Paternal

Nick Firchau

Paternal is a show about the brotherhood of fatherhood. Created and hosted by Nick Firchau, a longtime journalist and podcast producer, Paternal offers candid and in-depth conversations with great men who are quietly forging new paths in fatherhood. Listen as our diverse and thoughtful guests – a world-renowned soccer star in San Diego, a Oglala Sioux elder in South Dakota, a New York Knicks barber in Queens, a pioneering rock DJ in Seattle and many more - discuss the models of manhood that were passed down to them, and how they're redefining those models as they become fathers themselves.

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#66 Chris Ballew: Fame, Fatherhood, and Caspar Babypants (2020)
Today
#66 Chris Ballew: Fame, Fatherhood, and Caspar Babypants (2020)
Even before his third birthday, Chris Ballew was transfixed by music. He would sit on the floor in his parents’ Seattle-area home and listen to The Beatles’ seminal 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and not long after he was writing and performing his own songs. By the mid-90s he was fronting the Presidents of the United States of America -  one of the hottest bands in rock'n'roll - and appearing regularly on MTV. But he was quietly harboring a secret: “On a gut level, I wanted out immediately.” On this episode of Paternal from 2020, Ballew looks back at his early experiences with fame, and examines the instinct that led him to leave modern rock behind to take on a new stage presence: celebrated children’s musician Caspar Babypants. Ballew has released 17 albums and been nominated for a Grammy during his career as Caspar, all driven by a desire to imbue his music with the same lyrical elements he found in the music of the Beatles, and to help weary parents make it through the day. Songs Featured In This Episode: Spider John - Caspar Babypants A Day In The Life - The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - Caspar Babypants Naked and Famous - The Presidents of The United States of America Kick Out The Jams - The Presidents of The United States of America Sun Go - Caspar Babypants (featuring Frances England) Nap In The Afternoon - Caspar Babypants Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.
#66 Chris Ballew: Fame, Fatherhood, and Caspar Babypants (2020)
Today
#66 Chris Ballew: Fame, Fatherhood, and Caspar Babypants (2020)
Even before his third birthday, Chris Ballew was transfixed by music. He would sit on the floor in his parents’ Seattle-area home and listen to The Beatles’ seminal 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and not long after he was writing and performing his own songs. By the mid-90s he was fronting the Presidents of the United States of America -  one of the hottest bands in rock'n'roll - and appearing regularly on MTV. But he was quietly harboring a secret: “On a gut level, I wanted out immediately.” On this episode of Paternal from 2020, Ballew looks back at his early experiences with fame, and examines the instinct that led him to leave modern rock behind to take on a new stage presence: celebrated children’s musician Caspar Babypants. Ballew has released 17 albums and been nominated for a Grammy during his career as Caspar, all driven by a desire to imbue his music with the same lyrical elements he found in the music of the Beatles, and to help weary parents make it through the day. Songs Featured In This Episode: Spider John - Caspar Babypants A Day In The Life - The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - Caspar Babypants Naked and Famous - The Presidents of The United States of America Kick Out The Jams - The Presidents of The United States of America Sun Go - Caspar Babypants (featuring Frances England) Nap In The Afternoon - Caspar Babypants Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.
#65 Steve Leder: Twelve Questions to Tell a Life Story
Jul 27 2022
#65 Steve Leder: Twelve Questions to Tell a Life Story
Steve Leder is a husband, father, bestselling author and, as the senior rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, one the most influential religious leaders in America. During his 35 years at Southern California’s oldest synagogue he has proven to be something of an expert in the human experience, and overseen not just regular services at the temple, but also countless weddings - including that of his friend and Academy Award winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin - and his fair share of funerals, of which he has performed more than a thousand in his career. Not bad for the son of a junkman from Minnesota. On this episode of Paternal, Leder reflects on what he’s learned about fathers and sons over the years and why men struggle when they face adversity alone, as well as the life and legacy of his own dad and how he’s tried to become a better father himself. He also discusses his 2022 book For You When I Am Gone, which includes a dozen essential questions Leder asked 40 people to better understand how they define love, what makes them happy, and what decisions they regret most in their lives. Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.
#64 Jason Kander: Politics, Parenthood, and PTSD
Jul 13 2022
#64 Jason Kander: Politics, Parenthood, and PTSD
Back in early 2018, Jason Kander was riding high as one of the brightest young stars in American politics. After becoming the youngest statewide elected official in the nation and nearly toppling a Republican incumbent for a U.S. Senate seat from his native Missouri, Kander was invited to meet with Barack Obama, where the former president personally encouraged Kander to one day consider his own run for the White House, telling Kander, “You have what I had. You’re the natural.”  But Kander’s public presidential aspirations were derailed by a private battle with symptoms of PTSD, a result of service as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He struggled with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and eventually crippling bouts of shame as he finally confronted his diagnosis, and he quietly wished he could be a better husband to his wife, Diana, and better father to his son, True. On this episode of Paternal, Kander reflects on how he spent years in denial of the trauma that thwarted his political aspirations and damaged his personal life, how he used feelings of shame and anger to gain control of his life, and how therapy helped him reimagine what a man - and a father - is supposed to be. Kander’s new memoir, Invisible Storm, is available now. Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.
#56 Max Lowe: Daddy’s On The Mountain
Mar 9 2022
#56 Max Lowe: Daddy’s On The Mountain
One world-renowned climber dies and leaves a widow and three young sons behind, and his climbing partner and best friend helps pick up the pieces by marrying the widow and helping raise a trio of boys who lost their father. Among the world’s mountaineers, climbers and explorers, the life and tragic death of Alex Lowe is nothing short of legend. For newcomers hearing the story for the first time, it’s a fascinating examination of circumstance and fate, love lost and then rediscovered.    But for Max Lowe - who was just 10 years old when his father died in an avalanche high in the Himalayas - it’s a complicated reality he’s dealt with for more than 20 years. On this episode of Paternal, Max discusses his life as the son of one of the world’s greatest climbers, memories of his father Alex, the uncomplicated psychology of the mountaineers who take frightening risks, and what it was like to make the acclaimed 2021 documentary Torn, which forced Max and his family to confront more than two decades of grief and repressed emotions surrounding the sudden loss of a real-life superhero. Torn is currently streaming on Disney Plus, and you can read more about the film and the legacy of Alex Lowe in the Los Angeles Times, Outside, and The New Yorker. Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.
#54 Mickey Rowe: The World Needs What Makes You Different
Feb 9 2022
#54 Mickey Rowe: The World Needs What Makes You Different
Mickey Rowe has made a career out of one simple motto: The world needs what makes you different. An autistic actor who started out as a street performer in Seattle but was never given speaking roles in the theater during his 20s, Rowe eventually earned the lead role in the theater adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. In the process Rowe became the first autistic actor to play the demanding lead role of Christopher Boone, a teenager on the spectrum who is convinced he can solve the murder of his neighbor’s dog. On this episode of Paternal, Rowe reflects on his life on the autistic spectrum and what role autism played in his drive to become an actor, as well as the complicated relationship Hollywood has with portraying characters who are disabled. He also discusses what fatherhood looks like as an autistic father of an autistic son, and how he’s learned to cast aside expectations about parenthood and embrace why his experience as a father is different from so many other men. Rowe is the founding Artistic Director of National Disability Theatre and his memoir, Fearlessly Different, will be released in March. Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.
#53 Brendan Kiely: Reckoning With Our White Privilege
Jan 26 2022
#53 Brendan Kiely: Reckoning With Our White Privilege
Author and teacher Brendan Kiely has spent years speaking to young adults about the difficult issues they might face in their teen years, and he’s in awe of the amount of hope that lies within the next generation. But after seemingly endless recent incidents of police brutality against African American men and the centuries of racism that came before, he’s writing for young adults about what it means to live with the benefits of white privilege. And he’s figuring out how to start the same conversation with his young son. In this episode of Paternal, Kiely discusses the themes covered in his 2021 book The Other Talk, the book’s reception during a time of fraught culture wars, and why the traits of humility and vulnerability are so essential to having better conversations about race, especially among men. Kiely is a New York Times bestselling author of five books and a former English and literature teacher in New York City, and prior to writing The Other Talk he co-wrote the award-winning and critically acclaimed young adult fiction novel All American Boys. To hear additional episodes from Paternal about “The Talk,” check out Episode 5 and Episode 12. Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.
#52 Waubgeshig Rice: The Pressure In My Head
Jan 12 2022
#52 Waubgeshig Rice: The Pressure In My Head
Growing up on the Wasauksing First Nation indigenous reserve in Ontario, journalist and bestselling author Waubgeshig Rice learned early in his life about the value of culture and community. But as an Anishinaabe young man schooled in the challenges his ancestors faced as indigenous people in Canada, Rice was also keenly aware of what happens when a community loses its connection to its history, traditions and culture, and how men can easily fall victim to the effects of intergenerational trauma. On this episode of Paternal, Rice recounts his experience on Wasauksing First Nation and his sometimes conflicted emotions about growing up on the reserve, as well as the challenges his own father faced in trying to reclaim the family’s Anishinaabe identity. Rice - who penned the celebrated apocalyptic thriller Moon of the Crusted Snow and was dubbed “one of the leading voices reshaping North American science fiction, horror and fantasy” by the New York Times - also discusses the emotional strain he experienced after the complicated birth of his first son, and how masculinity and vulnerability are valued on “the rez.” Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.