Liam Geraghty is an award-winning audio producer for podcast and radio. This impressive career and skillset led him to create The Warren, a creative Irish podcast network, alongside fellow audio and storytelling professionals, Colette Kinsella and Julien Clancy.
Among Liam’s many bolts of brilliance is his unique and natural knack for pinpointing niche subject matter that not only piques his own interest but tickles that of his listeners and stays humming in their minds long after his audio has left their podcatcher. We spoke to him about the podcast industry in Ireland, his love for Ira Glass, and the origin of The Warren.
Hey Liam, introduce yourself to Bear Radio!
My name is Liam Geraghty. I’m one of the co-founders of The Warren which is an indie podcast network based in Ireland.
What inspired you to start The Warren?
I set up The Warren with Colette Kinsella and Julian Clancy a few years ago now. At the time, there were a lot of podcast networks popping up around Ireland, but only ones that served one kind of podcast format, you know, the kind of podcasts where people are chatting over coffee or whatever. There was no network to support the kind of podcasts we made such as documentary or storytelling-type podcasts.
Because of this gap and because three of us had been working in audio for years, we decided to band together, pool our listeners, and start a collective home where podcasts like ours could live.
And what had you each been working on prior to starting The Warren?
Well, I was and still am creating a podcast called Meet Your Maker which is a kind of pop culture turned art podcast, Colette was creating her show called The Critter Shed which is a wildlife-focused show, and Julian was working on the Dublin Story Slam, which is a storytelling event turned podcast that takes place in the Sugar Club in Dublin.
What made you choose The Warren as the emblem and name of your network?
Well, we wanted to choose a name that was inherently Irish and the image of a warren stood out to us. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are rabbits elsewhere in the world, but the image of the warren has always felt very Irish to me.
Additionally, the space of a warren symbolizes the kind of environment we wanted to create. A warren begins as a home, but then it splits into all these different tunnels that thread to different places. This kind of image, one of many different journeys but one singular home space, felt like it reflected our aspirations. It shows that we are a collective but we are one comprised of many different, weaving narratives, just like our network is a base from which we produce our many, various podcasts.
Now you’re probably one of the few people working long term in audio who can say this, but you actually started your career in podcasting and then branched into radio, not the other way around, right?
Yes! I started making podcasts in 2007 with a show called The Comic Cast which was about comic books, illustration, and animation. Back then, all you had to do to rank in the top five podcasts in the country was literally make a podcast – any podcast. It was an entirely different ball game to the industry we know and work in today. I still have screenshots of Comic Cast sitting right next to This American Life at number one and two in the charts – that’s how bare the scene was.
I got my start in radio because a producer – Ed Prendergast – on The Business, a popular show here in Ireland, heard my work and asked me to pitch some stories. At the time, a career in radio hadn’t been on my mind at all, but my first pitch went well so I became their roaming reporter. I traveled around Ireland making features for the show for almost nine years after that but I’ve always had a soft spot for podcasting.
In fact, my experience in radio taught me to hone podcasting skills at a new level. I developed an actual, concrete skillset in terms of conceptualizing, writing, and, producing stories. It finessed what I was already doing with Comic Cast and gave me a new perspective and knowledge. Later, when I decided to venture back into podcasting, I went at it from a new angle because I had an entirely fresh skillset from my radio experience. That’s when I started my podcast Meet Your Maker.
Describe Meet Your Maker to us.
Meet Your Maker is a pop culture podcast about the kind of people who make the things we love. It comes off the back of my infatuation with ‘behind the scenes of’ or ‘the making of’ documentaries that were super popular when I was a kid. You know when a big movie or music video would come out and there would be an accompanying show detailing the backstory to the making of it on TV? When I was younger, those shows were my bread and butter – my absolute favorite thing. This podcast is basically an excuse for me to dive into niche stories, immerse myself in them, and share them with other people.
Could you explain some of your episodes to us?
Absolutely. Recently we did an episode on a show I used to watch as a kid called Fraggle Rock. The show was cast entirely by puppets, however, there was one human actor in it and recently, I discovered he was Irish. I became entirely obsessed with this fact. I couldn’t stop asking myself things like ‘Who is this man?’, ‘What is he doing now?’, ‘How on Earth did a Dublin guy manage to be the only human on Fraggle Rock?’ My investigation of these questions formed the basis of a whole episode, but I’ve also done episodes on Ira Glass from This American Life, the man who plays the white walker in Game of Thrones, and a writer from Sesame Street.
Generally, I choose topics that are incredibly niche, but tangibly special. A lot of my stories wouldn’t be investigated if I didn’t share them and I love that. In fact, I think that might be what attracts me to them in the first place. I feel this sense of duty to do these hidden stories justice and I love the feeling that sharing these hidden stories gives me.
You mentioned This American Life earlier, is that your first favorite podcast?
Yeah totally. Years ago I put my back out and I was stuck in bed for a week. I had read in the newspaper about this radio show that claimed they found the secret ingredient of how to make a Coca-Cola well, Coca-Cola and in Ireland, talk of this secret ingredient was all the rage. Hearing that someone had figured out what it consisted of was like unlocking an urban legend. Naturally, I listened to the episode to discover what the ingredient was and after that, I was entirely hooked on it.
Until that point, I had never heard anything like This American Life. I had only been exposed to the standard kind of radio we had in Ireland, you know, radio channels that have DJs who play hits and stuff. I had never known documentary radio. I never realized that audio could be like that so discovering This American Life was thrilling.
The other podcast which was huge at the time was The Ricky Gervais podcast. I remember it was so insanely popular that people bought the podcast episodes on CD. Yes, CDs. That’s how old it is.
It’s remarkable to think how the podcasting industry has blown up since then. How have you noticed the industry change in Ireland specifically?
It’s funny because I remember sitting with Julian, the co-founder of The Warren, and speaking with him about watching podcasting in the states. He told me ‘You know it’s going to take another three to four years before that happens here, right?’ And literally, that is exactly what happened. Around four years later, Ireland became as enraptured with podcasts and now, the podcast industry in Ireland is almost saturated. While this could be interpreted to be a bad thing, I actually think it’s wonderful. It’s been fantastic to watch podcasts and podcasters thrive. For example, now you’ve got people making podcasts who are hobbyists, but you’ve also got people who are podcasting as a full-time job. That reality would not have been feasible a few years ago. From a specifically Irish perspective, it’s interesting to see content coming from somewhere other than RTE even. We’re seeing tons of new original Irish podcasts, more storytelling podcasts, and an actual abundance of comedy podcasts. It’s great.
You mentioned RTE there, for someone who isn’t Irish or familiar with it, how would you describe the impact it has on Irish creators?
Well, RTE is the national broadcaster in Ireland and because the country is so small, this means that if you’re creative in any sense you’re likely going to move through RTE in some shape or form. It’s not like we’re living somewhere like America where they have a gazillion channels, you know? Ireland’s creative industry is much more concentrated. I think to this day we only have two channels or broadcasters in Ireland.
As much as our podcast is based on our lives, it’s more so about the way that we explore our relationship with the world and handle our experiences instead of our individual relationships or situations. I think our listeners understand that.
Irish culture is quite synonymous with storytelling. Seeing as storytelling podcasts are your signature, what ingredients, in your opinion, are needed to create a great story?
For me, a lot of the stuff I do or the stories I make feel instinctual. I know that probably sounds mad, but it’s true.
Do you get a particular feeling when you discover a good story? Maybe describe that feeling to us.
Yes, I do actually! I get this certain familiar sense, like a spooky sixth sense or something. Once I get that feeling, I am always determined to get to the bottom of it. I always persevere in turning stones until I get to the crooks of a story, then once I’ve found what I’m looking for, I sit back and let the story decide how it wants to be shared. I never know what my stories will look like until I’ve collected all my recordings and all of my content. I just move around their jigsaw pieces until it feels just right.
You also create a podcast called Petrified, which is a horror drama podcast. Tell me about the process of creating a podcast like this compared to a conversational show like Meet Your Maker.
I make Petrified with Peter Dunne, a friend of mine who is obsessed with horror in a major way.
My interest in it actually kind of ties in with what we were saying earlier about finding a specific subject fascinating because it isn’t known to a big fragment of people, like that essence of rarity being the thing that fascinates you in a way. I feel that way about Petrified, and about horror, too.
The experience of recording a drama podcast has been enlightening. It took me back to my days working as a reporter because I needed to collect all these minor sounds such as footsteps or wind, sounds that make a story more realistic, myself. We insist on recording all of our sounds, not finding them in a sound library, so that alone is incredible. For example, in one scene there is a fight between two of the characters and so to collect the required sounds I literally got on the ground myself and just grappled around. It was great.
Is that the strangest sound you’ve ever collected?
Honestly, probably not. One of the most bizarre sounds I’ve collected was actually taken the night I met Ira Glass. I went to London to see him perform and afterward, I overheard this woman asking the usher where the artist’s entrance was. It dawned on me that she was trying to meet him and so naturally, I followed her. There ended up being a group of us waiting outside the artist’s entrance and because I carry my recording equipment with me everywhere, I decided to whip out my device and document the experience. I spoke to them about what was happening, why they were here, what attracted them to Ira – that kind of thing. It was amazing. I also spoke to Ira Glass himself and purposed the content into an episode of Meet Your Maker about meeting your heroes.
That sounds amazing. I must give it a listen. Speaking of sounds, what is your favorite one to hear?
Hmm… that’s a good question. I know it’s a boring one, but I do like the sound of rain. I enjoy hearing it, but I also enjoy collecting it too. I get this impulse anytime it’s lashing rain to go and record it. It’s probably the most recorded sound in my entire library. There’s just something special about it.
interview by Alice O’Brien, for Bear Radio