Co-host of hit Paul McCartney podcast returns to Northwestern for lecture


Source: Max Phillips

Ryan Brady and Chris Mercer interview Denny Laine of Wings at NU in August 2017. Brady and Mercer co-host “Take It Away: The Complete Paul McCartney Podcast.”

Andrea Michelson, Arts and Entertainment Editor


When Ryan Brady (Weinberg ’08) started “Take It Away: The Complete Paul McCartney Archive Podcast,” he said he would have rated himself as a seven- or eight-out-of-ten level Paul McCartney fan. But after interacting with “mega-fans” on the internet, he realized that in comparison, he’s a two or three at best.

While Brady doesn’t have a McCartney shrine in his home or a complete collection of every Beatles record ever released, he has an above-average knowledge of the British rock legend. He and Bienen Prof. Chris Mercer launched “Take It Away” in September 2016, and have since released over 30 podcast episodes analyzing McCartney’s body of work.

Brady, who currently works in Los Angeles, will return to campus to give a lecture about “Take It Away” with Mercer on Thursday. The lecture will take place at 7 p.m. in Annie May Swift Hall.

Brady and Mercer met in a music production class at Northwestern. When Brady quoted a lesser-known McCartney bootleg in a sound collage project, Mercer said he was surprised to hear that reference from a 21-year-old student.

“I asked him about it after class — ‘Hey, that wasn’t “Cage” in your project, was it?’” Mercer said. “He was like, ‘How do you know about “Cage”?’ And I said, ‘I’m the Gen X-er here, how do you know about “Cage”?’”

The pair kept in touch after Brady graduated, spending hours on the phone talking about The Beatles and music in general. After listening to some podcasts in his free time, he said he thought about starting one himself — “If these guys do it, then Chris and I can do it,” Brady said.

Brady said he and Mercer record their phone calls for the podcast, then Mercer edits and puts the recordings together. He said they initially recorded several episodes to release on a weekly basis before switching to a monthly schedule.

“In the beginning, we didn’t know who we were speaking to,” Brady said. “We thought maybe we’d listen to it and enjoy it, maybe our friends … But now there are people in other countries and throughout the United States that write us, and they tell us we’ve affected their lives.”

Early on, a typical episode of “Take It Away” would get five to 15 downloads, Brady said. But now, he said each episode gets anywhere between 1,000 to 10,000 downloads — and that’s just within the first week of release.

Mercer said they receive most of their listener feedback via Facebook and email. While most of the feedback is positive, he said they’ve gotten some backlash, particularly when he argued that McCartney’s beloved album “Flaming Pie” is overrated.

“It really shows you how hardcore the fans are,” Mercer said. “Some opinions about these albums and these songs are like articles of faith in a way, so you get in a little trouble if you push back against that.”

“Take It Away” is not the only podcast geared toward McCartney fans, but Brady said their podcast has a unique “stickiness” to it, perhaps because he and Mercer maintain a voice that is both casual and honest.

Communication Prof. Jacob Smith, who will moderate the lecture on Thursday, said he is excited for Brady and Mercer to share their expertise with a Northwestern audience. He said he is a fan of “Take It Away” and has learned a lot from the podcast.

“Ryan and Chris’s podcast is a lot of fun because they bring so much knowledge to each Paul album and individual track, putting McCartney’s career in context with reference to reviews, chart positions, tons of production information and really keen ears,” Smith said.

The co-hosts credit the podcast’s success in part to McCartney’s prolific music career. When asked about the rockstar’s timeless appeal, Brady quoted Sir McCartney himself.

“Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. What’s wrong with that?”

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