The commute to Vancouver through Abbotsford or Chilliwack is not typically an environment for inspiration. Traffic jams can be challenging situations at the best of times. But for a young law student attending UBC, it served as the starting point of something quite big.
Aaron Pete (BA Crim ’18) began the Bigger Than Me Podcast on the heels of a global pandemic, and while he was completing his Law degree at UBC, commuting four to five hours a day. But from early contemplations in his car, to a home studio, Pete has seen his podcast grow exponentially in a short time, just recently celebrating his 100th episode earlier this year.
“It took me from March until early June to get all of the equipment, to get them room set up, to do all the grunt work,” says Pete. “I didn’t want anybody to know because I didn’t want the naysayers to question if it will work. Everybody’s starting a podcast.”
Pete began his podcast in one of the rooms of his apartment, decorated as a home studio with sound proofing on the walls, and a full audio setup with an interview chair.
“I started it very quietly and continued to listen to other people’s interviews,” says Pete. “I started to try and figure out what mine would be about.”
For Pete, this was the biggest question of all. As a life-long learner, he found himself continually interested in other people’s stories, in learning from them, and exploring issues he knew little about.
“I didn’t want it to be focused on me,” says Pete. “Some of the people that I admire in our community, one of the things they struggle with is selling themselves. I didn’t want to tell people to just listen to my podcast. It’s like, listen to this because the people I interview have interesting things to say.”
Pete’s goal has always been to tell authentic stories on a variety of topics that interest him. He began by interviewing local voices, people who inspired him.
“It gave me a good connection with the community,” says Pete. “I think the challenge was personal growth and being able to reach interesting people. That inspired me to think differently.”
Now, after 100 episodes, Pete produces his podcast in Studio C at Cowork Chilliwack, which is operated by UFV alum Tim McAlpine (Dip’89).
Pete, who always had a desire to learn, would hear his professors or other knowledgeable people quoted in interviews or in articles and was let down when they weren’t given the platform to fully express their ideas.
“And I’d see some of my professors did a newspaper article with some local newspaper, and they’d get a sentence, and the rest would all be from the journalist’s perspective, which fair enough,” says Pete. “But I knew these people had like long 30-minute, one-hour thoughts on an issue.”
“I’m just getting warmed up,” says Pete. “I’m just starting to figure this out. I’m 100 episodes in.”
For Aaron, reaching 100 episodes is just the beginning.
Pete, who is wanting to commit to 1,000 episodes or more, has already lined up guests for future episodes, with a wish list extending into the ever-distant future.
“It’s going to move much quicker now,” says Pete. “I think it was maybe between 25 and 40 episodes the first year and then similar to that in the second year, and then year three was like double both of them combined. So, it’s going to become more and more consistent, where we’re kicking out a couple episodes a week.”
But over the past three years, Pete has been shifting his focus. The first 50 episodes were focused on learning people’s stories; now he wants to begin diving into ideas.
“Now I think, what topics am I excited about learning about and being a student of now?” he says. “One of my recent interviews was with a person from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Sounds super boring to some people, but for me, everybody pays taxes. How does the system work and is it operating well?”
For Pete, this means being a perpetual student, something that excites him.
“I think that’s what the best part of being a university student was being able to talk to brilliant people and just get their perspective on things,” says Pete. “And now I get to do that constantly on issues where I’m not well versed.”
But a big part of this experience for Pete, and what draws him to doing the podcast, rather than reading books, is being able to connect with people through oral storytelling, something he feels strongly about.
“I’m having Stó:lõ Elder Eddie Gardner come back on and we’re going to dive into the language. And to be able to hear him speak his knowledge rather than if he were to write a book, it is just a richer, more valuable experience. And it is just different energy for me.”
But as Pete continues to refine his craft, one thing he always wants to do is ensure that his interviewees feel seen.
“It’s about doing thorough research. All of my favorite interviewers take the research side really seriously. You comb through the social media, through random websites, through past interviews they’ve done. Tim McAlpine pointed this out to me, that at one point in almost every interview, you’ll hear the guest take a second and go, ‘Who the heck is this guy? Thank you for asking that question. You’re really well prepared’ And that’s how you want to leave. Like even if the numbers don’t go crazy, that’s my staple of success. I feel I did a good interview because I think people want to feel noticed.”
The Bigger Than Me Podcast will continue to grow in the next 100 episodes in exciting ways.
“There’s some names coming that I would be honored to be able to sit down with,” says Pete. “And Tim having the space that he does, I don’t think it’ll be outside the realm of possibility to start to do live interviews in front of people and record that with them sitting there and then have a live studio audience.”
To listen to past episodes or to keep up to date on the latest interviews, you can listen to Bigger Than Me podcast online here or subscribe to Aaron Pete’s Substack Newsletter here.