PORTLAND, Maine — Elvis died the night before he was supposed to perform at the Cumberland County Civic Center in August 1977. Roughly 37 years later, in 2014, country music cowboy hat-hunk Tim McGraw released a less-than-complimentary song about the city with lyrics including: “Portland, Maine, I don’t know where that is, and I don’t want to know.”
The King’s famous no-show and McGraw’s intentional geographic knowledge deficiencies are both framing devices employed by a new podcast exploring Portland’s vibrant but nationally obscure music scene.
The new series, called “Sound of Our Town,” is a joint production between national radio behemoth iHeartMedia and Double Elvis, a production company with multiple podcast hits.
LATEST MAINE NEWS
The weekly, 10-part series drops its first episode on July 21, with a close-up look and listen on the ground in the Forest City.
“As rock and roll royalty succumbed to an overtaxed heart on the toilet, one city in America was enraptured, waiting for tomorrow to come,” said host Will Dailey, about Elvis’ planned concert, in a preview version of the new podcast provided to the Bangor Daily News. “No city was ever left more at the altar than Portland, Maine.”
Dailey is a Boston-based indie singer and songwriter best known for having his music featured in television shows like “Ghost Whisperer”, “NCIS”, “90210” and “CSI.”
“I couldn’t find a lot of songs referencing Portland, Maine,” Dailey said, about including the Donavan Woods-penned, McGraw song. “Hell, there aren’t a lot of songs that reference Maine.”
The podcast goes on to emphasize Portland’s relatively isolated and out-of-the way status. Dailey also makes much hay with the city’s seaside food-and-drink reputation, pointing out that it has more microbreweries per capita than any other city in America.
Along the way, he namedrops a gaggle of Maine musical artists, few of which are actually from Portland, itself. The list includes Paranoid Social Club, Rustic Overtones, Ray LaMontagne, the Ghost of Paul Revere and the Mallett Brothers Band.
The podcast is more of a travel guide than a music sampler. It doesn’t play any of the aforementioned artists’ music but rather delves into the city’s alcohol-fueled history, while mentioning some its better-known music venues. Among them, the list curiously includes the Cross Insurance Arena, which rarely hosts music, and The Big Easy, which has been closed for years.
The episode mostly emphasizes the homegrown nature of Portland’s music scene.
“Maybe when Elvis drops dead on you, you are left with no plans. You realize nobody is coming,” Dailey muses, “and when Tim McGraw can’t even find it on a map, you realize, maybe we’d better plan our own party and supply our own music.”
The Sound of Our Town podcast is produced by Double Elvis, a media company specializing in scripted shows about popular music artists. Double Elvis is best known for its “Disgraceland” series, delving into rock and rolls’ sordid, true crime tales. Topics covered include a possible murder committed by Jerry Lee Lewis, Brittany Spears’ personal life and many cocaine-fueled rock star capers.
The podcast’s distributor, iHeartMedia owns more than 800 American radio stations, though none in Maine. According to podcast industry ranker Podtrac, iHeartMedia currently has 685 podcasts in circulation, attracting around 30,332,000 listeners a month.
Portland’s Sound of Our Town closeup is obviously aimed at folks that don’t already live here. It’s probably redundant information for those already familiar with the city’s music scene. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an entertaining listen and a good reminder of what outsiders think when they come here.
“The food, the beer, the crafts, the art, the music — Portland is its own perpetual motion machine,” Dailey said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Ray LaMontagne’s last name.