It started with a disappointment. Before entering college, Milan Lombardo booked Arizona-based musician Rob Riccardo to play Santa Fe.
“I just connected with his lyrics,” Lombardo says. “I followed him on Instagram and he followed me back. We started talking and I was like, Hey, man, I love your stuff. I turned all my friends on to it. We love your sound and what you’ve got to say and I’d love to host you here in Santa Fe.”
It was the early days of the pandemic, which quashed the planned concert. But being an enterprising 18-year-old, that wasn’t the end of it.
“I was like, ‘Hey, man, I just had this burst of inspiration,’” he says from the campus of Skidmore College in New York, where he’s just starting his freshman year. “Do you want to set up an interview?” he asked. “I’m going to start a podcast.”
That’s how What’s Your Juice? began. Between April 3 and Aug. 21, he interviewed 10 people, including Riccardo, a biological scientist, a pair of brothers who paddleboarded from Alaska to Mexico, and Canadian actress Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight, White House Down). Lombardo hopes his podcast will help others, especially young people like himself, to discover a sense of purpose in this age of detachment. “It’s helping me to stay motivated and to have a sense purpose during this pandemic,” he says.
“To me, What’s Your Juice? is a platform that Milan uses to capture stories of much greater depth than most of the other podcasts out there,” says Riccardo, who released his fourth full-length album, Lessons from the Valley, in May. “He’s also a great interviewer and has an old-soul personality that comes through at first listen. For those reasons, I went from being the first guest to an active listener of the show.”
Riccardo’s episode, “Sharing the Journey Within through the Medium of Music,” and all subsequent episodes are available at whatisyourjuice.buzzsprout.com, and on Spotify, Apple, and Google Podcasts.
To get listeners interested, Lombardo starts his podcasts with a compelling, insightful, or funny quote pulled from his interviews. For example, Lefevre’s podcast starts with her quoting English actress Olivia Coleman: “ ‘If you don’t like my bum[,] f you, because I’m pretty nice to be around, actually.’ ” He doesn’t start by asking “What’s your juice?” but he gets there, eventually. The interviews are in a conversational style rather than being a strictly Q&A format.
Lombardo grew up in Santa Fe at The Commons co-housing development, biking and skateboarding through the network of brick paths between the houses. He graduated in May from the Academy for Technology and the Classics where he was a student in the school’s rigorous advanced placement program.
“I’ve known Milan since he was about five years old, and he’s always been a bright light,” Lefevre says. “So I wasn’t at all surprised to find out he’d started this podcast.”
What did surprise her was the depth of his questions. In his conversation with Lefevre (Episode 8: “Kindness and Respect Can Never Go out the Window”), for example, he admits that she was one of his first crushes. “I think he could be a real role model for young people, young men especially, who still aren’t given a vocabulary to deal with uncomfortable emotions that, if accessed, could be a goldmine for their own creativity.”
Lombardo’s own passion — the “juice” he refers to in the name of the podcast — is in environmental causes and sustainability, which are topics he is pursuing at Skidmore. “I’m planning on going into political science and environmental studies. That’s my general trajectory.” His interest in these topics influenced his choice of interview subjects, such as Michael Stewart, the co-founder of Sustainable Surf (sustainablesurf.org) and SeaTrees (sea-trees
.org), a climate change mitigation program whose first venture was a mangrove reforestation project in the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar. At the end of the podcast (Episode 3: “Reversing Climate Change through Surf Culture”), Lombardo says, “Michael is the person who helped me realize my juice.”
At Skidmore, Lombardo’s first semester is a hybrid between in-person and online classes. His first order of business when he arrived on campus in early August was to enter a two-week quarantine period, followed by routine testing for the coronavirus, twice a week, and contact tracing. “It’s really strict,” he says.
He plans to maintain the podcast throughout his college years. “I’m going to continue interviewing people at school, for sure: guest speakers and professors. I’m going to continue reaching out to people remotely. Then, I’ll be hosting it at the studio we have at school. I’m going to keep pushing on it and also doing my studies.”
Upcoming podcasts include a conversation with Chef Dan Churchill, a co-founder of Charley St restaurant in New York City. He also designs diet programs for celebrity clientele, including Thor and The Avengers actor Chris Hemsworth. That as-yet-untitled podcast becomes available on Sept. 20.
“If my podcast can help anyone, that’s my whole goal,” Lombardo says. “I’m just trying to help people to become more purpose-driven and to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.” ◀