Australian Audio Guide

Working With Sound: Evana Ho

Evana Ho is the creator of a podcast called Love, Canberra – exploring love, sex and relationships in Canberra. We spoke to Evana about having intimate conversations with strangers, and how a bit of awkward tension can sometimes be a good thing.

Evana Ho (Photo: supplied)

What piece of audio has had the most profound effect on you – as a listener, as an audio maker or both?

Starlee Kine’s ‘Dr. Phil’ story, aired on This American Life (the ‘Break-Up’ episode). This piece has it all. Love. Heartbreak. Confessional narration to audio. Delightful surprises. Lots of moving parts that cohere really well – just great storytelling. It’ll also make you rethink Phil Collins. An artful piece of radio for me to live up to!

Where did the idea for Love, Canberra come from?

I love making meaningful connections with people, whether those connections have a lifespan of years or just a few hours. I like to listen to people’s stories. And I’m particularly interested in stories about love, sex and relationships – so I started a podcast that involves having intimate conversations with people about love, sex and relationships.

What is your favourite part of making the podcast?

Definitely being in the moment of engaging in deep conversation with my podcast guests. It’s a combination of forming an intense, albeit momentary, connection, and the realisation of all the research and preparation I’d done in advance – which helps to make the conversation better.

What’s the hardest part?

Finding/getting guests to come onto the show. I send out a lot of emails and messages and ask a lot of people in person if I can interview them. What you hear on my podcast are the handful of people who said yes. I’ve been employing the line ‘I don’t bite’ a bit. Still weighing up the results …

What’s the best thing about working with sound?

Letting my subjects speak for themselves, at length – and being able to, through editing, help them sound their best.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about podcasting?

I’m beginning to understand that I need to be more dogged in my pursuit of guests – not taking ‘no’ as ‘never’. The same goes for my question-asking in interviews – persisting with a particular line of questioning that may create some tension, rather than chronically avoiding creating tension.

At the AIR Media workshop I attended in July this year, guest lecturer Sruthi Pinnamaneni (from Gimlet Media) talked about finding and expressing doubt in a respectful way, as well as about not being afraid to ask uncomfortable questions, sometimes asking them a second or third time in a different way. I’m trying to incorporate that more into my practice. Also, staying with Gimlet Media, PJ Vogt was interviewed at the Wheeler Centre back in May and he said something during his conversation with Ben Birchall that made me sit up. Ben asked, ‘How far is too far to chase a story before you give up on it?’ PJ mentioned a story he was continuing to pursue even after two years, and then said, ‘We don’t give up. It’s like our editorial process is: we don’t give up.’ I found that really inspiring.

What has been your biggest lesson as a producer so far?

Be courageous. Run with your crazy ideas and see where they might take you. People will respect that you tried.

Do you interact with your audience, or receive feedback or criticism about your work?

I’m on Twitter and my email address is on my website. I also tell listeners to get in touch in my episodes. So I certainly welcome interaction. Sadly, I’ve not had any feedback as yet from people I haven’t personally known – be it friends or people I’ve met and mentioned the show to. I have listeners who listen and stay unknowable.

Be courageous. Run with your crazy ideas and see where they might take you. People will respect that you tried.

If you could go out to dinner with any audio maker, who would it be – and what would you talk about?

Anna Sale, to learn up close her empathic interviewing magic. Zoe Nightingale for the same – and because she’s just rad. Dan Pashman, because he seems like he would be just so much fun to hang out with for two hours. We would talk about the correct ratio of sauce to pasta and parmesan to pasta or something like that.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Today I listened to:

  • Slate’s Working (‘At the White House… Former intern Chase Woods’) – while getting ready for work and then briefly while cycling to work
  • The preview for Jonathan Goldstein’s new show Heavyweight – while cycling to work
  • Current’s The Pub (‘John Sepulvado was drunk this whole time’) – while cycling home from work
  • Gastropod (‘Seaweed special’) – while defrosting dinner and post-dinner
  • Gastropod (‘The salt wars’) – post-dinner and into bedtime

I know. It’s not a competition. (But it sort of is.)

What’s your favourite Australian podcast, and why?

All the Best on FBi Radio is amazing. I’m in awe of their ability to consistently put out really polished, compelling stories.

What do you think is unique about Australian audio?

You know, I’m genuinely not sure about this one. I’m not sure I listen to enough podcasts from Australia and countries around the world to properly assess how we compare. It seems to me that Australian producers are doing great work across the gamut of podcast genres and that we don’t seem to gravitate towards any particular one or few.

What’s next for you as a producer?

At the time of writing this, I’m a week away from starting to put out my next tranche of episodes for Love, Canberra, after several weeks of blood, sweat and Craigslist trying to find more guests! It’s been wild. In terms of upcoming episodes, look out for my conversation with a Canberran student who spent three years working locally as an escort. Also, if you’ve ever wondered how a blind date might unfold, listen to one I went on with a man who posted an ad on Craigslist seeking a dinner date.