Anna Maria Tremonti wants to go down 'rabbit holes' with 'More' podcast

TORONTO — The title of acclaimed journalist Anna Maria Tremonti's upcoming CBC podcast, "More," speaks to a major theme in her life these days.

The former host of CBC Radio's "The Current," who left her 17-year post at the end of June, says the new one-on-one interview show will allow her to have more long-form conversations and experiment more than she could in her previous medium.

She also wants to learn more about how her interview subjects think, share more about her own life, and be more present on social media.

And she's finally getting more sleep, now that she doesn't have to wake up at 4:30 a.m. every weekday for "The Current."

"I don't think I have bags under my eyes anymore," Tremonti said with a laugh in a recent phone interview.

"I'd been noodling, 'What do I do after 'The Current?' Do I work in documentaries? Do I tell stories? Do I write?'" said Tremonti, who spent 19 years as a journalist with CBC Television prior to hosting "The Current," where she endeared listeners with a calm demeanour and masterful interviewing style.

"And I went, 'What do you know how to do? You know how to tell an audio story.' And so part of me moving to podcasts is so that I can experiment and tell stories with audio in a different way. But the first thing I want to do is continue with conversations."

The new podcast, which has the full title "More with Anna Maria Tremonti," is set to premiere sometime in January.

Tremonti will give a first glimpse of the show on Sunday when she interviews musician and writer Vivek Shraya onstage at Toronto's Hot Docs Podcast Festival, which runs Nov. 6-11.

The chat will be recorded for Tremonti's podcast, which will also have in-depth conversations with "Schitt's Creek" star Catherine O'Hara, environmentalist David Suzuki, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, and YouTube star Elle Mills, among others. The podcast will have a total of eight to 10 episodes.

Tremonti hasn't recorded those other interviews yet but said podcasting is a medium she's been fascinated with for a while. 

Her "light bulb" moment came when she heard the hit 2017 true-crime podcast "S-Town," hosted by Brian Reed, whose probe of an alleged murder case took an unexpected turn into a human interest story about an Alabama antique clock restorer.

"It made me think about how else you can tell a story," said Tremonti, who was born and raised in Windsor, Ont.

Tremonti also realized she wanted to go down "rabbit holes" with prominent personalities to learn what makes them tick, outside of the realm of a journalistic interview tied to a schedule. With Suzuki, for instance, she plans to talk about getting old. With Mills, she wants to talk about "being vulnerable in public."

"I did 'The Current' for 17 years and I loved doing it, but I am somebody who thinks about, 'What can I do next?'" she said.

"I also believe that change is a good thing, both for me and for the show."

But when she told the CBC she wanted to step away from the flagship national current affairs show to try podcasts, "they weren't that interested" in her leaving.

"They were open but they weren't saying, 'Hey look, you really should think of something else to do because we want another host,'" Tremonti said.

"It was not that conversation at all. It was me saying, 'I've been here doing this for a while and I want to play with this other challenge, and it will be a bit of an experiment and I'd like to start this experiment with you.'"

Tremonti said she plans to spend more time on Twitter and Instagram to connect with listeners, and share more about herself on the podcast.

"It's interesting to me because as a journalist I've always kept that back," Tremonti said.

"I'm very happy to ask other people about themselves and not tell people a lot about me. And sometimes in conversations and interviews I've shared some. But I will try to do more of that."

Tremonti also wants to create other podcasts, but she's not sure if they'll all be with the CBC.

"I have many ideas and I don't know where they'll all go. This is part of my own learning curve," Tremonti said.

"I really believe in challenging myself, I really believe in getting out of my comfort zone."

The CBC recently announced Matt Galloway will leave his hosting gig at CBC Radio One's "Metro Morning" to take over "The Current."

Tremonti said she told the CBC she would be "neutral" and wouldn't weigh in as they looked for a new host.

"I'm a fan of his work. I'm very happy for him," she said.

"He gets to go on to do something he wants to do, just the way I get to go on and do something I want to do. It's a good thing. The world keeps moving."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2019. 

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press