5 Minutes With… CHRIS WILLIAMSON | Living North

Interview: Chris Williamson


image of Chris Williamson
From fitness tips, to relationship advice, to the five best books you’ve never read – Chris Williamson’s informative podcast Modern Wisdom covers all the bases. We find out what makes a good podcast and how to go to bed a little bit smarter


Tell us a bit about yourself, and how Modern Wisdom first started?

I was born in Middlesbrough, and came up to Newcastle for university – so North East born and bred. I was invited to do a couple of podcasts, and co-hosted some with the podcast Propane Fitness. I really enjoyed sitting down and having a very deep, focused conversation with someone, uninterrupted for an extended period of time. Bizarrely, I found it therapeutic. I fell in love with the process and then thought, why don’t I start my own? 


How would you describe Modern Wisdom to someone who hasn’t listened before?

The tagline of the show is ‘learn to understand yourself and the world around you’, but a more accurate tagline would probably be ‘random person from the North East hassles world experts for information that you can apply to your own life’. We talk about everything – from relationships, to business principles, to fitness. I’ve got a wide range of interests and a low attention span, which lends itself to the variety of the podcasts. 


How do you decide what guests to have on, and which subjects to cover?

I just find someone who I think is really interesting, send them an email and hope that they reply - it’s not much more complicated than that. The subjects are usually inspired by conversations I’ve had, like people asking me for advice on certain topics. 


What do you hope your audience get from tuning in? 

I hope that they go to bed a little bit smarter than when they woke up. We hope to give people really interesting information and advice, but in a way that doesn’t make people feel like they’re learning. The way my podcasts are modelled, and how they’re very conversational, means it’s like a Trojan horse of learning – you don’t actually think that you’re learning. 


What makes a good podcast? 

One way is to have a really interesting guest. Recently I did a podcast with Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy Advertising, who is a force of nature – he just took off and I went along for the ride. The other way to have a really good podcast is to have a situation where the guest and host wrestle with whatever they’re talking about, and the result that they come to is more than they had before independently – so a two plus two equals five situation. That’s where something really magical happens, and the audience gets to be involved as the whole thing unfolds. 


In a busy market of podcasts, what sets Modern Wisdom apart?

Generally, the podcasting space is dominated by America, and I don’t think that the UK is holding its own at the moment – there needs to be a podcast that is getting big guests on, and viewing them from a British perspective. On Modern Wisdom the guests are always high quality. There is also consistency – twice a week you’re going to get an episode. It’ll always be an hour long, it’ll always be well produced, and it’ll always be with someone who is interesting. 


What’s next for Modern Wisdom?

The goal is to increase listeners, continue to speak to interesting people, and for people who care about the subjects to tune in. We’ve also done some live podcasts and I’m interested in doing some more of those. 


What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not making podcasts?

Would it be sad to say listening to podcasts? I also like writing at the minute, and lifting very heavy things. 


What is your idea of a good day off? 

Travelling, probably. I like going on adventures and meeting new people.


Published in: October 2019

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