Woah, hey there!
My name is Tom Kelly. I'm the founder of Elemental.fm, a podcast network which at this point is still theoretical. I have a 4 year degree in Audio Production (don't recommend) from The Art Institute of Washington (run away as fast as you can). I've been producing bands from my humble home studio since 2009 and have enjoyed a lot of projects I've worked on. In 2013 I landed a dream opportunity to record metal bands at Oceanic Studios with Taylor Larson in Maryland. Bands such as Periphery, Conditions, Youth in Revolt, Capture the Crown, I See Stars, and From First to Last have passed through, and I would be at the center of it all, behind the board tracking these bands. Within 2 months, I realized I fucking hated it. These were some of the most talented musicians I've ever known, and I hated recording them. It was an Earth shattering realization, but oh well. I think I just like recording myself more than anyone else. I don't think I have the patience to hear the same 5 second clip over and over and over for 8 hours at a time. Not to mention I was managing a cafe in downtown DC for 9 hours before I drove an hour to put in another 6 hours of work at the studio. I got out as soon as I could and tried to refocus my goals and ambitions.
2 years later I discovered my first podcast when I ran out of music to listen to at my new job at a wood shop in Northern Virginia. I googled "Punk music podcast" even though I hate "punk" music, but was delighted to see a familiar face. The AbsolutePunk podcast (*now Encore) was the first result (great SEO Jason), and I downloaded their latest episode, a track by track review of The Wonder Years' new album, "No Closer to Heaven". TWY was my favorite band, so obviously I fell in deep. I've been in bands my whole life, but have never talked about music the way Jason Tate and Thomas Nassiff did, and to be honest, they were having the conversations I've always wanted to have. I never knew people thought about music as intensely as I did, and I was hooked. However, I worked 10 hour days, and needed more content to fill my day. I heard Jason recommend a show by a guy called CGP Grey and I checked it out. The show was called Cortex and was hosted by CGP Grey, a popular YouTube "edu-tainer" and Myke Hurley, a very successful podcaster and co-founder of Relay FM, a network that produces some of my favorite shows. I found their shows to be as educational as they were entertaining, and it filled a huge void in my life.
When I was young, between ages 8 and 12, I was considered to be on a "genius" level. My grades were good, mostly A's, some B's, my standardized test scores were off the charts, and I often got my own curriculum in school because the teachers wanted me to be more challenged. Somewhere around age 13 when I really got into making music and was playing shows at local clubs with my best friends, and I stopped giving a shit about anything else. I never really care much for school, but at that age I didn't have anything else to fill my time with. Eventually my grades started slipping. I studied just enough to pass a test, then I went home and played drums for hours. When I graduated college, it suddenly became clear to me that I was so hyper-focused on music, my band, and going to shows that I turned into a fucking idiot. I didn't know anything about anything except my own music and a few bands I was really into. I developed horrible social anxiety as I was terrified I couldn't hold an engaging conversation with anyone because I wouldn't know anything they were talking about, unless they asked about a song I wrote. At this point, I hadn't read in years but desperately wanted to become more aware of the world I was living in, but couldn't bring myself to dedicate the time I needed to catching up. That's where the podcasts came in. I could get paid to do my job, and could rather passively learn all kinds of new things through this new found format. It gave my life meaning again, as my band had broken up and I was essentially doing nothing with my life except working and watching every episode of Scrubs for the 20th time. All of a sudden I was learning about digital marketing and SEO strategies, planetary science, iOS development, and about a million other things. Still not topics the general public would find too engaging, but I found a distant community I felt I could be a part of.
I became frustrated with the work I was doing at the wood shop because I felt like I wasn't making enough of a difference in anyone's lives, and I felt like the work didn't add any value to my life, and hardly any to my bank account. I spent hours a day looking for jobs both in my field and in others I found interesting. I don't know if I was just burnt out or what, but every job opening seemed shittier than the last. At this point I was going to weekly therapy because it was free (thanks Obama) and to help me through a rut I found myself in. Nothing felt rewarding, and I found myself overwhelmed with menial tasks that were crowding brain space to denied me the energy to follow through with the things that were actually important, ie. keeping in shape, calling my mom back, finishing all the woodworking projects I've started for clients, making time for my girlfriend and dog, etc. Through some great non-fiction books, a thorough ass kicking from my father and therapist, and some good old fashioned chutzpah (am I using that correctly), I got off my ass and tried to carve my own path to success. I registered an LLC with the state of Virginia, hired a graphic designer, built a Wix website, and opened Clean Cut Audio, LLC for business. I spent hours a day bidding on jobs for podcast editing services. Holy shit did that go down in flames. I got a few jobs here and there, but there are so many turds you can try to polish before you give up, ya know? These people handed me garbage and wanted to pay $20 for 3 hours of work restoring the audio and editing out all their ums and ahs and inabilities to not constantly talk over their guest. I ran into the same scenario I did with recording bands. I didn't want to deal with other stranger's shit. That's why I quit managing the cafe. People can just be fucking stupid and not realize their unrealistic expectations as well as their own attitude may be the problem.
Again, I regrouped. I wanted to do podcasting at some level, but am still trying to overcome some social anxieties and self confidence issues with not being entertaining enough. Then it hit me... How about I get my super nerdy friends to host their own shows, and I'll just produce them quietly in the background. I'll find people who know a lot about things I want to learn more about, then maybe one day I can get paid to just learn new things. It was perfect. They'd be the entertainers, and I would just make their shows sound beautiful and publish them all over the internet. I had these grand thoughts of creating a community of nerds, dorks, geeks, and everything in between. 12-15 shows about Zelda, Nintendo, Space, Lord of the Rings, vintage arcade games, graphic design, everything. I didn't want our listeners to just hear the shows and move on to the next one. I wanted them to download that shit the second it came out then rush to the forums to discuss it with all the other listeners, who would all eventually become friends. Sure, not everything plays out like a classic Disney movie, but that's the vibe I'm going for. I was picked on and bullied in school because I listened to music that was different than my classmates. I mean, shit, that's not even nerdy or anything, but goddamn did I get shit for it. I don't want anyone to go through life feeling like there's nowhere they belong. I want to provide a place where people can meet new people with similar interests. That's what I'll be working on for the foreseeable future. I want to make a difference, I want to educate, and I want to entertain. I can't do this alone, and I'm relying heavily on a lot of things lining up perfectly, but for once, I'm focused.
I had planned on covering much more in this first post, but goddamn did I ramble on there. I will be chronicling my journey on a regular basis, as well as further explaining what Elemental.fm is and what my plans are for the network. To hear more of the journey, check out our first podcast Reminiscent on your podcatching software of choice. It's mostly me and my best friend catching up once a week and talking about our journeys in our new cities. (I recently moved to Denver, Colorado and he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, closer to where we both grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Catch you next time.