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Song Exploder podcast

Song Exploder

Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.

Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.

 

#231

Willow - Transparent Soul feat. Travis Barker

Willow Smith is a singer and songwriter from Los Angeles. She’s also a member of one of the most famous families in the world. From a very young age, she followed in the musical footsteps of her parents, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, and released her first single when she was just ten years old. Since then, she’s released four albums, and was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most influential people in the world. This year, on her most recent album, she put out this song, "Transparent Soul," which was co-written with her longtime collaborator Tyler Cole, and features Travis Barker from Blink-182 on drums. I talked to her about how her upbringing and her musical evolution from her early pop star days influenced the way she made this song. For more, visit songexploder.net/willow ... Read more

20 Oct 2021

16 MINS

16:39

20 Oct 2021


#230

Hrishikesh Hirway TED Talk - What You Learn When You Listen Closely

This summer, I gave a TED Talk at the TED Conference. My talk was about what you discover when you really listen. It was based on how making Song Exploder has changed the way I think about conversations and connecting with people. My talk came out today on the TED website and on the TED Talks Daily podcast, and the very nice folks at TED asked if I would also put the audio of the talk here, on Song Exploder. And I normally wouldn’t put this much of myself on here, but they asked, and like I said, they were very nice. I hope this isn’t too meta, to talk about the show, and what I get out of making it. But it also features some music, including beautiful cello played by Yo-Yo Ma, so there’s that to look forward to. Here it is, my TED Talk on what you learn when you listen closely. To listen to my song with Yo-Yo Ma, visit [https://ffm.to/betweenthereandhere] (https://ffm.to/betweenthereandhere) . For more, visit [songexploder.net/ted] (http://songexploder.net/ted) . ... Read more

13 Oct 2021

16 MINS

16:48

13 Oct 2021


#229

John Lennon - God

Earlier this year, I got an amazing email—the estate of John Lennon said that they have a treasure trove of audio material from his life, and they were wondering if I would be interested in making an episode around the song “God,” from John Lennon’s first solo album. I’ve never tried making a posthumous episode before, because hearing directly from the artist is at the heart of Song Exploder. But with all the interview archives that they have of him speaking, plus all the isolated tracks from the recordings, and the original demo, it actually seemed possible. So this is a very different and special episode of the show. In September 1969, John Lennon told the rest of the Beatles that he was leaving the group. Their breakup was announced publicly in April 1970, and that December, John Lennon released his first solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The Plastic Ono band was the name for a rotating group of musicians that John and his wife, the artist Yoko Ono, had put together. For the making of “God,” the band included Ringo Starr on drums, Billy Preston on piano, and Klaus Voormann on bass. I got to interview Klaus Voormann about his experiences making this track, and in this episode, you’ll hear from him along with the archival interviews with John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and Billy Preston. You’ll also hear the original demo for “God,” and outtakes from the recording sessions at Abbey Road studios. They recorded the final version of this song on October 9, 1970—John Lennon’s 30th birthday. Archival audio sources: - John Lennon's audio was excerpted from an interview with Rolling Stone's Jann S. Wenner, recorded on December 8, 1970. The full interview can be found  [here] (http://www.johnlennon.com/music/interviews/rolling-stone-interview-1970/) . With grateful thanks to Jann S. Wenner for his permission and collaboration. - Arthur Janov and Billy Preston's quotes came from interviews conducted in 2005 owned by Yoko Ono Lennon. With grateful thanks to Yoko Ono Lennon for her permission and collaboration. - Ringo Starr's audio came from the 2008  [Classic Albums documentary] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98GXTQLWr0c&ab_channel=ClassicAlbums)  on John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band, directed by Matthew Longfellow. With grateful thanks to Ringo Starr for his permission and collaboration. For more, visit [songexploder.net/john-lennon] (http://songexploder.net/john-lennon) . ... Read more

06 Oct 2021

26 MINS

26:10

06 Oct 2021


#228

Lucy Dacus - Thumbs

Lucy Dacus is a singer and songwriter from Richmond, Virginia. She put out her first album in 2016, and in 2018 she formed the band boygenius with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. In June 2021, she released her third album, Home Video, which includes the song "Thumbs." The first time I heard it, I knew I wanted to ask Lucy about how and why she made it. After some COVID testing, we spoke in person here in Los Angeles. And she told me the story of how "Thumbs" took months and months to get right. For more, visit [songexploder.net/lucy-dacus] (http://songexploder.net/lucy-dacus) . ... Read more

22 Sep 2021

23 MINS

23:40

22 Sep 2021


#227

Mustafa - Air Forces

Mustafa is a singer, songwriter, and poet from Toronto. He gained national recognition in Canada for his poetry. in 2016, he served on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Youth Advisory Council. Later, as a songwriter, he contributed to the Grammy award-winning album Starboy by The Weeknd, and he’s written songs for Usher, Camila Cabello, and others. In May 2021, he released his own debut album, called When Smoke Rises, inspired by his experiences losing friends to inner-city violence. His album’s been critically acclaimed, and it was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize. I spoke to Mustafa about his song "Air Forces," a track he made with his longtime collaborator, Grammy-winning producer Frank Dukes, plus Swedish artist Simon on the Moon, and Jamie xx. For more visit, [songexploder.net/mustafa] (https://songexploder.net/mustafa) . ... Read more

08 Sep 2021

20 MINS

20:14

08 Sep 2021


#226

Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers

Lykke Li is a singer and songwriter from Sweden. She started releasing music in 2007, and for much of her career, she’s worked with producer Björn Yttling, who’s also a member of the Swedish band Peter Bjorn and John. Her second album, Wounded Rhymes, came out 10 years ago. It was named one of the best albums of 2011 by the New York Times, Pitchfork, the Guardian, and more, and it won the Swedish Grammy for Best Album. The song "I Follow Rivers" was the breakout hit from that album, and for this episode, Lykke and Bjorn break down how they made it, with help from co-writer Rick Nowels. I spoke to the two of them while they were at Björn’s studio, Ingrid Studios in Stockholm. For more, visit [songexploder.net/lykke-li] (http://songexploder.net/lykke-li) . ... Read more

25 Aug 2021

17 MINS

17:18

25 Aug 2021


#225

The Shins - New Slang

Singer, songwriter, and producer James Mercer of The Shins wrote “New Slang” when he was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It came out as a single and then he re-recorded it for The Shins’ debut album Oh, Inverted World, which came out 20 years ago, in 2001. After Garden State came out, featuring the song "New Slang," that album went gold. And the soundtrack for the movie won a Grammy. Nowadays, James Mercer lives in Portland. I spoke to him from his home studio, and he told me how The Shins actually first started as a recording project, a side project, while he was in another band called Flake Music. In this episode, James breaks down "New Slang" and looks back at how his songwriting and his early home recording skills came together to make this iconic song. For more, visit [songexploder.net/the-shins] (http://songexploder.net/the-shins) . ... Read more

11 Aug 2021

20 MINS

20:40

11 Aug 2021


#224

Cheap Trick - Surrender

The song "Surrender" by Cheap Trick was released in 1978. Rolling Stone called it the ultimate 70s teen anthem, and included it in their list of the greatest songs of all time. It’s been in a bunch of movies and tv shows—including South Park, Scrubs, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, New Girl, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Cheap Trick formed in Rockford, Illinois in 1973. They’ve released 20 studio albums, they’ve sold over 20 million records, and in 2016 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rick Nielsen is the guitarist in the band. He wrote “Surrender,” and for this episode, I talked to him about how the song was made. For more, visit [songexploder.net/cheap-trick] (http://songexploder.net/cheap-trick) ... Read more

28 Jul 2021

16 MINS

16:05

28 Jul 2021


#223

Fousheé - Deep End

The story of how the song "Deep End" came into existence and became a hit is kind of wild. One person who really didn’t see it coming is the person who created it, Fousheé. She’s a singer and songwriter from New Jersey. You might have seen her competing on The Voice in 2018. Soon after that, she got asked to make a pack of vocal samples for the music platform Splice, where users can download samples and include them in their own songs, royalty-free. Coming up, Foushée tells the story of what happened with one of those samples, and how that led to her making "Deep End." That song has now been streamed over 385 million times. Fousheé became the first Black female artist to hit the Top 10 Alternative Chart in over 30 years. For more visit, [songexploder.net/foushee] (https://songexploder.net/foushee) . ... Read more

14 Jul 2021

14 MINS

14:23

14 Jul 2021


#222

AURORA - Runaway

AURORA is a singer and songwriter from Norway, who released her first EP in 2015, when she was 19 years old. It featured the song, "Runaway" and after it came out Aurora went on to win Norwegian Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Pop Artist. And she played the voice of the North Wind in Disney’s Frozen 2. This year, six years after that debut EP came out, Aurora’s song "Runaway" became a huge hit on TikTok. As of this recording, between YouTube and Spotify, "Runaway" has been streamed over half a billion times. In this episode, Aurora looks back at how the song first began, and how it evolved over time, from the demo to the final version. For more, visit [songexploder.net/aurora] (http://songexploder.net/aurora) ... Read more

30 Jun 2021

22 MINS

22:53

30 Jun 2021


#221

Sparks - This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us

Sparks are the brothers Ron and Russell Mael, a legendary duo from Los Angeles. Over the last 50 years, they’ve released 25 albums. They’ve collaborated with Giorgio Moroder and Franz Ferdinand, and they’ve influenced bands like Joy Division, Faith No More, Björk, and countless others. Director Edgar Wright, whose films include Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, has made a documentary about the band called The Sparks Brothers. It premiered at Sundance, and comes out in theaters on Friday, June 18th. In this episode, Ron and Russell break down their hit, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us," which came out in 1974, and changed their careers forever. To learn more, visit [songexploder.net/sparks] (https://songexploder.net/sparks) Radiotopia's annual fundraiser is going on right now! To support Song Exploder and the mission of independent, creative story-telling through creator-owned shows, please donate at [radiotopia.fm/donate] (http://radiotopia.fm/donate) . ... Read more

16 Jun 2021

16 MINS

16:33

16 Jun 2021