Each episode of the National Podcast of Texas focuses on a longform interview with a Texas newsmaker, legend, or rising star. The second season will start on January 7 with an interview featuring Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top. In the meantime, catch up on highlights from the first season, where Texans offer personal perspective on what’s in the news, how they got where they are, and what keeps them up at night.
For our July 4 podcast, the four-star admiral and newly retired chancellor of the University of Texas system spoke to us about the real meaning of independence, the distinctions between patriotism and nationalism, and the overall state of our American ideals.
Admiral McRaven on civility: “We need to learn how to debate better in this country, in a way that is civil, that is thoughtful—where the power of your argument, not the pitch of your voice, is what wins the argument. Today we tend to get on screens and scream back and forth at each other and we think by yelling louder it’s going to make our argument that much more powerful. In reality, you have to put the facts together and put your argument together in a logical fashion. There are the type of things we need to help our young men and women growing up today learn to do.”
Less than two weeks before the midterms, Julián Castro—former mayor of San Antonio and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for the Obama administration—spoke to us at the Texas Book Festival about his memoir, An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up From My American Dream. The interview featured no shortage of criticism for President Trump and Texas’s current legislature. Earlier this month, Castro announced his exploratory committee for a possible 2020 presidential bid.
Castro on the state of the Texas Legislature: “I believe that Texas has one of the most incompetent and probably corrupt state governments. You have years and years of lack of accountability and total one-party control, which has decayed the state government. Whether it’s contracting scandals, cronyism, or the scandals related to the Attorney General or the Agriculture Commissioner, there’s just a complete lack of accountability. I’ve said that the worst day for these folks is going to be the day that new leadership has control over the auditing function of the state government, because you don’t know what you’re going to find, but I’m sure it’s going to be substantive.”
The morning after Christmas in Fort Worth, the R&B star sat with us to reflect on his pair of Grammy nominations and a wild 2018, which was full of big shows and soul-searching. Bridges also outlined his early ideas for his third album and detailed what’s been at times a rocky adjustment to fame.
Bridges on lingering self-doubt and stage fright: “There’s always stage fright. When I’m onstage, I’m always in my head, thinking, ‘Is the audience digging this? Maybe I’m not handsome enough? Am I a good enough dancer?’ I think of all that stuff . . . But I try to get into the zone. I want to give people an amazing show, and I don’t want my fear to show. So I just get locked in and go.”
In December 2017, Texas A&M lured Jimbo Fisher away from his position as head coach at Florida State University by offering him a ten-year, $75 million contract. We met Fisher in College Station in September, just a few days after the Aggie’s season-opening win against Northwestern State to discuss the pressure that comes with his price tag and the expectations that he would reenergize a stagnant program at A&M.
Fisher on what he’s promising Texas A&M football recruits:
“A relationship. I’m going to treat you like my own son. I know that’s a cliché, but listen, there’s going to be good, there’s going to be bad, but we’re going to be here through thick and thin. And whatever I tell you, you can take to the bank. I’m never going to lie to you. Everybody I’ve got is somebody’s baby, the most important thing in the world to them, just like my kids.”
Tim Ferriss has his own podcast with 300 million downloads and counting, but was gracious enough to come on ours and share what he’s learned as a best-selling author, motivational speaker, and sought-after angel investor in the technology sector. Our sprawling conversation included Ferriss’ takes on differences between Texas and Silicon Valley, how to improve productivity by filtering out the 24-hour news cycle, and whether you might want to invest in a bunker.
Ferriss on why he moved to Austin: “Austin is certainly unlike other places I’ve lived primarily because there is a conspicuous lack of a single dominant industry. I love this because you don’t end up in a mono-conversation. In D.C., it would be politics. In San Francisco, tech. In Los Angeles, entertainment. With that comes many assumptions about how life and business should work. Here, you find many different pockets of creativity represented. It seems like fertile ground for new ideas and new collaborations.”
This summer, as Cecile Richards began to adjust to being the former president of Planned Parenthood, she took to the road to promote her newly released book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead. It’s ostensibly a memoir, but also offers plenty of advice for young leaders. Our conversation ranged from reproductive rights to what she learned from her mother and how Texas has shifted culturally and politically since her childhood.
Richards on what keeps her up at night: “I wish I could say it was just one thing. There’s a lot of harm being done to people in this country who have the least political voice. So that worries me. What also keeps me up at night in an excited way is that if more people voted in America, we could dramatically change what’s happening. I recently read Lawrence Wright’s book, God Save Texas, and there’s some really interesting information in there about how the state has evolved politically. In the last presidential election, only 43 percent of Texas voters—people who are already registered—went to the polls and voted. That means Texas isn’t a red state or a blue state, it’s a non-voting state. The way I really feel like I can make a difference is to highlight the link between voting and their opportunities—not just for them, but their sons and daughters.”
In April, just a little more than five years after, Lance Armstrong joined us in his East Austin studio, where he hosts a weekly podcast, “ .” We turned his own mics back to him for what’s become an increasingly rare interview. He weighed in on the state of Texas cycling, what he’d do differently, and, in a nod to what’s happening in D.C., what it feels like when the feds are closing in on you.
Armstrong on how his perspective has changed across the last five years: “On the one hand, I can say I wouldn’t change anything. And people hate this because it’s like, ‘Oh my god, you mean if you had the chance to go back to Italy in 1995 when you decided to cross that line, you wouldn’t change it?’ I mean, most people who are listening or reading or watching, they’re ‘perfect,’ so they think it’s bullshit. But then again, this is where it gets a little complex. I would change the way I treated people. Whether it’s journalists, whether it’s former teammates, whether it’s former teammates’s families or former staff. I would completely change the way that I treated them . . . That’s what should have changed, but I didn’t have it in me.”
In May, Texas Monthlyon gender, work, and what needs to change for Texas as part of our . In her piece, she conceded that it can be hard to be the troublemaker, yet she has embraced that role at every turn—onstage with her band , via social media, and behind the scenes of the music industry at large. In July, The Suffers released their critically acclaimed sophomore record, Everything Here. A few weeks later, Franklin joined us for a sprawling conversation about what The Suffers have left to prove, their unwavering allegiance to Houston, and about the terror—and inspiration—they felt as a result of Hurricane Harvey.
Franklin on one of the lessons of Harvey: “It’s probably the same thing that happens with every tragedy. When it first happens, and it’s a big news story, people are in front of the cameras asking how they can help, wanting to be seen, maybe not actually to help. As someone who volunteered, it was not pretty. It does something to you to see somebody who looks like you in that context. And I don’t mean as a black woman—I mean just a regular person with a job and family sleeping on a convention center floor because they lost everything. It was chaos and sadness. And there’s a smell that comes with floods. And you get to see who’s there for you in the weeks after the storm. Everybody is checking in on your initially to see if you’re alive. And I appreciate that. But when it comes to actually helping, there was a lot of, ‘I already did this’ or ‘I already gave to that.’ It’s not that I don’t understand, because I understand completely that if it’s not your tragedy it doesn’t matter to you. And that’s something that can be equated to the issue with who has health care or birth control, with civil rights or gay marriage. If it’s not your problem, most people don’t care when it leaves the news cycle. But if it’s your school that got shot up or your family member with a pre-existing condition, all of a sudden it’s a big deal and the compassion is suddenly expected to be returned. Harvey showed me who was here for me.”
At March’s South by Southwest Film Festival, Ethan Hawke previewed Blaze, his new biopic about Blaze Foley, a wildly talented but notoriously self-sabotaging singer-songwriter based in Austin who ran around with Townes Van Zandt, had a song recorded by Merle Haggard, and helped define Austin’s outlaw country scene. In our studio, Hawke addresses casting Kris Kristofferson in Blaze, the modern state of the film business, and why the Austin-born actor has never really found a way to make living in Austin work for him.
Hawke on the tragedy of the artist: “If you spend your life in the arts, you’re going to run into somebody that you believe in and you know as a poet, a painter, a dancer of the first order. But why are they so mad at themselves? What is that connection between pain and creativity? Is it just self-destruction? And then we watch the flag of mediocrity get raised and you watch kind of lame talents get paid millions of dollars. And you wonder what that’s about. Why does the world spin that way?”
In May, a student walked into Santa Fe High School with a shotgun and a handgun and proceeded to kill ten people and wound thirteen others before he was arrested. In the wake of the tragedy, Houston police chief Art Acevedo, whose department was one of several agencies to respond to the scene, publicly spoke out about a lack of efforts to control gun violence and expressed frustration with what he sees as policymakers’ reluctance to successfully address the issue.
Acevedo on whether he’d consider a run at elected office: “I have not considered public office. I don’t think I’m electable. I’m too far to the left for the right. I’m too far to the right for the left. California [where Acevedo grew up] is to the left what Texas is to the right. Both are too extreme for most of us right now. But I know this: California ain’t going to go anywhere toward the center in my lifetime. But Texas is going to make a turn toward the middle. It’s going to find a sweet spot. And as great as it is to live here now, it’s going to be not only the best place to live in this country, it’s going to be the best place on earth.”
In September, Dallas lawyer, reality television star, and ESPN sports commentator Rachel Lindsay—the first-ever African-American star of ABC’s The Bachelorette—shared with us her misgivings about the editing of The Bachelorette, about the constant danger of being stereotyped as an “angry black woman,”and how much she has learned about racism—both the obvious and thinly veiled varieties.
Lindsay on some viewers’ problems with men of other ethnicities pursuing her on the show: “I knew that there would be people that have problems with other races that aren’t black pursuing me . . . This truly is the first time that you had seen a black woman sought after in that way, and mostly there weren’t black men doing it. But I knew that people would have a problem with this. I had already prepared my mind for it. It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t hard or difficult at times. It didn’t mean that it didn’t get to me, because it did at times, but at the end of the day I knew what I was getting myself into. And I knew that that wasn’t the majority’s opinion, so I had to rise above that.”
When Dallas-based sportscaster Dale Hansen talks, people listen. And then they leave comments on social media. Hansen’s Unplugged segments—occasional opinion pieces that have used sports news as a springboard toward real talk about racism, sexual abuse, and gun culture—routinely go viral. Our conversation this summer came on the heels of a segment critical of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’s zero-tolerance policy on protest.
Hansen on the controversy over NFL players taking a knee in protest: “I just believe in my soul that this is the greatest thing about America. Absolutely the single greatest thing about America is we have the freedom to protest our government, to protest the actions of our leaders, to protest the actions of anybody else in our community. That’s the single greatest thing about America. And when someone turns around and says, ‘I want to take that away, I want to deny that’—those are the people that I would question their patriotism. Those are the people I would question, ‘How much do you really love America?'”
These highlights have been edited and condensed for clarity.