Amanda Starling knew she wanted to be a writer ever since kindergarden, when she spent her days scribbling down classmates’ quotes with crayon. After writing for an impressive roster of local and regional news platforms, Starling is channeling her passion for journalism and love of independent music into her own podcast, Angry Grrrl Music of the Indie Rock Persuasion.
While the podcast’s name is inspired by the classic 1999 cult film “10 Things I Hate About You,” Starling’s vision for the podcast is singular. Starling is adamant about using her platform to highlight marginalized voices in music and making Angry Grrrl Music a space where her guests can share their stories on their own terms.
Since launching the podcast, Starling has interviewed bands like Slingshot Dakota, Alien Boy, and Retirement Party, as well as music industry moguls behind projects like the Grey Estates and Audiotree. Starling has become a cheerleader for her local scene of Gainesville, FL, and uses Angry Grrrl Music to showcase artists from Florida to around the world.
I caught up with Starling over the phone to talk about falling in love with independent music, starting her own podcast, finding community online, and sharing honest stories.
Name: Amanda Starling (she/her/hers)
Job Title: Founder and host of Angry Grrrl Music of the Indie Rock Persuasion
When did you launch Angry Grrrl Music of the Indie Rock Persuasion, and what inspired you to launch your own podcast?
At the time I was really starting to fall deeper and deeper in love with independent music. I had been going to really cool DIY shows and events like the Fest here in Florida. One of the things that had been standing out to me, I think ever since I was a kid I knew in some way, that there were not diverse lineups on a lot of shows. It was harder to find people that looked like me that were making music and had a platform to share their own voices and experiences.
As I was experiencing this stuff at shows as well as online, I started to realize that there wasn’t a space to really find music and people who work in music that aren’t all straight white guys. That combined with some frustrations that I had with the mediascape covering these bands in general, I realized that I could create that platform and space. A couple of friends had been talking about the idea with me over time, and I finally just found the motivation to start recording. The first episode was with Binary Heart; my friend Erica was kind enough to be my first guest. It was awesome being able to explore that and have those conversations.
Did you ever play music? What was your introduction to music when you were younger?
The first song I remember singing as a small child was “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden. My parents cultivated me a lot with my taste in music. It’s funny, when it came to independent music, and even alternative and pop-punk and stuff, I kind of had this tangled Rapunzel thing where the stuff that had always been a part of my life, I just didn’t realize it — it was, “Oh my gosh, this has been here the whole time.” I grew up watching a lot of teen cult dramas like “One Tree Hill” and “The OC,” and that was infamous for showing a wider audience pop-punk and emo. So that was always a part of my psyche in some way.
In the past couple months I picked up bass guitar, because I wanted to start to be able to talk to my friends as well as future guests a little bit more about the intricacies of writing music. That’s a goal I have for myself. I’m practicing on and off actually now, at the age of 26, how to play music with the hope of writing something or being able to have wider conversations about music.
That’s probably really fun as a long-time music lover and listener, to be able to see the other side and write your own music and engage with it in a totally different way.
Absolutely. That’s a huge part of it — being able to engage with it differently, and get in the mindset of the heads of the people I really admire. The cool part is I’ve had a lot of encouragement along the way. I was just talking to a friend of mine and I’m like, “Do you have any tips for playing music or learning to play bass?” And she’s like, “I still don’t know what I’m doing.” That was such reassurance to me, because it’s like, you don’t have to be an expert on an instrument, you can just go for it and see what happens.
I feel like that’s the phrase that I’ve been hearing the most — “I had no idea what I was doing when I started out, and I just kept doing it.” That can be a really scary thing to do, but a really great lesson to just have the confidence to try something, and if you’re passionate about the project it doesn’t matter how much experience you have, if you want to keep doing it you’ll find a way to make it happen.
Definitely. That’s the same thing I did with this podcast; I have a background in journalism — my degree is in Mass Communication, I used to write for the local newspaper, I did all kinds of media projects all throughout college, but audio was something I had never touched before. I did a couple podcasts with my friend Tyler, and he and I tried different projects over time. That was somebody who taught me the skills in podcasting, but with Angry Grrrl Music, that was the first time I was doing it completely on my own. I barely knew what I was doing — I still think I barely know what I’m doing, but it’s working, so that’s a good sign.
Yeah that’s an awesome lesson to learn; you don’t have to have extensive training or the best gear. If you’re curious and want to learn new things, you can make it happen.
I just bought a cheapo mic off Amazon for $20, and I have a laptop already, and that’s it; I just started hitting record. It was really just, “Let’s give this a go and see what happens.”
Did you have other mentors or other ways you learned how to run a podcast, or was that a lot of trial-and-error and just figuring out what you liked?
Not necessarily mentors, but I definitely found podcasts I love, and that really shaped me a lot. It’s interesting, because with podcasting it’s like anything — if you want to be a good writer you read a lot. With podcasting, I’ve always thought, if you listen to a lot of podcasts, you’re going to pick up things that make a good podcast. When I first started I was listening to a lot of Phoebe Robinson’s “Sooo Many White Guys.” So that was one of the things that shaped my interview style and subject matter. I was listening, and I still do listen to “Better Yet,” which is hosted by Tim Crisp. It was funny because he has a really great gift in having conversations with musicians and getting to the personal side of things, and I knew that was something that I admired and wanted to do for myself with Angry Grrrl Music.
Having voices like those two literally playing in my head as I was planning our episodes made it something that I could begin to shape into my own. I kind of just took fragments of podcasts I listened to and slowly found my way into it. My friend Tyler, like I mentioned earlier, he’s someone who’s been doing really awesome podcasts and audio for a while. He’s got a really awesome career in video editing for Major League Baseball, but he’s been doing that stuff for a long time and he showed me a lot, and that was super helpful in me finding my footing too.
Could you talk a little bit about your background in journalism? What kinds of things did you do before starting Angry Grrrl Music? I know that you write for the Alternative; could you talk about your journey into music journalism and how you manage your schedule right now?
It’s really funny, because I have one of those cheesy stories where I wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. I would play journalist like a little nerd when I was in kindergarden. I would chase people to get interviewed and write something in gibberish in crayon — it was just what I loved to do. For the longest time I’ve wanted to be a journalist, so I ended up going through all the schooling. I did different newspapers when I was in high school, I did the school newspaper as well as getting the really cool opportunity to help launch a high school regional newspaper that our local newspaper published, so it was kind of cool. I was able to do that, that’s where I cut my teeth. Then in college I did a PR Digital media blog that I did for the campus, I also wrote for the university newspaper and I was working part-time in a newsroom. I was able to learn a lot in those experiences, but I had to get a career going outside of journalism.
Fortunately for me I still love it, and I wanted to keep it going but as a hobby. For me, I felt that Angry Grrrl Music was the right place to cultivate that. Because I’m somebody who doesn’t like to sit still, I ended up deciding that I wanted to do a little bit of blogging too, and the Alternative opened up at just the right time, so I’m fortunate enough to be able to contribute to their blog every now and then, help out with some editing. It’s just been a perfect opportunity for me to be able to explore my passions and still have a lot of opportunity outside of that too. It’s been awesome being able to do that. I don’t know how I juggle things — you find something you love and you make time for it, is the best way to put it.
I love that I still get to use these skills, and use it towards good. Unfortunately with the modern media landscape, it’s not friendly to diverse voices still, as much as progressivism is being projected. So it’s nice to be able to take control, and to be able to promote voices that need to be heard, rather than what we’re told should be heard. That’s something that’s really important to me. I’m glad that I can provide that with my podcast. A lot of the time what happens during media cycles is that worlds of artists can be twisted or changed, maybe it’s not the way that the artist intended. I alway tell my guests, “We’re going to tell the story on your terms. If this is something you want to include we’ll include it, if you don’t we won’t. We’ll promote what matters to you, rather than it be what the general public might think matters.” I think that that’s actually been more powerful storytelling. People are more drawn to the first-hand experiences, rather than it being what’s been copied from a PR document.
That’s one of the things that I really admire of your podcast, is most of the time it’s just a long conversation, and it’s really unedited. I think that’s really cool, because things aren’t taken out of context; you can hear the whole conversation. So the interviewee really has as much power as the interviewer to say what they want to say.
That’s definitely something that I’ve aimed to do. I want to make it as true to their voice — because it is their voice — as possible. The most I will do for edits is if somebody told me, “I said ‘um’ a lot” or, “There’s a really long pause, do you mind removing that?” I’m like, “Absolutely. If that’s something that will make you feel more comfortable, I’ll do it.” It’s more so things along those lines that get edited. Or if it’s something that’s said, I like to respect the privacy of the artist. If they feel like they said too much, or maybe they don’t want that word out there, I’ll make changes along those lines. Other than that, I would say 99% of the time it’s a complete raw audio file. I make changes to sometimes improve the quality of it, but beyond that it’s 100% legit. I try to make it feel like you’re in the room with us, like you’re hanging out with us and we’re having this conversation. My favorite podcasts do that; they make you feel like you’re part of the experience. That was always my intent, and I’m glad that you get that.
I think that’s really fun to be in on that conversation and hear these unfiltered and honest opinions.
One of the things that I’ve been told over the time that I’ve been talking to bands, whether it’s with this podcast or other projects, is that bands want to tell people these things. If you came up to them at a merch table and asked them any of the questions I ask them on the podcast, they would be thrilled to answer that question and talk about these things in depth. Even if you aren’t a music writer or involved in music media, don’t be afraid to ask those questions, because artists want to talk about those things with you.
Is there a method that you have for reaching out or finding guests who you want to be guests on your podcast?
The funny part is it really varies. I’d say about a third of the time now, it used to be a lot more, I would just find a band I’m really excited about, whether I found them on a playlist or a band that I’ve been excited about for a long time, I just reach out. I’ll send them an email to their PR person or to the band directly just pitching, “Hey, do you want to be on my podcast?” and explain what it is.
Part of the time I do that, and part of the time I have bands hit me up on social media asking if they can be on the podcast. I usually check them out and give them a green light if I really like their music, because I only want to talk to bands that I’m extremely excited and passionate about, because they deserve my full enthusiasm to promote them.
Sometimes it’s them reaching out, sometimes it’s emails from PR people or labels, so it kind of varies. Sometimes I even have friends hit me up with links to music, telling me who I should check out. In the beginning it was very much me pitching to other people, but now it varies. It’s been really cool, because I’ve had enough responses on both sides of it to be able to do the podcast a year now, weekly episodes, which is awesome, I didn’t think I would ever get to that point.
That’s such a fast clip, I feel like, to be booking guests and recording and editing. That’s such an awesome output to be able to do consistently.
I get lucky, because usually I’ll get bursts where I’ll have a ton of responses at once so I’ll have a week or two where I’m recording a bunch of episodes. Sometimes I get a backlog and I can schedule episodes, and that’s always super satisfying because then I’m not stressing to find guests. It’s been like that for a while now, where it’s very easy for me to get things going. I’m really lucky that so many people reach out and respond and get just as excited about doing this as I am.
How do you go about recording an episode of the podcast?
Once I’ve established a connection with the guest, I set up a Zoom chat meeting, it’s a web conference app. What I do with that is use it for its recording compatibility. I set up the chat, we all log in — I usually do it with video turned on. I don’t ever use the video, but it’s just so that they can see my face and know that I’m not some creepy person on the internet, it puts a face to everything.
We record from there, I usually have some questions, I have [my dog] Bear on my lap the entire time. It’s funny, because I think he makes a lot of guests feel visibly comfortable, because they see a cute dog, and it makes it a little more chill. He’s just hanging out, watching us and listening to us talk. I call him my silent co-host, unlike his sister, my labrador, who normally is getting into trouble while I’m trying to record. That’s something that I do edit out — my dogs’ toys and barking or trying to get attention, because it is a little distracting. Sometimes I leave it in if it’s something particularly cute, but for the most part I clip that out.
I usually do it over Zoom because I like to talk to bands from all over. Being based out of Florida, we do get a decent amount of tours out here, but not everybody can make it, or they’re not in the stage in their career where they can yet. I try to give opportunities to artists of all levels of success, if you will, so if it’s somebody who’s just starting out and is a solo artist who is hanging out in their hometown and making really great music, I want to give them just as much as an opportunity to be on as an established touring artist.
That’s why I use that conferencing app. I just want to be able to talk to people from all over the world — that’s a cool feeling, being able to chat with someone who is on the other coast, or even in another country. I also try to give opportunities to bands that are local to me. I have a lot of local bands here in Florida that are extremely talented. I’m probably considered the local cheerleader at this point for everybody. I try to showcase some of the people who are here too, because we have a really awesome scene across the state, so when I can I try to record a couple of them in-house. We’ll record in my home office, which is really just me and my records. Whenever we record at my house it’s fun because everybody can hang out, and it makes it even more of a relaxing environment sometimes. And on top of that my guests get to experience my dogs on their laps, and that’s even better I think. I think they just help out a lot with nerves, I know they help a lot with mine.
Do you have any other tips for self-motivating? Are there any ways that you motivate yourself to keep going or prevent from burnout?
I think a lot of people don’t talk about this, and I think it’s really important to give yourself breaks. Acknowledge when you’re tired, or whenever you’re stressed, or when other parts of life are becoming more important in the moment. It’s okay to take a break and take care of yourself. Whether it’s to give yourself a couple days off from working for your project, or for me I give myself periodic vacations.
I have a vacation coming up in April, where I’m going to give myself two weeks without recording or editing. If you think about it, if you’re recording and editing and putting out something every single week, those things add up fast. It’s important to acknowledge that you need rest and that you need to take care of yourself throughout everything.
For me, I have not pushed myself quite to the point of burnout, but I’ve acknowledged that I need to take breaks periodically because it’s important for me to give the best that I possibly can to the artists. They’re giving me their time and their voices and trusting me with that, and for me I feel like I should give them my best. If I know I’m tired and I need a break, then I will wait to put out that episode because I want it to be energetic and fun and matching the voice of the artist. So if I need to slow down I will — begrudgingly, because I don’t like to make myself slow down, but I’ll take my time and make sure everything turns out the way I want it and the way that I think will do justice to the artist who I talk to.
The most motivating part of this is actually the interactions I have long-term. I’ve been really fortunate that a lot of these interviews, I’ve walked away with not only this new knowledge about this person who’s making this really awesome project, but I feel like I walk away a lot of the time with a new friend too. I have really awesome interactions online and in-person with so many people that I’ve recorded with that it’s kind of like getting motivated from just hearing from them over time. It’s kind of wild.
My now friends, they have this way of reaching out to me, whether it’s privately on messenger, or on Twitter, at a moment where I need motivation. They must have Jedi senses or something, where they can sense a disturbance where I need that moment. It’s uncanny how they do that. But I get these really awesome messages where people tell me how much the podcast means to them, or just in general happy stuff, like, “I hope you’re having a good day,” or things along those lines, and just that in itself really motivates me to keep making more. What I’ve created has mattered to somebody, and that’s enough to get me to keep going. It’s really special that I’ve made these connections that keep me going. That desire to keep making those connections and keep creating those opportunities for other people, that’s what is really motivation for me at the end of the day.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to start a podcast? Is there anything you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
Don’t be afraid to mess up. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just go for it. Whenever it comes to starting a podcast, it can be really intimidating, because you feel like you have to have the perfect podcast theme, and I’ve realized over time that a lot of podcasts need to grow and develop those things over time. It’s not immediate; you don’t have to have it all figured out at first.
I think that a lot of media sets that tone that it needs to be perfect before you start anything. I don’t think that’s true, especially if you’re doing something on your own. You can just go for it, and you’ll find your confidence over time. It didn’t happen that fast for me. I don’t think I felt like I had a real grip on how I wanted the podcast organized, or the way I wanted my voice to be told maybe about almost a year in.
I’m still learning. It’s cool because as the podcast grew, I grew as a person too. I think if you allow yourself that, it can be something really special.
I think a lot of times what people think of as imperfection is just what makes their voice unique, or what makes their perspective different. I think it’s easy to shy away from those things, but it can be so limiting and so many awesome things can happen when you let yourself make mistakes and fail sometimes.
It’s how you learn and it’s how you grow. As Yoda always says, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” That’s how you learn, and that’s how you grow and develop. I think another thing is too, is to know that whatever you make isn’t going to be for everyone. You don’t have to please everyone with what you make. You just have to find a way to resonate with the people who matter to you the most.
For me, I realized that the people who matter the most for me are people who are members of marginalized communities. If I make something that makes them feel just as important as everybody else, that makes them feel that they have a voice and a platform, and an opportunity, then I’m servicing them at the forefront. Anybody else is just extra. It’s nice whenever I have people who identify as straight cis men, it’s nice when I have their support, but I’m not doing this for them. I’m doing it for the people who need the platform.
For me, to focus in on the right community, and the people who need that, I feel like that’s been a great service to creating something. It’s just been knowing who matters to me, and focusing on them. If you have an idea of who you want your audience to be, and really love and value that group of people, then you can create something awesome for them.
Open your ears to other voices in the music community. There are a lot of really talented people out there that end up at the bottom of tour flyers or lineups. Those are the voices that really need your ears the most. Support local bands, and give opportunity to people who don’t look like you. That’s the biggest thing that I can stress.
You can listen to episodes of Angry Grrrl Music of the Indie Rock Persuasion on Podbean, iTunes, and Spotify. Keep up with the podcast on Facebook and Twitter.