Arts & Leisure
Podcasters trumpet the splendors of Orwell
What do you get when you put two middle-aged Orwellians in a closet with a microphone?
Why, a podcast of course!
No foolin’, that’s exactly how The Orwell Bugler got started.
Joe Andriano and his wife, Sarah, moved into what folks around here know as “the cupcake house” in Orwell in the fall of 2020 — just down the road from Buxton’s Store. Andy Buxton who was born and raised in his family’s store, and now owns the business with his wife Mary, hit it off with Andriano.
“We were sitting on the front porch late one night and started talking about making a podcast,” Buxton remembered during an interview in February. “Joe probably brought it up like six or seven times, and then I was like, ‘Yeah, we should start a podcast.’”
Two microphones, some recording equipment and a “recording studio” — ahem, Andriano’s closet, complete with dirty laundry in the corner — and the duo launched The Orwell Bugler, where they talk about “rumors not news from Orwell, Vermont.”
The podcast launched its first episode in the spring of 2022 and just released its 14th show a couple weeks ago. The inspiration to start the podcast came out of their shared love for Orwell, Andriano and Buxton explained: “Sometimes we feel like we are the armpit — or is it the appendix? — of Addison County… Orwell news isn’t covered much by the Addison Independent or the Rutland Herald, and we saw a need to share some Orwellian news. We’d like to rise to the top and become more of the caviar of the dish — #movetoorwell!”
The duo banter, back and forth, stepping on each other’s sentences with friendly ease. Their laid-back chatter takes listeners through interviews with Orwell community members, the highs and lows of local and national sports teams and human interest stories; oh, and let’s not forget about the weather.
“We are The Orwell Buglers,” they cried together, adding a little toot-to-toot to mimic a bugle call. “We’re the ones on top of the hill screaming (or maybe spewing?) our information onto the world.”
Buxton admits to zero radio experience before launching into this podcasting project, but he sure knows Orwell, the small-town lifestyle and the importance of customer service.
“I’m pretty sure I started my hospitality career in the womb 43 years ago,” joked Buxton. “We are in the business of helping people. That was instilled in me since a very young age… And you learn patience through customer service.”
When Buxton was a little older he started working on his cousin’s farm milking and doing farm chores. Then he found his way into the restaurant business; first at Angela’s when he was 19 years old.
Buxton worked 17 years in restaurant management, as a chef, entertainment booking and bar-keeping. He met his wife Mary while working at Fire & Ice and spent the last six years working at Two Brothers Tavern.
“It was certainly the school of hard-knocks that I went through,” he said. “But I built up some thick skin.”
Buxton and his wife finally took over the store with their two young girls in 2017. Their goal is to make the store a destination spot — a Norman Rockwell-esque general store with an awesome deli, take out options, fresh fish, craft beer, wine and cider, and excellent company.
“We want to show people that these old school general stores still thrive in these communities… I love listening to people,” Buxton said. “I learn from everybody who walks in the store.”
And that community knowledge is Buxton’s strength as an Orwell Bugler. In one episode, the duo drive around the town and Buxton narrates an impressive oral history of Orwell landmarks and family histories — sprinkled in with a few mischievous anecdotes and a surprisingly successful squirrel hunt!
Andriano came to this podcast endeavor with a bit more academic and media experience.
“I consider myself to be a lawyer and an educator,” he said. “I have a solo practice in Orwell out of my home… As an educator, I spent a great deal of my career in teaching higher ed, including at Middlebury College.”
Andriano is also a recently elected Vermont State Representative and is on more committees and community boards that you can shake a stick at. In his spare time… he edits all the podcasts and spices up the episodes with his own comedic musical talents.
“I first came to Vermont in 2001, as an intern with the Vermont Democratic Party and fell in love with Vermont,” Andriano explained. “So Vermont Law School seemed like a good fit for me.”
He then discovered his passion for education and taught in middle and high schools before joining the Peace Corps. He met his wife Sarah (a Middlebury College grad) and a job opportunity for her took the couple all the way out to Los Angeles, Calif. That was late 2019…
“COVID,” Andriano sighed. “So after three months working from home and 3,000 miles away from family, we made the decision to come back to Vermont.”
The first house they looked at in the summer of 2020 was in Orwell — they fell in love with the house and the town.
“We looked at 15 other houses that day,” Andriano remembered. “But we felt drawn to the town and the house — that gut feeling we both had was right. We love Orwell.”
“Not everybody who comes into this town are as active as Joe and Sarah,” Buxton added. “These are certainly the type of people we want to have move here. Hats off to Joe and Sarah, and to everybody else who contributes to our community.”
“Getting to know Andy has been such a pleasure, and his family as well,” Andriano said, returning the compliments. “Everyone in town is so welcoming… I can’t imagine living anywhere else (I say while living in Montpelier). It’s an amazing community. That’s really what this project is all about. We love where we live.”
The trick is how do you share that love? How do you engage listeners?
“I don’t have any kind of an education of how to do communications and media,” Buxton said. “But I can listen, and say, ‘OK, Joe, you say ‘like’ about 300 times in every episode…”
The pair went back and forth critiquing each other and their early episodes, learning how to speak and enunciate; and ever-more importantly how to hold the attention of listeners.
“We learned quickly to get to the point,” Buxton laughed. “Say what you need to say and move on.”
With the help of Andriano’s analytics skills, they also learned what types of conversations listeners like and what is a bore.
“Our analytics told us people weren’t listening to 20 minute conversations about a committee,” Andriano explained. “How do you tell the story of your community? How do you let people know what’s going on? But also make that interesting, fun and engaging?”
Those are good questions.
“We specifically say ‘rumors’ because really we’re just two jerks with a podcast,” Andriano laughed.
Sure “rumors” gives these two more creative license, but don’t be fooled. This podcast is an excellent window into the heart of Orwellian life — and it’s as charming as it sounds.
“We have vowed to continue this podcast,” Buxton added emphatically. “It can be hard to find the time, but we’re really enjoying doing it.”
Editor’s Note: The Orwell Bugler can be found on Spotify and Apple Music as well as streamed directly from the website theorwellbugler.com.
Want to call in to The Orwell Bugler?
Call 802-468-7236 and leave a voicemail or email Orwellbugeler@gmail.com.
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