We get a little bit meta in this week’s episode as we sit down for a conversation with Michelle Khouri, host of The Cultured Podcast and owner of FRQNCY Media Company, a first-of-its-kind podcast production and marketing company in Atlanta, Georgia. Michelle talks about how her background as a writer compelled her to find a medium to tell stories more deeply, eventually leading her to podcasting. Through FRQNCY Media, Michelle hopes to create a podcasting hub in Atlanta that will connect the city’s sonic legacy to its contemporary technological and creative innovations.
We begin with a discussion of Michelle’s extensive history in the South. She grew up in Miami, “a sunny place for shady people.” She grew up immersed in her own culture and taking it fore granted before moving to Orlando and then West Palm Beach. Although she loved Miami, she never felt at home in other Floridian cities. When the opportunity presented itself, she moved to Atlanta and fell in love with the city. She moved through a variety of marketing and public relations jobs in the city before she took a job as the Public Relations Manager for the Atlanta Convention of Visitors Bureau. This particular job allowed her to learn everything that she could about the city so that she could communicate points of interest to visiting journalists and businesspeople. She notes that while Miami has a very clear vision of itself, Atlanta is so many disparate things to so many people. She sees this Atlanta’s disparate culture as an outcropping of its history of segregation: not just black/white segregation, but the segregation of Atlanta’s many different cultures into separate niches across the city.
Michelle notes that while the city hasn’t yet chosen its identity, it is, most of all, a creative city. She also notes that Atlanta’s ability to rebuild, redefine itself, and create something completely new in the aftermath of disasters and devastating fires colors the city’s character throughout its history. With her new company, FRQNCY Media, Michelle hopes to harness the creative and technology booms happening in Atlanta right now. Michelle’s vision for FRQNCY Media is to create a full-service podcast production company and community hub. They will also be building a physical studio space with recording studios, co-working space, and workshops for podcasters. Referring back to Atlanta’s robust sonic legacy, Michelle describes her hope to create a podcasting community hub in Atlanta. Gina then describes her impetus for beginning About South as a response to the massive southern culture industry, which trades matters of real political importance for southern kitsch. Although she knew what she wanted the message to be, she and Kelly knew very little about podcasting as a medium. She emphasizes how helpful it would have been to have had someone to call up for advice.
While Atlanta is home to so much creative energy, Michelle discusses how the city doesn’t necessarily recognize and support its artistic talent. She notes that people generally take their money to New York or Los Angeles because those places are more accommodating for artists, and talented Atlantans follow that money to those other locations. Additionally, the local government caters to outsiders, creating policies that are designed to bring in outside dollars instead of aiding creatives who are already here. Even with the creative drain caused by local policies, we still have so much talent residing in Atlanta. Michelle asserts that people love this city, and they are determined to succeed despite the local government. Local residents and citizens have created this ecosystem where people help each other out. Though we could create venues for more collaboration, the fact that we are still here is a testament to our determination.