KUTX’s Elizabeth McQueen describes her pursuit of a career in podcasting.
By Chandler Maloney, Photos by Michael Minasi
In an era where audio streaming services dominate, Elizabeth McQueen holds onto her belief in the power of public radio. She originally fell in love as a young girl while attending high school in Washington, D.C. Despite her father’s preference of classical music, she occupied her time by listening to world news and evening talk shows. “I just started listening to public radio when I was a teenager,” she says. “It was like listening to a medium where I felt like these are my people.”
Before breaking into the radio industry, McQueen performed as a professional musician for her band Elizabeth McQueen and the Firebrands; she was also a member of Western group Asleep at the Wheel. Although she enjoyed her time on tour, her instinct warned her that the rock-star lifestyle might not be a lasting career. In March 2020, she joined KUTX 98.9 full time. “It’s great to be part of an organization that is focused on the community because so many things now are not,” she says. “KUTX is really focused on music from all around the world but specifically Austin music, which, as someone who played music, I’ll be forever grateful for.”
Elizabeth McQueen Presses Pause, Then Play
The combination of an unfamiliar workplace and a global pandemic created a learning curve for McQueen’s podcasting plans. She and co-host Miles Bloxson envisioned and arranged the recording of podcast episodes for a new project at the time called Pause/Play. The series highlights the Austin music industry and specifically sheds light into hardships that local musicians face. “It’s a podcast that neither of us have really done before, like, heavily researched with more of a journalism angle,” she says. “We were really lucky that we got to document it in real time.”
The most significant lesson that she has discovered while creating the series has been the music industry’s need for government assistance. During the pandemic, local officials were eager to help independent contractors keep their businesses afloat. “I think it was striking what a difference people being able to access financial support made,” McQueen says. Musicians were one of several groups that benefited, but those temporary assistance programs have since been absolved. “We’re kind of back to seeing music through a purely capitalist lens in a lot of ways. The solution is probably to have people support this industry that has really come to define Austin.”
McQueen has also been devoting her time and energy to another collaborative enterprise called ATXplained, a reporting project that crowdsources questions from Austinites and uncovers the answers. She and Bloxson premiered their story Live at the Paramount Show on Feb. 22. “It’ll be the first time either of us have tried to translate what would be a radio story or a podcast, which is mostly something that you listen to, into a visual form,” McQueen says. “There’ll be video, there’ll be music, it’ll be a whole thing.”
The key to her success as a radio host and podcast producer has been to create without fear. “When I started podcasting, I kind of barely knew how to use the editing software, and I didn’t know anything about making audio,” McQueen says. Whereas learning a new skill can be daunting, creating does not necessarily mean releasing. “I don’t really know what I’m doing a lot of the time, but learning by doing is a good way to start anything. You can always get better at something before you put it out to the world.” As KUTX celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2023, McQueen promises a year-long party and many more creative podcasts to come.
For more about the women of KUTX 98.9, read our March feature.