Welcome to an ongoing series, “Better Know a Podcast”. Each column will feature a smaller podcast you may not have heard of. Shout out to the great community at /r/Podcasts for the suggestions.
What is The Secret Room?
The Secret Room is described as “the podcast where people anonymously share secrets they’ve never told anyone, and we all get to hear them. The podcast features the most intimate stories you might not even tell your best friend”. The subject matter is broad, and topics include death, relationships, sex, music, vices, and even lighter topics such as guilty TV pleasures.
The podcast hosts are Dahlia Beta and Ben Hamm. Each podcast has either one or two stories in which Beta or Hamm interviews subjects on their deepest, darkest and most intimate secrets.
You’ll Like The Secret Room if You Like:
- This American Life
- The Moth
- Vinyl Cafe Stories
Review of The Secret Room
Review #1: “Bee Gees/Breakmaster Cylinder”
The first episode that was listened to was entitled “Bee Gees/Breakmaster Cylinder”. This episode features two stories, one with Dahlia’s parents, and another with the creator of the theme song for the show.
In the first story, Dahlia’s father recalls a story in which he sold drugs to the Bee Gees in the 1970s. It’s quite a humorous story, and Dahlia tries to make sense of the story by recanting Bee Gees lyrics to link their accused drug using to their song lyrics.
The second podcast is an “interview” with their theme song creator Breakmaster Cylinder. I say “interview” as Breakmaster’s answers to his (hers?) questions are different music clips spliced together. Think Bumblebee from the Transformers series of movies. The technical production of this is actually really impressive and remarkable, and is clearly an episode for the hosts to be proud of.
This originality of this episode proves to me that if the team wants to play with the genre to create new and interesting ways they have the capabilities to do so. I strongly recommend any new listener of The Secret Room start with this episode.
Review #2: “Arson: A Love Story”
The next podcast episode I listened to is their season two premiere, which drops the day this post was published (September 19, 2016). The podcast starts with a short-yet-hilarious story with a man telling a story of a nurse catching him in a let’s say, uncomfortable position.
The feature of the story focuses on an interview with Hamm and their guest Kathy who has a lengthy story about her ex-husband. I don’t want to ruin the story as it’s filled with some good mystery, but I’ll leave with you that the story and episode as a whole is a strong start to Season 2. Hamm comes from a radio background, and it shows, as he is a strong and engaging interviewer. The story takes some twists and turns and has all the elements of a great podcast story, including death and a broken marraige.
Finding the Podcast
Hamm and Beta are quite adept at the technical side of podcast production, so I expected no issues with finding the podcast. It is on iTunes, and is easy to find via search on all popular podcast apps. There are also no technical issues with photos or episodes appearing. The team at The Secret Room also is active on all social media platforms as well, making the podcast brand accessible online.
Quality of Production
I am extremely impressed by the quality of production in The Secret Room podcast. The audio is very well balanced, and mixes the audio coming in different ears at times that opportune to do so.
Like many popular podcasts, the stories are told with background music which suits the theme and tenor of the stories. The theme was created by Breakmaster Cylinder, the same creator behind the theme song of Reply All, which is an impressive get for a smaller podcast such as The Secret Room. It was also a smart move by Beta and Hamm, as it gives some name recognition to The Secret Room for listeners that are browsing for new podcasts to listen to.
While the storytelling genre in podcasts is crowded, I feel that the production quality combined with the strong hosts and stories, allows The Secret Room to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the genre. Storytelling podcasts obviously rely heavily on their subject matter and how strong the guests are, so in order to keep building strong episodes, the team will need to keep finding interesting stories to tell.
This brings me to another point in regard to their potential. The Secret Room has opportunities to do some interesting play on the storytelling genre, by showcasing stories that aren’t even necessarily true. This has already been accomplished via the “Breakmaster Cylinder” story, so it’s not far fetched to see them go further down this road with these types of creative stories if they so choose.
I should note that at the end of each episode, Dahlia and Ben banter back and forth and discuss some of the news surrounding The Secret Room and reflect on the podcast that was just listened to. In some of the iTunes reviews, some listeners seemed critical of this banter and wished that the hosts stuck to the stories. I disagree with this criticism, as the banter gives Ben and Dahlia personality and helps you get to know their background and motivations. This type of host back-and-forth is, in my opinion, very important in podcasts in order to have the listeners develop strong relationships with their hosts. So for that reason, I’m glad that they’ve included this type of informal discussion.
All in all, the Secret Room has a very strong future potential. I’m excited to listen to future episodes, and have great confidence in the hosts that they can push the storytelling podcast genre forward in new and creative ways.
Conversation with The Secret Room Hosts
1) I like the premise of the show. Everyone’s got a secret, right? What made you choose this topic as your podcast?
There are a ton of great storytelling podcasts out there. We wanted to take a different approach. We wanted to think of a way to push the storytelling genre forward. What better way than with stories people never tell?
2) Can you give me some background on yourselves (Dahlia and Ben)? Do you have day jobs? What motivated you to make a podcast to begin with?
Ben: I’ve been in radio my whole career, once I discovered podcasts I know it was a medium I wanted to explore. Plus it’s getting me back to my producing roots and I love it.Dahlia: I’m an avid podcast listener, singer, photographer, and basically creative type. When Ben asked me to host and produce the podcast with him, I loved the idea–an opportunity to be creative and make something people want to listen to.
3) Super impressed with what was going on with the audio there in “Episode 4: Bee Gees/Breakmaster Cylinder”. Can you give me some background on how BMC became part of your show?
We heard BMC’s music and work on Reply All right around the time we started working on The Secret Room. We reached out to BMC to see if we could get some help with our theme song. BMC agreed, and the rest is history! Ben had the idea for a digital interview, and BMC responded with music.
4) Are you guys podcast fans? What podcasts would you recommend to others that perhaps aren’t on everyone’s top 10 lists?
Dahlia: I have…diverse tastes in podcasts I think. I’ve been following My Dad Wrote a Porno for a while. I love the cringe-worthy Belinda. I also can’t go a week without listening to Hello From the Magic Tavern. It’s like, an RPG meets Improv…and it’s TOTALLY REAL.Ben: I’m looking forward to the return of Why Oh Why, a mix of fact and fiction of one woman’s romantic life; and Someone Knows Something, a cold-case criminal investigative show. And the Adventures of Zoe Nightingale and her sexy interviews with people living on the fringe in New York is always a must listen for me.
5) Any other shameless self-promotion shout outs you want to give out (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?
We’d love to get more fans on our Twitter feed, @SecretRoomPod!
In conclusion, I am extremely optimistic with the potential of The Secret Room. Between the technical production values, and the creativity and interviewing strength of the hosts, it’s easy to see this podcast picking up steam this year. With Season 2, I hope to see them subscribed by many new listeners and become well-known in the storytelling podcast genre. It’s definitely a must subscribe to all fans of storytelling podcasts.
How to Listen:
Do you have any podcasts that aren’t well-known that you’d like to be featured in The Podcast Nerd? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply comment below.