Interview | A chat with Fail Harder host Emma Jane Purcell

Emma Jane Purcell is the Host of the popular show Fail Harder on the HeadStuff Podcast Network. Fail Harder is a show where she talks to people at the top of their game about failure- from their first memory of failure to how they cope with it now. I chatted to her to find out more about the show and get some insights into why she thinks the show is so successful.


Q: So you’re the host of Fail Harder, can you tell me a bit about the podcast and how it came about?

Emma Jane: Well I had an interest in failure and I noticed that it wasn’t talked about much in my generation. We’re the Instagram generation where there’s a huge focus on positivity and success but we never get to see what goes wrong in order to achieve that success. Everybody fails so I thought it would be interesting to use Fail Harder to create a space where we could talk about it openly and lessen the mystique around it.


Q: And how did your own background play into this interest in failure?

EJ: Well I studied acting and went to drama school and that’s an environment that’s full of failure. I was the most dedicated of theatre students but I still kept experiencing setbacks and failures and I’m pretty bad with failure, I don’t take it very well. It worked out in the end because through all the setbacks I found a new path I really loved in radio and audio so I thought I could use this environment to learn more about failure, and maybe learn new ways to accept it and I decided to create the podcast to do that.


Q: What can new listeners expect? What’s the show about?

EJ: I think people expect the show to be more serious than it actually is but really it’s a lot of fun. The format of the show is like a 20 questions style interview where the guests get to pick the questions they answer. Most of the questions are about failure but some are fun quiz-style questions. Adding those in kind of encourages failure live on the show because they either know the answer or they don’t and it gives us the opportunity to see how they react to failure in the moment.



Q: What kind of guests have you had so far? Any dream guests you’d love to interview in the future?

EJ: We’ve had a lot of great guests on Fail Harder already like Paul Mescal (Normal People), Georgina Campbell (Krypton & Black Mirror), Panti Bliss, and James Kavanagh and we have a few more shows left this season with equally amazing guests. There are a lot of creative types and actors on the show since that’s the world I come from but I try to keep it diverse. I’m very choosy with who I want on as a guest so once I have someone in mind I kind of hunt them down until they say yes and agree to come on the show. 

I’d love to have Roz Purcell on, I just think she’d be a great fit for the show because of everything she does for mental health and we’re both from Tipperary so I just think we’d have a great conversation, she’d be a dream future guest.


Q. Ok, you’ve got my attention. So why should I go and listen right now? Convince me!

EJ: I think it’s great to hear all these amazing people that we look up to talk openly and honestly about their journeys, it helps remind everyone that no matter how bad things seem right now it can always get better. There’s also a fun interactive angle to the podcast as listeners can play along by answering the questions themselves, reflect on their answers, and maybe pick up some tips and tricks on how they can better deal with failure in their own lives as well.

It’s also a great way to discover a bunch of amazing new people. I’ve had so many people tell me that they discovered their new favourite actors, or writers because they heard about them through their interviews on my podcast and I love that. Fail Harder can definitely help you find some hidden gems and all your new favourite creative people.

Q: What kind of bonus content can members expect if they sign up to support Fail Harder on HeadStuff+?

EJ: I’ve got one bonus episode up at the moment with Romana Testasecca (Watermelon Fitness on Instagram). We’re good friends in real life so we have a good back and forth going, it’s less of an interview like the traditional episodes and more of a conversation between two mates. I think it will be fun for regular listeners to hear because it’s less formal and it gives fans a good chance to get to know me better in a more personal way.

I also have plans to write a few articles about what I’ve learned from my own personal failures and how I’ve learned to deal with them.


Q: Anything else you desperately need to tell any potential new listeners?

EJ: I think the show is really good for mental health, especially given the times we are living in. There’s lots of failure going on and everyone just feels so disconnected so it’s nice to have a place where there can be open and honest discussions on mental health and therapy and to be reminded that even the people who seem like they have it all together are struggling too. It really feels like a community and since the people who come on  Fail Harder are being so honest and open it makes you feel like you can be the same about yourself.