Sydney – Monday 22 May, 2017. With 40 million downloads and counting, S-Town has not only eclipsed the records set by its groundbreaking stablemates This American Life and Serial, but has become a storytelling phenomenon in its own right within hours of its release.
On 29 July, S-Town host and co-creator, Brian Reed, will take to the stage of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall to talk about the podcast’s unlikely backstory and to discuss what has happened since all seven chapters landed on 28 March this year.
When Reed, the senior producer of This American Life, read an email from one John B. McLemore from “Shittown Alabama” in 2014, he had no inkling he was at the start of a story that would take him and co-creator Julie Snyder three years to bring to the world.
S-Town starts out as another podcast whodunnit; John – a clock restorer from Woodstock, Alabama – wanted Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who had allegedly been bragging about getting away with murder. But by the end of episode two, everything changes: someone else ends up dead, and the search for truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.
It builds on the 22-year success of This American Life, the one-hour weekly radio program turned podcast that has revolutionised personal storytelling and shaped a new golden age of audio by celebrating the rich and nuanced complexity of everyday lives.
As Brian Reed told Salon: “We are very aware that this will be a better story, more interesting, if people come across three-dimensionally. That means talking about different sides of people, getting at their complexities, letting them express themselves in the multifaceted ways human beings express themselves... Radio is made of emotion, that’s what the best radio stories have: plot, surprise, unexpected turns. The best radio makes you realise things about the world, and the best components of a radio story are emotion and tenderness.”
Head of Contemporary Performance at the Sydney Opera House Danielle Harvey says: “We are so excited to welcome Brian Reed to the Sydney Opera House to discuss S-Town. As part of our Contemporary Performance program here at the Opera House, we like to celebrate innovators and storytellers, and it will be fascinating to hear from Brian Reed in person and ask those unanswered questions.”
Co-creator of and executive producer of S-Town and Serial and former senior producer of This American Life, Julie Snyder, visited the Sydney Opera House last year to discuss “binge-worthy journalism” at the inaugural BINGEFEST. Catch up on an excerpt of Julie Snyder’s talk on YouTube and catch her interview with Hamish Macdonald on the Opera House podcast It’s A Long Story.
Host and founder of This American Life and editorial advisor of both Serial and S-Town, Ira Glass, visited the Sydney Opera House with his radio-meets-dance production Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host in 2016. Catch a recording of Ira’s workshop for broadcast journalism students on the Sydney Opera House Talks & Ideas podcast.