Last week, I launched a six-episode podcast called We Miss Amy Winehouse, a companion podcast to my own Edinburgh Fringe comedy show, I Miss Amy Winehouse. The comedy show is about celebrity, nostalgia, grief and partying in 2000s Camden, and the podcast opens up that conversation. On each episode of the podcast, I ask a guest from the worlds of music, journalism or comedy to tell me their top three Amy Winehouse songs, where they were at in life when they first heard her, the memories the songs bring up, Amy as a cultural icon – and why we still miss her, 11 years on from her death. That anniversary lands on Saturday 23rd January 2022.
I came up with the idea for the podcast after noticing how many of the audience members from my live shows wanted to come up to me afterwards and get into really compelling conversations about Amy Winehouse. They were full of memories, stirred up by the show’s time travel back to 2006, by the music I play and by this feeling that they had some unfinished business if not with the singer herself because they didn’t know her, but then with their idea of her. Talking about Amy was a way of reassessing the problematic 2000s, of understanding that we were young in a very different time to now.
I decided to ask fans from the worlds of music, journalism and comedy to talk to me about their three favourite Amy Winehouse songs, where they were at in life when they first heard her, the memories her songs soundtrack, her cultural importance… and all of those subjects naturally lead into explaining a feeling we shared: that we miss Amy Winehouse.
The first guest is journalist Emma Garland, who wrote the introduction to the book Amy Winehouse: Beyond Black. Emma was asked to do this by the book’s author, Naomi Parry, who had been Amy’s stylist and one of her closest friends. The book came out in summer 2021, to mark the 10th anniversary of Amy’s death, and it was accompanied by a beautiful exhibition about Amy’s life and style at the Design Museum.
I wanted to feature Amy Winehouse’s music in the podcast to make it a more immersive experience, rather than potentially pushing the listener away from our audio and off to stream the music elsewhere. This meant having to make some compromises. As an indie podcast maker, I can’t afford music royalties or a PRS licence of my own. So I decided to launch the series as a Music + Talk show on Spotify and Anchor. This means that I can search for any of Amy Winehouse’s songs hosted on Spotify and then drop them into the podcast episode. Listeners with free Spotify will hear a 30-second clip, and listeners with Spotify Premium have the option to hear the whole song if they want, otherwise they can easily scroll onwards.
The podcast format I’m working with is like a scaled-down Desert Island Discs, in that my guests only talk about three songs by Amy Winehouse that mean something to them. That format determined how I interviewed my guests, always keeping at the back of my mind the fact that I’d need to move them onto the next song.
The back end of the Music + Talk show determined how I’d edit. It works by letting you drop in songs into your audio, but of course I would have to introduce each song. I had to start thinking of my episode as halfway between a pre-recorded radio show and the podcasts I have been used to making (Freelance Pod, Black Mirror Cracked). I would also have to divide the interview up into segments, to allow space to drop the songs into the episode at the right place. The songs can’t be dropped into an uploaded MP3, only around it. As someone who will happily let interviews meander into interesting places and move sections about in the edit, I found myself aiming for much more linear interviews this time, to save myself from having to deal with too many moving parts in the edit.
Lastly, the main compromise is that the podcast will only be available on the Spotify app. For some potential listeners, that will be a dealbreaker; for others, it will be a mild annoyance for them not to be able to use their favourite app. We Miss Amy Winehouse won’t slot into their podcast queue, but maybe I don’t want it to – maybe it’s better that it stands out.
Making my Edinburgh show, I Miss Amy Winehouse, has been a mostly solitary undertaking, so producing the podcast has been a wonderful reminder that there is an audience for this out there, and even if I don’t get to meet them all at the Fringe, at least I’ve found another way to reach them.