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Interviews |  17 Oct 2016 14:35 |  By Kavita Yadav

Compared to radio, podcasts are far more liberal: Mae Thomas

MUMBAI: Going against the tide is challenging, but this is exactly what Mae Thomas likes doing. The host of India's first indie music podcast 'Maed In India' had a secure job as an RJ at Radio One, but she gave it up, to go beyond the usual. And when podcast network Indus Vox Media offered her a job as a host and creative director, she grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

In conversation with, Thomas talks about her journey, love for the audio medium and indie music. Excerpts.

Have you always been associated with the audio medium?

For me it's always been the audio background but, professionally I started as a journalist.  I was working for a community radio station in Wales. I started with them as a journalist and ended up being the news editor of this community radio station along with a Scottish guy. I started with zero contacts and then went on to know the Parliament members there. It was an amazing experience.

When did you move to India?

After two years of being in the UK, I got back to India. It was so bizarre then because in 2010, there was no English radio station in Mumbai. So I moved to Chennai and took up a job in an English radio station in Chennai. After a year I got back to Mumbai and started doing music journalism with NH7. Next, I got a job to present the weekend show for Radio One.

I started out doing the weekend show and handling the independent music show, because being with NH7, I ended up having this Indie music bend.  Later they moved me from weekends to the daily afternoon request show. I liked doing the request show because you get to interact with people so much more. I had several female listeners who were obsessed with One Direction and I would end up playing one song of the band every hour (laughs).

Why did you move on from Radio One?

I wanted to do something of my own. I was with them for three years. Then I freelanced for a year. During this period, I was writing for Rolling Stone and giving voice-overs. I would also cover for radio presenters on Radio One in their absence. This was all till I was asked to do a podcast.I wouldn't have taken up a full time job had it not been for this.

How did 'Maed In India' happen?

Indus Vox  Media asked me what I wanted to do. This is when I wrote something and came up with ‘Maed In India’. Since I had a connection with Independent music I wanted to provide a platform to the independent artists to do acoustic sessions in the studio. Till now, 90 per cent of the people that I have interviewed for ‘Maed In India’ haven’t put out their music anywhere. For me this is great and it’s somewhere between BBC’s Made Available sessions. They have these live sessions with the artists. There are times when people ask me, ‘won’t you run out of artistes?’ and I am like, ‘no, there are new artists every day’.

How important is this show for you?

For me ‘Maed in India’ is very close to my heart. So I am doing radio, but something very different from live radio. On radio everything flies in the atmosphere, but when you do podcasts, it’s basically there, online for everyone. You can listen to it 400 times if you want to. It’s a completely different medium. To be in this space where there aren’t too many players is a huge thing. I am happy to be here.

Does the podcast give one more creative freedom?

Compared to radio, podcast is far more liberal. On radio, you are massively restricted.  You can’t talk about sex, no politics, no news, no religion, no cursing. You always have a filter on radio. Here there is no filter.

How has the feedback for ‘Maed In India’ been, so far?

It has been positive because I have artists who have been willing to do stuff. I have artists rearrange their music just for me. I have artists playing unreleased, unrecorded stuff for me. I have been so luck, to have artists who are open about doing new stuff. 

There are people calling me from Dehradun and Bengaluru congratulating me on the show. There are so many people who have told me, that they are learning about the variety of artists in India through our show. I have been so lucky. 

At Indus Vox Media you have two responsibilities – Host and Creative Director. How do you handle both?

I am not in the space where I am doing just my show. I think I have the ability to now do different kinds of show. When you are in the audio space for so long, you develop some kind of sensibilities, as to what will work.  I also want to get people involved in the audio space. Production wise. it’s not difficult but you have to get lots of information out there. For me, this is a real challenge and opportunity. To be able to bring great thinkers, people who have something to say and put their information there. This has been very exciting for me. So balancing it all is not difficult.