David McCreath - It Might Get Personal
Regular people play music!
Posted Photo by Katie Spence.
Who are you and what do you do for a living?
I’m David McCreath and I work on the Internet for a living. Currently that takes the shape of doing customer and technical support at Slack, but I got my start as a designer, did middleware and backend for a while, and most recently finished up eight years of doing front end development at Mule Design.
Did It Might Get Personal start as a result of Mule’s podcast network? Was it something you were working on beforehand?
The idea for IMGP was bubbling around for close to a year before Mule Radio got going, but the network is definitely what gave me the nudge to actually start making episodes. When we decided to commit company time to the network, it was like a bunch of kids putting on a show. Everyone had an idea for a podcast, and basically anyone who had an idea could put it on the network.
How long have you been playing music for others?
The very first public singing that I did was in the kids’ choir at my family’s church. After that there were some violin recitals and high school choir stuff. But the first time I played guitar on stage was when I was 15, accompanying my high school show choir on a medley of Beach Boys songs (think Glee, but without the dancing). I’d been taking lessons for about six months and was still playing everything with your basic cowboy chords, but it was everything I’d hoped it would be.
How do you think a song changes between when someone sings onstage versus to a single person, and where do you think performing for the podcast falls?
Well, the biggest obvious difference is intimacy. There are musicians who can make a performance on stage feel very intimate, but my feeling is that the way they do that is by not singing to a giant room full of people, but to someone very specific. That may be an imagined person or it may be themselves. On the other hand, when one person is singing directly to or for one other person it is by definition intimate, just like talking. Singing tends to be a more emotional expression. Not saying that it always is, but even watching someone sing a nursery rhyme, you can see them get happier.
So where does the podcast fall? I think it’s a little weird for some people, and intimate might not be the right word for it. There is an intimacy to it, but the guests don’t really sing to me. You can tell some of them are singing to someone. Sometimes I think it’s another version of themselves, like they’re both the audience and the singer.
I think recording in a studio might feel strange to people who’ve never been in one, and having all the microphones and lights and camera definitely makes it something other than singing in the shower or car. But the studio where we record right now is a small room, like the size of a living room maybe. Definitely not one of those giant cathedral looking studio rooms you see, and I think that helps some.
Do you have a sense of how your guests have found the experience? Are there any themes in their reactions?
The ones without any real singing experience have said almost universally that it was hard to get up the nerve, but they felt glad for having done it. The more experienced singers generally seem to have a good time. There have only been a couple of episodes where the guest and I agreed that we needed a do-over.
How did you decide on the video podcast format? I don’t know a lot about the podcast scene, but it seems like video podcasts often get short shrift when it comes to podcasting apps on iOS. Some don’t support them at all. Did you worry about that when you were starting?
Videos are definitely not the most common format. I think most people think of podcasts as something you turn on while you’re doing other stuff; not something to really sit with. But that’s the opposite of what I want IMGP to be. I want people to stop what they’re doing for 5 or 10 minutes and watch the podcast. So, no, I never worried about it. I think it’s absolutely the right format for this podcast. I don’t know how many people actually do stop and watch, but that’s the goal.
One of my biggest inspirations for this podcast was NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. There were two things in particular that I thought work really well. First, it’s fun to watch people sing. Sure, if it’s your favorite band doing your favorite songs, just listening to a really exciting live recording can be really fun. But if it’s one song, and it’s someone who may be inexperienced, watching just makes it better. Second, they keep it short. 15–20 minutes (some run longer, but not that often.
I don’t think I’ve ever covered how a project is supported financially on the site before. You don’t have company sponsors – you’ve chosen to use tugboat to get support from your community. What effect, if any, do you think that has on the show?
I’ve gotten a bit here and there. When I very first started with Tugboat, I made a concerted effort to push it and raise some money, and I got enough to buy a new camera. It was great. But fundraising is a crapload of work. You really have to stay on top of it all the time for it to pay off. I think if I couldn’t afford to make the show on my own, I’d be more inclined to keep at it. But I’m fortunate enough to be in a position of being able to foot the bill, so I get to do exactly what I want. Any guest I want, any song I want, any skill level I want. It’s pretty great.
You were your own guest for the last episode, what was the experience of being on the other side of it like?
Oh, I love doing my own episodes. I’ve done three of them: 10, 27, and 49. If I didn’t think people would get sick of me, I’d probably do one every session, which would make me the guest on every fourth episode or so. The main thing for me to remember is to actually think about what I’m going to say about the song before I sit down to talk. Otherwise I’ll just ramble and drift and get off topic and probably say something inappropriate.
The last post was posted at the end of September, but recorded on August 15th, and you said you were going to be taking a break and figuring out how to try some new things. Have you been on break long enough to know what some of those new things are? Can you share some of the things you’re excited to try?
The last episode was actually posted on August 15. [Editor’s note: oops] I had intended to be up and running again by now, but there’s been a lot of life happening, so it’s going to be at least another month or so before we get anything up. Here are some of the things we’ll be trying in the future:
- Using multiple cameras
- Doing more out-of-studio recording (like Episodes 36 and 37, which I recorded at a conference in Chicago)
- Possibly recording some San Francisco’s street musicians
- Figuring out how to work with remote guests (I have a list of people from out of town who want to be on the show)