People who have lived in Denver for a few years are familiar with Dan Drayer's name and smooth deep voice from his years at Colorado Public Radio
. Drayer was the original host of Colorado Matters,
the station's daily show featuring local issues and people.
Now this award-winning radio reporter is starting up a new venture with his passion for talking to people and you don't have to be a local politician, chef, author, filmmaker or any kind of celebrity to be interviewed by him.
"I just thought it would be a fun project," Drayer explains. "I've always enjoyed talking to people and finding out what makes them tick."
On a quiet Monday afternoon at St. Mark's Coffee House in the Uptown neighborhood, Drayer sits alone at a table near the front door. On the table in front of him are two microphones, some recording equipment and a small sign that reads, "It's Like This: I Believe Honesty Is/Isn't the Best Policy…."
Drayer sits quietly waiting to catch the eye of someone who glances in his direction and when a person timidly approaches to ask what he is doing, he does his best to coax him or her to be interviewed. In public. About private stuff.
"Sometimes it can take hours in a coffeehouse to get merely a few people," says Drayer. "That's partly because I wait for people to approach me when they are ready. I talk with folks and explain what it's all about, but I don't just go up to people and start interviewing. If I come away with half a dozen interviews, I feel pretty good."
If that doesn't sounds like success, he's also counting the number of "listens" he's had after posting these interviews, which is about 3,000 listens in three months since he began this experiment. The interviews can be found on Drayer's website
Drayer encourages people to follow him on Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook to get alerts when he can be found at various Denver coffeehouses like Kaladi, The Market or Pablo's. Whether people innocently come across Drayer at their favorite coffee shop or seek him out, chances are the topic will be provocative, such as "My Therapist Said I Should…" or "I Don't Want to Die Regretting…" or "The Moment I First Knew I Was in Love…" and so on. He says that he received the most personal answers to "My Last Relationship Ended Because…" and "My Therapist Said I Should…"
"Think of the madness of this," he says with his warm laugh. "Asking someone to tell me what their therapist told them! The darndest thing is what people are willing to tell me just because I asked."Dan Drayer talks with Anja Koltes at St. Mark's Coffee House.
On this day, pre-med student Claudia Smith, 23, warily approaches the table (with more than a little urging from this reporter) and agrees to be interviewed by Drayer on the topic of honesty. "When I first saw the sign I thought, 'It depends on the situation,'" she admits. "If I apply it to my career, it's a very ethical question and I like being honest, but it's not always the right thing." She gives Drayer a much more in-depth answer to explain her quandary over this issue.
It's Like This: I Had A Career Until…
If Drayer had to be honest about how his decades in a radio career brought him here, he would likely admit this is a slightly terrifying moment.
"I had heard a bunch of stories as an NPR listener about people who are struggling to find work for months and years and frankly never saw myself as being out of job because my career is wrapped into who I am," Drayer says.
Drayer's radio career began as a host on a jazz radio station before he switched to news at both National Public Radio and Colorado Public Radio. While at Colorado Public Radio he co-created the Colorado Matters program and served as executive producer and host. He left that job and radio behind and worked as Director of Communications at the local Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System for two years.
The day's topic of conversation.
"I made the right choice to leave the job I was in to help my folks [in North Carolina]," he says. When he returned to Colorado after a month away, he began job-hunting…in 2012. Six months in to the ego-bruising search for his next job, Drayer started his coffeehouse project.
"I didn't anticipate this," he says. "When you don't have a job, you don't have an office you go to and everybody else is at work." In other words, it's too lonely to sit at home and wait for the phone to ring and finesse another cover letter.
"It's work, but I'm not getting paid for it," Drayer says of his web-based interview series, It's Like This. Can this big experiment lead to a paycheck? Drayer remains hopeful and is certainly showing his innovative approach to communications work.
Meanwhile he has come full circle and is enjoying occasional work as a fill-in host on Jazz 89.3 KUVO