Phoenix is a weird place. There’s so much happening here, but it’s hard to keep your finger on the pulse. With so many creatives flourishing in the cities and suburbs of the Sonoran, it’s important to anchor yourself to some local coolhunters that can wade through the murk to find those hidden gems.
Jared Duran is one such figure. The Arizona writer and podcaster has been highlighting some of the interesting figures found in the local landscape through conversation on Limited Engagement Podcast since 2016.
I turned the tables on Jared Duran and berated him with questions about podcasts, podcasting, and where you can find him when he’s not, you know, working on podcasts…
What first got you interested in podcasting?
After some health issues about five-ish years ago, I started getting in shape and running and I already listened to music constantly, so I wanted something to mix it up. I’d heard about Marc Maron’s WTF and decided to check it out. I became semi-obsessed with the show and Maron’s comedy, and I started thinking, wouldn’t it be great if there were a show like WTF, but featuring writers in Arizona?
I really took to the way Maron was just having a conversation with people, connecting through the things around a person’s work that ultimately inform their work, before diving in and getting to the specific structures and processes and I thought, I could do that, I could do that show.
Then I started listening to some other shows…Nerdist (now ID10T), FEaB…I’ll try any podcast Matt Mira is on at least once…then there’s Gilmore Guys–I’ve become weirdly addicted to that one.
Can you tell me a little bit about the intended purpose of Limited Engagement?
The purpose of Ltd is to have deep discussions with the creators and purveyors of arts and culture–writers, artists, musicians, actors…but also non-profit literacy organizations, record store clerks, and venue owners. As a pop culture junky, I feel the behind the scenes stuff, the avenues and outlets are just as important as the creators.
Part of the reason I was interested in doing this show is that it did not seem like these conversations were being had outside of the academic community, and I wanted to make that available. Initially in a live setting, but I found that the better, more insightful conversations were being had away from the audience, which is why I ultimately quit doing the live show. I also wanted these conversations to be more accessible–less stuffy and structured than something you’d go to at ASU.
I don’t do any research beyond a person’s work, and I don’t prepare any questions–except one time I prepared questions for interviewing Robyn Hitchcock, because he’s a musical hero of mine, and I was super nervous, but I wound up abandoning the questions partway through. For me, it’s become necessary to do things that way.
Not everyone wants to talk about their creative process, so if you reveal more about who they are–whether through their influences, their family, their politics and personal philosophies–I think you actually get an even better idea of why they produce the work they do than if I were to just ask the direct questions.
When did you launch the podcast?
The first show I did and recorded was in May of 2015, but I didn’t start posting shows until September 2016. The first year was all live in front of an audience. I decided to post every single one I’d recorded, even if the sound quality was not the greatest, because those guests had given me their time and shared a lot of great stuff. It was hard to go back and listen to those shows because by the time I posted them, I’d already learned so much about the process, but I thought it was important to put them all out there anyway. If you listen from the beginning, not only do you hear the evolution of the show, but you hear me figuring out how everything works.
Are you from AZ? If not, what brought you to the area?
My family moved out here from Southern California when I was 10, and I’ve been out here ever since–it’s actually 25 years now. I’ve always felt an affinity for cities, L.A. specifically, and it’s been great to see Phoenix become what it has over the last ten years or so. Being downtown now, it’s just beginning to feel like home. But then, I’m a very anxious guy–it takes me a long time to get settled.
Outside of podcasting, what can folks find you doing?
I feel like I’m doing stuff constantly now–it’s a good feeling. I’m tired, but it’s a good feeling. Every other Wednesday I’m over at Fair Trade recording Jessie Balli’s storytelling open mic, Chatterbox, which in podcast form is called ChatterPod. There are several podcast projects out there in various stages where I’m just doing recording and post-production.
My partner, Janell, and I have a business, Hoot N Waddle, which is evolving into a podcast co-op and now, starting in the fall, we’re taking on publishing, so that’s very exciting. I started working with Four Chambers Press right after the first issue of the journal came out. For the last two years or so, Janell and I have been managing the single author collections for Four Chambers from layout/design and editorial standpoints respectively, and now we’re going to incorporate that into our own thing.
I’m out at poetry readings and open mics fairly often, I just started sticking my toe in the shallow end of the very deep storytelling pool… I like to sit and write in coffee shops when I have time… Beyond that I can be spotted in the stacks at Changing Hands, Stinkweeds, and Zia (see above confession of pop culture junkiedom)…
I also love live music–that’s probably my favorite thing. If you see an awkward looking guy with black, horn-rimmed glasses and a crazy Jew-fro at a venue, it’s probably me.
I play guitar in my living room a lot if anyone wants to come over.
So, I know neither one of us is quite young enough to have grown up with the ambition of becoming a podcaster, but it seems like you have a very diverse set of interests. Do you consider yourself an artist? And, if so, are you a pursuant of only certain modes? I, for example, am a writer who occasionally dabbles in other things (like visual art or performance). Or, between poetry and music and performance, are you more a jack-of-all-trades type?
I’m definitely a writer first and foremost. My degree had a concentration in poetry, and that’s primarily what I’ve had published, but I also write short prose and creative non-fiction. My main influences are pretty varied and come from music and film in addition to literature–Raymond Carver, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, and Chris Difford are a few I’d give credit to off the top of my head.
You mentioned some podcasts already, but I wanted to delve a bit more. Do you have some personal favorites or shows you never miss?
Podcasts I love: WTF, Nerdist/Id10t, FEaB, Gilmore Guys, Star Trek the Next Conversation, The Writers Panel w/Ben Blacker…
Any new podcasts that have recently caught your fancy?
I started listening to Prizefighting Kangaroo, because I’m friends with Ashley, and now I’ve gotten to meet and talk to Amy, which is great. I’m an obsessive listener, so when I find a new podcast I love, I go and start from the beginning. Then, I don’t pick up a new one until I’ve caught up with that one. I probably have about 100 or so Gilmore Guys episodes left, and once I catch up with those, I’ll find a new one to add to the mix.
Have you encountered any major guests incidents in the time since you started Limited Engagement? No one took mescaline and decided to perform a musical number, right?
Nothing so far. Everyone’s been really nice.
Okay, for reals, dream guest for Limited Engagement?
It’s really hard for me to pin down a dream guest. Most of the people I knowingly want to have on the show are musicians, because I’m a music nut. Top ones are probably Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze, Neil Finn, Neko Case, Aimee Mann, and Elvis Costello. I’d really like to talk to Neil Gaiman, too, and Jonathan Lethem I think.
I love talking to people whose work I admire and has moved me or impacted my life in some way. Pinning it down to one dream guest is impossible for me, because I’m such a pop culture junkie, there are literally thousands of people I would want to have on the show…pretty much anyone in my music, book, and film collections–anyone who is still alive at any rate. Dead people aren’t terribly conversational.
Do you have a favorite guest from past shows? Is that terrible to ask? You can tell me, I’ll probably print this whole thing…
I don’t have a favorite guest. If pressed, I’d say my conversation with Robyn Hitchcock was probably the most important, but more because it marked a change in direction and style for the show. Yes, Hitchcock is one of my favorite musicians, but his was also the first edition of the show that was recorded one-on-one, away from an audience. It made me decide that I wanted to move away from the live setting which led naturally to much more meaningful conversations, because my guests weren’t concerned with entertaining the audience.
Any advice you’d offer folks looking to get into the podcast game? Other than buy more foam.
I have a tendency to just do things and then figure them out as I go. That’s not for everyone. Limited Engagement grew up very publicly as I figured out the show’s style, learned how to use the equipment and the software–kind of a backwards way of doing things, but I did it, and I’m proud of the show.
Probably the best advice I can give anyone is to do something they’re passionate about. Don’t wait around or make excuses, because that leads to regret and missed opportunities–pretty much how I lived until I was 30. Sometimes in order to do the thing you want to do, you have to be willing to fall on your ass, but that’s okay, you get up and keep going.
In my experience, people are very forgiving if you’re passionate and honest, because that shows through in the work, and they see or hear that, and they’re willing to take the journey with you and support you along the way.
Follow along with Jared’s adventures in podcasting by following Limited Engagementd and keep up-to-date about all the interesting conversations to come!