What makes our job at PBJ so exciting is not only being able to meet the next generation of audio stars, those that are extremely passionate about their ideas, it’s being able to interview many that successfully execute those ideas. Scott Johnson is a great example of what we mean.
Johnson is the host of “What Was That Like.” Each episode is an interview with a regular person who’s been through some type of extremely unusual situation. And Scott came out of the gate with one of the most compelling stories possible. He interviewed a lady who accidentally killed someone. She collided with a motorcycle rider in an intersection by her home. The man later died from his injuries. Lives were changed in an instant.
Scott now has 17 episodes, including a woman who crashed a skydive landing, a man who fell through the ice and a lady that survived a mass shooting. Scott’s goal is to never be boring and he wants listeners to see his episode title and say, “Yeah, I HAVE to hear that story!”
PBJ: Who is Scott Johnson?
Scott: I’m just a guy with a never-ending curiosity! There are a lot of interesting people in the world and I’m on a constant hunt for people with a great and unusual story.
But to answer the question more specifically, I live in Safety Harbor, Florida with my wife and daughter and our two Yorkies, Lilly and Fenway. I work from home by running my computer services business. I’ve completed several ultramarathons and in my spare time I collect bikes and give them to homeless people.
PBJ: How did you get into podcasting?
Scott: Back in 2012, I had already been doing a weekly blog for my computer business for about 10 years. I somehow discovered podcasting and figured there would be a lot of advantages to having a show of my own, to reach an additional group of people (those that prefer to listen to audio rather than just read a blog). So I started the podcast with the skilled help of Dave Jackson (SchoolofPodcasting.com) and that show has over 300 episodes now. Then in early 2018 I had an idea for another show that was completely unrelated to computers, and decided to call it What Was That Like.
PBJ: How did you come up with the concept for What Was That Like?
Scott: I found that when listening to podcasts, the episodes that most affected me, and that I most enjoyed, were the ones that “touched a nerve” in some way. Most shows are fairly superficial (which is fine) but I wanted something where I could hear people talking about deeper, more emotional experiences. And I couldn’t really find any podcast doing that on a regular basis. So I guess my primary motivation for creating this show was because it was something that I really wanted to listen to. And when do you find people displaying that raw, human emotion? When they’re telling a story about some incredible experience that that they’ve gone through (and incredible can be good OR bad). That’s why I look for guests who have that kind of story to tell.
PBJ: Where do you find the guests?
Scott: When I first started planning for guests, I made a list of some people who I wanted to talk to. Like someone who had survived being struck by lightning, someone who had won millions in the lottery, that kind of thing. Then I would just go down the list and look for those stories online, and contact the people to see if they wanted to have a conversation about it. And for some of the stories, I have just seen the story in the news and knew it would be a good one for the show, so I contacted those people as well.
My very first episode was with Jen, a young mother in Texas who accidentally caused a death. It’s still one of my most popular episodes.
PBJ: How odd/difficult was it calling and setting up an interview with someone who caused a fatal accident.
Scott: I wasn’t sure what to expect, since she would be my first guest and my first episode. She didn’t have the luxury of looking at my past episodes to know what to expect, and she took some time to think and pray about it. I was very clear that if there was any aspect that she didn’t want to talk about, I wouldn’t ask her about those parts. But she was very open and transparent, and told an amazing story. Even though it had happened two years before our conversation, she was still working through it and dealing with the trauma of the event. That’s part of what made me a little nervous, fearing that I would say something stupid or insensitive. I always want to make sure the story is told, but without crossing the line of being exploitative or gratuitously shocking. In most cases, just the details of the story are all that are needed for the listener to really feel the weight of it. A couple of times in that episode, Jen is in tears while recounting what she went through. I am really humbled and honored that a guest feels comfortable enough to open up and be vulnerable that way.
PBJ: How did you get access to the 911 call?
Scott: Every city or town has a department that handles the audio files for those calls. In some cases, they cannot be released (usually that’s because the case is still open). Some places charge a small fee for the audio, and some don’t. In this case, I contacted the police department in that rather small town, and the lady I worked with was very helpful in getting me the file. There was more than one 911 call, and one of them was the actual call that Jennifer made from the scene. The first time she heard that call herself was when the podcast episode came out. I think listening to that call was part of her progress in dealing with the situation, and I was so proud of her for being able to hear it.
PBJ: How are you getting the word out?
Scott: I’m promoting my show in a variety of strategic methods. I could probably write a long article on just this topic. My methods include email, social media (I have 6 different ways just to use Reddit), my other podcast, other shows, local radio, local meetups, and more. But none of that would be all that effective without really compelling content. I want people to see the title of my new episode and think, “Oh, I HAVE to hear that story!”
PBJ: What equipment/hosting company/ editing equipment etc. are you using?
Scott: My mic is the basic standard – the Audio Technica ATR2100. I use Squadcast (squadcast.fm) to schedule and record all my interviews. Fantastic service. After the conversation, I download my audio and my guest’s audio in separate tracks and edit that using Hindenburg Journalist. Once that’s done, I run everything through Auphonic. Show notes are uploaded to my site at WhatWasThatLike.com, and the media files are hosted at Libsyn. When a new episode goes live, I post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using images created using Adobe Spark.