With just a microphone and a computer, Tacoma resident Ty Ray has broadcast his voice all over the world, and people are starting to listen.
Ray’s podcast, “Beats & Eats,” has begun to earn a huge following, and was nominated for the 2013 Stitcher Awards in San Francisco, a celebration honoring excellence in podcasting. “Beats & Eats” was recognized in the Food and Wine category.
Boxing Ray and his co-host Nick Gelso into one category is a huge mistake, as the show covers the entire pantheon of pop culture – everything from music to comedy to television to yes, food and wine.
“The concept was two guys getting together at a really cool, hip, happening bar after work, having some cocktails, sitting and talking to each other,” Ray said.
Ray was involved with sports broadcasting in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years, while Gelso has owned restaurants and is currently a food consultant.
“We mesh together. It’s great. We bring all sorts of different knowledge to the table and it just kind of works as the perfect cocktail,” Ray said.
The twist in the relationship is that neither of the co-hosts has actually met the other in person. While Ray broadcasts from his Tacoma home in the Stadium District, Gelso is situated in Scranton, Pa.
“I think that speaks to the power of technology, to the power of the Internet and I think to the power of podcasting,” Ray said.
Ray and Gelso met when Ray began podcasting about the Boston Celtics in spring of 2012. When Gelso heard the podcast, he decided to ask Ray to take part in his Internet radio station, CLNS, based out of Boston.
“What we found is we’d get on these phone calls with each other talking about the Celtics, and then we’d talk about food, music, movies and wine and the next thing you know it would be a two-hour phone call,” Ray said. “One day we just said to each other, why don’t we make this a show?”
With that idea in mind, “Beats & Eats” was launched in October 2013 on iTunes and Stitcher, a podcast app for Android. A big part of becoming a part of the Stitcher family is being eligible for the Stitcher award, where podcast fans can nominate their favorite Stitcher shows for various categories.
Despite only being around for four months, “Beats & Eats” was nominated in Food and Wine against competition like cooking superstar Alton Brown, who ended up taking home the award, which Ray was okay with. As the co-host who brings more “Beats” than “Eats,” Ray was nervous to accept an award for Food and Wine.
“I thought if we win this award, I’m going to go up there, and I don’t even know how to boil water,” Ray said of his nerves.
Just being nominated saw the podcast get a huge bump in popularity, with the show’s Twitter followers jumping from 200 to about 1,500 after the nomination. Today, the Twitter account has around 7,000 followers.
The Stitcher Awards gave Ray the opportunity to meet his peers and see the world of podcasting up close.
“It was a room full of entrepreneurs,” Ray said.
The host’s background in broadcasting gives him a unique insight into the future of podcasting.
“The beauty of podcasting is, from my own apartment with a USB mic and a laptop, I can create something and I can compete against the big boys,” Ray said.
Not only can Ray compete with big corporations from his small apartment in Tacoma, he now has reach all over the world. His favorite moment in the show came when a cab driver in Milan tweeted a picture of himself listening to the podcast.
“I just pictured this cab driver in Italy, having perhaps a horrible day, and somehow we were making it better,” Ray said. “That was very moving to me.”
The guys just don’t keep the party to themselves; “Beats & Eats” has already featured several different guests. Ray’s love for rock ‘n’ roll recently brought “X-Factor” contestant Jeff Gutt to the show, while his love of the 80’s inspired him to get Gavin MacLeod of “The Love Boat” fame for an interview.
With the success the guys have had, they have been able to expand “Beats & Eats” into its own network. Now, rather than just being one show, the “Beats & Eats” website features shows from the likes of “Hell’s Kitchen” contestant Barret Beyer, MTV’s “Awkward” star Matthew Fahey and actress Lydia Cornell.
Ray hopes to one day podcast for a living, but for now his success has given him an opportunity to live his dream.
“This has really rejuvenated me. This has given me new life. It’s letting me pursue my passion again,” Ray said.
“Beats & Eats” can be downloaded from iTunes or Stitcher, and the entire network can be found at http://188.8.131.52/~beatsan2/.