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.

 

#304

Fenne Lily - Lights Light Up

Fenne Lily is a singer and songwriter from Dorset, England. She released her first album in 2018, but I didn’t find her music until 2023, when she put out her third album, Big Picture. The album she released in between those two was one that got a little lost in the lockdown, when all her touring plans around it got canceled. All of that plays into the story she tells in this episode, about making her song “Lights Light Up” from that third album. I spoke to Fenne in front of a live audience at WBUR CitySpace in Boston. Coming up, you’ll hear how the song evolved across different versions of demos and then in the studio, where she recorded it with Grammy-nominated producer Brad Cook. For more, visit [songexploder.net/fenne-lily] (https://songexploder.net/fenne-lily) . ... Read more

10 Jul 2024

21 MINS

21:38

10 Jul 2024


#303

Re-issue: Vagabon - Water Me Down

Last year, Vagabon released her third album, Sorry I Haven’t Called, which I’ve been listening to a lot. So I wanted to revisit an episode that I recorded with her back in 2020, about her breakout song "Water Me Down." The episode also features the voice of Eric Littmann, who co-produced the track. He passed away in June 2021, way too young. Vagabon’s new album is dedicated to him. If you haven’t heard this episode before, I hope you like it.  When Laetitia Tamko started making the second Vagabon album, she really wanted to produce the entire thing on her own. It would be a new sound, and producing was still a relatively new skill to her, but she wanted to tackle it head on, and do it all herself. On this song, though, "Water Me Down," Laetitia actually has a co-producer, Eric Littmann. It’s the one exception to her otherwise entirely self-produced album. In this episode, she breaks down how she and Eric made the song, and why it was worth making that exception.  For more, visit [songexploder.net/vagabon] (https://songexploder.net/vagabon) . ... Read more

26 Jun 2024

19 MINS

19:01

26 Jun 2024


#302

Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over

Crowded House formed in 1985 in Melbourne, Australia. They’ve released eight albums, including their most recent one, Gravity Stairs, which came out last month. But on their very first album, they had a big hit with "Don’t Dream It’s Over." Crowded House made “Don’t Dream It’s Over” with Grammy-nominated producer Mitchell Froom, who they went on to work with multiple times. For this episode, I talked to frontman Neil Finn about how the song was first written, and how it developed with his bandmates and collaborators in the studio. And we talked about the profound connection people have had with the song over the years. For more, visit [songexploder.net/crowded-house] (https://songexploder.net/crowded-house) . ... Read more

12 Jun 2024

22 MINS

22:05

12 Jun 2024


#301

Lizzy McAlpine - Staying

Lizzy McAlpine released her first album in 2020, and her second album in 2022. And between the two, she’s had a lot of success. One of her songs, "Ceilings," was a viral TikTok hit, and has been streamed over half a billion times. So you might think, with all that success, you’d want to keep working in way that’s been working. But while Lizzy was making her third album, Older, after almost a year into the process of recording, she threw the whole thing out. She brought in a new band, and started over with a totally different approach. I talked to her about the song "Staying," from her new album. You’ll hear her original voice memos, as well as the first version she made in the studio, and then how it really came to life once she reimagined it. For more, visit [songexploder.net/lizzy-mcalpine] (https://songexploder.net/lizzy-mcalpine) . ... Read more

29 May 2024

18 MINS

18:00

29 May 2024


#300

The Flaming Lips - Do You Realize??

The Flaming Lips formed in Oklahoma City in 1983. Over the last four decades, they’ve put out 16 albums. In 1999, they put out their album The Soft Bulletin, and that brought them a new level of success. And then, in 2002, they followed it up with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which was their biggest album to date. Pitchfork named it one of the top 5 albums of the year, Stereogum called it one of the best albums of the decade, and they won a Grammy. And the biggest song from the album was "Do You Realize??" So, for this episode, I talked to Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd about how that song was first imagined. You’ll hear the very first demo Wayne recorded for the song, and the demo he and Steven put together later, on their way to making the final version with producer Dave Fridmann.  For more, visit [songexploder.net/the-flaming-lips] (https://songexploder.net/the-flaming-lips) . ... Read more

15 May 2024

20 MINS

20:14

15 May 2024


#299

Re-issue: Arooj Aftab - Mohabbat

One of the songs I keep coming back to is “Mohabbat” by Arooj Aftab. It’s really special to me. I listen to it all the time. I’ve been listening to it so often that I wanted to revisit Arooj's episode about it. In the time since the episode has come out, she has released a collaborative album with Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismaily called Love In Exile, which got two Grammy nominations. And she has a new album that’s about to come out on May 31st, called Night Reign. Here’s her episode:  Arooj Aftab is a singer and composer based in Brooklyn. She grew up in Saudi Arabia, but her family is from Pakistan. And earlier this year, she made history by becoming the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy. Her song, “Mohabbat" won the Best Global Music Performance Grammy, and she was nominated for Best New Artist. "Mohabbat" was first released on her 2021 album, Vulture Prince, but it’s been a part of Arooj’s life for a long time . In this episode, she tells the story of how the song was first born, and how it lived with her and evolved over the years before she finally recorded it. For more, visit [songexploder.net/arooj-aftab] (https://songexploder.net/arooj-aftab) . ... Read more

01 May 2024

24 MINS

24:34

01 May 2024


#298

War - Low Rider

The band War formed in 1969, in Long Beach, California. “Low Rider” is from their 1975 album Why Can’t We Be Friends? The song was a hit as soon as it came out. It went to #1 on the Billboard R&B charts. And it’s just had tremendous lasting power ever since. Besides being in Dazed and Confused, where I heard it, it’s been sampled by The Beastie Boys, it was covered by Korn, and it was the theme song for all six seasons of The George Lopez Show. For this episode, I talked to War’s bandleader Lonnie Jordan, and their producer Jerry Goldstein. The two of them told me how “Low Rider” was made in the studio, through a combination of improvisation and meticulous editing. For more, visit [songexploder.net/war] (https://songexploder.net/war) . ... Read more

17 Apr 2024

18 MINS

18:07

17 Apr 2024


#297

Shania Twain - You're Still The One

Shania Twain is a singer and songwriter from Ontario, Canada. She’s the only female artist to have had three consecutive Diamond albums — albums that have sold over ten million copies. Actually, her 1997 album Come On Over is the best-selling album by a female solo artist of all time. One of the most iconic songs from that iconic album is "You’re Still The One." It was co-written and produced by Mutt Lange, who had previously produced some other classic albums, like Back in Black by AC/DC and Pyromania by Def Leppard. He had also produced Shania Twain’s previous album, The Woman in Me.  For this episode, Shania told me the story of writing “You’re Still The One.” She told me about what the song meant to her when she was making it, over 25 years ago, and what it means to her now. For more, visit [songexploder.net/shania-twain] (https://songexploder.net/shania-twain) . ... Read more

03 Apr 2024

18 MINS

18:23

03 Apr 2024


#296

Danny Brown - Y.B.P. (feat. Bruiser Wolf)

Danny Brown started his career in 2007 by handing out mixtapes in Detroit, where he’s from. In 2011, he put out his acclaimed second album, XXX. Since then, he’s collaborated with rappers like Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and JPEGMafia, but he’s also worked with electronic bands like Purity Ring and The Avalanches, and he did a verse on a remix for Korn. When I first heard him, around when XXX came out, I was really drawn to his voice. And I also appreciated that, given how young so many artists are now when they get really famous, Danny Brown’s career really started taking off in his 30s. He put out his sixth album, Quaranta, in 2023. And for this episode, I talked to him about one of the songs from that album, called “Y.B.P.," which features guest vocals from Bruiser Wolf. For more, visit [songexploder.net/danny-brown] (https://songexploder.net/danny-brown) . ... Read more

20 Mar 2024

17 MINS

17:33

20 Mar 2024


#295

Rhiannon Giddens - You Louisiana Man

Rhiannon Giddens has released five solo albums since 2015. Before that, she was a member of the Grammy-winning band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She is now also the artistic director of the Silkroad Ensemble, the musical supergroup that Yo-Yo Ma founded. Rhiannon Giddens is one of those people where I feel like they have to start inventing new awards, because she’s already won all of them. She’s got multiple Grammys, she won the Pulitzer Prize for an opera she co-wrote called Omar, she’s a MacArthur Genius, and the new Beyonce song “Texas Hold ‘Em,” the one that features the banjo? That’s Rhiannon Giddens playing the banjo. (I guess that’s not technically an award, but it feels like one to me.) In 2023, Rhiannon released an album called You’re The One, and I talked to her about the song she wrote called "You Louisiana Man," which was nominated for a Grammy for Best American Roots Performance. For more, visit [songexploder.net/rhiannon-giddens] (https://songexploder.net/rhiannon-giddens) . ... Read more

06 Mar 2024

19 MINS

19:44

06 Mar 2024


#294

Re-issue: Arlo Parks - Black Dog

I wanted to revisit an episode about one of my favorite songs from 2021, “Black Dog” by Arlo Parks. A few months after this episode originally came out, Arlo Parks won the Mercury Prize for Album of the Year. She was also nominated for two Grammys: Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album. Since then, she released a new album called My Soft Machine, and she’s going to be on tour this spring. Arlo Parks is a singer and songwriter from London. In January 2021, she released her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams. It hit number three on the UK charts, and she won this year’s BRIT award for Breakthrough Artist. Last year, NME called her song "Black Dog" the year’s "most devastating song." In this episode, Anaïs breaks down “Black Dog," which she made with producer Gianluca Buccellati. For more, visit [songexploder.net/arlo-parks] (https://songexploder.net/arlo-parks) . ... Read more

21 Feb 2024

19 MINS

19:35

21 Feb 2024


#293

Green Day - Basket Case

Green Day is a punk band from the East Bay in California. Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool have been playing music together since 1987. They’ve sold over 90 million records. They’ve won four Grammys, including twice for Best Rock Album. They put out their first album in 1990, and their second album, Kerplunk!, in 1991. And then, they moved to a major label and in 1994 they put out their third album, Dookie, which was huge. It helped bring punk into the mainstream. And this month is its 30th anniversary. So for this episode, I talked to Billie Joe Armstrong about the making of one of Green Day’s biggest hits of all time: “Basket Case." Coming up, you’ll also hear from Rob Cavallo, who produced the album. Plus, you’ll hear two different demo versions of “Basket Case,” the first of which is basically a totally different song. Billie Joe Amstrong traces the history of “Basket Case,” from its origins as a cassette recording in a punk basement, all the way to becoming a song that helped define an era of music. For more, visit [songexploder.net/green-day] (https://songexploder.net/green-day) . ... Read more

07 Feb 2024

21 MINS

21:05

07 Feb 2024


#292

The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight (Deluxe Anniversary Edition)

The first episode of Song Exploder, about The Postal Service song "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," came out 10 years ago, in January 2014. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the podcast, we're doing what bands do, and putting out a deluxe, expanded edition of our very first release: this version features a new interview, new insights, and new pieces of the song and demo. The Postal Service formed in 2001. Their debut album came out in 2003, and it was a game changer. Their combination of electronic music and indie rock not only sold over a million copies; their songs were everywhere on TV and in film, and influenced a generation of artists. Last year, they played sold-out concerts across the US in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the album, and there are more shows to come in 2024. A few weeks ago, I spoke to Ben Gibbard, and I combined that with my original interview from 2013 with Jimmy Tamborello. And here, together, the two of them tell the story of how they made their song “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.” For more, visit [songexploder.net/postal-service-deluxe] (https://songexploder.net/postal-service-deluxe) . ... Read more

24 Jan 2024

26 MINS

26:33

24 Jan 2024


#291

Foo Fighters - The Teacher

For the last episode of the year, I got the chance to drive up to Northridge, California, and have a conversation with Dave Grohl. We talked about the Foo Fighters song “The Teacher,” which is an epic, 10-minute-long song. Dave told me it’s the most important piece of music he’s ever written, because it’s dedicated to his mother, Virginia, who passed away in 2022. Dave Grohl started Foo Fighters in 1994, after Nirvana ended. This year, Foo Fighters set a record for having the most Top 10 hits on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. They’ve won 15 Grammy awards, including winning the Grammy for Best Rock album five times — more than anyone else. “The Teacher” is from their 11th album, But Here We Are, which came out in June 2023. I sat with Dave in the Foo Fighters practice space, and he told me the whole story of the song. Coming up, you’ll hear the two voice memos he originally recorded on acoustic guitar, plus the two demos he made on his way to figuring the song out. For more, visit [songexploder.net/foo-fighters] (http://songexploder.net/foo-fighters) . ... Read more

20 Dec 2023

33 MINS

33:22

20 Dec 2023


#290

Raye - Escapism (feat. 070 Shake)

Raye is a singer, songwriter and producer from London. Besides being an artist in her own right, she’s also been a songwriter for other artists since she was a teenager. She’s co-written songs for Beyoncé, Charli XCX, and Ellie Goulding. In 2023, she released her debut album, My 21st Century Blues. The first single, “Escapism," became her first song to hit #1 in the UK. It’s gone platinum in the US, the UK, and seven other countries. It features guest vocals from 070 Shake. When she was here in LA on tour, I talked to Raye about how she made “Escapism.” For more, visit [songexploder.net/raye] (https://songexploder.net/raye) . ... Read more

06 Dec 2023

21 MINS

21:26

06 Dec 2023


#289

Sampha - Spirit 2.0

Sampha is a singer, songwriter and producer from London. His first album, Process, won the Mercury Prize in 2017. He’s collaborated with artists like the XX, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Solange. If you saw the Song Exploder Netflix show, Sampha was in the Alicia Keys episode, for the song they did together as a duet. This year, in October 2023, Sampha put out his second album, Lahai. And for this episode, I talked to Sampha about the song “Spirit 2.0.” Coming up you’ll hear the original demo, and some early voice memos. Sampha recruited some collaborators for the song, like producer Pablo Diez-Reixa, aka El Guincho, who won a Grammy for his work on Rosalia’s first album; plus Yaeji; and Lisa Kaindé, from Ibeyi. But the song “Spirit 2.0” first took shape when Sampha was by himself, at home. For more, visit [songexploder.net/sampha] (https://songexploder.net/sampha) . ... Read more

15 Nov 2023

19 MINS

19:51

15 Nov 2023


#288

Paramore - Liar

I think one of the hardest things there is to do in music is to write a love song that expresses something real. I read that the song "Liar" by Paramore was written by Hayley Williams, the singer of the band, about her longtime bandmate Taylor York, and about the feelings she started to realize she’d had for him. Paramore has been a band for over 20 years, since Hayley and Taylor and Zac Farro, who plays drums, were all young teenagers. Paramore’s won a Grammy for Best Rock Song, and they have multiple platinum albums. But with all that history, Taylor and Hayley only recently became a couple. "Liar" is a song off of their most recent album, This Is Why, which came out in February 2023. So I talked to Hayley, Taylor and Zac in their studio about how their song first came about and what it means to them. For more, visit [songexploder.net/paramore] (https://songexploder.net/paramore) . ... Read more

01 Nov 2023

20 MINS

20:40

01 Nov 2023


#287

Kesha - Eat The Acid

Kesha is a singer and songwriter from Los Angeles. She put out her first song in 2009, and it was a huge #1 hit in the US and 13 other countries. She’s had 10 top-ten singles on the Billboard charts, and sold millions of albums.  She got famous for songs that were about partying, and breaking the rules, and having fun. But this year, in May 2023, she put out the album Gag Order, which is a lot more raw and vulnerable. She made it with superstar producer Rick Rubin. And for this episode, I talked to Kesha about her song “Eat the Acid," which she wrote early on in the pandemic. I was really interested in the intense, distorted vocal sound that I’d heard in the track; and, as you’ll hear, it turns out most of that was a byproduct of the way she had to write and record when we were all in lockdown. For more, visit [ songexploder.net/kesha.] (https://songexploder.net/kesha) ... Read more

18 Oct 2023

21 MINS

21:18

18 Oct 2023


#286

Alvvays - Archie, Marry Me

Alvvays is from Toronto. Their first album came out in 2014, and they’ve put out two other albums since then. In Canada, they’ve won the Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year, and all three of their albums have been shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. Their first song was also one of their biggest hits. It’s called "Archie, Marry Me." Rolling Stone and Stereogum named it one of the best songs of the last decade. So for this episode, I talked about it with Molly Rankin and Alec O’Hanley from the band. The two of them are pretty quiet about their relationship other than being bandmates, but they told me a lot about the song, which I would count nowadays as an indie rock classic. For more, visit [songexploder.net/alvvays] (https://songexploder.net/alvvays) . ... Read more

04 Oct 2023

22 MINS

22:14

04 Oct 2023


#285

Laufey - From The Start

Laufey is a singer and songwriter originally from Iceland. She studied piano and cello as a kid. When she was 15, she was a guest soloist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. She went to Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that’s when she started writing songs. While she was still a student, she had a number one hit on Icelandic radio. Her first album debuted at number one on Billboard’s Alternative New Artist chart. Laufey was Spotify’s most streamed jazz artist of 2022. Her second album, Bewitched, came out in September 2023. And her new album just broke Spotify’s record for the most streams of a jazz album in a single day. And for this episode, I talked to Laufey about the breakout hit from that new album: a song called “From The Start." For more, visit [songexploder.net/laufey] (https://songexploder.net/laufey) . ... Read more

20 Sep 2023

18 MINS

18:04

20 Sep 2023


#284

Re-issue: Janelle Monáe - So Afraid

This summer, in June 2023, Janelle Monáe put out her fourth album, The Age of Pleasure. Listening to it made me want to revisit her Song Exploder episode, from 2018. One thing on Song Exploder that I personally love is when we get to hear an artist’s raw voice memo, from the moment when they’re first coming up with a song idea. This episode has one of my all-time favorites. Janelle Monáe is an award-winning musician and actress who released her first record in 2007. She’s been nominated for multiple Grammys, and she starred in the Oscar films Moonlight and Hidden Figures. In April 2018, she released her third album, Dirty Computer, which includes this song, “So Afraid.” In this episode, Janelle Monáe takes “So Afraid” apart, to explain how she built it, step by step—beginning with a trip to the dentist. For more, visit [ songexploder.net/janelle-monae] (https://songexploder.net/janelle-monae) . ... Read more

30 Aug 2023

19 MINS

19:24

30 Aug 2023


#283

Siddhartha Khosla - Only Murders in the Building (Main Title Theme)

The "Skip Intro" button first got introduced to us through Netflix in 2017, and, I know, a lot of people use it – including me. But, if I can get into old-man, back-in-my-day mode for a second, I have so much fondness for the opening theme music for so many shows. It’s a chance to set the mood for everything that you’re about to see. One of the intros that I never skip is the animated opening title sequence for Only Murders in the Building, which is a Hulu show that debuted in August 2021, and now is in its third season. It was created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, and it stars Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. The three of them play neighbors who live in the same building in New York, and they’re all obsessed with the same true crime podcast. And then when someone in their building gets murdered, they decide to start their own true crime podcast, and try and solve the mystery of who the killer is. For this episode, I talked to the show’s composer, Siddhartha Khosla, about the show’s theme music. Coming up, you’ll hear a voice memo that Siddhartha recorded before he’d even heard about the show, which then led to a demo that you’ll hear, and eventually, the final theme. For more, visit [ songexploder.net/only-murders-in-the-building] (https://songexploder.net/only-murders-in-the-building) . ... Read more

16 Aug 2023

15 MINS

15:42

16 Aug 2023


#282

Local Natives - Dark Days

It can be hard to be in a band, or really, in any kind of group where there’s creative collaboration, and you’re supposed to act like it's a democracy. Because what do you do with an idea that you love, if nobody else believes in it? That question is a big part of this episode with Local Natives. Local Natives is a band from Southern California. Their first album came out in 2009, but the three vocalists and songwriters in the band, Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, and Ryan Hahn – they’ve been playing together since they were in high school. The lineup also includes Matthew Frazier on drums and Nik Ewing on bass. They’ve put out five albums, including their most recent, Time Will Wait For No One, which came out in July 2023. But for this episode, I talked to Taylor, Kelcey, and Ryan about an older song of theirs: “Dark Days,” which came out in 2016. It’s their biggest song to date; it has over 100 million streams, and it's been certified gold.  It’s a duet with Swedish singer Nina Persson, from The Cardigans. In  2020, they put out a new version of the song, featuring Amelia Meath from the band Sylvan Esso. I talked to the guys here in the studio, and to Amelia Meath remotely. And together, they told me the seven-year story of how “Dark Days,” was first made and then eventually remade. For more, visit [songexploder.net/local-natives] (http://songexploder.net/local-natives) . ... Read more

02 Aug 2023

24 MINS

24:16

02 Aug 2023


#281

Bakar - Hell N Back

Bakar is a singer and songwriter from London. In 2018 he put out his first release, Badkid. A year later, he put out the EP, Will You Be My Yellow?, and this September, he’s releasing his second full-length album, Halo. One of Bakar’s tracks from the EP and the upcoming album is a song called "Hell N Back," which went platinum, and hit number one on Billboard’s Triple A Charts. For this episode, Bakar told me how he wrote "Hell N Back," and all the unexpected twists and turns it took before it became a hit. For more, visit [songexploder.net/bakar] (https://songexploder.net/bakar) . ... Read more

19 Jul 2023

22 MINS

22:05

19 Jul 2023