The host of The Truth in this Art has hosted more than 600 members of the Baltimore and D.C. creative community since launching in 2019.
Baltimore-based journalist and podcaster Rob Lee heralds local creative communities, democratizes the arts and fosters curious conversations through “The Truth in This Art” podcast. Launched in 2019 to combat negative portrayals of his beloved city and reshape the narrative by amplifying the voices of local artists, makers, thinkers and shakers, he has interviewed more than 600 guests. He has more recently expanded the podcast to the District, Philadelphia and New Orleans, while maintaining a distinctly Baltimore flair and focus. We caught up with Rob to talk podcast advice, the process in selecting interviewees and what he does with any downtime. Note: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
District Fray: What’s your best podcasting advice for those starting out? How do you grow your brand?
Lee: I believe there are a few key steps and considerations to keep in mind. First, take the time to map out how you envision your podcast, including its format, goals and desired outcomes. Think about the type of podcast you want to create, the necessary resources and equipment and how long you intend to run the podcast, including the number and duration of episodes.
Secondly, it’s important to recognize that podcasting requires a significant amount of work and stamina. Building a successful podcast takes time and persistence. Emotionally, it’s crucial to have the stamina to keep going, even when the growth may be slower than expected. Many podcasts end prematurely, so understanding the broader market your podcast occupies and having the endurance to stay the course is key.
In terms of growing your brand, I have found consistency and community engagement to be vital. Make your podcast accessible on all podcast platforms, have a strong social media presence and maintain a dedicated website. Actively seek out opportunities such as moderating panels, speaking at events and collaborating with others. Attend community functions, art shows and other events to increase visibility and connect with potential listeners and guests. Regularly assess and analyze the impact of various activities, collaborations and themes in your podcast. Evaluate what worked, why it worked and how it contributed to the growth of your brand.
Ultimately, remember your podcast is not just about you but about democratizing and amplifying the stories of your guests. Strive to create a meaningful connection with your audience and provide a platform for diverse voices and perspectives.
After 600 episodes, what is the best advice you’ve gleaned for up-and-coming artists?
My advice, inspired by the wisdom shared by educator, podcaster and documentarian Aaron Henkin and echoed by countless creatives, is this: Trust in yourself, believe in your unique voice and stay committed to your artistic vision. Embrace the journey of discovery, follow your passion and let your authentic expression shine through. It is by staying true to yourself that you will forge your own path and make a lasting impact in the world of art and creativity.
I’ve encountered similar sentiments throughout my conversations with artists, musicians, visual artists, arts administrators and creators of all types on my podcast. The underlying message is to follow your vision. This advice encourages aspiring artists to stay true to themselves, trust their instincts, and pursue their creative path with unwavering dedication. Through my podcast, I’ve had the privilege of hearing stories and experiences that reaffirm the importance of staying true to one’s artistic vision. It’s a reminder that success in the creative realm often stems from a deep sense of authenticity and a willingness to take risks.
How do you select your interviewees?
I follow my intuition and seek out guests who truly ignite my curiosity. I’m constantly on the lookout for individuals who make me pause and wonder, “How do they do that?” It’s this genuine sense of fascination that drives the heart of my podcast.
Being a cultural curator and podcaster from Baltimore, Maryland, I started “Truth in This Art” as a response to the prevailing narrative that my beloved city is somehow “bad”; I wanted to challenge that narrative and present a more authentic and well-rounded perspective. That’s why I engage in conversations with a diverse range of guests, including artists, community leaders and individuals who contribute to the vibrant culture of Baltimore. I seek out guests whose stories resonate deeply with me.
I also embrace evergreen topics that have a timeless appeal. For instance, in April 2023, I dedicated an entire month to jazz-related interviews that I’m incredibly proud of. This special series brought together musicians, curators and jazz champions from Baltimore, Philadelphia, D.C. and New Orleans, all in celebration of Jazz Appreciation month. It was a project that took years to bring to fruition, and it perfectly exemplifies the dedication and passion I pour into my podcast.
What do you do in your downtime?
In addition to my podcasting pursuits, it’s important to note that I also have a day job. While podcasting plays a significant role in my life, I also understand the importance of downtime and achieving balance.
I have a great appreciation for stand-up comedy, live music and indulging in delicious food. When I visit D.C., I make sure to stop by Eaton Radio, one of my regular spots for podcast recording. Along the way, I can’t resist dropping by Tatte to savor their mouthwatering kouign amann pastries and enjoy a cup of their exceptional coffee.
In Baltimore, the Station North Arts District is where I love to spend my time, particularly at Foraged Eatery. Exploring the local culinary scene and unearthing hidden gems is always an exciting adventure. When it comes to leisurely activities, I find solace in watching movies. I have a particular fondness for cheesy 1980’s action films. Additionally, I’m an avid fan of horror movies and my subscription to Shudder TV allows me to explore the depths of the genre.
The next season of “The Truth in This Art” podcast launches spring 2024. Listen to all episodes on all major streaming platforms and at thetruthinthisart.com.
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