Australian Audio Guide

Working with Sound: Meaghan Dew

Meaghan Dew contributed to the Kill Your Darlings podcast for over a year before taking over production and hosting in 2014. When she’s not planning, recording or editing, she’s probably reading – which goes well with her day job as a Publishing Coordinator at Thames & Hudson. She tells us why editing audio is similar to editing words, and why she thinks Australian content is important.
Photo of Meaghan Dew

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

Hmmm – I still think about ‘A Walk In The Park’ from All The Best. As part of the episode, women recorded themselves on their route home after dark, including what they were thinking. It’s such a common experience, and it’s one that there is (I think) more awareness of than there used to be. But there’s something quite visceral about hearing those thoughts and that, at least for me, stuck more than any of the think pieces or essays I’ve read on the same subject. So, effective – well done to them.

Where did the idea for the Kill Your Darlings podcast come from?

The Kill Your Darlings journal and website were already running on excellent excerpts, Q&As and commentary from writers, so a podcast along similar lines made sense. It started out with sporadic interviews several years ago now, but it moved to the regular 30-60 minute format in 2013. Content-wise, ideas for writers we include come from a number of places – new release sections, festivals, trips, other journals, bookstore events and our own journal and website. There’s no point reproducing an interview in the podcast that you can just read in the journal, but I still try and make sure there’s a thematic link.

What’s  your favourite part of making the podcast?

Hands down, having the opportunity to meet such great writers and to question them about the books I love. It’s an amazing position to be in being able to ask those questions that crop up when you’re reading directly rather than going through an event Q&A – and then being able to share that author’s work with other people.

There’s something quite visceral about hearing those thoughts and that, at least for me, stuck more than any of the think pieces or essays I’ve read on the same subject.

What’s the hardest part of producing it?

At first, it was maintaining composure in front of authors I really admired! I still have my moments (ahem – sorry, Lev Grossman) but interviewing’s like everything else really: the more you do it the easier it gets. These days, and particularly now that we’ve moved to a 30 minute format, I find that the hardest part is editing down an excellent 30 minute interview to less than a third of that. Such a wrench.

What’s the best thing about working with sound?

For me, it’s the little things like matching up a seamless edit, or lining up the start of a quote with exactly the right beat in the music. Making everything flow is engrossing and really satisfying – it’s the same thing that appeals to me about editorial work. Another thing I like is when you listen back to a piece you’ve just recorded, and there’s a spontaneous quote that you think is just gold. I’ve started collecting those quotes as I edit each piece, and using them to top and tail the podcast – it’s one of my favourite parts of every show.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about podcasting?

I haven’t needed this much since my youth radio days, but back then, someone told me that if your voice is a bit rough (cold/too much radio/too much anything else) and you still need to host … pineapple juice. I swear it helps – but if it’s just a placebo, please nobody tell me now!

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

The biggest single lesson is to do everything you can to make sure the recording is clean. Don’t do interviews in echo chambers. Or near air-conditioning. Or outside with a sporadic breeze and an inadequate windsock. There’s nothing worse than listening to a great interview and realising the quality’s too bad to work with.

Making everything flow is engrossing and really satisfying – it’s the same thing that appeals to me about editorial work.

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

I interact with the general Kill Your Darlings audience at events we hold, but I’ve never really received audience feedback in any formal way. I’ve had great discussions with the online editors at KYD though, particularly when I’ve bounced interview or discussion ideas off of them in advance. It’s always wise to have at least one person who can reinforce when you’re onto an interesting topic, as well as talking you down if something is only going to be interesting to you.

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

The Limetown creators, so I can hassle them for Season Two plot points.

What are you listening to at the moment?

About Race just started up again after a hiatus, so I’m really enjoying that right now. Being as it is about race relations and conversations surrounding race in the US, I’m definitely not the intended audience, but it’s fascinating and nuanced and the first season in particular is such a great example of ‘three people have a conversation about a few topics’ done really well.

What’s your favourite Australian podcast, and why?

The Rereaders, which is also a great example of that! The simple summary is three people chatting about three different cultural products (eg. a book, a web series and a film) each episode. They’re smart, passionate about local productions (but not to the extent that they’ll give them a free pass) and great fun to listen to. For me, they’re the podcast version of that friend you have whose opinion you’re automatically curious about whenever you read/watch/see something new. Not because you always agree with them, but you do want to know what they thought and why.

What do you think is unique about Australian audio?

Australian content. It’ll sound a little earnest but when it comes to art or creative work, you’ll never have as many Australian creators or creations discussed or featured in audio made elsewhere, and those conversations are important – both as one more source of information when you go to a bookstore (or a cinema or an exhibition) and as part of a wider national discussion.

What’s next for you as a producer?

More opportunities to geek out with great authors, I hope!