaning of life, for example (a common topic of discussion).
I have done interviews with people I’ve never met, where the rapport hasn’t been established early on, and there is a tremendous level of discomfort. I may flounder around the deeper subjects, and occasionally feel foolish for the topics I want to discuss.
Usually, this is a great sign that I have just made it all about me. Which is an awesome thing to notice. Because then, well, then I can take the focus off of myself, and put it in it’s rightful place – the person sitting opposite me.
So, after I get some amazing insights into the life of Ian Molly Meldrum, and I ask him what he hopes his legacy will be (EPIC answer), I drop my big bombshell of a finale with grace, dignity, certainty… and complete trust that I’ve conducted an outstanding interview.
“I have one last question I’d like to ask you Molly”
“Sure, go ahead”
“What makes you silly?”
For more of Alistair’s awesome creative insights, go to the Coming Up Nextwork (that’s his little tribe!) – www.comingupnext.com.au
Subscribe to Coming Up Next on iTunes or Stitcher for my epic ramble with Molly & plenty of others (including Samuel Johnson, Kat Stewart & Liam McIntyre to name but a few).