Middle America is the new series premiering this Friday on WCBU. It features protagonist Wendell Bauer, who guides you through unique Central Illinois and personal stories, all interwoven with local music. Daniel Musisi spoke with show creator and producer Jared Grabb to learn more.
Jared Grabb: I perform the podcast as a fictional character Wendell Bauer, and it's largely about Peoria history with some fictional memoir stuff thrown in to try and give some emotional depth to what might be dry history otherwise, and trying to just get people into the story more.
Daniel Musisi: What is it about Peoria history that drew you in? And what is it about the history that you find so interesting?
Jared Grabb: Early in my musical career, like in the early 2000s, I was in a punk band called Scouts Honor and rock band called The Forecast. And in those two bands, I was singing a lot about being from here and the conflict of growing up here and kind of resenting the town but then trying to find the positives of living here as well, even though feeling like I wanted to see the world. In recent years, I've kind of been revisiting that feeling of writing about where I come from, only now as a parent, and somebody who's returned from touring all over the world, and, and just kind of seeing this place in a new light. So I made a record called Among Thieves with a full band, which is all Peoria stories. While I was doing that, I was just like, there's so much more here than what I can fit in a bunch of three-minute songs. And I love podcasts. I've been an avid podcast listener for a decade now. I really wanted to see if I could do it myself.
Daniel Musisi: Can you talk a little bit about the format of the podcast? So you're a musician, you've got music in there, kind of woven in between the different elements in the podcast. And you've got a lot of Peoria history. And then you have stories from Wendell Bauer.
Jared Grabb: So it's about one third each way: music, and fictional memoir, and history. Like I definitely see it as an art podcast, not a straight history podcast. The history is just one of three avenues kind of to express ideas in a more general sense. The music is generally mine, although I've been featuring one song or so per episode that's by another Peoria artist. Just because I after making the first episode, I was like, this is an avenue that I have to expose this other world of listeners to a lot of great music that's from here that I truly love… trying to have a sound sonically that's from here, along with stories that are from here.
Daniel Musisi: With the historical element of it, is it safe to say that, that stuff is primarily historically accurate?
Jared Grabb: I'm trying my best. So, I'm not a history professional. But as a fan of history, I'm trying my best to make sure that all the history is true history. The history was important to me, because it was another way of talking about this place and these people that I have, and that our character Wendell has a kind of love/hate relationship with. There's definitely a lot of that conflict happening throughout the show, just trying to deal with the complexities of human relationships and relationships to a place.
Daniel Musisi: Is there anything that you'd like to say about what you hope the listener gets out of listening?
Jared Grabb: I hope that people can get lost in it a little bit. That's really what I love about storytelling and podcasting. Is just being able to get lost in a story and forget where you are just a little bit. I would love it if people can get that out of it.
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