What do Game of Thrones actors, WWE wrestlers and Open Championship winning golfers have in common? They’ve all been interviewed by an Aberdeen podcast fanatic.
Johnny Brooks falls asleep every night listening to a podcast. As someone obsessed with the format he wanted to try making his own.
By his own admission he struggled to get five friends to listen to some of his early attempts.
But Covid suddenly made securing celebrity interviews more obtainable.
Within a few months the 25-year-old was getting hundreds of thousands of people listening to his work.
He said: “Like everyone else, celebs were stuck at home and couldn’t do their usual press appearances.
“They were more accessible because everything was online. I got to work.”
Tiger King’s Carole Baskin
Back in the early days of the pandemic, the most talked about show in the world was Netflix’s Tiger King documentary series about big cat owners.
Johnny approached Carole Baskin, one of its controversial central characters. At the time she was receiving abuse online due to the true crime series speculating she was involved in the disappearance of her second husband.
Understandably, she wasn’t doing any press interviews. Until Johnny’s email arrived.
He recalls: “At the time, I had a very humble following in the north-east and most people has never heard of my podcast, the Sunday Social.
“The thing that got the attention and approval from celebs was my unique way of emailing them.
“With Carole, I wrote an email that appealed to her empathy, saying I saw she was going through a trial by media and let’s work together to tell her side of the story.
“We talked about the allegations and how gender plays a role in people’s reaction to the show. It was quite intriguing to hear from someone who’d been attacked in Congress.
“I put that out on social media and it got hundreds of thousands of views.”
Johnny was juggling his new found podcast success while undertaking a HND course on television production at North East Scotland College. After her interview, Carole also spent two hours talking to students virtually there.
Game of Thrones actors and WWE wrestlers
Now he had a track record, Johnny, who lives in Inverbervie and works in Aberdeen, quickly found more subjects to interview for his podcast. As a Game of Thrones fan, he started approaching cast members.
Interviews followed with Ian Beattie, who appeared in five seasons as Ser Meryn Trant, and Miltos Yerolemou, who played Syrio Forel, the character who trained main protagonist Arya to use a sword.
“My tactic every time was to write a highly personalised email or letter to get their interest.
“I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and at the time the final season had just come out, disappointing a lot of people.
“I said wanted to hear from the people who’d made it and whether they felt it was unfairly criticised.
“I also spoke to a WWE wrestler called James Ellsworth who portrayed a really weak, bad wrestler. When we spoke, I asked him if he felt it was degrading but he didn’t see it that way at all.
“I interviewed a former MI6 agent, Open-winning golfer Paul Lawrie, people who appeared on The Apprentice – anyone who’d say yes to an interview at any time of day or night, I’d do it.
“I was approaching anyone who I thought would have an interesting story.”
Social media was a driver to the podcast, with Johnny using snippets of his chats on TikTok.
He was also accepted into Bafta during this time and now gets to vote on the annual film awards.
Hobby to Aberdeen podcast business
Podcasts have undergone an explosion in popularity since the pandemic. Soon companies started approaching Johnny to see if they could help with their shows.
He realised he could make his passion for podcasts a business. Johnny set up Studio 10 in Aberdeen’s Neospace building in January. He said his choice of the high-end offices was deliberate.
He explains: “I started doing it freelance about two years ago but officially started Studio 10 this year.
“I set up in Neospace to show I’m serious – it’s the polar opposite to doing a show from a bedroom.
“The walls soundproofed and there’s air conditioning. It’s got the correct lighting and décor. It just works.
“I can help people achieve high production values with what they are trying to do. I can also help to get guests, plan and write episodes.
“Some clients just want audio – and we’ve done audiobooks as well as podcasts – but more and more also want video clips to put snippets on TikTok or full-length episodes online.”
Helping make other podcasts in Aberdeen
So far Johnny has helped a variety of Aberdeen-based business find podcast success including SJA Property Group, Orchid cocktail bar and bodybuilder Erin Thomson, who has almost 100,000 Instagram followers.
Soon he will start running invite-only live events in the Neospace offices with a variety of interesting guests. He also offers his services as a photographer and filmmaker and has worked with Brewdog, Aberdeen Football Club and Sony.
He said: “It’s gone overwhelmingly well. I didn’t anticipate this level of growth so quickly. I’m really keen to hear from anyone who is looking for help making their own podcast.
“The future is exciting. I’ve stopped making my own podcasts at the moment as I’m so busy creating them for others but I’d like to get back into this in the future.”
Johnny Brooks’ top tips for a good podcast
Johnny’s top tip for a good interview is to “forget the script”.
“There’s a temptation to recite lines and polish your words you can immediately tell when someone is doing that. Don’t feel that you need a script as a crutch and be present in the moment.
“Find the human element with whoever you are interviewing. Find out what your subject is like as a person – that can make a story compelling.”