Created by Chelsea Ursin, the podcast, which is exec produced by Disgraceland host Jake Brennan, launched at the start of the year via iHeartRadio’s podcast network. It is the first-person account of a girl who is dealing with the trials and tribulations of one’s teenage years.
Brennan is in LA this week, fielding interest from producers looking for the next hot podcast to adapt for the screen.
The protagonist’s name is Chelsea, who struggles a lot to feel cool enough to exist. She explores serious issues like body image, gender power dynamics and social anxiety—and how these issues are severely magnified during teenage years. The show also deals with falling in love with a favorite band as only a teenager can, and the freeing feeling of picking up a guitar for the first time. Chelsea’s story is also one about wanting to be seen as just a bass player, and not a female bass player, and the 12-part series includes stories of learning to play the bass, first band practices, school talent shows, Metallica covers played on the cello and high-school garage band songs that sound a little like Nirvana.
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Ursin told Deadline, “When I first wrote this thing, I always imagined it in TV or movie scenes when I wrote so that always felt like a possibility. When I turned it into a podcast I didn’t think about that as much until I started seeing all of these podcast shows coming up and then as soon as I released it with iHeart, I’ve got a fair amount of interest from agents and producers targeting podcasts for TV and movies. I guess people are just hungry for podcasts that are narrative and immersive.”
The project shares a tone with Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, Elisabeth Moss feature film Her Smell and Hulu’s Pen15. “I kept thinking this needs to come out soon because this is the zeitgeist,” she added.
The project actually started as a memoir, written for Ursin’s MFA, rather than an audio series. Ursin then decided to turn it into a podcast, chopping down some of the chapters, and increasing the feature where she writes a letter from her adult self to her younger self.
“Once I finished the memoir, I talked to some publishers and editors and everyone loved the story but said ‘the marketing people aren’t going to be on board because you’re not famous’. So that pissed me off and I didn’t want to self-publish because that’s cheesy so I found podcasting and realized I could put my stuff up for free and could incorporate the musical elements,” she said.
Music is key to the series. Boston-based Ursin is in a band called Banana and also volunteers as a mentor and bass teacher for the Girls Rock Camp. “I came of age in the early 2000s so everything on the radio didn’t really do it for me, it was nu-metal and Britney Spears. I really connected with grunge and The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and the Pixies but there weren’t that many kids that were into that near me. Eventually I found the other weirdo rockers,” she said. “I kept coming back to music and dealing with adolescent anger and anxiety. When I finally took a feminist class in college, I realised I was the only female playing. I had a lot of things that I was shielding. There’s probably other women and girls who have dealt with this. I want other people to be able to come to terms with those feelings, I was an angry kid, and there’s nothing wrong with that, and music saved. I know that’s a pretty universal thing whether you played music or not.”
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