"One of the recurring themes on the show that we always talk about is the idea that art is not free. This was said in the first episode with Dan Kehde and has been repeated over and over again by artists in the show."
As for his podcast's own survival, costs are low, but to expand he's looking for sponsors. He also ponders seeking listener support, just like public-radio fund drives.
"The show is so focused on the Charleston community that I would love to see someone like the Arts Council or FestivALL or even Bayer come on, even for exclusivity at this point."
He said he's also doing more than interviewing. "We're also incorporating site-specific audio experiences, radio drama."
The BZ Tat episode, for instance, featured a segment called "All Dogs Hate Patrick":
"When I'm walking down the hill to catch the bus, inevitably every single dog within a mile radius will start barking at me. So, I just recorded all of the dogs barking at me and looped it over itself and added some ambient sound."
"That Conversation" has also become more interactive as a way to hook listeners. This was the solicitation on the podcast's Facebook page Monday: "OK, folks, it's teen poetry time again. This week's topic: Write a free verse poem that begins with the line 'Oh Garfield, My Garfield.'"
A bit goofy, yes. But it's a way to direct ears to the show, said Felton. "A lot of people like to listen to hear if their poem is read."
After all, he has lots of room to experiment online.
"Because it's the Internet, I don't have anyone telling me how long they are. They're usually as long as I want them to be or about as long as I feel editing them to. The shortest episode was about 60 minutes and the longest was a mammoth interview I ended up breaking up into a couple episodes that were each about 90 minutes."
Since he's hunting sponsors, he's leery of divulging subscriber numbers, as the show is coming off a hiatus that likely diminished an already low number, he said. "I have a very loyal but small fan base. But I would say we have more listeners now than we've ever had."
Podcasting was hot some years ago, declined and is now experiencing a bit of renaissance. That's partly due to successful comedy podcasts like "WTF with Mark Maron," which marked its 300th episode in July. Public radio's "Bullseye with Jesse Thorn" is also "a huge influence," said Felton.
His broadcast influences extend into the past too.
"As a child, 'Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell' was a huge part of my childhood because of the ability to tell these strange stories, which it didn't matter whether or not you believed them. It was just radio of the mind, theater of the mind. That's something I would like to do more of with the new episodes."
Podcasting is obviously not his bread and butter. Felton has a communications degree from West Virginia State University, where he is an adjunct professor teaching some mandatory student classes -- "Origins" and "Race, Gender and Human Identity" -- in the general education department.
He also has a master's degree in television, radio and film from Syracuse University, which reveals something about his podcasting passion.
"It was the only master's program that had 'radio' in the title. Even when I was at State I'd always had a radio program. By the time I'd got to Syracuse, I'd been tempted by the other side and got pulled over into film. It's taken me six years to realize that what I really wanted to be doing was talking to people."
There aren't many people doing what he's doing in the Mountain State, he said. "Off the top of my head, I can only think of three or four other podcasts in West Virginia."
But he feels he's filling a niche that West Virginians need to be filling.
"I also think there's sort of a vacuum for long-form interview journalism 'infotainment' right now in our community. We've got 'Radio Free Charleston,' which is doing really interesting stuff with capturing performance. But there's not a lot of people sitting down and talking about what it means to be an artist in the 21st century around here.
"What I'm shooting for in every interview is to just get past the [BS]. I feel like artists feel like there's a specific way they're supposed to act in public if they want to get visibility. I think it's much more interesting to just approach it as 'We're both human beings. Let's talk.'"
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.
In the spirit of podcasting, hear the full audio interview with Felton at my personal blog, WestVirginiaVille.com.