The Trick

The Campfire Project was born in late 2013 via a short and simple tweet: “Do you want to do a podcast?” Matt Dusenbury had reached out to me after reading a piece I had written in The Loop Magazine, and being familiar with his work from the same publication, I said yes immediately. We didn’t know what The Campfire Project would actually be at first, but after a long series of Skype conversations, mock recordings, and planning sessions, we finally published our first episode on March 10, 2014.

The very fibre of this endeavor is stamped on this site. “Circuits, Wires, and Words.” It sounds simple because it is. With Matt and I are separated by 520 miles, different cities, and different countries, The Campfire Project was born, planned, and finally shipped, via an internet connection. Despite of the distance, things have come together beautifully. 

Anyone who records a podcast knows that for each hour-long episode, many more have already been spent preparing behind the scenes, waiting for the Record light to glow red. Sometimes, it's a challenge to merely come up with an interesting topic every week, let alone complete all the recording, editing and mixing required on a regular schedule. To present the show on a weekly basis, Matt and I have had to learn not only how to collaborate over a long distance, but also how to deal with each others’ schedules and work styles. 

That’s not to say the challenges are insurmountable, of course. While Matt and I are very different people, our chemistry on The Campfire Project podcast is not a front or an act. If we thought our listeners actually had the patience to sit through it, we could chat for hours and hours about almost any topic. In fact, during our first few Skype calls late last year, we accomplished nearly nothing. From the moment we started talking, we were like old friends playing catch-up after decades of radio silence. It was not until our third or fourth conversation that we started actually talking about what we wanted our new project to be.

Our power to talk, debate and collaborate daily is propelled by a combination of amazing software, hardware, and cloud services. Through a digital suite of systems that includes Dropbox, iMessage, FaceTime, and Skype, we develop our ideas by organic conversation, talking, spitballing, and iterating on grand topics that range from current events to children's toys. When it’s time to get those ideas down into something concrete, we use Piezo, a couple of Macs, and Apogee mics to lay down the high quality recordings that find their way to iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and other podcast distributors.

This is why it almost seemed surreal to me that on Wednesday, August 20th, I finally met Matt in the flesh. Matt was in Chicago on vacation and he had suggested that we do a recording in person. I immediately began thinking about our plan of attack. What equipment would we need? When and where would we meet up? Or, here's one – how do you even record a podcast with two people in the same room? This was a foreign concept to me simply because I had never done it before. It almost seemed more complicated than recording from two different countries. 

I met Matt in the lobby of the infamous Drake Hotel, and was not surprised at all by the fact that before we got down to business, he desperately needed coffee. I know from our conversations during the week that Matt sleeps roughly one hour a night. The other seven hours that he should be using for sleep, he sits in coffee shops, guzzles coffee, and comes up with about eight thousand different ideas, his brain running a mile a minute. It is not uncommon for me to get a text message at 11:30 PM saying, “Hey, can you read through something for me real quick?” Needless to say, we got our coffee and then got to work.

 

After fumbling around with our setup in a room on the second floor, we recorded Episode 24 of The Campfire Project. For the first few minutes, it still seemed odd to me. I had been working with Matt strictly via the internet for the last several months, and here we were in the same room. As I listened to Matt read through the introduction, it finally hit me: I am so used to dealing with people via the internet, having experiences that are live and in person are absolutely jarring.

To me, this speaks volumes about the way the world now works. Without the internet, the circuits and wires, Matt and I could never do this project together. In fact, we probably would have never even connected in the first place. Even though our recordings sound like we’re in the same room, it’s all an illusion. Audio trickery. This is a definite benefit of the powerful hardware and software we have at our fingertips. The sad part is that it creates a sense of tension when the same task needs to be carried out in person. I was not nervous or worried about meeting Matt; I knew we would get along just as well as we do any other day of the week. What I was anxious about was the logistics and all the little details we probably hadn’t thought of, not to mention all the things that could go wrong. 

My worrying had no merit. Besides a quick microphone glitch at the beginning of the recording, the episode went smoothly. I am proud of what we have done in Episode 24 of The Campfire Project, just like I am proud of all of the twenty-three other episodes. Matt and I have come a long way with this endeavor, and we still have far to travel. Here’s hoping our paths intersect again in the future, and that you'll join us for what's to come.