Steve Ejbick & Ryan MacNeill

Steve Ejbick & Ryan MacNeill

Zibby is joined by her longtime sound editors Steve Ejbick and Ryan MacNeill to offer listeners a glimpse behind the making of Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. The three discuss how they have grown and changed with the podcast, from Zibby’s growth as an interviewer to Ryan’s ability to find when the episode starts in every audio file and Steve’s reading habits. They also do the math on how many episodes they have all worked on and how many hours of audio that all comes out to.


Zibby Owens: I’m here in Toronto with Steve and Ryan from Textures Sound who have been editing this very podcast the entire time. Now we’re meeting in real life. I was just starting to ask them all sorts of questions. I thought, let’s just add this into the podcast. Here we go. How did you two end up getting together and starting the sound editing business?

Steve Ejbick: We worked in TV. We still do. We started at a studio in Toronto working on films, television. I think I worked at the studio for about two years before you started. We worked at the studio. My mentor worked at a big studio there. He hired me on. Ryan started about two years after me.

Ryan Macneill: I was an intern. He just needed some help. At that stage, I want to be wherever they need me. They put me next to this guy.

Steve: They kind of teamed us up. They opened a new department for foley. Have you heard of foley? Foley is performing sounds to film while you’re watching film. The classic one is feet. You’ll watch the actor walk. Then Ryan will do the same thing. We still do a lot of that. That was a new department in the studio. They put us doing that. We worked really well together.

Ryan: We since left that studio but maintained the partnership and went off into other ventures like podcasting and any kind of editing we could find, editing and mixing.

Zibby: How many podcasts do you work on now? No matter what I throw your way, you’re like, yes, I can do it. I was like, these guys are going to quit. There’s no way. I’m adding another. Now here’s this. Now try this.

Ryan: We just do the one.

Steve: All of yours. We did have a few a couple years ago. They finished up. There were no second seasons. As you started getting busier, we just stopped taking on other podcasts. We do films pretty consistently. We’re doing a show right now called A Ghost Ruined My Life, which is Eli Roth, a big horror guy.

Zibby: That’s a good title.

Steve: We have a film in TIFF as well.

Zibby: Which one?

Steve: It’s called Night Talk. We just did the foley on that one. We didn’t do the whole film. We usually work with a bigger group when we do films. We have one in TIFF right now. That’s about it.

Zibby: You said you’ve listened to a thousand hours, five hundred hours.

Ryan: It’s got to be over five hundred hours.

Zibby: Everybody’s always asking me, what have I learned from doing my own podcast? What have you guys learned from listening to this podcast? Did you have any interest in books before? Are you big readers at all?

Steve: I’m not a big reader. I used to read a lot more when I was younger. I just don’t have the time. It’s harder now. I also find sometimes if I pick a book up, if I don’t like it, it’s hard to finish it. I know that’s a bad habit. I do the same thing with films and TV. You get halfway through. You don’t like it. Then you regret it. It’s hard to just find one and then start it.

Zibby: So none of the books I’ve recommended —

Steve: — I’ve read your book.

Ryan: I read Ray Dalio’s book. That was one that I was really interested in.

Steve: There’s a few that I’ve wanted to pick up. Then I just forget. Then we do a new podcast. It’s a new book. Ray, I’ve seen a lot of them on our local morning news broadcasts.

Ryan: He’s always on the front page of Yahoo! Finance.

Steve: He was on it.

Ryan: The Five Principles. Is that what it was called?

Zibby: Yeah, Principles.

Ryan: I’m kind of the same way as Steve. I wish I was more into books. I’ll actually get books, take them out from the library. Then I’ll get halfway through. I’ll have renewed it three or four times. Then they’re like, where’s this book? You need to return it.

Steve: I have a few books that are half read that I put down because I was doing other work.

Zibby: You did say, though, now that you’re both two new dads, that you’re getting some of the parenting content from the podcast.

Ryan: All the parenting stuff, I just eat right up.

Zibby: Particularly, eating. What did you learn from the eating podcast? Did it help you at all?

Ryan: I was actually talking to a friend the other day about it. It goes to the health and wellness episodes too, like “Move and Shake.” I think there was a few on there about eating. I mean, all of them, but for kids. I was talking to a friend the other day who was like, “Kids will just eat at their own pace.” That was kind of the message. You shouldn’t make your kid finish their meal. If they’re not hungry, don’t make them eat because that makes bad habits. That was interesting. There was something else with that. I don’t remember.

Zibby: Has the podcast ever sparked your interest in writing? Have you ever thought, oh, this sounds like so much fun?

Ryan: I think it’s too creative for me. I’m more of a technical person. I like reading manuals for software that we have.

Zibby: I’ve literally never heard that before in my life. There we go. That’s the most interesting thing I’ve heard today.

Ryan: It’s technical. It’s from —

Steve: — How this works.

Ryan: The software we use is really complicated. Going through the manual and reading how to do new things, how to be more efficient in the way I work.

Zibby: I don’t even like reading instructions for board games. I’m like, this is too long. I’m just going to figure it out. Take me through the short version of how you edit the podcast. I send you the whole file, including when I always say I’m running late in the beginning and whatever’s going on in my office before the author joins. You take the file. What do you do?

Ryan: That’s my department. I load it into my software. I can see both tracks of you and your guest. It’s gotten to the point now where, because you start almost every episode with “Welcome to ‘Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books’,” I can actually see what the wave form looks like for where you start. I don’t even have to listen to all the stuff at the beginning. I can just go straight to where you say welcome and then start editing from there.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, that’s crazy.

Ryan: We’re at 1,120 — forty? Eighty? — episodes.

Zibby: No, it has to be more than that.

Ryan: 1,200?

Zibby: There have been 1,300. I feel like there have been 1,300. Maybe some of them weren’t edited. Could that be?

Ryan: We started, you were a hundred in. Then we just go through. Sometimes Zoom makes really weird digital things, clicks and pops. We get rid of those.

Zibby: Do you listen to every one? Often, I’m like, I’m going to edit this part out. We’ll have to take this out. You have to listen to the whole sound?

Ryan: Yeah. Anytime there’s little stumbles — sometimes you’ll be like, “Wait, how do you — but — you know.” That’s all gone. You don’t have to worry about telling us to remove that kind of stuff. It makes sense. People want the information. They don’t want to be thrown off by stumbles and stuff like that.

Steve: It’s funny because you can hear how comfortable people are. I think you had a few talk show hosts on. They’re really good at speaking. It’s easy for us because we don’t have to edit as much. Then there’s other people who maybe haven’t been interviewed so much. Those take more work because they’re thinking of their thoughts before they say it, so there’s maybe some gaps in there. They’re using filler words like “um” or “you know” or that kind of stuff. It’s interesting with the range of people.

Zibby: You identify someone who’s a new guest or less experienced by filler words and lags in speaking, pauses?

Steve: Yeah.

Zibby: If somebody wanted to get better or appear more experienced, they have to really focus on what? What else? What else can they do to sound better?

Steve: That’s a tough one.

Ryan: Like…

Zibby: Are we going to edit that out?

Ryan: Exactly. I’m not very polished.

Steve: Ryan’s thinking.

Ryan: Just not moving around very much is a big thing too. Every time they move their head, you can hear a difference in volume.

Zibby: Interesting. So they should try not to move as much?

Ryan: Exactly, and hitting the table and stuff. Some people are expressive speakers. You don’t want to give them too many rules because then they’re going to be thrown off. They’re going to think more and add more filler. It’s a tough balance. I think you have a difficult job managing all that. By just letting it be casual like you do, I think that’s the best way to do it.

Zibby: People always ask, wait, you don’t do a ton of editing? You don’t take these quotes from that? I’m like, no, I just kind of throw it in there. Actually, you do a lot. You do polishing.

Ryan: It’s not moving things around. Some other podcasts we’ve worked on, they’re like, can you take this and move it to the beginning and add this music here? It gets a little tedious that way. The way that you do it is great. It sounds like it’s a lot of work that we do all this editing, but it’s really not. It takes no time at all to remove an “um” or an “ah.”

Steve: How many edits do you think we do per episode?

Zibby: That’s a good question.

Steve: Maybe seventy? Fifty?

Ryan: Fifty to a hundred, maybe.

Zibby: Fifty to a hundred edits per episode, wow.

Ryan: I’m probably wrong there.

Steve: Depending on the speaker. It’s about that, I think.

Ryan: Again, it’s just, highlight, delete. Highlight, delete. It’s not a whole process.

Zibby: Have I gotten better?

Ryan: Totally.

Zibby: Do you edit me less?

Ryan: Definitely.

Zibby: You don’t have to say this. I could be the same, and that’s fine.

Ryan: No, totally. You’ve definitely gotten better, but not like you were bad at the beginning.

Steve: It’s just experience. For anybody, the more you do, the better you are.

Ryan: I’ve gotten better. It used to take me longer to do it. Now it’s faster for me.

Zibby: How do you keep track? Every time I send you an episode, sometimes we don’t release that episode for months. I try not to, but we have such a backlog. I don’t ever change the file name, usually, unless it’s on GarageBand.

Steve: It’s been a work in progress to stay organized.

Ryan: I’m not the most organized person. It does get tricky sometimes, but that’s my own fault. If you send it and I put it directly in the folder that second, then it would be fine. Sometimes I’ll just download. You send five in a day. Download, download, download. Then we have ten other things that day that get sent to us from other clients. It’s just sitting in that downloads folder. Then I go back to it a week later. Where does this go?

Steve: It hasn’t just been one a week to ten a week. It’s been a slow ramp-up, so we’ve able to adjust as we go.

Ryan: We have a server as well for ourselves so we can put all of our shared files together in one location and pull them down as we need them. That was something we got probably a year after we started working with you. That’s helped with organizing. The software we use is quite good for categorizing things and doing backups. We archive everything.

Zibby: That was another question. Do you have all my episodes?

Steve: Everything.

Zibby: All of them? What if I ever need those?

Steve: They’re always available. It’s a lot of data. I think I bought two big hard drives just to store all of it on it. It’s all there. Then Ryan does the editing.

Ryan: I’ll upload it to the server.

Steve: Ryan uploads it to the server. He’ll give it to me. I’ll mix it. There’s two parts. There’s the editing, and there’s the mixing. The editing is taking out all of the unwanted things. The mixing is balancing, so to make sure the volume is right for you and your guest. We use plugins to give it more of that radio feel to it, like a talk show host. That’s kind of it. Then we master it. We export all the files. We send them off. For each episode, it probably takes three hours or so, two to three.

Ryan: An hour and a half for both of us.

Zibby: What if I wanted to do stuff like, just take this quote from that episode? I don’t do a lot of that, like make audiograms.

Steve: Kind of like what Kelsey does.

Zibby: What does Kelsey do? Now we’re talking about Kelsey Chittick, who hosts two of the podcasts, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Grieve,” and now she’s cohosting “SexTok” with Tracey.

Steve: She’ll send us a list of, “At this time code, at eight minutes of the episode, can you send me a clip?” She uses it for social media, right?

Ryan: Yeah. I’m not exactly sure. I think social media. It’s just a ten-to-twenty-second clip of part of her episode.

Zibby: Does that take you a long time?

Ryan: No, that’s easy because they’re already done. We just go through, take it, and export it.

Steve: Are you thinking of doing something like that?

Zibby: I have so much content. What should we do with all this content? I’m trying to think of ways to repurpose it that aren’t so time-consuming but that draw people in. I have so many episodes before so many people listened to my podcast that they might not even know that I did. How to breathe new life into those episodes?

Ryan: I was thinking a couple years ago — you always ask, what’s your advice? Taking all that, but you kind of did that already.

Zibby: We tried that.

Ryan: Then you had the “Wake Up and Write,” which was kind of interesting, promoting the authors you’ve already had on. It’s tricky. I don’t know. You have every episode accessible on your website as well.

Zibby: I don’t know. If you think of creative ways… We’re launching a new magazine next week called Zibby Mag. We’re going to have this whole literary lifestyle section where we put up the links again to the podcast, even if it was a long time ago. I’m wondering if I could even do little clips. Maybe there’s some way.

Ryan: Definitely. Just let us know. We’re open to more work.

Zibby: You’re like, no.

Ryan: Since the pandemic has started, it’s been the busiest two and a half years, three years for me.

Steve: You saved us through us pandemic too.

Ryan: Our industry shut down. We weren’t doing any film work.

Steve: It completely shut down here for that summer. I think the only work we had was doing your podcast, so March, April, May, June, maybe July.

Zibby: And I ramped up to seven a week then. That ended up working out nicely.

Steve: It was perfect.

Zibby: Anything else I can do to improve? Any pointers after listening?

Steve: I don’t know. Along the way, anything that’s come up, we’ve told you right away. Watch out for this or that.

Ryan: Just keeping communication open, that kind of stuff.

Steve: Which has been really good too. Chelsea’s been really good.

Zibby: Shout-out to Chelsea Grogan, our amazing podcaster producer. She’s so amazing. Thank you, guys.

Steve: Thank you.

Zibby: If anyone’s interested, they don’t have much time left, but Steve and Ryan at Textures Sound. Thanks, guys.

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