We had the good fortune of connecting with Lucy Copp and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lucy, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
Podcasts are actually a lot of work. I mean, you can make a shitty podcast pretty easily. You still need to edit and publish and all that. But like anything, one can exert minimal effort. But to make a quality podcast, one that people want to listen to, one that people will recommend to their friends and co-workers….that takes time, and money if you have it. Last year I did a kickstarter for my podcast Life on the Outside, which is a documentary-style show about returning to society after decades in prison. Every episode shares the story of a different person, sentenced to life in prison, now released. The podcast started as a passion project, and continues to be that, and like many of our passion projects it’s a phenomenal amount of work. The outreach, the interview, the editing, sound design, publishing, and finally promoting. A well-produced episode take me easily two weeks. Fortunately, my community showed up and I raised $7,000! It was really humbling to see so many people pitch in simply because they believed in this project. To demystify podcasting for anyone who wasn’t in the know, I listed in detail how the funds would be spent. In retrospect, this helped people understand how much work goes into creating a single episode. I could be wrong though. Maybe all you podcast fans out there are aware of how much work goes into making these things. But for those who weren’t aware, now ya know. We give a lot to these podcasts; lots of work and even more heart.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Until recently I did not see the kind of work I do with audio storytelling as ‘artistic.’ I saw my pastel portraits as artistic, but not my audio work. That’s probably because the audio stories I make require the hat of a producer throughout most of the project. The outreach, the interview prep, script-writing, editing, and so on. But recently how I view my work has begun to change. This change started with my interviews, which are the heart and soul of my work. Listening to another person’s story with humility and curiosity is a must, and after that, asking the right questions becomes a great challenge. Every conversation is like painting a picture or conducting an orchestra. The storyteller sitting across from me has the paintbrush, or the cello. My role is of a conductor or guide who acts as a conduit between the notes and strokes of the piece and the consumption of the larger audience. It’s a challenging dance and with every interview I find more grace in my steps. Up until now, my audio work has been primarily interviews and some field recordings to enhance the audio piece. However, some of my favorite podcasts break the mold of storytellings to push the boundaries our ears are accustomed to. Podcasts like Hear Be Monsters and The Heart. The creators behind these podcasts are artists who paint with audio. They whisper, they shout, they groan, and capture the sound of rain, wind, sleep. Listening to their stories is an unusual and satisfying experience because audio is so often presented in a certain kind of way. Podcasts and creators like this make me feel like I’m an artist and I aspire to create audio stories, within my community, that leave people imagining something so vividly or viscerally that it changes their outlook or belief system. Since I began working with audio a few years ago, my work has focused on the experience of people returning to society after long-term incarceration. I’m committed to deeply understanding this experience, which is not my own lived experience, through the words of these storytellers. As an artist, it is my long-term aspiration to continue to bring these stories forward but also, to present them in more dynamic and layered ways, playing with sounds and texture that bring elements of their stories to life. I also want to explore different options for experimental audio storytelling, such as audio diaries with my participants where I give them a recorder to carry around, documenting the real-time experiences of their newfound freedom.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We would start with dinner at Guisado’s in Echo Park then head over to Bar Flores for a colorful cocktail. In pre-pandemic times we’d then skip a few more blocks down Sunset to Stories Bookstore and Cafe for some free stand-up comedy every Saturday night at 8pm. The next morning we’d wake leisurely, grab a coffee and croissant and Kaldi in Atwater Village then head up the 2 highway into the Angeles National Forest for an epic hike. We’d probably hit up an estate sale or two on the drive home and then take a much needed siesta. Later on, I’d drag my friend to the Silverlake Dog Park with my pup, and maybe we’d throw back an afternoon espresso at La Mill. Since we’re on a budget, we’d probably cook dinner at home and the next day hit up Leo Carillo State Beach in Malibu, which is the only dog-friendly beach in the area. That’s my weekend! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My podcast, Life on the Outside, only exists because a bunch of brave people continue to share their stories with the world. People who’ve been incarcerated often have their stories, and their humanity, taken away from them. When they get out of prison, especially those who’ve served life sentences, there is a heavy stigma and fear surrounding them and their experiences. Sharing their story opens up the possibility of scrutiny and judgments, but it also opens up the possibility for compassion and support. This podcast aims to do the latter, and I’m so grateful to the people who courageously share.