Arts & Culture Podcasts

Great art almost feels like magic—it opens our minds to brand new ideas, and teaches us to see ourselves and our world more clearly. Of course, behind all great art, there are artists. And that’s where the real magic happens… As we go beneath the art itself to explore how different artists do what they do, we see glimpses of the sorts of creativity, resilience, and bravery that lead to the art that moves our world. And maybe we can learn to borrow some of that magic for our very own thinking. Join professional musician Emily Merrell for conversations with artists of all kinds. Together, we examine the mysteries of our own experiences, our muses and fears, our gifts and foibles, our beliefs about the origins of creativity, and the secret magic we’ve discovered in our unique creative processes. Mediums include: studio art, graphic design, dance, cooking, illustration, creative writing, storytelling, comedy, music composition, music performance, film making, acting, production, fashion design, photography, and more. Visit for more information. - Theme Song "As You Are" by Emily Merrell @emilymerrellmusic - Illustration and Graphic Design by Sarah Keele @sarahkeeleart - Photography by Jen Palmer @jenpalmerphoto - HMU by Shawna Turner @shawnaturnerdesigns


United States


Great art almost feels like magic—it opens our minds to brand new ideas, and teaches us to see ourselves and our world more clearly. Of course, behind all great art, there are artists. And that’s where the real magic happens… As we go beneath the art itself to explore how different artists do what they do, we see glimpses of the sorts of creativity, resilience, and bravery that lead to the art that moves our world. And maybe we can learn to borrow some of that magic for our very own thinking. Join professional musician Emily Merrell for conversations with artists of all kinds. Together, we examine the mysteries of our own experiences, our muses and fears, our gifts and foibles, our beliefs about the origins of creativity, and the secret magic we’ve discovered in our unique creative processes. Mediums include: studio art, graphic design, dance, cooking, illustration, creative writing, storytelling, comedy, music composition, music performance, film making, acting, production, fashion design, photography, and more. Visit for more information. - Theme Song "As You Are" by Emily Merrell @emilymerrellmusic - Illustration and Graphic Design by Sarah Keele @sarahkeeleart - Photography by Jen Palmer @jenpalmerphoto - HMU by Shawna Turner @shawnaturnerdesigns




Ep. 171: Jennifer Madsen

Jennifer Madsen is a prized fixture on performing stages of the West. A lifelong singer and actress, her early career included being a cast member of Brigham Young University’s famed performing group the Young Ambassadors. That experience founded her love of the art and afforded her the chance to sing, dance, and act for audiences across the globe. Using her strong foundational understanding for the craft, Jennifer left BYU and began to formally instruct students in all areas of performing. Her students from these early days have gone on to lead successful careers as Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning artists. She has had several students on American Idol and its predecessor, Star Search. One such student even went on to become a Star Search season finale winner. Her celebrated instruction continues to this day, as a former voice and musical theatre instructor at Utah Valley University and currently as part of Snow College’s award-winning music department. Jennifer Madsen studied voice with Jeri Clinger and big band vocalist from Stan Kenton’s orchestra, William “Smiling Bill” Stoker. Her recent studies include spending several summers in New York City completing her professor’s certification in the Margolis Method for Acting. Her continued studies in this methodology infuse her vocal performance studio with techniques and tools for helping musicians and performers to connect viscerally with their music, lyrics and performance. Jennifer’s accomplishments run deep as a producer, director, studio session singer and choreographer. Some of her more recent productions include The Sound of Music (Musical Director/Choreographer) at Robert Redford’s renowned Sundance Summer Theater; Inside the Outside (Music Producer) with Grammy award winning saxophonist, Jeff Coffin of the Dave Mathews Band (partially recorded on her musical tour to Cuba,) Don’t Look Down (Music Producer); the award-winning independent film Masque (Music Production); and various projects with BYU Broadcasting (Music Producer). Jennifer’s recognition for such work includes multiple Downbeat Music Awards and several Utah Best of State awards for her work with Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band. She recently participated in the Essentially Ellington competition at Jazz at the Lincoln Center where her long time student, Isabella Johnson, was awarded outstanding vocalists. Aside from her many lauded achievements, Jennifer has never lost sight of the passion rooted in all of her life’s work – performing what she loves for the people she loves. She’s had the privilege of doing so with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, the Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra, Salt Lake Choral Artist, the Utah Valley Symphony, and on numerous albums including work with Kenneth Cope. Recently, Jennifer completed a lifelong goal of performing at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City where she sang at the famous Dizzy’s Jazz Club to the delight of fans, friends, and family. Jennifer is a sought after clinician and presents vocal and performance workshops all over the world.


Ep. 170: Aaron Schumacher

Aaron Schumacher is a dynamic vocalist, music director, and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. Known for his technical expertise and innovative approach, Aaron serves as the Soprano and Technical Director for m-pact, a globally celebrated vocal group renowned for their authentic and powerful vocal performances. As an entrepreneur, Aaron founded VocalMist, a company offering specialized vocal health tools used by top artists like Lizzo, The Jonas Brothers, H.E.R., and Pentatonix. He also owns ASM Productions, which provides premium audio and lighting services for live music events in Southern California. Aaron has a rich background as a commercial recording artist, contributing to high-profile projects like "The Voice," "Dune," and "Mulan." His versatility across genres such as pop, jazz, and rock makes him a sought-after performer and MC for events across the US. Since 2016, Aaron has also worked as the Music Director for Top Shelf Vocal, a diverse and award-winning adult vocal group in Los Angeles, where he brings together individuals from various career fields through their shared love for vocal music. With a degree in Vocal Jazz Studies from the University of North Texas, Aaron's journey from Ennis, Texas, to becoming a key figure in Los Angeles's music scene highlights his passion and dedication to the art of vocal music.


Ep. 169: Britt Linde

Britt Linde is a rock climber and physical therapist living in the magical Sonoran Desert of Tucson, Arizona. Her life circumstances led her to attend BYU for her undergrad degree in Exercise Science and serendipitously led her to experience rock climbing for the first time. There began her obsession with rock climbing and the life lessons it teaches, and she has continued to follow and fall in love with the process of climbing difficult routes on beautiful rock in remote places. Attending NAU in Flagstaff, Arizona her curiosity about the biomechanics of rock climbing began as she received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. She has since spent 10 years treating and developing treatment protocols for rock climbing related injuries. She became a sought-after rock climbing specialist in Tucson after spending time coaching the Rocks & Ropes youth competitive climbing team. Recently, in keeping with the typical realizations of a life-long rock climber, she has decided to pivot and take a break from the never-ending road of chasing a specific career. She is now working in home health and adores her new geriatric caseload and the conversations she gets to have with people who have lived entire lives. She is now more focused than ever on letting go of the past and the future, living in the moment, and not worrying about what could happen. She is re-dedicated to climbing, and is now able to spend more time training for the aesthetic climbs of Mt Lemmon in her magical Tucson backyard. She lives with her partner, Bria, and 2 sons (dogs) Max and Diesel. She describes her little family as a little love puddle.


Ep. 168: Grace Leigh Ryser

Grace was born and raised in Sandy, Utah where she grew up doing two things - playing soccer and making art. Today, she continues to do just that; she spends the majority of her time at Harmons Grocery painting and installing signs, at home painting original work or commissioned work for her art patrons, and of course, we mustn’t forget, playing soccer in multiple adult leagues. She has certainly been blessed with life-long passion for what she does. Grace graduated Utah State University in 2015 with a BFA and an emphasis in Drawing and Painting. She has since studied under a professional mural artist and a professional faux-finishing painter. Grace spends her time going on outdoor adventures such as rock climbing, hiking, and camping, or traveling the world (taking her art supplies with her) with family or friends. In 2018, Grace attended the University of Santa Monica where she studied Spiritual Psychology, a passion discovered in her early 20s along with cognitive therapy, trauma work, energy work, and somatic work. She now uses both her artwork and her passion for Spiritual Psychology and healing work as a Healing Coach. She spends a lot of her time trying to think of ways to help people tap back into their own innate creativity and to heal their deepest wounds. And playing soccer.


Ep. 167: Alex Hyner

Alex Hyner is a writer, producer, and actor for film and television in Los Angeles. In his spare time, he has cultivated a passion for photography and digital art. You can find his work on Instagram @alexhyner and his website


Ep. 166: Jess Davies

My culinary passion started at a young age. Growing up, I would help my mother make wedding cakes in her spare time and make caramels, brownies, and more with my dad. I developed a love for pastries- the balancing of flavors, the chemistry behind it, the look, the flavor combinations, and of course the taste! I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since graduating high school, I attended The French Pastry School in Chicago Illinois, where I studied under world-renown french chefs. We learned all aspects of the pastry world: tarts, ice cream, sorbets, breakfast pastries, breads, petit fours, sugar and chocolate candies, chocolate & sugar sculpting, cakes, and more. My passion for veganism developed shortly after graduating my prestigious school. I started converting, switching recipes, and through (a lot) of trial and error, I was finished perfecting these traditional french pastries to become deliciously vegan without jeopardizing the taste and quality. Having a relationship with food is an important part in my development of recipes. I want each thing you taste to balance out the next and to compliment one another on your pallet perfectly. In 2011, I moved to Hawai'i, there I received a job at a high end cake shop as a wedding/specialty cake decorator. I was able to learn traditional and new methods of decorating and have now applied these as well to my products.


Ep. 165: Sarah Czaplewski

Sarah Czaplewski was born in Omaha Nebraska, and grew up in Papillion, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha. She started singing and taking voice lessons as a child (kind of had to since mom, grandma, uncle and aunt were all singers). During high school Sarah was in soccer (not really anything to write home about with the soccer skills, but decent to be on varsity), show choir, jazz choir, and musicals. She started singing with cover bands in Omaha around 18 and then, in college at Lincoln University. Go Skers'! She starred in music performance, but somehow ended up with a special education and early childhood degree. Sarah played with a few bands for several years while teaching kindergarten, bartending and singing at weddings, and all kinds of events. In 2014 Sarah moved to Denver Colorado to be a part of Diamond Empire Band. Sarah has played in hundreds of venues spanning across Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri and Texas. She currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska and travels regularly singing with Diamond Empire Band. She is a Manager /Producer for Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri Diamond Empire crews. Sarah is still in the service industry as well. :) She owns a food truck with her partner, Preston. You can find her booking bands, singing, or on that Food Truck, Nocturnal Eats!


Ep. 164: Ross Hagan

Ross Hagen is an Associate Professor of Music Studies at Utah Valley University, focusing on musicology and ethnomusicology. He has been at UVU since 2010 and received his Ph.D. and M.M. in Musicology at the University of Colorado at Boulder and his B.A. at Davidson College. Dr. Hagen’s research interests include underground music scenes, black metal music, medievalism, and avant-garde music. Recent publications include the edited volume Medievalism and Metal Music Studies: Throwing Down the Gauntlet (2019) and a book on Darkthrone's 1992 album A Blaze in the Northern Sky for Bloomsbury's 33.3 book series (2020). Hagen is also an Assistant Editor for the academic journal Metal Music Studies. Current research projects include a book on ritual music in modern heathen spiritualities along with book chapters involving weird fiction, John Cage, and black metal in the Mountain West. In addition to his academic work, Dr. Hagen has been active as a performer and composer since the late 1990s, specializing in extreme metal and various shades of abrasive electronic music. Currently he plays bass and “sings” in the SLC death metal trio Monstrology.


Ep. 163: Drew Nichols RETURNS

Drew Nichols, at age 4, received a police escort home while selling handmade puppets door-to-door. He later studied music composition at Arizona State, toured with ALW’s The Wizard of Oz, and worked for Weisersound as a keyboard programming assistant for Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Blvd, Les Mis, Cats, Miss Saigon, School of Rock, and NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live. Now, he's focused on integrating digital production/distribution and musical theatre development with the aim of democratizing, decentralizing, and expanding the industry. His show McCobb Mortality Services is streaming as an elaborate radio musical comedy on podcast platforms—visit


Ep. 162: FinFolk Production (Abby and Bryn Roberts)

FinFolk Productions was founded by twin sisters Abby & Bryn Roberts in 2012 and specializes exclusively in realistic, fully swimmable mermaid tails and accessories. From the Lakes of Minnesota, to the beaches of Hawaii, and now to the mountains of North Carolina, the studio location has changed over the years and expanded to a small team of 8 but our commitment to quality, hand crafted art is unwavering. Finfolk Productions is well established within the mermaid performance community, and have provided countless tails for clients worldwide. Our tail making techniques are unique and exclusive to our company, and we can guarantee the highest quality tails on the market.


Ep. 161: Mike Steinel

Mike Steinel is a jazz trumpeter, pianist, composer, arranger, and novelist. For forty years he taught jazz at the collegiate level, most notably at the University of North Texas (32 years). He has performed throughout the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia; recorded with the Frank Mantooth Orchestra, the Mike Waldrop Band, the Chicago Jazz Quintet; and performed with Ella Fitzgerald, Clark Terry, Don Ellis, Bill Evans, Zoot Sims, Jerry Bergonzi, and others. His most recent releases are: “Song and Dance,” (Origin Records 2018) and “Saving Charlie Parker” (Rosewood Audio 2022). The latter is a companion piece with a novel of the same name. Links: YouTube Channel:


Ep. 160: Somer Ahonen

Artist, photographer, dancer, performer. Married to a supportive husband and mother of 1. Somer started her profession as a photographer back in 2004. Shortly after, she fell in love with a new sport of pole. Her passion for dancing and performing has led her to open her own studio and just recently she got to perform at The Snoop Dogg concert at the Usana Amphitheater. Need creative photography or private pole lessons? Feel free to reach out.


Ep. 159: Jordan Clark

Jordan Clark is a musician, songwriter, music engineer, and producer with extensive experience in writing, performing, and recording musical works. As a musician, he has performed with a number of musical groups, including Vanladylove (named "#1 Artist on the Verge" at the 2014 New Music Seminar), and has worked diligently as a solo artist. Jordan graduated from Utah Valley University and attended the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Gilbert, AZ. As an engineer, Jordan interned at Entourage Studios in North Hollywood, CA, worked for a short time at New Monkey Studio in Van Nuys, CA, and worked at Willamette Mountain Studio in American Fork, UT. Music producer, mastering engineer @rigbyroadstudios @thebandmowth Solo music @nonahnevermusic


Ep. 158: Benjamin Brown

The Fresh King Benjamin is a Utah-based comic who has headlined such prestigious events as The Sunstone Symposium and Wyoming Equality’s Annual Rendezvous. He grew up on a Mormon polygamist compound in Wyoming before escaping to the vast and wicked metropolis of Salt Lake City at the tender age of 20. Since then he’s been slowly figuring out how to prosper in the heathen lands while being wildly distracted by all the exposed elbows. Ben is a mildly popular TikToker @thefreshkingbenjamin, where he shares his unique perspective on the modern world.


Ep. 157: Daria Fedorova

Daria Fedorova / Dasha Plesen is a multidisciplinary artist and photographer, based in Moscow. She's developing a unique methodology which allows her to capture the Universal Microbiome, and metaphorically visualize the Nothing. Experimenting with natural phenomena, decay processes and life and death cycles, she creates very extraterrestrial micro landscapes, full of colour and life.


Ep. 156: Langston Collin Wilkins

Langston Collin Wilkins, PhD is folklorist, ethnomusicologist, and writer based in Madison, WI. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Folklore and Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Wilkins is the author of Welcome to Houston: Hip Hop Heritage in Hustle Town, which was released through the University of Illinois Press in August of 2023. His research interests include African American folklife, African American music, urban folklore, car culture and public folklore. Dr. Wilkins is a native of Houston, Texas and received his PhD from Indiana University’s Department of Folklore & Ethnomusicology in 2016. He also holds a master’s degree in African American and African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Wilkins’ work has also appeared in the Journal of Folklore Research, The Washington Post, Houston Chronicle, and several other publications. From 2019-2022, Dr. Wilkins served as the Director of the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions, a public program that seeks to document and preserve the traditional culture of Washington state. Prior to this, he served the state of Tennessee though positions at the Tennessee Arts Commission and Humanities Tennessee. Dr. Wilkins is currently an executive board member of the American Folklore Society. Langston Collin Wilkins’s Substack newsletter: Purchase Welcome 2 Houston: Hip Hop Heritage in Hustle Town: IG: Twitter: Threads: @southsidesupervillain


Ep. 155: Maxwell Eddington

Maxwell is a pianist and knit portrait artist from Arizona. Ever since he can remember, Maxwell Eddington has been creating. Although his passion for creating beauty has led him to dabble in aquascaping, interior design, digital art, singing and sewing, his life’s main artistic devotions remain knitting and playing the piano. Maxwell learned to knit while living in eastern Europe, by studying a “Teach Yourself to Knit” book in Russian, and getting tips from helpful babushki. Because of this, his knitting style and technique are heavily influenced by traditional Russian, Baltic and Scandinavian knitting. During the 14 years he has been knitting, Maxwell has made countless sweaters, hats, scarves and mittens, but was always a bit underwhelmed by the lack of artistic expression inherent in knitting clothing. This led him to a new realm of knitting tapestry-style portraits using classical colorwork techniques. He hopes to show his first collection of knit portraiture later this year. As a pianist, Maxwell has played for 26 years, and has performed across the country and in Europe. Originally trained in classical piano performance, he shifted his focus to sight reading and accompanying while in college. He has worked as a professional accompanist for singers, dancers and instrumentalists, and has made music alongside artists including Kristin Chenoweth, Billy Porter, Alex Boye, Brian Stokes Mitchel, Wrabel, Vincint, and Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons. @maxwelleddington


Ep. 154: Angie Halford Re

Angie Halford Re is founder and owner of award-winning Unique Mosaics, LLC, a Global, and Nationally recognized custom mosaic tile artwork studio located in South Salt Lake, UT. Her 22 years of experience in tile and design makes her a thought leader, and top consultant in the U.S. with designers, tile contractors, builders, and architects in custom mosaic designs and installations for the most demanding, intricate projects across the country. Her achievements and clients include: - 2021 two time CID award winner for special recognition- mosaics - Coverings Global Tile & Stone Featured Exhibits - NTCA national publication Tileletter “Women of Tile” Spotlight & numerous features - National Art Galleries Exhibitions & Displays across the U.S. - Commissioned work by numerous NTCA 5 Star Contractors, and NTCA members, and others on demanding special projects across the US - Featured numerous times by Ardex Americas and artwork on permanent display at U.S. Headquarters Angie has a strong formal education and training background with college coursework and training in Advertising and Graphic design, as well as Business Administration and Entrepreneurial Studies. Angie has philanthropic efforts, and shows her passion with popular custom mosaic artwork classes, by teaching her students and creating custom curriculum at Western Art Glass, in South South Lake, Utah. Angie is a new board member for Canvas 4 a Cause in Utah, and a new member of South Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce Women in Business. She is also teaching night classes (mosaic art) at University of Utah. Her expert knowledge of installation, where her company’s capacity to self perform custom mosaic installations, also makes her an excellent installation liaison. Her clientele trusts and respects their custom orders to ensure a long lasting, productive relationships with this installation consulting, paired with the highest quality mosaic products. Angie’s knowledge of period specific tile, make her the go-to nationwide for historical restoration projects and renovations in many of the country’s historical districts and stringent architectural review committees. Her continuous ability to procure, design, create, and build custom mosaic tile artwork, makes her the authority in our trade. Her quality and attention to detail remains unmatched, and her experience rivals the largest manufacturers, with a competitive advantage in the tile installer community with her in-depth technical expertise and decades of experience.


Ep. 153: Ryan Nielsen RETURNS

Dr. Ryan Nielsen is a trumpet artist truly at home in both classical music and jazz. A devoted teacher and clinician, he has been a consultant for professionals and students alike from Los Angeles to London to Turkey. His popular YouTube channel Ryan’s Trumpet has thousands of subscribers from around the globe. He has performed and recorded with the Kobie Watkins Grouptet, Ra Kalam Bob Moses, Delfeayo Marsalis, and the Summit Brass, to international acclaim. His forthcoming book, The Classroom Guide to Jazz Improvisation, written with co-author John McNeil (Professor Emeritus, New England Conservatory of Music), will be released by Oxford University Press in early 2024. Nielsen is a LOTUS Trumpet artist.


Ep. 152: McKenna Rees

Hello! My name is McKenna and I live on a farm by the river. I have goats, pigs, a jersey cow, chickens, quail, rabbits, dogs, and lizards! I love all my animals and the opportunities they give my children to learn how to work hard and get dirty. I enjoy gardening and learning how to better homestead our land. I love making beautiful soaps with my goats wonderful milk and providing my products to anyone who is interested. I made my first batch of goat milk soap the summer of 2016. I didn't know what a stick blender was so I tried to mix my first batch using a hand drill. Needless to say we made a late night run to the store to get a stick blender! I have had many failed batches over the years but through that I have learned so much. I started selling my soaps in 2017 and have expanded a little to include solid shampoo and conditioner bars, solid lotion bars, body butter, bubble bath bombs, soy wax candles and more. I love making these products and sharing them with ya'll. Thank you so much for any support you give my small business. If you'd like to follow along my farm adventures and stay up to date on my next shop updates and more you can follow me on Facebook and Instagram. @stoneriversoaps