Andrew Steven’s Trail Weight is a show that ticks a lot of boxes for me. Hiking – tick. Meta references to storytelling – tick. High emotional stakes – tick. Social commentary – tick.
When the first season came to a very satisfying conclusion, I was sad to think I wouldn’t hear from the show again. So you can imagine how excited I was to see season 2 come out this month. And I jumped at the chance to ask host Andrew Steven (a fellow “amateur explorer, expert coffee drinker, and podcast maker…”) all about the new series…
The first season of Trail Weight felt like a satisfying conclusion to one story, can you give us a taste of what Season 2 has in store for listeners?
I think of Season 2 of Trail Weight as an emotional sequel. Season 1 was my story, and most of my guests on the show listened and reacted to my personal journey. In the new season, I’m discovering another’s story, and the listeners get to hear my reaction this time. You get to listen to me wrestle with questions and weigh the complexity and nuance of what it means to be someone who loves nature and worries about my effect on the outdoors. Plus, I genuinely think the story I tripped into (in Season 2)—the story of Walt Disney’s attempt to build a ski resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains—is fascinating, and I wish more people knew about it.
Why podcasting? What is it about the format that appeals to you?
It’s almost cliché to say this now, but audio is more intimate than many other forms of media. For example, not many people watch Netflix on the way to work, on a walk through the neighborhood, and as they fall asleep. And audio is similar to books in that they invite you to use your imagination to fill in the gaps. But that can be tricky with a travel story that takes you across the U.S. (and the globe), to high in the mountains, and drops you into a magical pine forest in California. And so that becomes the challenge, inviting the listener to these places and having them feel like they’re there with me.
If you could go back to before you started out and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Even for a planner like me, I always wish I had more time. I have a writer friend who says his books are only ever finished because they’re sent off to the printers. Similarly, Lorne Michaels famously says SNL goes on air, not because it is ready, but because it’s Saturday. But in all seriousness, I wish I would record and catalog and archive more audio (but this would add more work and take much longer, and I just said I wish I had more time). Trail Weight is written like a book, so hopefully, I can always write my way out of bad tape, but I wish I had more audio from the actual moments I get into, even if only for brief glimpses.
Which episode of your podcast means the most to you?
I always like episode one’s. For a show like Trail Weight, which is very much narrative and told in specific episode order, there’s something special about a good episode one. Hopefully, ours are interesting enough to provide someone with an entertaining and informative listen while piquing their interest to stick around for the rest of the season.
Which podcasts inspire you most?
I’m a big fan of the super-produced, well-developed, audiobook-esq style podcast and two people sitting around a table and talking for a couple of hours into microphones podcasts. Some of the first shows I listened to were comedians talking to other comedians, as well as This American Life and Radiolab. I’ve made both types of podcasts, and as a listener and a producer, I’m always looking for ways to merge the two styles together.
Finally, what is your current favourite podcast you would recommend to readers?