Kevin Costner knows a good story when he hears one.
That’s why he said he was intrigued when he heard about an app designed to alert travelers to notable, but often unnoticed, places of interest along their journey.
“I’m the guy who drives in America…when you see those bronze markers along the way, I want to stop. I want to read what was there,” he said. “It’s something historic, and I remember being really thrilled by it. Otherwise you’re just watching the miles go by.”
An app that would send compelling and timely stories directly to him was appealing, he said, because “a good story has always been something that excites me.”
Costner was loosely related to the app’s creator, entrepreneur Woody Sears, through their children, Sears said. While the app was in the preliminary stages, Costner agreed to tell several stories before eventually joining the company as a co-founder.
The app – called HearHere – launched in August 2020, fortuitously coinciding with one of the biggest travel trends of the Covid era: the resurrection of the road trip.
A “guide to road trip stories”
As in the past two years, road trips are expected to dominate this summer, according to a survey by travel website The Vacationer. Almost 80% of American adults – or some 206 million Americans – plan to take one, according to the survey of nearly 1,100 Americans in March.
However, HearHere — which is billed as a “road trip history guide” — was in development before the pandemic, Sears said.
“The idea of travel has changed for a lot of people,” Sears said. “We happened to open our doors at the same time as the shift.
Kevin Costner said a key part of the HearHere app is telling the stories of North America’s first inhabitants, a subject central to his Oscar-winning film ‘Dances With Wolves’.
TIG Productions | Stock Photos | MoviePix | Getty Images
Costner said he’s been involved with several start-ups, but this one “was in the wheelhouse of what I’m already doing in terms of storytelling and my kind of love of story,” Costner said.
From “The Untouchables” to “JFK” and “Wyatt Earp,” many of Costner’s best-known films have tackled key figures in American history. One of the main reasons for his involvement with HearHere was his desire to tell the stories of the first inhabitants of North America. It’s a subject he explored in the 1990 Academy Award-winning film “Dances With Wolves,” which Costner starred in, directed and produced.
“It was fundamental for me… who are the first people? – because there is no here without knowing who was there before,” he said.
The hard truths
HearHere has over 9,000 stories to date, with topics ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Janis Joplin, and Kentucky’s National Corvette Museum to the Nashville music scene.
But for Costner, telling the hardest truths about US history is also paramount.
“Our history isn’t always great. There was so much violence in America. We watch the violence play out now across the world…to think it didn’t happen here – it did,” did he declare.
Stories about America’s Founding Fathers and its Civil War battlefields are intercut with tales of Mississippi towns colonized by slaves and the disenfranchisement of black people.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Costner said. “We can be a little embarrassed, but it’s more embarrassing not to know.”
An increase in audio content
HearHere has been downloaded more than 400,000 times and has subscribers in every US state, Sears said. The company announced in February that it had raised $3.2 million in seed funding, led by US recreational vehicle company Camping World.
Despite spearheading a new mobile app company, Costner said he wasn’t very keen on the technology. He said most mobile apps “fly over my head” and, of HearHere’s Twitter page: “I don’t even know how to get to them.”
HearHere co-founders: Woody Sears, Kevin Costner and Bill Werlin. “I’m not a figurehead…that’s my interest,” Costner said.
Source: Listen here
“I was really raised with wolves,” he said. “If I need to expand my life…I need to open my ears, I need to open my eyes. When I travel across the country, my nose doesn’t need to be in a computer – it needs to look out .”
Sears said so-called “screen fatigue” is one of the reasons why audio content has overtaken video content in 2021. Audio entertainment is also easier to integrate into daily life because it can be consumed while “walking, driving and doing chores, compared to video which is mostly watched while stationary,” he said.
Demand for audio services has increased during the pandemic, with companies such as Amazon, Twitter and Facebook announcing expanded audio platforms in recent years.
Going to other countries?
As US-based stories continue to be added to HearHere, Costner said the company has a model that lends itself well to international expansion.
He said the company is always refining its business and listening to its customers, but “I like to jump off the page very honestly… try something new,” he said.
Costner said he applies a similar approach to his films.
“It’s easy to follow a trend – it’s a lot harder to try to be original. Trends, or the repetition of something popular, are a way to make a lot of money,” he said. -he declares. “Doing something classic – that no one has ever felt like they’ve ever seen before – can live forever.”