INTERVIEW: Hide and Speak Podcast | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Gone are the days when birdwatching was seen as a stuffy hobby for tweed-wearing twitchers. As more people seek to escape the relentlessly fast pace of society and reconnect with nature, the mindful benefits of observing nature are once again being recognised.

Pairing musicians with birdwatching may seem somewhat niche, but indie rock and birdwatching have a long history: did you know Elbow’s Guy Garvey spent his Mercury prize money on fancy binoculars or that Paul McCartney spends time between gigs birdwatching when he’s on tour? Then there’s all the iconic songs with bird-referencing titles: Blackbird (by the aforementioned McCartney), Songbird, Bird on the Wire, Free Bird – the list goes on.

So it would seem that musician Matt Saxon, current member of Little Comets and former member of local legends Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister and Grandfather Birds (ahem), is on to a winning formula with his new podcast, the cleverly titled Hide and Speak, which sees him interviewing musicians in bird hides across Northumberland.

“For me birdwatching isn’t just a hobby, it’s a form of therapy and meditation,” Matt explains. “In 2016, I found myself suffering from stress and anxiety as well as panic disorder. My friend suggested the benefits of birdwatching so, almost every night that summer, we would walk to the bird hide in the early evening and stay there until it was pitch black. Almost instantly I found the anxiety levels dropping and the panic attacks almost disappeared. I believe that those trips to the hide played a huge part in my recovery, and I gained an appreciation of the nature around my home town.

As well as reaping the therapeutic benefits from birdwatching, Matt realised he could mix two of his passions. “I love listening to podcasts but never thought I could host one. I remember I was sat with Rob Coles [Little Comets’ lead vocalist and guitarist] one night, just the two of us deep in conversation. He said to me that I had gotten stuff out of him that no one ever has, and he jokingly said, ‘you should start a podcast’. It’s a competitive market, so I thought that if I can make a podcast that’s a little different, I might be in with a chance. I’ve made some amazing friends in the music industry who I was sure I could convince it was worth their time.”

One guest received a FaceTime call from Sir Elton John while we were together, that was pretty mad

In terms of content, listeners can expect the fascinating rather than the fast-paced. “I don’t plan the podcast as an interview, so it’s more a relaxing conversation about my guests’ career and life, with wholesome (and admittedly amateur) bird knowledge, recorded in the tranquillity of Northumberland’s countryside. One of my guests described it as the Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing of podcasts. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.”

Hide and Speak has bagged some high profile interviews already (though we can’t reveal names just yet) but for Matt, one of the greatest perks is hearing how his guests have also benefited from birding. “Each guest brings something different to their episodes, so they all have great moments in them, but really I like hearing how much they enjoyed themselves and their new appreciation of the hobby. One guest received a FaceTime call from Sir Elton John while we were together, that was pretty mad.”

While Matt may not have Elton on speed dial just yet, he’s set his ambitions on spotting some new feathered friends instead. “In the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve still not seen a Kingfisher in the wild. Almost everyone has seen one but me. If it happens during an episode, it’ll be a big fuss.”

The first episode of Hide and Speak will be available on various platforms including Spotify during the first week of December. Follow @hideandspeakpod on Twitter or @hideandspeakpodcast on Instagram for further details

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