Laurie Brown is all about pondering, taking time to reflect and getting us inside our own heads through her podcast, aptly dubbed Pondercast. Seems fitting that hers is one of many insightful programs people will be turning to, not only to help get them through this troubling time, but also to think about what it means: the broader context of where we go from here.
A Toronto native, Brown is a well-known broadcaster with roots that stretch back to the MuchMusic days when it was cool and relevant. Following a stint in journalism with Citytv and others, Brown found her music niche again, this time with CBC Radio where she developed the groundbreaking late-night show The Signal.
Ten years later, Brown had done all she could to shine a light on the moody, obscure and way-off-the-beaten-path tunes, and it was time for a change.
“I really wanted some new challenge, something I hadn’t done before,” Brown says, over the Internet from a tiny British village in which she was holed up waiting out the COVID-19 situation. “I wanted to talk about the kind of thoughts we all have but we usually don’t say out loud,” she says. “Our private fears and anxieties that, when we think them to ourselves, we think, ‘Oh that’s nuts.’ ”
Enter Pondercast. For the show, she partnered with Toronto electronic musician Joshua Van Tassel who creates gorgeous sonic landscapes upon which Brown’s deep thoughts and journeys tread. Ty Johnston handles the design and look of the show.
Pondercast combines deep thoughts, insight and lush soundscapes, as well as music from other artists who fit the mood. It’s insightful, uplifting and just what people need right about now, partly thanks to Brown’s innate curiosity regarding people and their inner monologues.
“You know, it [my curiosity] is a well that has never run dry for me. It’s held me in such good stead in everything I’ve done,” she says. “I wish I knew where it came from, I don’t know but it leads me to all the best, fantastic things in life.”
But she also likes to balance the natural world with science, and that is reflected in the show.
“When I can have one foot firmly planted in the natural world and another in the science world and be the human in between, I think that gives me a picture and a headspace that feels like sanity,” she says. “Particularly in nature, I need to have a big part of my headspace there, which is a zoom-out effect, right, from the little fixations and anxieties. It says, wait a minute, open the barn doors and let us look at the bigger picture, and your anxiety shifts when that happens.”
In our current situation, there is no end to the anxiety, but there is also an opportunity, Brown says to slow down, to rethink and to renew.
“I think this is an unbelievable opportunity. It’s like, do you notice, even on social media, the trivial seems to have fallen away,” she says. “It’s a giant reset moment for people to remember what really is important to them. It’s a huge opportunity. I’m kind of holding my breath. I’m really hopeful there will be major changes in the right direction because of this.”