To the thousands who listen to Welcome to Night Vale, the hit podcast-turned-cultural-phenomenon, Cecil Baldwin is more than a narrator. He is the lone source of comfort in an unfeeling world, a beacon of hope in a landscape otherwise devoid of beacons. Yeah, this guy has one hell of a soothing voice.
For the uninitiated, Night Vale is a fictional radio show set in a surreal, often ghoulish desert town. Think NPR by way of H.P. Lovecraft and David Lynch with a healthy dose of Will Eno. Baldwin plays host to a rotating cast of characters that includes the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, a five-headed dragon named Hiram McDaniels and Tamikia Flynn, a 14-year-old destroyer of librarians.
Night Vale was created in 2012 by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink, who met each other and Baldwin through the New York Neo-Futurists. Within a year, it reached the number-one spot on iTunes’ list of top 10 audio podcasts. Cranor and Fink recently released their novelization of the podcast, and the cast spends much of the year on the road. In fact, their upcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand is mostly sold out, though New Yorkers still have a chance to catch one of three performances at El Museo del Barrio.
In his own words, here’s Baldwin on the tireless life of a podcaster-troubadour.
I’ll get up anywhere between 10 a.m. and noon. It really fluctuates. I definitely have a tendency to sleep in later if I don’t have anything else to do.
Morning is one of my favorite times of day. That in-between period when you’re definitely awake and you’re still laying in bed, all nice and warm and curled up — but not quite ready for the day. It’s usually when I’ll do a quick scan of emails and social media before I get out of bed to take a shower, make a pot of coffee and eat breakfast.
I have a hard time getting to sleep when I’m not on tour with a regulated schedule. Basically I have a normal schedule, the hours just get pushed back and back until I’m going to bed at two in the morning.
I record Night Vale from home, so I have the luxury of being able to record whenever I get a new episode. Usually I’ll record during the day, when I’m more alert, but every once in a while I’ll record at night when the neighborhood is quieter.
When we tour, we basically gig like musicians. We roll into town, find our hotel, run to the theatre to do a soundcheck, then grab dinner and do the show. Performing live in front of a bunch of people gives you a lot of energy, and rarely do I ever want to go to sleep directly after a show.
Oftentimes I’m really hungry after shows. It takes a lot of energy to sustain a two-hour performance so, after a show, if possible, I’ll get a nice big dinner, hang out with some of my castmates and then watch TV or a movie. It’s a much more regulated schedule than when I’m not on tour because I have to get up the next day and do the whole cycle again.
Night Vale is definitely committed to Hampton Inns. I think we’ve stayed at pretty much every Hampton Inn across America. They’ve got the perfect blend of comfortable beds and free tea, coffee and breakfast in the morning. It’s kind of become our home away from home, but at the same time it leads to this strange feeling of being in limbo or purgatory — you leave a Hampton Inn one morning and then drive 300 to 400 miles to another Hampton Inn, and it’s exactly like the one you just left.
I get a lot of déjà vu. Didn’t we just leave this place? It’s like the world becomes one long Hampton Inn and you’re just in the same room every night, in this weird No Exit sort of way.
I am a huge believer in the midday nap. Especially when I’m on tour. I’ve perfected the art of the 45-minute nap, which is just enough time to refresh but not so much that I wake up feeling more tired. When I get up, I’ll take the hottest shower I can — to wake up my body and my vocal chords. It’s kind of like rebooting your day.
The blessing and curse of tours is you get to go to really amazing places, but you’re also working. We had one particularly fun night in — I want to say Wales — where me and two of the other actors said to each other, “You know what? It’s a Friday night and we’re gonna go out after the show.” Everything was in walking distance, so we went out to this gay bar that was playing the best 90s hits we’d ever heard — with maybe a little bit of the 80s mixed in.
It turned out one of the bartenders had actually been at the show. She was really bummed because she had to leave early to go to work, and then here we are, at her bar. We were signing autographs and taking pictures and then just ended up dancing our asses off for a couple hours, before walking home.
I’m both a coffee and a tea person. Primarily coffee — especially in the morning — but if it’s after seven p.m. I think it’s usually good to switch to something decaf. I’m particularly fond of a bakery here in Brooklyn called the Blue Stove. They make amazing pies and pastries, and sometimes when I wake up in the morning I’ll go over to grab a coffee and read a book.
On my bedside table: a lamp, a clock and a large water bottle that I just refill every night. Oh, and of course the obligatory phone charger.
I don’t think I have any recurring dreams or nightmares. I’m one of those people where I definitely remember my dreams when I wake up, but when I walk to the shower it goes away. So maybe I do have recurring dreams and I just don’t know it.