Like many Houstonians, Luke Brawner spends a lot of his time sitting in traffic, but he doesn’t mind it too much.
It was during these hour-long drives that the 37-year-old Fort Worth transplant started listening to podcasts, and in January launched one of his own: The H.
The H, which wraps up its first season on August 2, tells the stories of Houston creatives and entrepreneurs from every corner of the metro through in-depth interviews. In the first few episodes alone, Brawner has gone deep with the likes of one of the Bayou City’s top tattoo artists, a world-class chef and single mom-turned-baker-and-business-owner, and a Houston-based magician of international acclaim.
But Brawner will be the first to tell you that a few years ago he would have been an unlikely candidate for telling these people's stories to more than 1,000 listeners every other week.
First of all, he didn’t exactly have a storytelling background. An online course by NPR’s Alex Bloomberg, trial and error, and repurposing microphones and production software he uses for his full-time job as a worship pastor at Grace Bible Church solved that issue rather quickly.
However, there was another major issue: Houston has a bad rap—at least as far as outsiders are concerned.
“I expected to be here maybe two years at the most and then get as far away as I could,” he says in Episode 0 of The H, which he recorded from his car—keys rattling and engine humming in the background. “I can’t tell you how many people said, ‘You’re moving to the armpit of Texas.’”
But they were wrong, Brawner says.
“All of the things people told me I would hate — the humidity and the traffic — weren’t factors for me when I moved in September 2009,” he tells Houstonia. “It was unseasonably amazing weather, and where I lived and worked then I didn’t even have to get on the freeway. I was able to look more objectively at the city.”
He looked to Houston’s up-and-coming coffee shops, burgeoning breweries, top-notch cuisine and thriving art scene, which today make appearances in his show’s stories, ads and segments. He hopes to make Houston more widely known for these things—and podcasting too.
“Houston is about to be the third-largest city in the country. There is no reason we shouldn’t have just as big of a podcast culture as New York or L.A.,” he says. “We have all the same resources, and we have stories everywhere. We should tell them in a way that is compelling and that resonates with people. If we do that we will change the reputation of this city.”
Brawner plans to launch season two of The H in January 2018 and has already pinpointed a few interesting Houstonians he’s hoping to interview. Through his new production company, Milieu Media Group, he aims to help others launch, record and produce podcasts to share their own take on the Bayou City.
But that's not all Brawner has in store for Houston's growing podcast scene; he plans to release two more series this fall: Treks in the City and Yay! Go Sports!