“Sounds Like DC” Podcast Marinates on Deeper Meaning of the DC Music Scene

Sounds Like DC's host and producer, Sean Gotkin. Photo by: Fionn Gotkin

Photo by: Fionn Gotkin 

As many of us know, the DC area has a rich music history as well as a vibrant scene today, with a myriad of diverse genres, artists, activists, and venues enriching the community. 

One new offering is a brand-spanking new bi-weekly, conversational podcast called, "Sounds Like DC," hosted by Sean Gotkin, who is the Sound Department Manager and Front of House Sound Engineer at the historical Black Cat music venue in DC.

As someone managing sound most nights a week, he experiences a LOT of music coming through this city. He is also a musician in his own right, as well as a composer, record producer, mixing/mastering engineer, community activist, and a former sound engineering teacher at Northern Virginia Community College. So he has seen and heard a lot when it comes to the music and the DMV scene. 

Listening to the first episode with guest Gordon Sterling of Gordon Sterling & The People (as well as many other projects), which aired on June 5th, my immediate reactions were the podcast is about the music, but it's also bigger than the music. Sean talks about the art and about life, about existentialism, about those questions that we ask of ourselves and those we feel closest to, which offers a rare, in-the-moment peek as to what a person is all about, and how it relates back to their music. 

I caught up with Sean (who, full disclosure, has become a dear friend since our first conversation about music over pickles and coffee last year) with questions for him about his newest role as podcast host and producer.

Nina Goodman: Thank you so much for connecting with me on your latest musical endeavor, Sean! I'm so excited about this podcast, probably because I am equally enamored with the DMV music scene and love new ways of learning about it. So tell me about the podcast.

Sean Gotkin: Thanks so much for sharing the enthusiasm and chatting with me! I'm really excited about this project.  So, about the podcast. 

"Sounds Like DC wants to have conversations."

- Seth Gotkin  //  Sounds Like DC

Sounds Like DC Logo

We want to get into the hearts and minds of the individuals who make up the burgeoning arts community in the Washington DC region. Music and art is on every corner in our town and it’s a monumental part of our cities history. The artists are our neighbors and they are your community.  All of them have wide and varied stories and messages that their art conveys. And that is the mission of this show, to simply have a conversation and learn more about how others see and experience the world we all live in.

NG: I love the concept. And it's interesting you say that because I really felt like I got to know your first guest (and our friend), Gordon Sterling, on a much deeper level. 

SG: Yeah, I don’t like shows that make the guest feel like an afterthought. These shows tend to be more about the hosts themselves with some whacky DJ shtick. I wanted to create something the exact opposite, and with Sounds Like DC I feel we are on to something real and good.

NG: Yes, the realness and the storytelling that came from the conversation was my favorite part. I want to talk more about your conversation with Gordon in a minute but first tell me, why this podcast? And why now?

SG: I am deeply rooted in the DC music scene and feel as though I'm an advocate for artists themselves. I know this city and its history and felt like my experience with music here lend itself to producing and hosting the show.  I also know the inner workings of the various players very well. I know the conversations I want to hear in an interview and feel like I can set the stage to get the guests to feel comfortable enough to answer honestly. 

Any why now? It feels like the perfect time for this kind of show as I feel people don’t really talk to one another anymore. I think, because of technology we are communicating more now than ever, but listening to and understanding each other less.  Having really great conversations with, and learning about other people, changes us as individuals. And that's a really good thing. 

NG: And what do you think this brings to the music community?

SG: I am always looking for ways of helping and giving a platform to the DC artists community that I am a part of.  I wanted to create a show that was solely about the artists themselves. Them personally. The idea is simple. I want to engage artists in conversation so we can learn more about the individual behind the art. 

NG: I love that, and as I said, definitely feel like I learned a lot just in the first episode. Where did you get the idea for the podcast? 

SG: Funny story! My dear friend Nina and I sat down at a coffee shop last summer and I had one of he best conversations of my life with her. The idea for Sounds Like DC sprung from that conversation. (Smile)

NG: No way! It was a great conversation about music and the scene over pickles and coffee down at Politics & Prose. (People, if you haven't tried the pickles there, get on that ASAP.) I was actually hoping to turn it into an interview but never did, so it seems like everything came full circle! 

So, let's talk format. Tell me about how you set it up. 

SG: Each and every episode features one guest sitting down with me and engaging in real honest conversation. There is a certain rhythm within conversations done well. We want to accomplish this each episode so the listener walks away entertained, informed about the people in their own community and maybe a little more open to how others see and experience the world. 

Gordon Sterling on Sounds Like DC

Gordon Sterling, Photo by: Sean Gotkin

NG: Yes, I so got that from the first episode with Gordon Sterling. I listened to it and loved how it started with his music, then went into this introduction where your voice was so PODCAST ON! The timing, cadence, pacing. Not that different than talking to you but it was "podcast you," and it is great!

Also, while I'm gabbing, Gordon Sterling & The People's song "White Flag" that you played at the end, easily my favorite song I heard in live 2018. When I first heard them play it at Gypsy Sally's, it knocked my socks off!

SG: (Laughs) Well, thank you, and I love that song, too.

NG: The line of questions were great, both on topic of things I want to know about where Gordon as a musician and also about Gordon as a person.

SG: That's exactly the goal! 

NG: He was a wonderful first guest because he was so open, honest, and in the moment. His answers were astute, thoughtful, often relatable and humorous.  And his knack for storytelling plus his infectious laugh kept me captivated. 

"It has been amazing to watch the community come together [at the jam]. We're trying to make it so more people can get a chance to get up and play. There's no velvet rope. Everybody [at all levels] can get involved and get on stage. We've had band forms and even couples meet. We bring people together! It's become one of the hubs of the jam community."

Gordon Sterling about "Gordon Sterling Presents The Gypsy Sally's Jam" every other Tuesday

This is all to say I felt the connection between you two and your ability to "go there," to places where music interviews don't always go. That was perhaps the greatest gift I got from this first episode. Plus there were lots of other little goodies sprinkled in there.

So what can we expect from future podcasts? 

SG: We never want to do the same show twice. So, we’ll get creative as we go. I will be tailoring each episode to the specific guest. We will always strive for honesty while touching on deep and funny subject matters. We want to show as many different sides to our guests as possible. Artists are complicated people. (Laughs)

NG: Indeed! Can you give us a hint, who is the next guest on the podcast?

SG: Next one will be Erin Frisby of The OSYX, FuzzQueen, City Witch, and This Could Go Boom! coming out on June 19th. I just completed the interview and it was really fun and extremely interesting!

NG: I bet! Erin is an incredible artist, change maker, and human who is deeply committed to not only her art, but to bolstering the voices of all artists, especially those who may not have a voice. That is going to be an amazing interview and I can't wait to hear it!

Thank you so much Sean for taking the time to connect about Sounds Like DC. I'm excited for what's to come! 

SG: Thank YOU again! And let's go have pickles and coffee again sometime soon! (Smile)

Click below to check out Sounds Like DC's first podcast with guest Gordon Sterling: 

Additional Resources

Additional Resources



To learn more about Sounds Like DC please see the following sites:

About the author
Nina Goodman

Nina Goodman

Nina Goodman is a music lover, dancer, artist, keyboardist, and an avid ukulele player. You may even see her up on stage performing with local DC bands. Above all, Nina is a fierce supporter of the Washington DC local music scene. Nina's talents are mostly behind the scenes where she maintains and curates our event calendar and conducts interviews with local artists. If there is music playing in the DMV, you can expect to see her attending or at least making sure that our audience knows about it.