Have You Heard? is where the Pod Bible team meet the people behind the podcasts you may not have heard of yet. For a Valentines Day themed interview, we spoke to Maria Passingham about her podcast, Equal Parts…
Who are you and what’s your podcast about?
I’m Maria Passingham, a producer/editor for editaudio by day and… also an indie podcaster by night! I’m based in Manchester in the UK. Equal Parts is a series of true love stories told by the people that lived them. It’s about how couples meet and fall in love, usually covering their very first interaction, first date, and a little about how their relationship has progressed since. Both people are interviewed separately and then my questions are cut and their answers entwined in the edit. It can lead to some hilarious mismatched memories, or very sweet mirrored responses. It also makes the listening experience more intimate as there’s no interruptions from the interviewer or other partner.
What was the first podcast you ever listened to?
Wow! In the very early days I listened to a lot of BBC radio podcasts which were actually more like on-demand shows, barely edited except for the music and news cut out. The first real podcast I listened to was Answer Me This!, which I actually still listen to (even though they stopped publishing in 2021). I know it so well that it helps me to sleep if my brain is too busy. I love that it was British because I probably listen to 75% American podcasts now, but it’s nice that my introduction was closer to home. I do think broadly that the two scenes produce different styles of content.
Why did you decide to start podcasting in the first place?
Basically to get a job! I had done lots of unpaid internships (don’t get me started) and a few bits of paid freelance work here and there but I wanted to prove what I could do. So I decided to stop waiting for someone to ask me and just get on with it. I started with Library of Things Podcast with stories from a social enterprise in South London. They were in their early days and I wanted to experiment with production, so we collaborated – they gave me access to the community and stories and I showcased the innovations and connections that were coming out of the space. I’m still very proud of that project, although if I listen now it makes me cringe – which I think is a good sign? I can see how far my skills have come.
Where there any podcasts you took inspiration from before starting?
Definitely. Song Exploder gave me the idea to cut my questions out of the podcast. I loved the way it seemed that the artists on that show just spoke effortlessly and continuously about their work. It made the narrative stronger, and the listening experience more intense and intimate. It also seemed like a nice way to not have to listen to my own voice too much!
Criminal was the inspiration behind unique artwork to accompany each episode. But I believe they have one consistent illustrator for every story, and I like to commission someone new each time. I send them a rough cut of the audio and almost no information about how the couple look, and they create an artist’s impression. I love the variety of styles and perspectives that come out of it!
You have a great range of voices on the show – how did you find your guests?
This is honestly the hardest part of production for me. The first season was a bit of an experiment so I just used the people around me, but that definitely reflected poorly on the diversity of my friendship groups. So, I made a concerted effort to find more guests that were Black or Asian for the second and third seasons. There’s definitely still room for improvement but I’m glad I recognised the issue and made an effort to course-correct.
For those later seasons I went online – where else?! – searching endless hashtags on Instagram #firstdatestory #meetcute #howwemet etc, and key phrases like “met my partner” on Twitter. It’s a lot of trawling and deep diving on strangers’ profiles. There’s also some bias there – it takes a certain type of person to share their relationship details online! But it was fun to expand the search world-wide.
My biggest regret with this show is not having at least one elderly couple. Sadly I found it hard to find couples in their 80s+ that are both still here, have strong memories, and computer-savvy, or geographically close to me to record. I did enquire at a few care homes but most of the reasons residents are there also would make it hard for them to take part on the podcast. If anyone has grandparents with a brilliant story and could help set up a computer to record, please get in touch!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt as an indy podcaster?
Things always take way longer than you expect. I thought I was killing it in season 1 when I had most episodes in the can, ready to roll, ahead of the launch date. But I had forgotten about making a press pack, writing shownotes, making sure the RSS feed was accepted in time, writing social posts… there’s a million little jobs that go along with every episode. Now I have an (evolving!) checklist for all stages of production and distribution.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt as a professional audio producer?
It’s probably less of a technical, more of an emotional lesson. No matter how nervous you are – to lead an interview, to set up gear, to direct a voiceover session – you’re almost definitely the most qualified person in the room. So if you need a list of things to cover in your introduction, or a big post it saying ‘hit record!’ that’s absolutely fine, but believe in yourself, you’re the authority here. If it’s you, a client, and a guest on a video call, chances are the client will be in their head about asking the right questions, and the guest will be hoping they don’t make a fool of themself, or they get to touch on their talking points… they definitely aren’t second-guessing why you asked them to change input to the USB mic or turn off the fan. So work out what you need to do, or need them to do, and ask for it with confidence.
Oh and technically, really make sure your backup system is set up and reliable. Auto-save has rescued me a number of times, and I always keep on top of my storage.
Which episode would you say is the perfect introduction to your podcast?
Oh my goodness, so hard to choose! But because I heard a friend recommend it the other day – ‘Graham and Jules’ S2 E2, it’s a proper story of chance and coincidences. There’s love letters, special songs, and wedding crashers! Or, the episode released on Valentines’ Day – ‘Andy & Evin’! It’s the first of the third and final season.
Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about you?
Twitter is the best bet @mariapassingham – I mainly post about podcasts, TV, and football, but sometimes interesting things as well.