We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevin Hellestad and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kevin, what habits do you feel play an important role in your life?
When it comes to habits that have helped me succeed in starting and growing the Chord Progression Podcast, there have been 3 major habits that have helped me.
The first might sound cheesy but it is 100% the truth, and that is always being myself with the podcast. When I reach out to bands, PR firms, or managers requesting interviews, I will always make the request my own and include information about how I found out about the band, what I’ve liked from listening to them, and what I would like to talk with each band about on the podcast. What this has done is shown who I am, that I genuinely love what I do, that I genuinely love the music, and that I am willing to work within the band’s schedule to record with them. Whatever it takes, if I want an artist on the podcast, I will do what I can to get them on.
When it comes to the podcast specifically, being myself has led me to create my own style different than any other music podcast interviewing bands out there. Most podcasts have set questions they want to ask, ask them, and then leave it at that. And if that is their style, great, nothing wrong with that. That is not my style so following a set model was not for me. Being myself led me to create an interview style where the music and the band is at the core of the podcast, but whatever way the conversation flows, it flows. I always describe it as us (the band and I) all as friends, sitting in a room together, talking about their music, drinking a beer, and shooting the breeze. This has led each podcast conversation to feel natural, fun, and like the band is in the room with you. I knew it was a hit when bands were telling me they loved the style of the podcast and would love to return the next time they have new music coming out or something to announce.
The second habit that has helped me succeed is that I prepare for every podcast as if that interview is the most important interview I have ever done. Every artist and band has put their heart and soul into their work and their music, and I want to show that same level of work and respect in what I do, interviewing them on the podcast. So I always create a preview sheet of notes to have for the podcast, available for me to use during the episode. I always find out the current lineup of the band, take notes on their style, and get a historical synopsis of the band and their history. But then the hard part (the fun part) comes in. Typically the band’s I interview have brand new music coming out (either new singles or new albums). What I will do is analyze that new single, or each song on the entire album, in great detail. I will discover the meaning of each song to myself, analyze each section of the song’s instrumentals and vocals, and then see how they all relate to conveying the message of the theme. Once that is done, I will write and overall synopsis, press release style, of my thoughts on the song and/or the entire album. If a band has just one new song for me to look into, creating a preview sheet can take up to 1 hour. If there is a whole album (average of 12 songs), the preview sheet will likely be 22 pages long and take 6 to 7 hours to construct.
By going this deep into the band’s music, I am able to talk with these bands about their music on a deeper level than anyone else. We get insights from the band with what they meant by each song, how each progression conveys the emotion of the message, how the vocal tone was selected and why it worked. We break down the song in a way that is easy to understand with the band, but the listener gets more knowledge of the band and song than any other podcast will provide. It shocks bands how deep I go into their songs, but they are always happy about it because it allows for them to really show their emotions and their ideas behind each song, each album, everything that they do.
The last habit that has helped with my success is continuing to build the relationships with all guests I have had on the podcast, and anyone else who helped connect me to those bands as well. After every podcast if I enjoy the episode (which is 100% guarantee) I make a promise to each band that when I get to see them perform live for the first time, the first round is on me (if they don’t drink, I change it on the fly to something else). I am thankful to have every band on the podcast, and I want to show my thanks by supporting them at a show or with a drink. Out of the 189 artists I have interviewed, I have seen 28 live (all in 2021). I make it a point to seek out each artist after the show if I can and say hello. This shows that I was not kidding when I said I would see them live, support them live, and if they want that first round, I have them covered. Being able to show that support and go the extra mile I feel has set me apart from some other music podcasts, and I will continue to do that for one very specific reason, because I love to do it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The largest obstacle I had to overcome with starting the podcast and getting where I am today was depression. Back in 2017, I was working a full time job that I hated, lost the girl I had been dating for a year and truly loved, and wondered if the rest of my life was going to be clockwork in a 9-5 job. It drove me to wonder if what I was experiencing was the working world and what I would be going through for the next 50 years. It drove me into a deep depression that had me sitting in the work bathroom, just trying to muster up the energy to go back out there and face my job for another hour. I was lifeless and wanted it to all end (did attempt suicide a few times, but always pulled back at the final hour). I needed to find something that would give me life again, and I found it at a Rise Against concert in September of 2017. Once the band went on stage and the music started playing, all my depression, hurt, and contempt for life just… went away. I felt like myself again for another 90 minutes and new I needed to find a way to get that back. It took another few months before I realized that music is what I loved, music is what I wanted to work with, and creating something for myself with music was going to make me happy again, make me feel like myself again. So I went ahead and started working on a new project, bringing the music I love to the people of the internet. Eventually that turned into a podcast with me talking about the music I loved, that then transformed into a podcast interviewing bands and artists in a way no one else does. Depression almost led me to my ultimate doom, starting my own business and podcast brought me back to life, made me happy, and will never let depression come at me in the same way again.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As I am not from the DFW area (I am in Milwaukee, WI), I would be the one coming into the city as the tourist looking for the best time ever. So I will break this out into 2 parts, the first being where I would like to go if I get to come back to the DFW area, and second is where I would take you all if you came for a visit to Milwaukee.
If I were to come to the DFW area for a week or so, I would ask you for 2 things. I want to eat some good authentic Texas barbecue, and see a live show every night at any music venue in the city that is playing rock or metal music. If I am going to be in the area, absolutely do I want to have the full experience, and not the classic tourist one with all the famous or chain restaurants. Get me to a mom and pop BBQ joint where they really put their passion, love, and everything they have into their food. I want to taste the food that the real people of the area are making, not the stuff all the tourists end up going to. And I would love to go to as many live shows as possible in the rock and metal genres of music, regardless of size. If there is a big show happening at a great local spot, fantastic I want to go there. Or if there is a spot that many local bands play at and the crowd size isn’t the biggest, take me there too. I would love to see and support all the upcoming rock and metal artists in the DFW area.
But if you ever come up by me in Milwaukee Wisconsin, I will take you on a wild ride similar to what I would want as a tourist in the DFW area. I would take you to as many live shows as possible at The Rave, The Miramar Theater, or the Summerfest grounds. If more local is your flavor, let’s head to Da Bar, X-Ray Arcade, and many of the other local music venues around here. Regardless of your taste in music, I can find you something here. As for other things, I would invite you to tailgate with me before a Milwaukee Brewers game. We sit in the parking lot, drink beer, grill burgers and brats, toss some bags (or corn hole if you prefer) and then go watch a baseball game, and return to the parking lot when it is over and pick up right where we left off. Whether I travel to the DFW area to see all of you or you want to come up to Milwaukee, I can assure you, it will be a great time.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Every band that I have had on the podcast deserves a shoutout here because without them, the podcast is nothing. I do want to highlight 10 bands and artists specifically that have meant the most to the podcast and deserve a personal shoutout
Jonathan Norris of Kingdom Collapse
CJ, Maggie, and Lulu from Gold Frankincense & Myrrh (GFM)
Joey Arena from Ovtlier
Joey Varela from VRSTY
Matt, James, and the guys from Caskets
Adi Hernandez from Modern Mimes
All the guys in the North Carolina Rock Scene (To Begin Anew, Waking Tera, Death of Uriah)
Anthony from Defy The Tyrants
Kade Katz and the guys from Throw The Fight
The band Modern Day Escape
Other: Chord Progression Podcast (Spotify): https://open.spotify.com/show/53XWPGrIUvgavKF5Fm6SLk Chord Progression Podcast (Apple Podcast): https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/chord-progression/id1454876657 Chord Progression Podcast (Amazon): https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/b8dad803-444c-4a73-8aa5-67b4fc43f4ba Chord Progression Podcast (iHeart Radio): https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-chord-progression-70632531/