Jack Daniel’s Around the Barrel host Lucas Hendrickson shares his tips for writing effective episodes and highlights how well-crafted podcast copy can shape a listener’s experience.
As a former journalist, a freelance writer, and the host of Jack Daniel’s Around the Barrel podcast, Lucas Hendrickson is a professional storyteller with a knack for creating engaging, immersive content.
“Stories always get better in the retelling,” he said, repeating a phrase that has stuck with him throughout his career. “Translate it, shape it, focus it, trim it down, amplify certain things and make sure the audience — whose attention you’re trying so hard to capture and keep — takes it, enjoys it and does something with it.”
In this episode of Brandcasting, we sat down with Hendrickson to talk about writing podcast copy, diving into how to effectively set the scene, translate stories for listeners and craft great intros and outros.
Good podcasters are good listeners
The first step in creating any kind of content is to consume content, learning from other creators. As Hendrickson told listeners, “to be a good writer, you must start by being a good reader and continue by reading. Be taking note of the things that impact you positively or negatively.”
The same principle applies to podcasters.
“Essentially, you’re looking at content design and figuring out the things that you like and you don’t like,” Hendrickson explained.
There’s no better way to learn how to effectively craft a podcast than by paying attention to the choices other podcasters are making.
And while he urged podcasters not to “disrupt just for the sake of disrupting,” Hendrickson ultimately encouraged them to push the envelope.
“Don’t be afraid to play with the forms,” Hendrickson emphasized. “Learn the rules, and then learn how to break them creatively… That’s the goal of any content creation.”
Setting the scene with great intro copy
Just as it does in writing, a captivating intro does much of the heavy lifting for a successful podcast, drawing readers in and shaping their expectations.
“Your lede is where you’re wanting to grab your reader and keep them there,” Hendrickson said. “Many times throughout my career, I have spent as much time crafting my lede as I have the rest of the story.”
After catching listeners’ attention, a good intro prepares them for the content they’re about to experience.
“If you just drop in and say, ‘Here’s so and so talking about this,’ it doesn’t give the listener a lot of run up to what they could experience,” Hendrickson explained. “It’s all about putting into context what they’re about to hear.”
In Hendrickson’s experience, a strong intro gives listeners a template for the episode, helping listeners understand the tone and content of the rest of the show.
“You are training your listeners as to what they can expect from your program,” he said.
Continuing the conversation with the outro
Just as a good intro prepares listeners to engage with the episode, a good outro can create expectations for the next episode.
“I think it’s important to remind your listeners, who you’ve worked really hard to try to acquire in the first place, that there will be a next episode,” Hendrickson stressed. “Invite them to come back and listen to the next episode and be on the lookout for the next episode. Tell them where they can find it online and on your various other podcatchers.”
At the same time, the outro is a perfect place to encourage listeners to continue the conversation beyond the podcast by sharing with friends or engaging on social media.
“I think we’ve all seen anecdotally and with hard numbers that the influencer idea works in the podcaster world,” Hendrickson said.
“Revisit your social media presence. Give them as many opportunities as they can to provide you some feedback. Tell them where you can share the podcast with other friends and listeners to make sure that they will hear your content as well.”
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Transcript: Episode 9 of Brandcasting with Relationary Marketing
Episode Title: Write Podcast Copy That Connects with Lucas Hendrickson
Lucas Hendrickson: It’s all about putting context to what they’re about to hear. If you just drop in and say, here’s thus and so talking about this and so. It doesn’t give the listener a lot of run up to what they could experience.
Clark Buckner: That’s the voice of Lucas Hendrickson, Writer and Host of Around the Barrel, the official podcast of Jack Daniel’s. He’s been published in USA Today, The Tennesseean and dozens of magazines and websites. So in this episode, Lucas helps us explore the value in crafting custom intros and outros for your podcast. He also reveals how he writes his narration and how you can harness the true power of a call to action by including it in your copy.
Clark Buckner: Welcome to Brandcasting with Relationary Marketing, the show all about how to build a professional branded podcast that delivers on your business’ goals. I’m your host, Clark Buckner, partner and co-founder here at Relationary. We’re a turnkey podcast production agency for B2B Content Marketing. We help brands and agencies create engaging content to establish thought leadership, nurture key relationships, and promote events. For a recap and transcript of this episode, and to download our free Five Step Guide to Building a Branded Podcast, head on over to relationarymarketing.com/podcast. Now, let’s jump in.
Lucas Hendrickson: I am the host of Around the Barrel with Jack Daniels, the official podcast from the makers of Jack Daniel’s. I am a long time Nashville resident. Been here close to 30 years and been involved in a lot of different media forms in this town, mainly print, but now obviously doing broadcast on the podcast side and also whomever else will pay me. I cannot be bought. I can, however, be rented.
Clark Buckner: Rented. Yes, large land mammal in the studio with us.
Lucas Hendrickson: There is that.
Clark Buckner: So we’ve known you for several years. I remember when I first met you, you were yelling loudly in a downtown bar, not in the way you might think.
Lucas Hendrickson: I did that several, several times over the course of about 5 years.
Clark Buckner: So that was for a local event basically, that included podcasting, that included rioting and included all these different creative elements when it comes to content marketing and technology and all that. So, how cool is it that fast forward, several years later, we’re getting to work together in this context.
Lucas Hendrickson: Sure.
Clark Buckner: I know you’re also the, what is it? The info dispenser?
Lucas Hendrickson: Senior info dispenser. Yes. At Yazoo Brewing Company. 900 River Bluff Drive, Madison, Tennessee, our brand new address that I’m hoping will be open by the time this actually goes out in air. Yeah. We’re weeks away from opening up that brand spot.
Clark Buckner: This’ll definitely be live and you’ll be, I’m sure doing the tours.
Lucas Hendrickson: Doing the tour thing. Yeah. Telling the story of that Southern Regional Brewery since 2003. So yeah, I do a lot of that as well.
Clark Buckner: You’re telling a lot of stories. You’ve been telling a lot of stories for the past 30 years and I know a lot of that has been for print.
Lucas Hendrickson: That’s hard to hear out loud. I could say it in my own head. I’ve done media in this town for close to 30 years. I came here for the first time to do an internship in 1989 for a tiny little PR firm on Music Row that shut its doors about six months after I left. So I like to say that they couldn’t get along without me. That’s a completely different other reality probably to – actually one of the principles on that got a much better job. So, that’s why that went away. So yeah, first came to Nashville in 1989, moved here in 1991, full-time, to work for the Nashville Banner, the late and somewhat lamented afternoon newspaper. Was there for right out about 4 years, then went to work for various other publishing companies and internet companies in the earliest days of that endeavor. And then struck out as a freelancer, or as I prefer to call it, paylancer, in 2000 and have just kind of cobbled together a media career since then. So I don’t know that I could function full time in a 9 to 5 gig, anymore. It’s been way too long.
Clark Buckner: I like the career you’ve set out to for yourself and it’s really fun. So one of the phrases I’ve heard you say before, I’m actually going to play it. It’s at the very beginning of Around the Barrel. This is on a teaser episode, I’ll just hit play.
Lucas Hendrickson: Stories always get better in the retelling. And in the case of Mr. Jack, Daniel, the distillery that bears his name and the world famous whiskey that emerges from the hollows of Lynchburg, Tennessee, there is no shortage of stories to be told.
Clark Buckner: That phrase, stories get better in the retelling.
Lucas Hendrickson: Yeah.
Clark Buckner: How has that been a theme in your career, and how do you think that translates to podcasting?
Lucas Hendrickson: So, I have to, again, my journalism training tells me in the interest of full disclosure, where that came from. So, a friend of mine who was a publicist for a label, said that phrase to me, close to 25 years ago now. And it stuck with me because most of my career has been spent in telling other people’s stories. So, as a print journalist and now doing what we do with Around the Barrel, you’re taking in that story, you’re necessarily putting your filter on it, because you’re trying to translate that into something that’s going to be interesting for your audience to hear or read.
Lucas Hendrickson: So, that’s been a driving principle in what I do. Don’t necessarily color it up with what your experiences are and where your mindset is. But translate it, shape it, focus it, trim it down, amplify certain things and make sure that the audience that you’re trying so very hard to capture their attention and keep it, takes it and enjoys it and does something with it. That’s the thing. There’s so much stuff out in the world right now for us to consume from a media standpoint, the next logical step has to be taking that information and doing something with it. It can just be putting it into your pocket and enjoying it and going on with your day. Or learn something more. Take that next step on your own to amplify your own enjoyment of said topic. It doesn’t do you any good if it just goes in one ear and comes out the other.
Clark Buckner: I like how you called out the idea of a hook, the concept of a hook. So, of course, that is a huge part of writing.
Lucas Hendrickson: Sure.
Clark Buckner: And in podcast land, it is also super important. So how about we dive into the whole reason you and I are sitting here talking about intros and outros, how important they are, how to write them well. That’s something you are super talented at. To give us some context, I’m just going to play this clip. This is an intro. This is actually the season one finale intro on Around the Barrel with Jack Daniel’s. So let’s hit play and then let’s talk a bit about it.
Lucas Hendrickson: Southern hospitality is real y’all, and food is often the thread that ties that hospitality and the people who experience it together. That’s certainly the case in the tiny town best known as the home of Jack Daniel Distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee. Since 1908, Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House has been the nexus of great food and lively conversation in that pastoral dot on the Middle Tennessee map. Generations of Lynchburg residents and whiskey enthusiasts alike have gathered around Miss Mary Bobo’s tables. And Debbie Baxter carries on that tradition as the Manager of the Boarding House today. Debbie brings her own decades of experience to the role, having learned from Miss Mary herself, and knows the appeal of a great Southern dining experience, which leads to great stories to tell Around the Barrel.
Lucas Hendrickson: Welcome to the Season 1 Finale of Around the Barrel, the official podcast from the makers of Jack Daniel’s. I’m your host, Lucas Hendrickson. Believe it or not, there are still places in the US that don’t equate food with something you can drive up to a window and acquire. One of those places is Lynchburg, Tennessee, where there is nary an arch, a bell, a king or a Colonel to be found. For 110 years, Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, located in the heart of Lynchburg, has welcomed visitors from near and far to sit awhile, experience a great meal, and get to know friends you just met, even if they live half a world away. Debbie Baxter is a Lynchburg native, growing up around the Jack Daniel Distillery and the various businesses and venues affiliated with it. She proudly carries on Miss Mary Bobo’s vision of treating everybody that walks through the door like family, and making sure no one leaves her table hungry.
Clark Buckner: I love that one. You did such a good job with that, and let’s just kind of unpack that. So the content design, I want to hear you share what we just listened to from the very beginning to teeing it up to the full edited interview.
Lucas Hendrickson: Okay. When we started this project, the content design was already put in place. We had between you and me and Chuck Bryant, the other principal involved in Relationary. We had an afternoon, we drove down to Lynchburg, so it was an hour and a half down there. We took a tour with the gentleman who ended up being our very first guest, Ben Spears, and then drove back. So, that was the day we really kind of hashed out the bulk of what this was going to look like and sound like. You guys already had in place the idea of your texture moment, trying to identify some natural sound that set up what the episode was going to be about. The gold moment idea of, here’s a quote, here’s a pull quote from your guest to give them some context on what they’re going to be talking about as well.
Lucas Hendrickson: And then, that’s when my ego took over and carved out some space to write up to some fantastic theme music we’ve had put together for this and then around and pass that, hit the name of the show, come back and hit it again with my name, that kind of stuff as well. So, in the midst of that, I’ve just been trying to figure out how to, it’s all about putting context to what they’re about to hear. If you just drop in and say, here’s thus and so talking about this and so. It doesn’t give the listener a lot of run up to what they could experience. So this one, the Season 1 Finale, certainly a little more conversational than some of the previous ones had. I don’t think I’d ever put the word y’all in, on purpose, in a previous episode, but it was about trying to put together the context of, here’s this down home dining experience that you can experience if you go to Miss Mary Bobo’s.
Lucas Hendrickson: Putting together the and previewing the casual nature that Debbie Baxter was going to bring to her interview. She was scared to sit behind a microphone and talk about what she does and does very well, but did a fantastic job and it’s one of the episodes that is beloved. So my intro idea on this was to make it be comfortable, but also give it context in the same moment. So, I wanted to set the scene. One of my favorite lines of the whole thing that I’ve written was talking about how there’s nary an arch, a bell, a king or a colonel to be found, that was side shade thrown at various fast food organizations. If you dig a little deeper, there’s a little side note talking about colonels again, the fight that can be between Tennessee and Kentucky from an alcohol perspective. So yeah, there’s a little extra side shade thrown with that note. So yeah, I enjoyed writing this. I enjoyed writing this episode a lot, simply because it was fun. It was a great framework on top of which to put this intro that led up to what was a great interviewing conversation.
Clark Buckner: So you’re a talented writer. If I was to unpack everything you just said, just to simplify it, really, when we talk to folks who are going down the route of having what we call the custom intro narration, where you either have some sort of gold moment, texture moment, whatever, go to the intro, go to the full edited interview, or maybe just start off with a custom intro narration, whatever that may be. There’s really three main goals that are shared. It’s the who, if it’s an interview based show, of course, it’s the who you’re going to hear from. It’s the what, and that includes what the top topic is, but also what the show is and it gets that gives confidence and validation to the listener that, Hey, you are in the right place. And then when you talk about the who and the what, naturally, you start to hear the why. The why comes out and why this matters.
Clark Buckner: And you don’t even necessarily need to say that why this matters, but by saying who and what, that usually is going to convey some importance. And usually when those first two minutes, we like to get intros done quick. Effectively two minutes, in and out. Two minutes is, this is probably a little bit of a longer intro that we use for this particular podcast, but it works, we want to blend in the music, whatever. So, anyway, the point is who, what, why, in an intro. That is typically what works. Any other tips that you can translate from your years of writing for future copy to maybe writing for intro for a podcast?
Lucas Hendrickson: Sure. Well, again, that stories get better in the retelling. That’s such a big part of that. 1A, underneath that, in writing any sort of thing to either to be read or listened to, another piece of advice that came from an editor, a long time ago was, be my eyes. So, when you’re a writer, you are put in the position again, of bringing in that information and redirecting it out. So you want to be able to set the scene for your reader or listener, and so be descriptive, but be efficient, be complete, but be concise. That kind of thing. So, how this show different differs from say a traditional B to B, this is B to C, this is business to consumer. This is a brand podcast focusing on a product that is meant to be enjoyed slowly and responsibly.
Clark Buckner: 21 and up.
Lucas Hendrickson: Exactly. Exactly, listeners aged 21 and up in the United States. I feel okay about making a little longer intro, not just hitting the ground running because I hope we’re creating a listening experience for folks who, they’re just sitting around, sitting on their porch, perhaps whittling, as our friend Mark McCallum talked to with us a few weeks ago, the outgoing President of Jack Daniel’s and enjoying the experience that we’re putting together for him. It’s a conversation that’s intended to be consumed leisurely.
Lucas Hendrickson: B2B podcast, usually a little more, maybe you’re doing it on your commute, maybe you’re just trying to learn some stuff, sharpen your skillset, add to your toolbox, whatever you want to call it. And so they can go quicker, do that. Who, what, why, if when, and where goes into that and works well, then throw that in there as well, and then get to your conversation because they’re trying to probably take some stuff in at a little faster pace.
Clark Buckner: All right. I like that. And the concept here you’re talking about is shorter is better.
Lucas Hendrickson: Shorter absolutely is better. In my experience, in the context of writing for print, your intro is your lede. And so many times throughout my career, I have spent as much time crafting my lede as I have the rest of the story sometimes. If I do what I do well with the interview and the information gathering on that, the rest of the story emerges of its own accord. Your lede is where you’re wanting to grab your reader and keep them there. And in my case, I prefer a shorter lede. Associated press style says, try to keep it to 35 words or less. If I can do it in 5, fantastic. But again, it’s got to be one of those scene setting things that can give you a little bit of context to lead into what the rest of the story is going to be about. But if you can do it in just a few words, the better.
Clark Buckner: I know this may seem like just another thing that needs to get created for a podcast. It might take some time but the good thing about creating a solid intro, this is texth so it’s read, right? And also this can be, shifted and changed around a little bit to be some of the text description that accompanies the podcast episode. So in a lot of cases, we are typically, most clients, we want them to be adding the podcast to their website. And when the content is shared in that fifth and final step for publishing, we want the content to be getting traffic on the website. And there’s a lot of reasons for that with SEO, Search Engine Optimization. And we want to get customers, users to the website to engage with the brand or the business. But having that intro written out makes that description a whole lot easier for what’s written out on the blog post.
Clark Buckner: So, that lede you’re talking about in the intro, that’s also on the blog. And you can repurpose that pretty easily.
Lucas Hendrickson: Absolutely.
Clark Buckner: And that can be repurposed into social media posts. All of the above. So, as we’re moving along here, one of the tips I’ve shared before, and I know you talk about this as well, in order to be a good producer of any kind of content, first, you need to be a consumer. So any advice that has helped you with either writing intros or outros, or just being a content creator. Why is being a consumer important before you can really be a good producer?
Lucas Hendrickson: That’s the important thing when you start writing anything. To be a good writer, you must start by being a good reader and continue by reading. And then also taking note of the things that impact you positively or negatively. This is a good lede, this isn’t. This story flow, the way they work with time is good, or it needs to be done chronologically, whatever. Take note of that, either write it down or file it away in your own mental Rolodex, whatever. Same thing with podcasts. And this is my first foray into it, and I’m blessed and lucky to be able to do it for a major brand and with people I enjoy working with. But leading up to that, I have been and continue to be a voracious podcast listener. I’m very thankful for the folks at Overcast who have created a podcast player that you can speed up and yet not disrupt your listening experience by people sounding like chipmunks. (Thank you, Marco Arment for creating that fantastic piece of software.).
Lucas Hendrickson: Anyway. So I’ve, over time picked up the things in, essentially you’re looking at content design and figuring out the things that you like, you don’t like. We’ve been able to apply those things to what we’re trying to do with Around the Barrel, to be an effective communicator. So I like what we’ve put together, the NPR style approach that we’ve taken with some of these intros and outros and especially with our episode covering the Jack Daniel’s International Barbecue Cookoff. We veered from the normal path that we do to create a recorded podcast. And I think we all had a lot of fun doing it and cutting it together. So, don’t be afraid to play with the forms, learn the rules, and then learn how to break them creatively. That’s the, that’s the goal of any of this content creation. There are things that work. Don’t disrupt just for the sake of disrupting. Yes. Create what you want your expression to be and what is, especially if you’re looking at a business to business perspective, what’s going to work best for your client and/or your business. But, know the rules and then break them creatively.
Clark Buckner: That’s good. And what we’re really aiming for in any kind of podcast we’re creating, we want to find a custom template so we can establish that across all of the episodes. So when you listen to any of these intros, I love the music. I love the narration, the texture moment, whatever, all of the above. What’s nice about it is it’s always sounds totally custom and original, but we’re following a template that fits the content design. So once you get that content design established, then the rest will follow. That first step, though, content design is challenging. But, that really becomes your map and your compass for the intro that you write.
Lucas Hendrickson: And you’re also, and I’m, trying not to say this in a pejorative fashion, but you are training your listeners as to what they can expect from your program.
Clark Buckner: It’s great. Make it easy.
Lucas Hendrickson: Make it easy for them. They know what they’re going to get. In the case of Around the Barrel, most of the time of the first voice they’re going to hear is from the guest who’s about to talk to them for 25 minutes. Then they’re going to hear music, then they’re going to hear me. Then they’re going to hear more of me, but then we’re going to get into that conversation. And at the end will be a little call to action about how they can listen to this podcast every couple of weeks. My most favorite shows, podcasts, whatever you want to call them are the ones that I know, here are these segments. And if I don’t enjoy part of the segment, I know that I can fast forward ahead to something towards the end of their show. That it’s a segment that I know I’m going to like every week. So there’s a lot of different ways to approach it. But if you do have that templated idea in place, then your listeners know what they can expect coming up and adjust accordingly.
Clark Buckner: I like that idea of consistency. That is a theme that we’re going to hear across all of podcast, any kind of content creation, especially with podcasts. We have a lot of folks who ask us, well, how long should our podcast be? Or how often should we publish our podcast and answers to both of those, I mean it, lengthwise, that’s important to pick it, strategically, but also stick to it. So in our case, we’re aiming for that average commute time for an American one way, about 25 to 30 minutes. So most of these episodes, we want to land in that. But consistency also in when the content is released. So in this case, every other week that we recommend folks don’t go less than once a month. So, that’s an important consistency item.
Clark Buckner: And finally, of course, this intro template, custom intro narration. So there is an outro, and this is a nice transition to our ending of this particular interview. But there’s the outro as well, that gives you an opportunity to have a call to action, or have an invitation to do something next. Anything you want to leave us with on writing outros or having what we call sometimes a standard bumper outro. In that case, that’s maybe the same always. But any advice on creating an outro?
Lucas Hendrickson: Revisit your social media presences, give them as many opportunities as they can to provide you some feedback. Tell them where you can share the podcast with other friends and listeners to make sure that they know we’ll hear content as well. But at the same time our outro, invite them to come back. Listen to the next episode, be on the lookout for the next episode, tell them where they can find it online and your various other pod catchers. And then, while we don’t have dedicated social media presences for this podcast, there’s certainly Jack Daniels_US on most of the regular suspects that people can go and follow if they choose to. I think it’s important to remind your listeners that you’ve worked really hard to try to acquire in the first place, that there will be a next episode. Please do follow. Please share with your friends that might enjoy it as well, because I think we’ve all seen anecdotally and with hard numbers that the influencer idea works in the podcaster world. People are more apt to adopt a podcast that a friend recommends to them rather than just stumbling across it randomly.
Clark Buckner: Well we certainly know that in the various pod catchers and podcast destinations, Apple Podcast, Google Play, all of those. There is certainly the possibility for discovery, but data does show us that don’t rely on just one randomly coming across your podcast. Very unlikely. So good notes. And also in that outro, based on your content design, maybe you’re trying to send your audience to your website, website.com/podcast, have that dedicated landing page, have a place to capture maybe their email address. Maybe there’s a free giveaway. Maybe there’s some sort of incentive to get them to join that list. Sometimes if it makes sense, you can include a custom email address in your outro to collect feedback. We’ve had that on the show before. We’ve heard feedback, we’ve heard good reviews and that’s been nice. And that’s an important distinction. The B2B strategy definitely want to send people to a website while B2C might be a little more on the social side. Subscribe, rate, review is a common phrase you might hear. But anyway, Lucas, thank you so much for coming into the studio, sharing your perspective. Always enjoy having you. Anything you want to leave us with? Maybe including your own call to action?
Lucas Hendrickson: My own call to action. Well, you can follow me on, well, here’s the thing. I’m not as consistent perhaps as I need to be in my social media presence. It’s, however, Twitter I’m found at Lucas Types, L U C A S T Y P E S. People ask, what do you do? I type things for a living. And then also on the Instagram, which is pictures of my kid and food, as with most Instagram users, I’m @largelandmammal and also largelandmammal.com There’s a whole story behind that. That’s a story for another day, but yeah.
Clark Buckner: You are a quite large man. When I came in to EC this morning at the front desk, did you see a large man walk by? And she’s like, yep.
Lucas Hendrickson: Yeah, I’m 6’7 and doorframe, darkening size. But more for the purposes of this show and for Around the Barrel, please rate, review, subscribe, follow, listen, enjoy responsibly at www.jackdaniels.com/podcast where you can find both of our seasons so far.
Clark Buckner: Future wins on the way.
Lucas Hendrickson: Tell them you’re enjoying the show and we’ll ramp up for Season 3.
Clark Buckner: All righty. Thanks, Lucas.
Lucas Hendrickson: Absolutely.
Clark Buckner: Thanks for listening to Brandcasting with Relationary Marketing. We’re a turnkey podcast production agency for Content Marketing, and we’d love to hear from you. For a recap and transcript of this episode and to download our free Five Step Guide to Building a Branded Podcast, visit relationarymarketing.com/podcast. If you enjoyed this content, please follow, rate and review wherever you get your podcasts.
Clark Buckner: Are you hungry for more helpful tips on how to build a branded podcast? Stay on the lookout because Season 2 of Brandcasting is coming soon. We’ve got a lot in store, including how to use podcasts as part of live events like conferences, trade shows and special events all with the goal to promote brand awareness, connect with new customers, and amplify the experience for attendees.
Clark Buckner: Brandcasting is a production of Relationary Marketing. This episode was produced by Simon Mack and Executive Producers, me, Clark Buckner and Chuck Bryant with editing by Dylan Carrow, music by Jess Grommet and additional production support provided by Anthony Luciani, AJ Meyers, Riley Wallace, and Jasmine Meriweather.