The Big Ben Show: Local podcasts from the rolling hills of Moore County

Benji Garland (far right) and Bradley Dye (middle) interview Metro Moore County Sheriff Tyler Hatfield on Wednesday night for The Big Ben Show. “They are easy guys to talk to,” Hatfield said later. {Lynchburg Times Photo}

The Internet credits Adam Curry and Dave Winer with “inventing” the podcast back in 2004. Since then, they’ve ballooned in popularity with over 800,000 now in circulation. Today, half of Americans aged 12-34 listen to them.

You can listen to sports podcast or those that talk about true crime. In Knoxville, they record podcasts discussing the Tennessee Vols. In Nashville, they podcast about the country music industry. And in Lynchburg, from a tiny house located down a secluded back road, Benji Garland and friends podcast about local folks and their stories.

“I thought wouldn’t it be cool if I could interview people from around Lynchburg and get their story,” he says. “You can’t just walk up to people.”

And so Lynchburg’s first podcast was born

Garland started just five months ago with the first episode of The Big Ben Show. Since then, he’s interviewed 37 people and people from as far away as South America and Ireland listen.

Garland says it began as a solo adventure but he decided he didn’t like the sound of his own voice that much. Then, the show evolved into one-on-one interviews but that too felt not quite right.

“The beginning episodes were scripted,” he says as he waits on interview number 38, Metro Sheriff Tyler Hatfield, to arrive. “But I didn’t like that. They weren’t natural and felt repetitive. It didn’t flow.”

Now, more often than not, he interviews people with a regular co-host, Bradley Dye. Dye, who was Garland’s fourth podcast interview, brings another perspective, and layers to the interviews, Garland says.

“When he’s here, he delivers,” Garland says. “He’ll ask the questions I wished I’d thought of.”

Dye says the two never show prep and he rarely knows who the interview subject is until the day of … he says he and Garland’s on air chemistry just works.

“I’m just riding Benji’s coattails here,” he says. “But I enjoy it. It gives me a moment to think about something besides my woodworking business.”

Three men and a microphone

Once Hatfield arrives, the three men sit around a round, high top table and chat. In the middle sits Garland’s MAC Book and three microphones, two of which are Shure SM7B’s vocal microphones.

“I tell people these were the microphones Michael Jackson recorded Thriller on. They are the real deal,” says Garland.

The three sit and have an unscripted, off-the-cuff conversation. It’s casual, relaxed but thoroughly engaging. They seem comfortable like three guys chit chatting while they have a beer.

“I’ve just always been interested in learning new things, and the more you talk to people, the more you learn,” he says. “You can take so much from people’s stories.”

Garland says sometimes he picks his interview subject and sometimes people ask to be on the show. His guests are diverse from local high school seniors to elected officials running for state office.

However, his favorite interviews are his fellow teachers, he says. An educator himself, Benji graduated from the Moore County school system before heading to Tennessee Tech University. He now teaches at Deerfield Elementary School in Coffee County. On The Big Ben Show, he’s interviewed LES first grade teacher Terry Davis, LES teacher Marcy McKenzie, Coach Mike Walker, and Director of Schools Chad Moorehead.

He’s also interviewed notable folks like Mayor Bonnie Lewis and EMA Director Jason Deal.

After the Sheriff Hatfield interview, Garland will edit the podcast and then upload it to a website called Buzzsprout, where people can listen to it for free. They also automatically load it onto Apple Podcast and Spotify. Then Garland loads it onto The Big Ben Show Facebook page.

So what’s next for The Big Ben Show?

“The next goal is to go live,” he says. “Live broadcasts on YouTube or Facebook are the next big thing.”

If you want to check out Lynchburg’s first, only, and most successful podcast to date, check out The Big Ben Show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Buzzsprout, or check out his Facebook page. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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