“I’ve gained so much more of a meaningful education from the podcasts I listen to than I have from eight years of higher education.” While this might sound like an exaggeration, there is no mistaking the look on Jordan Goodman’s face. He means it.
And that’s saying a lot. Goodman, an Owings Mills native, is a licensed psychotherapist, and his higher education has proven to be fruitful. In 2010, he created Beatwell, a program that allows for Goodman to use his love for drumming and rhythm as the core of his therapeutic practice. He estimates he’s held 500 or more Beatwell groups over the years and helped thousands in the process.
But in his latest endeavor, Goodman and his brother, Justin, along with Pikesville native Matt Halpern, are the hosts of an emergent podcast about self-improvement called “Chocolate Croissants.” Since March, the trio has produced an episode per week and amassed quite a following. So far, the podcast’s 29 episodes have been downloaded more than 43,000 times, and their private Facebook group, a forum to discuss creativity, self-improvement and entrepreneurship, recently added its 1,000th member.
Part of the show’s immediate success comes from Halpern being a public figure. He is the drummer of the internationally acclaimed progressive metal band Periphery. As a touring musician, Halpern is used to his work impacting thousands of people, but the less immediate impact, he said, takes some getting used to. “It’s awesome but kind of strange. When I’m performing … I can see each and every face, and I can tell by the overall crowd reaction how we’re being received. When it comes to the podcast, I obviously can’t see all of our listeners, but I love that the listener base is potentially e ndless.”
Jordan asserts that a vast majority of “Chocolate Croissants” listeners became aware of the show through following Halpern on social media. Still, the trio hopes to expand its audience beyond Periphery fans.
“I try to visualize a person,” Jordan said of the show’s target audience, “a college-age dude who’s interested in music or some other form of creative expression,” a person at a crossroads in life but determined to remain inventive. Jordan feels the types of conversations he and his co-hosts conduct with their guests are largely lacking in the main steam dialogue. The “Chocolate Croissants” hosts want to encourage people to pursue, even monetize, their creative endeavors, even if it is not their primary source of income.
Podcasts in Context
Much like the way people have taken to on-demand television, podcasts — which are more or less downloadable versions of radio shows — have seen a bump in popularity because of their listen-at-your-leisure nature.
Because of their format, podcasts are less strictly regulated by the FCC and are not bound by the same time restraints a broadcast radio station imposes. This allows for hosts and guests to really dig into a topic without worrying about running out of time.
“The catalyst that sent me back to school to become a dietician was podcasts,” Justin said, citing episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” a podcast that is routinely more than two hours in which dietician Dr. Rhonda Patrick is a recurring guest.
Like many podcasts, the language on “Chocolate Croissants” can be colorful. While the show might not always be appropriate for small children, the topics of conversation are nearly always positive while embracing community and spirituality through self-discovery.
This shouldn’t be surprising since each host has a career in which they rear clients to be better versions of themselves. Jordan is a psychotherapist; Justin, along with studying to be a dietician, works as a personal trainer; and Halpern takes an opportunity before almost every Periphery show to host drum “master classes” in which he teaches drumming techniques and answers questions for those in attendance.
“I think that’s what attracted Matt to doing the podcast with us specifically,” said Jordan. If Beatwell and the podcast wasn’t enough, Jordan recently landed his dream job as the brand and marketing associate for Ring of Honor, the second largest professional wrestling company in the Western world. In a future episode of the podcast, Jordan hopes to discuss in detail his process of obtaining this job as a way to encourage others to follow their dreams, no matter how unlikely they might seem.
Recording the Show
Ahead of the recording of Episode 27, which featured Periphery guitarist Misha Mansoor, Justin predicted it could be their most popular episode yet.
Before recording, Halpern and Mansoor eats dinner at the island in Jordan’s sparsely decorated Remington apartment, where most of the episodes are recorded. When Justin arrives last, the four spend close to 20 minutes chatting, even though that is precisely what they’ll be doing momentarily. Once Justin hits the record button, the group becomes all business, although not at the cost of losing their conversational nature.
Except for a class or two in college, none of the hosts have any training when it comes to radio production. Even then, none credit the classes with having any impact on the way they run the show. Still, they exhibit the patience, restraint and awareness of a radio host during a live broadcast.
The hosts listen to Mansoor intently and signal by raising their right pointer finger to determine who will ask the next question. The recording lasts for close to two hours, and their attention is never broken. Occasionally, they break eye contact with the guest and spend a few moments on their laptops. Even then, they are actively engaged in the episode by vetting the questions that listeners sent in prior to the recording.
The title of the podcast symbolizes three friends meeting weekly and catching up, the way most people would do in a coffee shop over pastries. But week after week, the audience keeps growing.
After the recording, Jordan and Justin shared one of their proudest moments from working in the podcast. It’s a message from a young man from India who is studying neuropsychology in Syria. In his message in the “Chocolate Croissants” Facebook group in both English and Arabic, the young man expresses his concern about what to do once he’s finished studying. He’s met with responses that are warm and considerate. It is in these interactions that “Chocolate Croissants” becomes more than a podcast. The hypothetical coffee shop becomes more spacious, comfortably seating more than 1,000 people, each with a voice as prominent as the last.
“I think that’s when this all really comes together…” said Justin, “if we can just broadcast our natural conversations and [they have] the ability to reach even one person, then its worth it.” Luckily, he added, “we see it in spades!”
Connor Graham is a local freelance writer.