Growing up in Summerside, P.E.I., Marie Nicola never thought she would one day be interviewing celebrities like Bif Naked, Tommy Chong and Trinity Taylor from Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
Now based in Toronto, she co-hosts a podcast that was recently picked up by U.S.-based digital radio platform Dash Radio. The platform has over 13 million monthly listeners.
That means the podcast, Alt.Pop.Repeat, will be the first Canadian show on the Dash Talk X channel.
“We’re so excited,” said Nicola, who also works with CBC Olympics. “It really is a testament that we have done something good with the show. And it really shows the timing of the project and the curiosity that the public has to know the roots of their mainstream culture.”
Alt.Pop.Repeat only has eight episodes recorded. The show is all about counterculture and how it shifts into pop culture.
“Pop culture is not created in a vacuum. It just doesn’t happen, it’s not like these great fantastic trends come out of the blue,” she said.
Nicola said pop culture trends typically come from niche groups making something cool, and along the way it makes a jump to the mainstream.
One of the topics on the show is cannabis.
Nicola said marijuana was first used as medicine in ancient times and it got criminalized along the way. Alt.Pop.Repeat looks into how it made the jump from a criminalized substance to full legalization in Canada.
“We’re looking at the musicians — so we saw the jazz movement, we saw different musicians like Cab Calloway and different jazz musicians start to talk about it, started to sing about it, started to make it more popular as they became more popular,” she said.
She said the podcast looks at the people who influence and contribute to shifts in culture, like opinions on cannabis. The show has also looked at trends such as yoga, cosplay, drag, veganism and an episode on the roots of twerking is in the works.
A lack of access to pop culture created Nicola’s obsession. She didn’t have many channels to choose from growing up on P.E.I.
“We only had Much Music like half a day some days, and so it was like my obsession with pop culture was voracious, because I couldn’t get enough of it,” she said.
She said she went to the local record store one day and there was a Erykah Badu CD there and she “lost her mind,” because it was rare to see her work in an Island music store.
“If I grew up in a large town, if I grew up in Toronto, I don’t think I would have been as obsessed with it. It was so much more rare.”
Nicola said because she grew up in Summerside her connection to pop culture allowed her to define herself by feeling like she was connected to a larger world.
She sang when she was growing up and she said small towns lead themselves to opportunity.
“Back home it’s like there seems to always feel like there is room for everyone at the table,” she said. “Everybody has an opportunity to indulge in the things they love.”
She said if she grew up in a larger city she may not have been able to pick up an Erykah Badu CD and learn and perform a song for an audience. But she could on P.E.I., and she did.
“I look at all the people I went to school with and how successful they are. I mean Heather Moyse is winning gold medals, Catherine MacLellan is winning Juno awards,” she said.
“There are so many people that come out of small towns and they achieve big things. And I think the main thing about that is the access and the support and opportunities that you have is, believe it or not, so much more than you would have in a large city.”