To help keep readers plugged into Cincinnati life even as we continue to physically distance from each other due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, CityBeat is highlighting a series of local podcasts and their creators every week. Read previous installments about "When Pigs Fly," "West End Stories," "Cincinnati Zoo Tails," "Cincy Brewcast" and "Nature Vs. Narcissism."
Everyone in Cincinnati has a story to tell. And with some audio equipment and an eager ear, Natalie Jones is determined to hear it.
Each week on the podcast Person of Interest with Natalie Jones, Jones interviews who she calls “Greater Cincinnati's most fascinating people,” from chefs to comedians to coroners. Jones tells CityBeat that each conversation attempts to peel back the vast layers of the Queen city.
“Cincinnati is really eclectic and we have so many hidden gems,” she says. “As cheesy as it sounds, I believe in life in general that there's so much beauty that needs to be paid attention to or that doesn't have enough light shone on it... I think storytelling is really impactful and really powerful, and also really interesting.”
A host for Q102 (WKRQ-FM), Jones has been involved in the Person of Interest podcast since early 2018. What began as a simple work assignment developed into a long-term passion project for her, she says.
Jones describes herself as “born and bred on the West Side” of Cincinnati, briefly relocating to Colorado and Los Angeles before returning here to care for her parents. When she began working for Q102, Person of Interest was pitched as she and her colleagues began brainstorming podcast ideas.
Originally, Jones was the producer of the podcast while her colleague, Jeff Thomas, was the host. Jones would find the guests and write the interview questions as well as sit beside Thomas while he conducted the interview. Jones says she initially sat in because she was curious and excited about the project but admits that her overeagerness must have been “weird and awkward” in hindsight.
“(Thomas) was really nice about it,” Jones says. “He was like, ‘Sure, Kid.’ I was just starting out, so I was just really curious and ambitious about it.”
When Thomas needed to focus on other projects and the podcast was on the verge of dissolving, Jones stepped up and revived it as the new host.
A common thread in each Person of Interest episode is identifying and highlighting each guest’s “gift” to Cincinnati.
“Through expressing themselves, everyone is giving gifts, and whether people realize it or not, they are. I feel like I've brought that to the attention of many people that I've interviewed like, ‘Wow, look at what you're doing. You're giving such a gift,’ and they don't even realize it. And so I think that everyone's story is really a gift,” Jones says.
Jones says she typically finds guests through word-of-mouth or running into interesting people. For example, she ran into local artist Pam Kravetz three times before inviting her to the podcast. Now Jones considers Kravetz a good friend after discovering her spirit and good conversation.
Jones says she tries to make every interview “very conversational” in order to get to know the person behind the mystique.
“I like to go with the flow about it and see what can happen because some people will come on who are known for one thing, but it's not just about what they're known for. We want to know other things about them,” she says.
Jones describes herself as having a “loosey-goosey” interview style that originates from her background in stand-up comedy and live moments from her radio show. While the interview is conversational, she tries to do as much research she can on the guest and prepare questions in advance.
Over the years, this experience has allowed her to gain more confidence and tap back into the roots of her hometown.
“We have so many great souls here, so many amazing (and) powerful people. It's been empowering for me to grow. I’ve learned so much because of this podcast, oh my goodness," Jones says. "And I think that at least, from someone who's born and raised in Cincinnati and moved away to Los Angeles — I'm like, ‘Oh my god, Cincinnati has everything here.' We really do have a lot of people who genuinely care about each other and want to help each other.”
Person of Interest with Natalie Jones is released weekly. It can be accessed via PodcastOne, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.