The iHeartPodcast Network is making a big bet on scripted podcasts with news that it plans to release a country music podcast later this year. Make It Up As We Go will feature a fictional up-and-coming Nashville songwriter and star real-life singer-songwriter Scarlett Burke, actor David Arquette, and syndicated radio host Bobby Bones, among others.
The project is the creation of Burke and “Jingle Jared” Gutstadt, President of the music marketing agency Jingle Punks, who is also the producer of the original music that will be featured in the podcast. “This is a first-of-its-kind country musical set in the writer’s rooms of Nashville,” said Gutstadt is a slick video teaser released Thursday.
Burke says the decision to tell her story through a podcast came after she had a conversation with Gutstadt about her creative process that includes sending her father unedited work tapes from sessions so that he could hear the conversations and the stories that unfold as they write the songs. “We realized that maybe more people would want to hear that story,” she said. Burke says they used the character’s voice memos on her phone as a story-telling vehicle, as the narrative moves from a newbie to the writer of a No. 1 hit record.
“The goal of the podcast is to break a song. That’s what I do every day, this is just another outlet for that,” said Bones, who is also VP/Creative Director at iHeartCountry. The host has been among the biggest champions of both songwriters and podcasters, having used his own Bobby Cast to allow songwriters to tell their personal stories about song creation. “I think so many people wonder what happens behind the scenes in Nashville—how do songs get written, how do songs become hits,” said Bones.
The Make It Up As We Go podcast has been in the works for months with Burke and Gutstadt even collaborating on two songs in Nashville in April with Nicolle Galyon. Her string of hit record credits include last year’s No. 1 country record “Tequila” by Dan+Shay and the hope is the podcast could spawn a hit record as well.
“We’ve already had success pioneering the idea of the blockbuster musical for the podcast space and this is really the next big story we have to tell,” said Gutstadt. Make It Up As We Go is the second musical podcast that Gutstadt has in cue for the iHeartPodcast Network. Earlier this year iHeart announced it was working on another musical podcast called Bear and A Banjo that will be tied to the debut album by the Americana group of the same name. Actor Dennis Quaid will narrate and executive produce a forthcoming podcast which features a lead character called Mister Bear who is a traveling musician who visits different towns across America and impacts people’s lives before vanishing again. The podcast has been written by award-winning producer and author Bill Flanagan, creator of CMT's Crossroads and VH1's Storytellers, with narration by Quaid
Bear And A Banjo—the band—is the creation of Gutstadt and five-time Grammy winner Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd. It also has musical contributions from producer T Bone Burnett and original lyrical contribution from Bob Dylan.
No launch date has been announced by iHeart for either Make It Up As We Go or Bear and A Banjo. Both shows could see life beyond a podcast. As Hollywood looks for new intellectual property to convert into television shows or films, the scripted podcast genre has the prospect to be even more appealing than the true-crime genre. Gutstadt said in an interview earlier this year he already expects they’ll test interest in licensing the Bear and A Banjo story.