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Staff Feature - Jerry Payne


Staff Feature - Jerry Payne

From the Air Force to Audio Engineer

Jerry has always been a wild child, so when he left the Air Force, it was back to his old ways. It wasn't like he was up to no good, well, unless you consider him playing rock and roll 'no good'! Sometimes it was loud, sometimes it was chaotic, but it was a fantastic way to release all that pent up energy he kept inside while he was in the service.

He always had a love for radio, so when he left the Air Force, he decided to go to college where he majored in communications. After hearing that one of his favorite morning radio hosts would be at a Flaming Lips concert, Jerry went down to search for (and destroy!) him. Without having any idea what he looked like, he somehow found him in the crowd (wearing a Santa Hat), introduced himself, and then lowered the morning host's defenses just enough so he was able to intern for him. He ended up interning with the station for 2.5 years without pay, but he doesn't regret a second of it. That experience was what kicked off his career and got the ball rolling for him.

He eventually worked with a local radio legend named Kim Peterson. Jerry acted as 'the voice of the millennials' by explaining to Kim, a baby boomer, what the heck his generation was doing, and what social media was. It was here where Jerry learned recording techniques, how to make a show compelling, and most importantly, how to tell a story.

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Aside from working as a team leader and audio engineer for Podfly, Jerry also works as a production editor at Impact Partnership, a financial marketing organization that works with financial advisors to help them find new leads. Because some of their financial advisers have their own radio shows, Jerry has access to one of the nicest studios in all of Atlanta. Throughout his career, Jerry went from Rock Radio to Top 40 to Talk Radio, and he's now in Retirement Radio. However, Jerry has no plans on retiring from the industry any time soon.

Deftones, the Gateway Drug to Becoming a Musician


Jerry currently lives in Kennesaw, Georgia. And what do Georgia boys usually do? Well, he grew up on country music until he was 12, but afterwards started listening to the Deftones album Adrenaline, which is when things drastically changed for him. That album made him want to play music and pick up a bass guitar. He would have picked up a 6-string guitar, but he says his fingers were just too fat for it. Jerry doesn't have a passport, but he travels all over the U.S. to see bands and attend concerts. In fact, he's been to the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee 8 years in a row, because he loves real drums, real strings, and people singing. However, when Bonnaroo started having more EDM acts, it was time to move on to other shows in Colorado, California, and more.

When Jerry was in a band, he says the drummer was the best musician out of all three of them. He was a classically trained drummer and very original with the sounds he was able to produce. The band wrote lyrics, but the funny thing was no one wanted to sing them. So, they decided to put a laptop on stage and have the laptop 'sing' in a robot voice as it read the lyrics out loud. Band life was incredibly fun for Jerry and what made this particular band special was how everyone was open to experimenting and trying new ideas. Unfortunately, the band had to be put on hold as the band members’ family commitments began to increase. But, as Jerry says, “The last band I was in was the best band I was ever in.”

How to Tell Engaging Stories

When people try to tell stories, they tend to get caught on the details and sort of derail from there. This can take somebody out of the experience. As William Shakespeare says, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Don't get too caught up in the irrelevant details. Shows like Serial focus a lot on details; however, they always relate it back to the main story. You can do this too by being prepared and by focusing on the larger point you're trying to make. People love to be hypnotized by stories. Jerry believes that stories are the secret to really captivating and maintaining someone's attention.

Another way to tell an engaging story is to slow down. Even Jerry struggles with this. You need to be able to let a simple sentence 'breathe'. If you speak slowly and clearly, people will listen to you in a closer way and it's much more compelling. People try to talk fast because they feel like they need to get all their points out on the table, but if you can just slow it down and let the story breathe, it gives the listener a chance to create an image, or a story, in their head.

Words of Wisdom from a Radio Guy


In the radio business, Jerry was trained to 'create and establish a theater for the mind'. It is so important to create a story for the listeners that is in their head. As the guy or gal behind the mic, you're in control of your audience's imagination. Don't forget that. The perfect example of a host creating this 'theater for the mind' is host Dan Carlin of Hardcore History. He does a 6-part 4 hour episode series on World War 1 and you can just see and smell the battlefield that's he's describing. He's a true master at what he's doing.

How do you turn a hobby podcast (or even a business podcast) into theater? Well, you don't need the whole podcast to become an elaborate story, but do not underestimate the power of what a good example can do for you. Laying out the anecdotal stories in advance and then referencing them casually in the podcast is a great tool people can use. Bring Your Whole Self to Work, a podcast Podfly produces, is a fantastic example of this.

Host Mike Robbins is so polished and comfortable behind the mic while he's telling a story. Jerry really looks forward to listening to what Mike has to say each week because he does a fantastic job at communicating while also making it captivating.

Another tip Jerry learned in radio is to always speak directly into the mic. When hosts are interviewing people, this is a tip people quickly forget as they get distracted and become comfortable in their surroundings. By not speaking directly into the mic, you can lose audio quality and people can miss out on what you're saying. Also, audio quality is the main focal point in a podcast and if you lose it (or if it's low quality), you also lose your listeners. There are so many great sounding podcasts out there, so if yours doesn't sound good, listeners will tune out and not be engaged. This is why it's so important to aim for the middle of the mic, and to stop moving around in your chair while looking at your ceiling! It goes a long way in audio quality.

Oh and one more thing, don't forget you can always do a second take. It's not hard to correct the material or edit it in post-production. So, just be comfortable while you're doing it and don't be afraid to do more than one take until you feel like you've got it down. In this case, more is always better!

Why Podcasts Are a 'Thing'

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Podcasts are growing and radio has taken a backseat. People can get what they want on demand, but Jerry doesn't think radio will ever go away completely. It's still very passive. Afterall, every car has a radio in it. If you can't get cellphone service, you can probably still get a radio station. Due to time constraints in radio, podcasters have much more freedom of expression.

Podcasting has its niches, whereas radio has to be broad to satisfy advertisers and a wide range of listeners. For example, one of our Podfly podcasters, Tim Hanlon of Good Seats Still Available, covers sports leagues and franchises that are no longer around.

He often covers teams that most people have never even heard of. He's trying to preserve history by remembering these precious moments, and unfortunately, a lot of the people involved in these old school teams have passed away and their stories are gone. So, Tim is on a mission to uncover these fascinating stories about teams long past and the podcast format makes it ideal for him to carry out this mission. 

Another benefit about podcasting is when you're talking to someone and they're listening to you, whether they're in their car or at the gym, you have their attention. You're taking their mind off the mundane tasks that they're doing. Jerry believes audio formats like podcasts and radio are more influential than TV or movies because you have an active listener who isn't distracted by what they're seeing.