In May 2019, Wintana Kidane and Rahel Davies created Bittersweet Podcast – a weekly talk series centred around self-discovery, culture, relationships and life.
In this edition of Working with Sound, the pair reflect on the discipline and courage it takes to create and sustain your own platform.
What piece of audio has had the most profound effect on you – as a listener, as an audio maker or both?
Rahel: One of the most inspiring pieces of audio for me was the third season of the podcast Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig. In this season, the hosts spend a year tracking typical cases within a Cleveland courthouse. By reporting on these seemingly ordinary cases, they were able to expose the troubling machinery of the American criminal justice system. The reason this podcast had such an effect on me, was because I could see the capability of audio creators to uncover and highlight dysfunction, discrimination and a need for series change.
Wintana: Passing Through by Nneka Julia is one of the first podcasts I started listening to and is still by far one of my faves! Her storytelling is unmatched! I remember listening to her episodes, which by the way are very relatable, and being hooked on each one. Something about her execution is so captivating.
Where else do you find influence or inspiration for your work?
R: I get a lot of my inspiration by listening to other people speak about things they are passionate about. Whether they be an academic, another podcaster, a journalist – even friends and family members. I love to listen and take in different points of views and opinions and let them inform my own.
W: I definitely get a lot inspiration from a combination of day-to-day conversations I have with the people around me and the content I consume, whether it be through other podcasts or social media. I feel like I’m always finding new perspectives that spark my interest.
Where do you work? And what tools help you the most?
R: Right now, Wintana and I record at home, using our own microphone. I think it is really helpful for us to be able to work in our own space. Being able to speak openly together, in a comfortable environment, really helps with brainstorming podcast ideas, as well as scripts, social media planning, and whatever else comes up!
W: Before Covid-19 hit, we were recording in a studio but now we have a mini-studio set up at home. We’ve definitely come a long way, from recording and editing on our phones, to using actual podcasting equipment. We invested in a mic and proper editing software. Honestly, I’ve never been a tech savvy girl so learning the ropes has been a fun challenge.
Where did the idea for Bittersweet come from?
R: I think the idea of our podcast came from moving to London. We were both very inspired by the creative and entrepreneurial culture we saw in London, specifically the scene cultivated by young people of colour. This was a culture we wanted to see more of in Melbourne.
W: Rahel and I actually met overseas, in London, and we were amazed by the spaces available for people of colour to exist and create in the mainstream media – something that is almost non-existent in Australia. We were always having conversations about representation, culture and self-discovery, in the comfort of our homes, so we thought, why not make a podcast?
What is your favourite part of making Bittersweet?
R: My favourite part has been the continuous learning and personal growth I have experienced. Creating and maintaining Bittersweet has required a lot of discipline and courage. It’s also pushed me to learn and dig deep into new ideas and philosophies that I would not necessarily even think about in my normal day-to-day life.
W: Right now, I’m so excited about a new project we’ve started called Shifting Culture. Once a month, we’re holding a space to have meaningful and empowering conversations with accomplished women of colour that are breaking barriers and contributing to the evolution of the culture. Ultimately paving a way for the next generation. I love it! It’s conversations like these that push me to keep creating.
What is the biggest challenge working on Bittersweet?
R: The biggest challenge for me is being so open and transparent in each episode we record. It is a lot of pressure thinking about the fact that strangers (and friends) are listening and potentially critiquing your every word.
W: I guess I would say consistency. We’re a team of two, so having to do the recording, editing, marketing, social media, reaching out to artists, emails etc can be a lot to juggle at times, but it’s definitely worth seeing the project come into fruition. I always have to remind myself to take it easy and not burn myself out … it also helps to have a schedule.
What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about podcasting?
R: The best advice I think we have received is the importance of networking! I cannot underestimate the ample amounts of advice and opportunity we have gained from all the people we have met through Bittersweet.
W: ‘Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you want to collaborate with.’ Best advice! People are usually open to collaborating, especially if your platform aligns well with theirs. This was great because it really allowed us to branch out and connect with some amazing people.
As an audio maker, what have been your biggest lessons so far?
R: I think the biggest lesson I have learnt so far is the importance of being proactive in what we do. There are a lot of days where I just want to turn on Netflix and watch a movie instead of producing or recording an episode. But I have never regretted the time and effort both Wintana and I have put into Bittersweet – every single second of it has been completely worth it because we have been able to create something so significant and impactful.
W: Be authentic, to yourself and to your project. Sometimes it can really be difficult to put your work out, because of criticism or your discomfort, but it’s important not to compare yourself to others and to find your own voice. Also have fun with it!
Do you think the work you make reflects your personality? If so – in which ways?
R: Yes! My work definitely reflects my personality. I always make it a point to be authentically myself in every episode we do. I think considering the types of topics we cover, our listeners want us to be real and honest in our opinions and the ways we present ourselves. I also find it a lot more relaxing just to be myself!
W: Yes, absolutely! All the topics we discuss on Bittersweet are topics I’m passionate about and interested in. I’ve always been an advocate for representation and progressive evolution and that’s what Bittersweet is about. Being able to create our own platform, where I’m free to express myself, my views and also learn perspectives along the way, is definitely an accurate reflection of my personality.
If you could go out to dinner with any audio maker, who would it be – and what would you talk about?
R: I would love to sit down and have a conversation with Oprah Winfrey. Her podcast, Supersoul Conversations, was one of the first podcasts I ever listened to! She just inhabits so much knowledge, understanding and experience on so many different topics that I can imagine us sitting and talking for days.
What are you listening to at the moment?
R: Right now I am listening to, Where Should We Begin with Esther Perel.
W: Life, I Swear by Chloe Dulce Louvouezo
What’s your favourite Australian podcast, and why?
R: My favourite Australian podcast is, Always Was, Always Will be, Our Stories. The stories told on the podcast inspire me as an individual as well as a podcaster.
W: I’m really liking Bobo and Flex. Love their transparency and the fact that I’m always gaining perspective on something after an episode.
What – if anything – do you think distinguishes Australian audio? What would you like to hear more of?
W: I think Australian audio is really growing at the moment and because of that you’re getting so much variety in content. I want to see more diversity in the audio world. I think people of colour have unique stories that could really benefit the progression of this space.
R: We really want to continue to build our platform and audience. We are working on creating new content that is real and relatable to our listeners. We also want to inspire our audiences by doing more collaborations with other creatives of colour and inspirational women who are changing the game by contributing to the overall progression and evolution of Australian media and popular culture.
W: As I mentioned earlier, we just a launched a new project called Shifting Culture. This will be something we’re strongly focusing on. We’re really excited for more collaborations!