What does it mean to be in your early 20s? Sure, you’re an adult, but there’s slight hesitation associated with the label. There are so many things to figure out, ranging from college classes and social life to relationships and politics. How are you supposed to do it? Well, let Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen give you a hand.
Co-hosts of the Youth Radio podcast “Adult-ish,” Turner and Nguyen, both 22, discuss topics ranging from watching Netflix with subtitles to politics and ghosting. As young adults figuring out life for themselves, Nguyen and Turner emphasize that nobody is alone, especially when it comes to figuring out the process of adulting. With some help from guests, such as comedian Joel Kim Booster, Muslim-American Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, actor Will Catlett and many more, this one-of-a-kind podcast is perfect for anyone trying to figure out just what they’re supposed to be doing.
To learn more about the podcast, I spoke with Oakland-based Nyge Turner and Brooklyn-based Merk Nguyen, the hosts of “Adult-ish.”
Anushna Patel: What were you guys doing before “Adult-ish,” and what brought you to the podcast?
Nyge Turner: Before “Adult-ish,” I was on a podcast called “Not Your Father’s Podcast.” We started that podcast probably four years ago, and it was out of one of my friends’ backyards. Podcasts really weren’t popping back then, so I was like, “Yo, we should start a podcast with just us talking.” Through that podcast, we just navigated the road of podcasts in terms of the technical aspects.
After that podcast, it went pretty well. We were able to monetize it, and we ended up going separate ways. I knew I still wanted to be in audio and journalism. I was in biology class one day, and I was talking to this guy who said he had a radio station in Jamaica and had just tried out for a new podcast with YR Media. He listened to my old podcast and told me I should audition, so I sent in my audition tape. I went through hell and back and the interview process took like five months, but then I got the job.
Merk Nguyen: I kind of got my radio start in high school. I’m originally from Seattle, and our radio station had a youth program called RadioActive, and that’s what got me into radio. Long story short, I went to school at Washington University and studied journalism and media production. While I was in school, I was a reporter for KUOW Public Radio. I also had a college radio show, where I realized, “Oh my gosh, I could be myself, this is awesome!” This feeling was something that I couldn’t really get myself there. I was one of the only people of color. One of my friends from RadioActive told me about a podcast that was looking for young people, I applied and here I am.
AP: How did you two meet?
NT: We actually met through YR Media. I didn’t really know if I was going to have a co-host in the Bay Area or not, but they wanted it to be a nationwide show. They gave us each other’s social media and phone numbers. She was actually on a drive to LA when I called her and we had chemistry from the jump. I called her and …
MN: I was stuck in LA traffic, and we talked about everything from religion to relationships to “What’s your favorite color?” Once that phone call was over, YR Media sent me out from Seattle to the Bay Area, and I met Nyge for the first time there.
AP: How did you come up with the idea to do a podcast based on the premise that you wanted to relate to the “adult-ish” generation?
NT: The inception of the idea goes back to YR itself. Our audience doesn’t just serve people who are youth. We wanted to include teens and people in their twenties because that’s such a transitional part of time in life. It’s helping the organization rebrand and show that we’re more than just youth radio. There isn’t really a podcast out there that does this. YR media knows its voice, and they thought, “Let’s find people who are representative of the youth of today.” YR already had the idea of a type of show, but the segments are stuff that we come up with.
MN: When it comes to booking, and when we’re looking for guests to be on the show, we’re looking for people who we want to talk about and stuff that we go through in our day-to-day life. We talk about a bunch of everyday stuff that we all go through in everyday life and stuff that people our age go through.
AP: How do you decide who you would like to have on the podcast, and how do you reach out to them?
NT: We just email them and that’s how it goes. At pitch meetings, we’ll pitch a bunch of people we want to have on the podcast. We’ve been able to book a bunch of people who we really look up to. I look up to Will Catlett, Sydney Sweeney and the other guests on the podcast. They’re people who inspire me in my life just through their influences in media, and it’s so cool to have them on the show. They’re individuals that people our age would want to know.
MN: We want to represent as many people as we can to make sure that everyone feels good. Sometimes, people reach out to us and we ask them who they want to hear. Also shout-out to our senior producer, Davey Kim, who comes through so clutch all the time with people’s publicists and agents. He pulls off some crazy stuff to book the studio sessions.
AP: How does it work with one of you being in Oakland and the other one being in Brooklyn?
NT: A couple times, we’ve been in the studio with guests, but most episodes involve calling in because everyone is in a different state. A lot of times, a guest is in LA or somewhere else and the only way to talk to them is through a call.
MN: GOOGLE! Data breach aside, the tools that they provide are amazing. Technology, technology, technology. Everything is online, and being a part of the millennial generation means we’re familiar with it all. As far as the studio goes, Nyge is in the studio, and I’ll be on the phone. The guests are also calling in, so it’s a three-way phone call.
AP: If you had a main theme or message that you wanted listeners to take away from “Adult-ish,” what would it be?
NT: In our newest episode, “Life-ish,” Will Catlett talks about giving advice to his younger self. Life happens in cycles. Don’t work your “smart,” but work your talent. If you’re down today, don’t worry, you’ll be up tomorrow. You’ll be alright, take your time, your journey is your own journey. Live your life, and work your gift. You’ve gotta find that thing inside yourself and just exude that.
MN: In the whole process of adulting, there’s no one way of how to be. Whether you’re 18, 27 or 35, there’s no one way to do it. Nyge and I exist on the show to show that you’re not alone and you can go through some pretty shitty stuff — but you’re not alone. Being this age can be super fun. It can be really fun but shit gets real.
AP: Do you have any advice for anyone who might be interested in starting their own podcast?
NT: I think it’s really easy to get caught up in that “What’s already out there, what’s popping?” That’s what you shouldn’t do, because I think if you have a target audience that you’re not passionate about, it doesn’t work out. The medium of audio is so intimate, and people can feel you over the radio and over the podcast.
Choose something that you’re passionate about — something that inspires you — and just work that topic. Be in your own lane. Sometimes you have to create your audience, and there are people out there who will join. Don’t be scared and just do it. What we do is a really emotional process. You’re giving so much of yourself in the studio that it’s emotionally taxing. Take time to decompress. Don’t give all of yourself to anyone. Take time for yourself. Build yourself emotionally.
MN: Find something that you’re super interested in. Someone once told me, “We all have different thumbprints in this world,” and I think the same thing applies to our souls and to us as people. Think that you are unique and that you are individual. Work your gift; you have something different to bring to this world. Even if it’s the same topic as someone else, you have your own flavor. Go where your heart tells you to go, but don’t let fear dictate your life. Be able to articulate your thoughts. Everyone has different tastes, but don’t ever feel alone. Be real and do your thing.
AP: What’s your favorite podcast?
NT: My personal favorite podcast is Joe Budden’s. I love it because they talk about rap, and the way he’s able to break down songs and lyrics is so amazing to me. I have always been a fan because their podcast is a way for me to decompress.
MN: “Keep It” by Crooked Media. It’s a podcast where the three hosts talk about the intersection of pop culture and politics. I love it because I really enjoy pop culture, and I’m trying to get into that side of things. They talk about woke shit and I don’t always agree with everything that’s said, but I try to channel the energy of the three hosts.
AP: What can we expect from future episodes?
NT: We have so many, like, dope segments in the vault that we never got to work on, so we have so many exciting segments that I can’t wait to do in season two. Merk and I probably talk all the time, and we just talk about how we’re doing for like two hours. There have been times where we’ve cried to each other and broken down, and this has happened on mic.
We talk about struggles with women and equality, mental health — and we really dive into all those things. Our guests struggle with those things, and we do too. It’s scary and nerve-wracking, but we’re excited to have people see this because we’re real people and we’re just trying to figure it out together.
MN: This first season, we have eight or nine episodes. What you can expect: we’re going to cover a lot of things about representation, race, more of Nyge and I being able to civilly disagree with each other, loving each other, and basically being ourselves, which is pretty intimidating when you think about it.
We are going to cover some legal stuff, more serious topics that affect people’s lives, things that carry a bit more weight. We do have an episode coming up called “Self-ish,” and we’re going to be really candid about what it’s like to be kids our age in this generation. However, it will still be a place where people can go to have more fun.