Q&A: Thank You Next on podcasting, nailing professional sound quality, and working with Acast

Thank You Next is a new podcast all about relationships, from former BBC producers Raj Pander and Hardeep Dhadda. Launched in December 2020, the show is part of the Acast Creator Network — and, with our help, was named one of Stylist’s best new podcasts of 2021.

We asked Raj and Hardeep how they got into podcasting, how they manage to get their podcast sounding so good, and what it’s like working with Acast.

How would you describe Thank You Next to someone who’s never listened before?

Both: “We’ve all taken relationship Ls (losses), and on Thank You Next we bond over our collective fails — like the time Hardeep tried to show her love by giving someone a bag of her hair, or the time Raj got ghosted but kept going back for more.”

Raj: “Lockdown had us in our feelings (in a good way). I was listening to Ariana Grande’s album Thank You Next on repeat, reading self-help books, and got myself a life coach AND a therapist. Somehow, all that time spent focusing on me, myself and I made me thankful for all the Ls I’ve taken — every ex who didn’t give me closure, every toxic person, every boss who had cock-blocked me from success — and I wanted the world to feel the same. So when Hardeep was in my DMs talking about work stuff, I ran a little podcast idea past her and we came up with this. It’s pretty much about turning the negatives into positives, saying ‘thank you’ for the lesson that situation taught us, and ‘NEXT’ so we can move forward and make new mistakes — Ariana style.”

Hardeep: “This is a podcast where YOU will (hopefully) feel SEEN. Before we came together, it seems like me and Raj were both doing work on ourselves and trying to get better at relationships separately — but on the podcast we figure shit out together. The podcast is like therapy for us both. We talk about a lot of the stories and experiences which have shaped us. I was dealing with a lot of heartache and trying to understand where my relationships had gone wrong during lockdown, because I had time (maybe too much time) to think. I did a lot of reading and I did a relationship course which was completely eye-opening. I wanted to move forward and not make the same mistakes again and again, and the podcast seemed like a good way to air that all out and share it with people who feel the same.”

Can you tell us a little bit about the team behind Thank You Next?

Both: “The team behind Thank You Next is ALL Raj and Hardeep, baby. It’s a two-woman show/team/company. Both of us started our careers in radio and things just progressed from there.”

Raj: I started in hospital and local radio and then managed to persuade someone at the BBC to give me some freelance shifts. Podcasting was around then, but only for those who were waaayy ahead of their time. I think the BBC used to call them ‘downloads’. After a while I switched things up and left to go and work on the social team at ITV, where I ended up looking after the creative social campaign for Love Island. I’d been begging an old boss of mine to give me some audio work (he’d recently launched a company that predominantly produced podcasts) and he told me the BBC was looking for a podcast idea around reality TV. That’s how The Reality Tea happened, and alongside that I was pitching and developing ideas for branded podcasts and other talent-led podcasts. Some recent ones I’ve worked on are BBC1xtra’s Slide Into My Podcast, The Beauty Podcast with Sali Hughes and Henry Holland’s What Were You Thinking?

Hardeep: “OMG NO way? I too started off in hospital, community and student radio, and then went on to intern at some cool places like Radio 1, 1Xtra and Sky News. Some of the sickest things I’ve done is produce the 1Xtra Breakfast Show, Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s Rap Show, and I’ve done social media bits for Little Mix: The Search and The Brit Awards. I currently present on Foundation FM and I make comedy content on TikTok (which I LOVE), and sometimes I write blogs for other people like gal-dem and British Bindi. Basically, get a girl who can do it all. I’m her.”

Thank You Next sounds GREAT. Are there any tips you’d give to others looking to nail that professional level of quality in their own podcast?

Hardeep: “I work in radio but it’s been a while since I went out recording, so I hit up my sound engineer friend Shivani (a bad B) and asked for her advice on the best mics and stuff. I did a lot of research on equipment and she also gave me some advice on how to make our voices sound big and broadcast quality — it’s literally applying one effect on your voice and it’s a game-changer. Google is your best friend. Invest in yourself and in good equipment — once you own that, nobody can take it away from you (unless you’re robbed, which I hope you’re not) and the world is your oyster. I’ve literally faked phone calls with ‘listeners’ in audio editing programmes by adding effects to my mate’s voices (not for this podcast).”

Raj: “Being radio women, sound quality was a big deal to us. We’ve both been put off listening to celebrity-led podcasts when the sound quality was off, so we were super conscious of our listeners feeling the same way. Most of the podcasts I’ve worked on use this process: the hosts will have a recording device like a Marantz or a Zoom with a good quality mic that they record their audio into (so the audio is recorded on separate files); the guest will record their audio on the voice notes app on their phone (the audio quality on this is SO DAMN GOOD). We’ll also record the visuals and backup audio on Zoom (on separate audio files again — check your Zoom settings) and, to ensure there are no sound leakages or clashes, everyone wears headphones connected to the zoom — so the mics don’t pick up any echoes.

“It also helps to utilize as many tricks as your editing software allows, so look at noise reduction, compression and processing. Also, Hardeep insisted we create the equivalent of ‘station sound’ for the podcast and I love her for that. We asked a sound engineer to make us some IDs and an opener, and I think it really helps give the podcast a bit of brand identity — and also helps me majorly with the edit.”

Why did you decide to work with Acast?

Raj: “Following the success of other podcasts I’d worked on, we were contacted by Clarissa Pabi to see if we’d be interested in being part of the Acast Creator Network. Clarissa was so passionate about the podcast idea and was transparent and honest about the pros and cons of being an Acast creator. We had lots of long chats about our ideas for the podcast and Acast gave us a lot of freedom to go wherever we liked with it. Clarissa has been so supportive and has nurtured our ideas and come back to us with helpful feedback when we needed it. Also, did we mention she was mentored by Michelle Obama? We would’ve been stupid not to work with her and Acast. We released the podcast in December 2020 and saw it on New & Noteworthy on Apple Podcasts, then saw Stylist mag feature us as one of the best new podcasts of 2021 — we have a sneaky feeling that that was down to the Acast team. My favourite thing about working with Acast is that they gave two random brown girls an opportunity like this.”

Hardeep: “Clarissa really believed in me and Raj as personalities, and would always gas us and our concept up. On days where I might have been doubting myself she would give us an extra push. It’s nice to have someone believe in you like that.”

We know Hardeep is a bit of a TikTok sensation — are you using TikTok to promote your podcast?

Hardeep: “We’re currently trialling ways to use TikTok to promote the podcast in an authentic way. I’m probably one of the most passionate people when it comes to TikTok, I’ve never loved a social media app more — and this says a lot coming from someone who a year ago deleted all their social media apps. The trick, I think, with any platform is to be original and to tailor your content to the specific platform. You’ve got to pay it respect, as if it were your lover. I’ve got no time for flinging content onto just any platform and hoping it does well without taking the time to study it and be genuinely passionate. So, that’s my advice: get to know TikTok and think about what YOU can bring. How can you be clever with it?”

Raj: “Hi, my name’s Raj and I’m new to Tik Tok. Every time I get on the app to make one I end up getting distracted in this world of comedy and absolute randomness, and just watch other people’s videos for hours until I need to go to bed. We’ll definitely be using it to promote the podcast.”

Hardeep: “You can tell Raj is new to TikTok, she wrote it as two separate words. My mum calls it ‘Ticky Tock’.”

What are your favourite podcasts?

Raj: “I love love love Katharine Ryan: Telling Everybody Everything, there’s an American music podcast called Dissect which is soooo geeky and always manages to cover artists I’m obsessed with, and I’m currently getting through Grounded with Louis Theroux and Fake Heiress (the first episode gave me Gossip Girl vibes — plus there’s a TV adaptation of the story coming to our screens this year).”

Hardeep: “My classic favourites of all time are, of course: This American Life, Serial, S-Town. The way all of these USE audio is SO clever — they paint pictures and bring your imagination to life through sound. I used to listen to Answer Me This on all my uni journeys, I loved their chemistry. Current podcasts I’m subscribed to include: Song Exploder (Hrishikesh Hirway is an absolute genius and someone I really admire), Mark Groves Podcast, Saturn Returns with Caggie, On Purpose with Jay Shetty and our girls Black Gals Livin’ who are HILARIOUS.”

What do you love most about podcasting?

Hardeep: “I like how it’s all completely in our control. It’s all our creative ideas and we can do what we want with it. There’s no boss there telling us what to do with it — we are free. Also, it’s nice to collab with Raj, it’s like the best of both of us come together to make something magical.”

Raj: “The freedom of it all. It’s liberating. We get to talk about what we want, how we want, without anyone trying to hold us back or say ‘no’ to us. I think we experienced a lot of that in our industry, and it’s just so refreshing to be creating something that’s authentic to who we are and what we’re about. Hardeep and I allow each other to be ourselves, unapologetically. Podcasting is one of the mediums out there that allows creatives to do that.”

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to create and launch a podcast this year?

Raj: “Sorry to throw a Nike motto at you, but just do it. I would say nail the format and structure of your podcast, take a little bit of time to get your branding right (the artwork and so on), be prepared to promote it on socials, and make sure your audio quality is on point — there are loads of videos about how to do this on YouTube, or ask another podcaster.”

Hardeep: “Just fucking do it, and be consistent — believe in your sauce. There IS room for you and your brilliant ideas.”

Who is your dream guest for the podcast?

Both: “Ariana Grande, duh.”

Hardeep: “And Drake — he’s emotional (like me). He’s exactly what we need. I bet he’s got BARE lessons.”

Raj: “I really want us to do some unexpected shit on the podcast, so I think we’re gonna try and get some Bollywood talent involved at some stage and just keep mixing it up. OMG, how could I forget — TYLER, THE CREATOR. He is my guy, I love him. Oh, and Frank Ocean. OK, I think I’ll just keep writing random names so I’m going to stop now.”

What are you saying “next” to in 2021?

Raj: “We’re still saying TYN to the patriarchy, hustle culture and not believing in love (I STILL BELIEVE). I’ve also gotta say ‘thank you, next’ to the negative self-talk, it’s a real problem that creeps up on me from time to time. So I’m letting that shit go. Also TYN to holding myself back — I didn’t make a vision board for nothing, yo.”

You can listen to Thank You Next wherever you get your podcasts.

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