A podcast about voicemails, the podcast that wants to give you the chance to go back and leave the message you wish you did", begins the description on One New Message's first episode, 000. I have become intrigued with the recently launched podcast, One New Message and sat down with one of its creators, Arif Jaffer to ask him some questions on his new endeavour.
Essentially, the podcast identifies the anxiety associated with meeting the "robotic" answering-machine voice on the other end of the telephone line, especially when the intended phone call is to be an emotional one. In the first episode, Jaffer outlines the inspiration for the podcast. It involved a long night at the bar with his friends, discussing a girl he had feelings for, but had yet to summon up the courage to confess to. With the help of a couple of pints and his friends' encouragement, he vowed to go home that night and call her at which point he met the infamous answering machine and hung up without leaving a message. Personally, he told me that about 15 minutes later, she called him back and explained that a situation had simply taken her away from her phone. Despite the happy ending to his story, the light bulb moment came a while later, when he realized that his situation couldn't be that unique. In wanting to create an outlet for others with qualms about leaving a message, One New Message was born.
Personally holding a political science degree with a communications minor, Jaffer explains that his idea for the project comes more from a passion for podcasts than any experience, educational or otherwise, with the art. He learns by listening to other local podcasts of the Ottawa area and is a big fan of open mic story nights. He clarifies how his friend and co-producer of the show, Craig Lord - who recently received his degree in journalism - brings more of the technical skills to the show. For instance, Jaffer attributes him to having a true radio voice, although to the layperson like me, they are both professional and easy to listen to on air. Another member of their team is Trevor Deley or rather 'Ol Dusty Deley' as they fondly call him who brings in his audio experience (and apartment) to help them record the show. Finally, there's David Caughey whom Jaffer refers to as the "consultant" and who objectively reviews each episode to tell the team what needs to be cleaned up. His attention to detail is attributed to all his hours playing Dungeons and Dragons growing up.
The premise is quite simple - each bi-monthly podcast will have a previously introduced theme that listeners can call in ahead of time and leave a relevant message on the show's very own voicemail. Each episode average 7-12 minutes - short and sweet in order to focus maximum attention on the subjects. Because the show is entirely on air, Jaffer points out how much effort it takes to create a visual image for the audience from audio alone. In episode 001, the voice telling Jaffer on air about his principle Mr. Burns leaving was actually the same friend who told him in real life. It is the small details that make the episodes come alive in seemingly effortless ways for the audience. And although the messages delivered by Jaffer and Lord seem simple, they are all unscripted and Jaffer admits that talking in front of a mic is harder than it looks. His advice for anyone else new to the podcast-making world? - "It's ok to suck - there's so much room to grow."
In the end, the goal isn't necessarily to have the recipient receive the on air communication, but rather, for the sender to go through a catharsis of sorts - a therapeutic release - and to have listeners out there to find someone to relate to. However, its always nice when they actually do. The aforementioned Mr. Burns got back to Jaffer, and informed him that the message had made his day! I spoke with Leslie, a high school teacher and the subject of Trevor's message on episode 102 and she was awestruck and touched, noting the similarities between it, and the elements of delayed gratification that having her students get in touch with her years later has: "...I was touched....because it was thoughtful and sensitive, and in awe because of the moment of bravery that leaving a message like that represents...It just goes to show that you never know what kind of impact you can make on people sometimes."
Everyone has unsettled emotions - whether it be to thank someone, or express an unrequited love. Whatever the case, Jaffer aims simply to release these feelings out into the world rather than to capitalize of the project in what he hopes will be a 12-episode season. "You're never going to have an opportunity to sit down with a person for 7 straight minutes and tell them exactly how you're feeling but there's the hope that this lost voicemail will be found and the intended person or someone who can relate to it will find it in this way." His ultimate dream? To have a sort of pseudo group therapy bar session with a bunch of strangers, getting things off their chest in real time. You can subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Pocket Casts or RSS hyperlink. Be sure to check out One New Message's Facebook page and Twitter @1newmessage_pod.