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.
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.
If you liked this episode, you might like Christine and the Queens’ episode from 2018. Christine and the Queens and 070 Shake have also collaborated together. You’ll find that episode at <a href="https://songexploder.net/christine-and-the-queens" title="songexploder.n
06/12/2023 • 21 minutes 26 seconds
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.
15/11/2023 • 19 minutes 51 seconds
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.
01/11/2023 • 20 minutes 40 seconds
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.
18/10/2023 • 21 minutes 18 seconds
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.
04/10/2023 • 22 minutes 14 seconds
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."
20/09/2023 • 18 minutes 4 seconds
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/janel
30/08/2023 • 19 minutes 24 seconds
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 co
16/08/2023 • 15 minutes 42 seconds
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 Swe
02/08/2023 • 24 minutes 16 seconds
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.
19/07/2023 • 22 minutes 5 seconds
Natalie Merchant - Sister Tilly
Natalie Merchant is an award-winning singer and songwriter from upstate New York. She was the lead singer of the band 10,000 Maniacs until she left in 1993. And then, as a solo artist, she’s put out nine albums over the last 30 years. Between 10,000 Maniacs and her solo work, she’s had multiple multi-platinum records.
In April 2023, Natalie put out her first album of new songs in nine years. It’s called Keep Your Courage. And for this episode, she talked to me about the song “Sister Tilly." It’s a eulogy for a fictional character – a woman who represents the generation of women who influenced her. Women who were activists in the 1960s and 70s, when she was growing up.
For more, visit songexploder.net/natalie-merchant.
28/06/2023 • 24 minutes 49 seconds
Re-issue: Julien Baker - Appointments
This week, I wanted to go back and revisit an older episode. I recorded an interview with singer and songwriter Julien Baker in 2018. It was a few months after her second album came out. Since then, she’s put out another solo album, called Little Oblivions, which was critically acclaimed. And now she’s also a member of boygenius, which is the supergroup made up of Julien, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus. They’ve put out an EP and then, earlier this year, they put out their first full-length. Julien is a really interesting artist, and I think her songwriting is just heartbreaking, especially the song she takes apart for her episode. Here it is:
Julien Baker is from Memphis, Tennessee. She released her second album, Turn Out The Lights, in October 2017, on Matador Records. The New York Times called her music "devastating" and Pitchfork gave the album Best New Music. In this episode, Julien tells the story of her song "Appointments," and how writing i
14/06/2023 • 20 minutes 54 seconds
Feist - In Lightning
Feist is a singer/songwriter from Canada. She put out her first solo album in 1999. She’s won 11 Juno awards, including two for Artist of the Year, and she has four Grammy nominations. She’s also been a member of the band Broken Social Scene since 2001.
In April 2023, Feist put out her sixth album, Multitudes. And for this episode, I talked to her about how she made the opening song from that album, called “In Lightning.”
For more, visit songexploder.net/feist.
31/05/2023 • 20 minutes 17 seconds
Madison McFerrin - Run (feat. Bobby McFerrin)
Madison McFerrin is a singer, songwriter, and producer from New York. She’s sung with legends like Aretha Franklin, George Clinton, and De La Soul & The Roots. Madison’s first EP came out in 2016, and last week, she released her debut album, I Hope You Can Forgive Me. In the years between the EP and the album, Madison started producing her own music. It wasn’t really her plan, but something that developed over the course of the pandemic. For this episode, I talked to Madison about a song from her album called “Run." It was inspired by the discovery that she’s the descendant of a woman who escaped slavery, and features guest vocals from Madison’s father, Grammy-winner Bobby McFerrin.
For more, visit songexploder.net/madison-mcferrin.
17/05/2023 • 19 minutes 13 seconds
New Order - Blue Monday
In May 1980, the band Joy Division was devastated by the death of lead singer Ian Curtis. The three remaining band members, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris, decided they would keep making music together, and a few months later, Gillian Gilbert joined them. They called the band New Order.
New Order is one of the most influential bands of the last four decades. Their song “Blue Monday" came out in 1983, and it holds the record for being the best-selling 12-inch single of all time. Rolling Stone put “Blue Monday” on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and Pitchfork included it in its top 5 best songs of the 1980s.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of “Blue Monday,” in this episode, New Order discusses how they created the song. This episode was produced in collaboration with Transmissions, the official New Order and Joy Division podcast produced by Cup and Nuzzle. We’ve put together this story out of the hours and hours
03/05/2023 • 22 minutes 53 seconds
Re-issue: Mobb Deep - Shook Ones, Pt. II
It’s usually hard to pin down when a genre of music starts. But people point to this one party in August 1973 in the Bronx as the moment where hip-hop was born. That makes this year the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. In honor of that, I wanted to revisit an episode looking back at one of hip-hop’s classic tracks: Shook Ones, Part II, by Mobb Deep. Here’s the episode, originally recorded in June, 2020, when I spoke to Havoc from Mobb Deep:
The rappers Prodigy and Havoc met when they were still in high school in New York. Havoc grew up in Queensbridge, the biggest public housing projects in the country, and as a teenager, Prodigy lived there for a while, too. The two of them formed Mobb Deep in 1991.
In 1995, they put out their second album, The Infamous. It was a success when it came out, but in the 25 years since then, the influence of the album has only grown. Complex named it one of the 10 best rap albums of the 90s, and Pitchfork gave the
19/04/2023 • 21 minutes 22 seconds
Yaeji - Passed Me By
Yaeji is a singer, songwriter, and producer from New York. During her childhood she moved between Queens, Atlanta, and Seoul. While she was at college in the States, she started DJing and releasing her own music. That led to two EPs in 2017, and since then, she’s also done remixes for Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, and Robyn. Yaeji won the International Breakthrough Award at the AIM Awards in 2020. This week she’s releasing her debut album, With A Hammer.
For this episode, I talked to Yaeji about her song “Passed Me By.” She sings the song in Korean and English, and she told me how using both languages gives her a broader palette to express her ideas.
For more, visit songexploder.net/yaeji.
05/04/2023 • 20 minutes 52 seconds
Seal - Kiss from a Rose
Seal is a multi-Grammy-winning singer and songwriter from England. His song “Kiss from a Rose” was first released in 1994, on his second album. It was a huge hit, thanks in part to being featured in the movie Batman Forever. It landed on the top ten charts in multiple countries, and eventually went quadruple platinum in the US. At the 1996 Grammys, it won Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. But "Kiss from a Rose" becoming a hit was not a foregone conclusion. Seal almost didn’t record it. And when it was first released, it didn’t make much of a splash. But for this episode, the 250th episode of Song Exploder, Seal and his longtime collaborator, producer Trevor Horn, told me the story of what it took to bring "Kiss from a Rose" to life.
For more, visit songexploder.net/seal.
22/03/2023 • 22 minutes 49 seconds
Kenny Beats - Still
Kenny Beats is a hip-hop producer who’s been making beats and producing songs for other artists since 2010. He’s got a long list of collaborations, with rappers like Vince Staples, Freddie Gibbs, and Denzel Curry. In 2022, he did something he wasn’t really ever expecting to do, which was to release an album of his own. The album is called Louie, and it’s a tribute to Kenny’s father.
I talked to Kenny about the song “Still,” the first song he made specifically for this project. It features guest vocals from JPEGMafia and Omar Apollo, and a sample from gospel singer Linda Kemp. Louie includes a lot of tracks where you can hear Kenny’s dad’s voice, and even though "Still" isn’t one of them, as Kenny explains, his relationship with his dad is embedded in the song’s DNA.
For more, visit songexploder.net/kenny-beats.
08/03/2023 • 18 minutes 49 seconds
Re-issue: Kimbra - Top of the World
Last month, in January 2023, Kimbra put out her fourth album. I was listening to it, and it made me want to go back and revisit her Song Exploder episode from 2018. Here it is:
Kimbra is an artist from New Zealand. Her first album came out in 2011, and in 2013 she won two Grammys for her collaboration with Gotye, the multiplatinum hit song,” Somebody That I Used to Know.” In this episode, Kimbra breaks down her song from 2018, “Top of the World,” a song she also made in collaboration - this time with artists Skrillex and Diplo.
For more, visit songexploder.net/kimbra.
22/02/2023 • 19 minutes 37 seconds
MUNA - What I Want
MUNA is a trio from Los Angeles, made up of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson. They’ve been making music together since 2013, when they met in college. Their third album, which is self-titled, came out in 2022, and Rolling Stone, Stereogum, the Guardian, and others, named it one of the best albums of the year. Consequence of Sound called MUNA the 2022 Band of the Year.
I talked to MUNA about the song "What I Want," which they co-wrote with Leland. Leland is an artist and songwriter whose other credits include Selena Gomez, Charli XCX, and Troye Sivan. In this episode, Katie, Jo, and Naomi, along with Leland, tell the story of how the song came together, from the original demo to the final version, and you’ll find out how a band that doesn’t really party ended up writing a party banger.
For more, visit songexploder.net/muna.
08/02/2023 • 19 minutes 1 second
Noah Kahan - Stick Season
Noah Kahan is a singer and songwriter from Strafford, Vermont. Last year, in 2022, he released Stick Season, his third record. The title track from that record went viral on TikTok when Noah was first writing it, and posting pieces of it. One of those videos has over 10 million plays. And as of this recording, on Spotify, the full song has almost 100 million streams.
For this episode, Noah talked to me about the process of making that song: What led him to first post half a song on TikTok, and what happened after that. You’ll hear the raw recordings off of his phone; the different drafts he made as he worked; you'll hear the different versions he first shared on social media; and you’ll hear his bracingly honest appraisal of the winding path he took — in his life, and in his music – to get to where he is now.
For more, visit songexploder.net/noah-kahan.
25/01/2023 • 18 minutes 47 seconds
Sampa the Great - Let Me Be Great (feat. Angélique Kidjo)
Sampa The Great is a songwriter, rapper, and singer from Zambia. She was based in Australia for years, but came back to Zambia in 2020, shortly before the pandemic hit. When she couldn’t travel, she decided to make her next album there in Lusaka. The album is called As Above, So Below, and it was produced by Mag44.
In this episode, Sampa the Great and Mag44 break down the closing song "Let Me Be Great," which features vocals from legendary West African singer Angélique Kidjo, winner of 5 Grammys and one of TIME’s Most Influential People. I got to speak to Angélique Kidjo in her studio in Paris, and I spoke to Sampa the Great and Mag44 in Lusaka. Together, the three of them tell the story of how they made "Let Me Be Great."
For more, visit songexploder.net/sampa-the-great.
21/12/2022 • 28 minutes 26 seconds
Son Lux - This is a Life (from 'Everything Everywhere All at Once')
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a sci-fi comedy independent film that came out in the spring of 2022. It’s a huge hit that made over $100 million at the box office. It’s already been named the best movie of the year by several publications and awards organizations.
The movie stars the legendary actress Michelle Yeoh, and was directed by the Daniels, the directing duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The score for the film is by the band Son Lux. In addition to the score, Son Lux also made the original song for the film’s end credits: "This is a Life," featuring two prestigious guest vocalists: Mitski and David Byrne of the Talking Heads.
For this episode, I spoke to Ryan Lott from Son Lux, as well as the Daniels. Ryan tells the story of how the song was created, with his bandmates and Mitski and David Byrne and Daniels all adding to it and shaping it.
For more, visit s
07/12/2022 • 23 minutes 2 seconds
Omah Lay - Never Forget
Omah Lay is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and producer. He’s one of the young stars of Afrobeats, the West African genre that's become a global phenomenon. His new album Boy Alone features a collaboration with Justin Bieber. But for this episode, Omah talked to me about the song “Never Forget.” Boy Alone was Omah’s late father's nickname, and the song “Never Forget” was inspired by him.
For more, visit songexploder.net/omah-lay.
16/11/2022 • 15 minutes 9 seconds
Book Exploder: James McBride - Deacon King Kong
The final episode of Book Exploder is with author James McBride. He was born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Houses housing projects until the age of seven. That housing project became the setting for his novel, Deacon King Kong. In 2015, President Obama awarded him with the National Humanities Medal, and in 2021, Deacon King Kong won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
Deacon King Kong tells of the upending of a Brooklyn neighborhood, after a young drug dealer is shot in broad daylight by a deacon known to everyone as Sportcoat. In his conversation with Susan, James discusses a passage from the book’s opening, which takes place in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
For more, visit bookexploder.com/episodes/james-mcbride.
09/11/2022 • 20 minutes
Iron & Wine - Flightless Bird, American Mouth
In 2002, Sam Beam’s first album as Iron & Wine was released on Sub Pop Records. He’d given them a bunch of demos, and rather than have him re-record these songs, they released the demos themselves. Since then, he’s put out five more full-length albums and been nominated for multiple Grammys.
For this episode, Sam looked back at the making of his song "Flightless Bird, American Mouth," from his 2007 album The Shepherd’s Dog. A year after that album came out, the song was used prominently in a scene in the movie Twilight, and it’s been one of the most popular Iron & Wine songs ever since. I talked to Sam at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberley, Texas, in front of a small audience. You’ll hear the original demo he recorded, and how that transformed into the final version of the song.
For more, visit songexploder.net/iron-and-wine
02/11/2022 • 20 minutes 35 seconds
Book Exploder: George Saunders - Victory Lap
George Saunders has won the Booker Prize, and he’s the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. He won the Folio Prize for his collection of short stories, Tenth of December, which includes the short story “Victory Lap.” In this episode, Susan and George talk about a passage from “Victory Lap.”
“Victory Lap” is about two teenagers, Alison and Kyle, and what happens when a stranger tries to abduct Alison. In his conversation with Susan, George discusses a passage from the light-hearted opening of the story, before it takes its darker turn.
For more, visit bookexploder.com/episodes/george-saunders.
26/10/2022 • 18 minutes 52 seconds
Santigold - Ushers of the New World
Santigold is a singer, songwriter, and producer. She’s put out 4 albums since 2008, and she’s been featured as a collaborator on songs with Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, Diplo, and more.
In this episode, Santi takes apart her song "Ushers of the New World," from her 2022 album Spirituals. She made it with some other collaborators she’s worked with before, including Grammy-winning producer Rostam, and producer Ricky Blaze. She told me about how she tries to channel her gut instincts, and how she wanted to transform some of the darkest feelings of 2020 into something galvanizing.
For more, visit songexploder.net/santigold.
19/10/2022 • 17 minutes 41 seconds
Book Exploder: Celeste Ng - Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng is an American writer and author of three novels. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, was published in 2017 and became a #1 New York Times bestseller. A television adaptation of the novel, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, premiered in 2020.
Little Fires Everywhere is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and centers around two families—the mothers of these families especially. One family is upper-middle class with a “typical” suburban structure: a mom, a dad, and four kids; the other is a single mom, Mia, and her daughter, who are newcomers to the town.
In her conversation with Susan, Celeste discusses a flashback to how a young Mia first became interested in photography as a medium.
For more, visit bookexploder.com/episodes/celeste-ng.
12/10/2022 • 19 minutes 7 seconds
King Princess - Let Us Die
King Princess is the project of Mikaela Straus, a singer, songwriter, and producer from Brooklyn. She’s a platinum-selling artist, and she put out her second album in July, 2022. The last track on the album is the song "Let Us Die." Rolling Stone called it "the banger of the year."
In this episode, Mikaela breaks down the song, along with two of her collaborators on it: co-producer and co-writer Ethan Gruska, and multi-Grammy winning producer Mark Ronson. You’ll hear the original voice memo that Mikaela recorded, and the demo she made with Ethan. And you’ll hear the drums recorded by the late Taylor Hawkins, the legendary drummer of Foo Fighters and Alanis Morissette, who passed away earlier this year.
For more, visit songexploder.net/king-princess.
05/10/2022 • 19 minutes 18 seconds
Book Exploder: Tayari Jones - An American Marriage
Tayari Jones is the author of four novels. She won the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus. Her novel An American Marriage was an Oprah's Book Club Selection, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. She won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Fiction.
An American Marriage tells the story of Celestial and Roy, a Black middle-class couple living in Atlanta. Their lives are torn apart after Roy is wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit, and the middle of the book takes the form of letters they send each other while he’s in prison. In her discussion with Susan, Tayari discusses the letter Celestial sends to Roy to tell him she is leaving him.
For more, visit <a href="https://bookexploder.com/episodes/tayari-jones" rel="nofollow" target="
28/09/2022 • 18 minutes 26 seconds
Panic! At the Disco - Viva Las Vengeance
Panic! at the Disco is the Grammy-nominated project of Brendon Urie, who originally started it as a band with his high school friends from Las Vegas in 2004. In the eighteen years since, Panic! at the Disco has won American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, iHeartRadio Music awards, and more. In August 2022, Brendon released the seventh Panic! at the Disco album, Viva Las Vengeance. The title track hit #1 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart. In this episode, Brendon tells the story of how he, Grammy-nominated producer Jake Sinclair and Oscar-nominated songwriter Mike Viola all got together to make the song "Viva Las Vengeance."
For more, visit songexploder.net/panic-at-the-disco.
21/09/2022 • 18 minutes 28 seconds
Book Exploder: Carmen Maria Machado - In the Dream House
Carmen Maria Machado is the award-winning author of In the Dream House, a memoir where each chapter has its own vivid style of storytelling. It won the Folio Prize in 2021, and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The New Yorker, and NPR.
In the Dream House depicts Carmen’s experiences in an abusive relationship, and in this episode, she spoke to Susan about a pivotal passage from the chapter “Dream House as House in Florida.”
14/09/2022 • 18 minutes 49 seconds
Re-issue: Björk - Stonemilker
(This is a re-issue of Björk’s episode from December 2015.)
In January 2015, Björk released Vulnicura. She described it as "a complete heartbreak album." And in November, she released Vulnicura Strings, a companion album that stripped away the electronics. In this episode, Bjork breaks down the making of both the original version of the song "Stonemilker," which you’re hearing now, as well as the strings version. She traces her writing and recording process for the track, her collaboration with the electronic producer Arca, and why she wanted to make a second version.
For more, visit songexploder.net/björk.
07/09/2022 • 22 minutes 17 seconds
Book Exploder: Michael Cunningham - The Hours
Michael Cunningham is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours. He’s the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Hours was published in 1998, and in addition to the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it won the PEN/Faulkner Award. The book was later adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore. In this episode, Michael speaks to Susan Orlean about a passage concerning the suicide of Virginia Woolf, which comes at the end of the prologue.
For more, visit bookexploder.com/episodes/michael-cunningham.
31/08/2022 • 19 minutes 55 seconds
Madonna - Hung Up
Madonna is the best-selling female recording artist of all time. She has twelve albums that have gone multi-platinum. She’s won seven Grammys, and has had fifty songs reach number 1 on the Billboard Dance chart. That’s more number 1s than anyone in any category, ever. In this episode, she talks about one of those number 1s: “Hung Up,” from her 2005 album Confessions on a Dance Floor. The song and that album were co-produced by Stuart Price, an electronic musician, producer, and DJ from the UK. “Hung Up” began in part because Madonna was working on a film with director Luc Besson (whose films include The Fifth Element and Taken). But the song also grew out of Stuart’s DJ sets.
Madonna has a new career-spanning album out, called Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones, and in honor of its release, Madonna and Stuart Price told me the story of how their collaboration and partnership led to one of Madonna’s biggest hits.
For more, visit <a
24/08/2022 • 22 minutes 9 seconds
Book Exploder: Min Jin Lee - Pachinko
Min Jin Lee is the author of the best-selling novel Pachinko. She’s a Guggenheim Fellow, and the recipient of South Korea's Manhae Grand Prize for Literature. In Pachinko, she tells a sweeping, multi-generational story of a Korean family that moves to Japan. Pachinko is an international best-seller, named one of the best books of 2017 by the New York Times, the BBC, the New York Public Library, and more. In 2022, it was adapted into an Emmy-nominated television series on Apple TV+. In this episode, Min talks to Book Exploder host Susan Orlean about a passage from Chapter 4 of Pachinko: a pivotal scene that takes place in June 1932, in a small fishing village in Korea.
For more, visit bookexploder.com/episodes/min-jin-lee.
17/08/2022 • 19 minutes 48 seconds
Kae Tempest - Move
Kae Tempest is a songwriter, rapper, an award-winning poet, and best-selling novelist. They’ve been nominated for the UK’s Mercury Prize and Brit Award. Their most recent album is The Line is a Curve, which came out earlier this year. It was executive produced by legendary producer Rick Rubin. Kae made the album alongside their longtime collaborator, producer Dan Carey. I talked to Kae and Dan talk about the song "Move." You’ll hear the first demo they made, which sounds almost nothing like the final version. In this episode, they talk about how the track evolved over several sessions, months apart. Kae’s own life changed a lot during that period. They came out as trans and non-binary in 2020, and this song, in part, helps tell the story of what they were going through.
10/08/2022 • 17 minutes 24 seconds
Book Exploder: Susan Orlean - The Library Book
Introducing a new miniseries: Book Exploder, where authors break down a passage from one of their books, and discuss the creative process that went into writing it. Every other week, in between episodes of Song Exploder, you’ll hear from a new author, in conversation with host Susan Orlean. But for this first episode of the series, Susan is interviewed by Hrishikesh Hirway about her own book, The Library Book.
Susan Orlean is the author of twelve books, including The Orchid Thief (which inspired the Oscar-award winning film Adaptation), a staff writer at The New Yorker . Published in 2018, The Library Book became a New York Times Best Seller and named a Washington Post Top 10 Book of the Year. The book tells the story of the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Central Library. In this inaugural episode, Susan discusses a passage from her boo
03/08/2022 • 19 minutes 41 seconds
Sudan Archives - Selfish Soul
Sudan Archives is a singer, songwriter, producer, and violinist. She grew up in Cincinnati before moving to LA. Her music has been called "viscerally gorgeous" by The Guardian, and "stunning" by Pitchfork, who gave her in ‘Best New Music.’ This year, she’s releasing her second album, and one of the tracks on it is "Selfish Soul." She told me the idea for this song started when she asked her boyfriend, James (who is the rapper Nocando) to shave her head. Cutting off her hair made her reflect on her whole hair story, from experiences she had as a kid, to the cultural and racial issues that have historically surrounded Black women's hair.
For more, visit songexploder.net/sudan-archives.
27/07/2022 • 16 minutes 6 seconds
mxmtoon - Mona Lisa
Maia from mxmtoon released her first EP in 2018. She was 18 years old, recorded it in her bedroom, and self-released it. It went on to be streamed over 100 million times. This year, she put out her second album, Rising, and in this episode, she breaks down her song "Mona Lisa." She told me about how different it is from the songs she used to write when she was teenager. And how she found something authentic and honest by connecting with a part of herself from even earlier in her life.
For more, visit songexploder.net/mxmtoon.
13/07/2022 • 14 minutes 55 seconds
Monica Martin - Go Easy, Kid
Monica Martin is a singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. Before that, she was based in Madison, Wisconsin, where she was part of the indie rock band Phox. She’s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by James Blake and Vulfpeck. In this episode, Monica breaks down her song “Go Easy, Kid,” along with the tracks’s producer, Khushi. She talks about making a song that’s in part about how hard it can be to make a song. And more generally, how hard it can be to let go of things we get hung up on.
For more, visit songexploder.net/monica-martin
29/06/2022 • 25 minutes 5 seconds
Maren Morris - Humble Quest
Maren Morris is a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum artist. She’s also won multiple country music awards, including CMAs for Female Vocalist of the Year, and Single of the Year in 2020, but her feelings about the country music industry are kind of complicated, as she discusses in this episode. She breaks down her song "Humble Quest," which is the title track from her third album. It was produced by Greg Kurstin, who’s won the Producer of the Year Grammy more than once. The album came out in March, and hit #2 on Billboard country chart. But before "Humble Quest" was a title, Maren had to figure out what the words meant to her, and that’s where the song began.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/maren-morris
15/06/2022 • 17 minutes 24 seconds
Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up
Rick Astley is a singer and songwriter from England, whose debut single, "Never Gonna Give You Up," became an international smash hit. The song came out in July 1987 and won the BRIT Award for “British Single of the Year.” It hit number one in 25 countries, and Rick Astley was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist. And then, 20 years after the song came out, it became a new kind of phenomenon, when the meme Rickrolling was born. Last year, the music video for "Never Gonna Give You Up" passed a billion streams on YouTube. The song was written and produced by the production team Stock Aitken Waterman, who became hitmakers for artists like Kylie Minogue, Dead or Alive, and others. For this episode, I spoke to Rick Astley, and songwriter and producer Mike Stock, and the two of them tell the story of how "Never Gonna Give You Up" was made.
For more, visit songexploder.net/rick-astley.
01/06/2022 • 24 minutes 12 seconds
Kevin Morby - This Is a Photograph
Kevin Morby is a singer and songwriter based in Kansas City. He’s put out seven albums since 2013, including his most recent one, This is a Photograph, which just came out last week. For this episode, I talked to Kevin about the title track from This is a Photograph. It’s a story about his family, the pandemic, and memories of times that have happened — and times that haven’t happened yet.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/kevin-morby
18/05/2022 • 20 minutes 48 seconds
Arooj Aftab - Mohabbat
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
04/05/2022 • 23 minutes 59 seconds
Partners: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
This week, I want to introduce you to another podcast that I make, called Partners. It’s a show about partnerships that was born out of Song Exploder. I’ve made a bunch of episodes with bandmates, or co-writers, or an artist and a producer who worked together, all these stories where the songs were the result of a really special collaboration. And I was always fascinated by the origins of the relationship, as part of the story of the origin of the song. When you hear those stories, it becomes clear that what these people made together is something that reflects not just each of them individually, but this other, unique entity that only exists where the two of them meet. And I wanted to make a podcast that was entirely about that idea. And I feel like all successful long-term partnerships could be thought of as love stories. It’s a matter of luck, and being in the right place at the right time, and also work and patie
20/04/2022 • 17 minutes 23 seconds
Peaches - Boys Wanna Be Her
Peaches is a musician, producer, and performance artist. She’s released six albums and in 2015, she won the Polaris Heritage Music Prize. Her fourth album, Impeach My Bush, came out in 2006, and features the song “Boys Wanna Be Her.” She produced the song with Mickey Petralia, whose other production credits include Beck, Ladytron, and Flight of the Conchords. “Boys Wanna Be Her” has become kind of an anthem since it came out. It’s been used in a lot of film and tv. To name just a couple examples, it was in the season 2 finale of ‘The Boys,’ and it’s the theme song for ‘Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.’ In this episode, Peaches tells the story of what inspired the song originally, and how she made it, with a few thoughts from Mickey Petralia.
Peaches will be on tour throughout 2022. Visit <a href="https://teachesofpeaches.com/" r
06/04/2022 • 15 minutes 24 seconds
Steve Reich - Different Trains: America, Before the War
Steve Reich is a legendary composer who was one of the pioneers of minimalism. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the New York Times called him “America’s greatest living composer.” I had the incredible honor of getting to speak to Steve Reich about his piece Different Trains, written for string quartet and pre-recorded performance tape. It was first performed in 1988 by the Kronos Quartet, and they released a recording of it in 1989, which won the Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Different Trains is a piece about World War II and the Holocaust. It’s made up of three movements: America – Before the War, Europe – During the War, and After the War. For this episode, Steve Reich breaks down the first movement, which was inspired by his own childhood experiences.
For more, visit songexploder.net/steve-reich
23/03/2022 • 30 minutes 22 seconds
Re-issue: Perfume Genius - Slip Away
This week, I want to revisit one of my favorite episodes of Song Exploder, with Perfume Genius telling the story of making Slip Away. This episode originally came out in May 2017. The album the song’s from, No Shape, went on to be nominated for a Grammy, and was named one of the year’s best in lots of places. And next week, on March 16, Perfume Genius will be playing at the Song Exploder Stage at SXSW. I’m really excited to be putting on a showcase at the festival, and the other artists playing will be Kimbra, Sarah Kinsley, Fly Anakin, and Jenny Owen Youngs. For more information about the show: songexploder.net/sxsw
Mike Hadreas has been making music under the name Perfume Genius since 2008. In May 2017, he put out his fourth album, No Shape to widespread critical acclaim. In this episode, Mike breaks down the song Slip Away. I also spoke with producer Blake Mills, who also plays on the trac
09/03/2022 • 22 minutes 22 seconds
Sarah Kinsley - The King
Sarah Kinsley is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Her most recent release is an EP called The King, which came out in 2021. When she made it, she was in college in New York— and actually, at the moment, she still is. But the title track on The King was written at a time when the pandemic had shut things down, and she was back in Connecticut, living with her parents. In this episode, Sarah tells the story of demo’ing the song in her childhood bedroom, then recording it in the studio with producer Jake Aron, before it went on to become a hit with over twenty millions streams online. Sarah’s performing at the Song Exploder show at SXSW on March 16, along with Perfume Genius, Kimbra, and more. Hope to see you there.
For more visit, songexploder.net/sarah-kinsley
23/02/2022 • 18 minutes 26 seconds
Brandi Carlile - You and Me On the Rock (feat. Lucius)
Brandi Carlile is a singer and songwriter from Washington State. She's released seven albums and won six Grammys. Her most recent album is In These Silent Days, which debuted at number one on Billboard’s folk and rock album charts. It was named one of the best albums of 2021 by Rolling Stone, Stereogum, and more. It was produced by her longtime collaborators Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings. In this episode, Brandi breaks down her song "You and Me on the Rock," and how it was influenced by her wife, by their home, and by Joni Mitchell.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/brandi-carlile.
09/02/2022 • 20 minutes 45 seconds
Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
The band Franz Ferdinand formed in 2002, in Glasgow, Scotland. They’ve won the Mercury Prize and two BRIT Awards, they have five Grammy nominations, and they’ve sold millions of albums. One of their first singles is this song, “Take Me Out,” and it’s also their biggest hit. In this episode, singer and guitarist Alex Kapranos tells the story of how he and his bandmates made the song, from the original home demo to the final studio recording.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/franz-ferdinand.
26/01/2022 • 22 minutes 7 seconds
Joy Oladokun - Look Up
Joy Oladokun is a singer and songwriter from Arizona, now based in Nashville, who’s been releasing music since 2015. Last year, she was named an Artist to Watch by NPR, Spotify, and Amazon, and she was #1 on Vogue’s list of New LGBTQ Artists To Listen to Now. She put out her third album, In Defense of My Own Happiness, in June 2021. It includes the song “Look Up.” For that track, she worked with Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Dave Bassett, and while they were working and talking, they recorded a couple long voice memos. Joy sent me those voice memos, and in this episode, in addition to the stems of the recording, and Joy’s story about how it was made, you’ll hear the actual moments in late 2019 when the song was first coming together. Joy explains how the song was inspired by the different, and maybe opposite ways that she and her partner see the world.
For more, visit songexploder.net/j
12/01/2022 • 20 minutes 41 seconds
Danny Elfman - What’s This? (from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”)
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1993. It’s a stop-motion animated musical, with music by legendary composer Danny Elfman. He’s won Emmys, a Grammy, and been nominated for four Oscars. His work includes the music for Tim Burton’s Batman films, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, Good Will Hunting, and the theme to The Simpsons. From 1979 to 1995, he was the singer and songwriter in the band Oingo Boingo.
The Nightmare Before Christmas takes place in a world where different holidays all have their own realm. And the story is about Jack Skellington, the leader of Halloweentown, a place where it’s always Halloween, and Halloween is all they know, and Jack has grown a little tired of it. But then, Jack discovers a portal to Christmastown, with snow and Santa and all things Christmas inhabiting it. He's never seen anything like it, and the discovery changes everything. The song "What’s This?" takes place in t
15/12/2021 • 19 minutes 46 seconds
Halsey - You Asked for This
Halsey is an award-winning singer and songwriter from New Jersey. She's been nominated for two Grammys, and sold over a million records. In August, she released her fourth album, If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power, which was produced by the Grammy and Oscar winning duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from Nine Inch Nails. Halsey wrote one of the songs on the album, "You Asked for This," with Greg Kurstin, who’s won 8 Grammys himself, including Producer of the Year. In this episode, Halsey tells the story of making this song while pregnant with her son, and how that shaped the lyrics and the music.
For more, visit songexploder.net/halsey.
01/12/2021 • 17 minutes 45 seconds
Hans Zimmer - Dune
The movie Dune was released on October 21. It's the most recent adaptation of Frank Herbert's epic science fiction novel from 1965. The film was directed by Denis Villeneuve, and the score was written by Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer. Hans Zimmer has scored over 200 films, been nominated for Oscars eleven times. He and Denis Villeneuve first worked together on the film Blade Runner 2049. Dune tells the story of the Atreides family as they relocate from their home world to the desert planet Arrakis. When Hans Zimmer first started working on the music, he made what he calls a "sketchbook" – creating motifs and themes that might occur in the film. And in this episode, he takes us through the first sketch he did for Dune. It’s called "Paul's Dream."
For more, visit songexploder.net/dune.
17/11/2021 • 29 minutes 4 seconds
The War On Drugs - I Don't Live Here Anymore (feat. Lucius)
The War on Drugs is a band from Philadelphia who formed in 2005. They won the Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2018. This year, they put out their fifth album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore. Adam Granduciel is the singer and lead guitarist in the band, and I talked to him at his recording space here in Los Angeles. In this episode, Adam breaks down the title track from I Don’t Live Here Anymore, from the original demo to the version that was hammered out after months of work. And he explains how the song was influenced by Bob Dylan and his own newborn son.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/the-war-on-drugs.
03/11/2021 • 24 minutes 8 seconds
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
20/10/2021 • 16 minutes 39 seconds
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.
For more, visit <a href="http://s
13/10/2021 • 16 minutes 48 seconds
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 togeth
06/10/2021 • 26 minutes 10 seconds
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.
22/09/2021 • 23 minutes 40 seconds
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.
08/09/2021 • 20 minutes 14 seconds
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.
25/08/2021 • 17 minutes 18 seconds
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.
11/08/2021 • 20 minutes 40 seconds
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
28/07/2021 • 16 minutes 5 seconds
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.
14/07/2021 • 14 minutes 23 seconds
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
30/06/2021 • 22 minutes 53 seconds
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
Radiotopia's annual fundraiser is going on right now! To support Song Exploder and the mission of independent, creative story-telling thro
16/06/2021 • 16 minutes 33 seconds
Arlo Parks - Black Dog
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. ("But I just call him Luca.") Here’s Arlo Parks on Song Exploder.
If you’re thinking about suicide, or if you have a friend who is, or if you just need someone to talk to right now, you can get support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting HOME to 741-741, which is the Crisis Text Line. If you're outside of the U.S., check out the list of international hotlines at <a
02/06/2021 • 18 minutes 55 seconds
Imagine Dragons - Follow You
Imagine Dragons are a Grammy-winning band from Las Vegas. They’ve sold over 20 millions albums so far, and they were the most streamed band on Spotify in 2018. In March of this year, they released the song “Follow You." Singer Dan Reynolds started the song at home, and then later, the band took it to the studio Shangri-La, to record parts of it with legendary producer Rick Rubin. In this episode, Dan breaks down the song, which tells a deeply personal story of his relationship to his wife.
For more, visit songexploder.net/imagine-dragons
19/05/2021 • 18 minutes 39 seconds
girl in red - Serotonin
Marie Ulven is a singer, songwriter, and producer from Norway, who makes music under the name girl in red. She just released her debut album in April 2021, but she already has a big fanbase and she’s gotten a lot of critical acclaim from two EPs and singles that she’s released online, including a couple that went gold. The New York Times included her work in their best songs of the year in both 2018 and 2019, and she was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Norwegian Grammys. "Do you listen to girl in red?" has also become code on TikTok, a kind of shibboleth, to ask if someone’s a lesbian. In this episode, Marie breaks down the song "Serotonin," a song that started as a video she posted to her own TikTok in the early days of lockdown in 2020. You’ll hear the original version she recorded on her own, before collaborating with Norwegian Grammy-winning producer Matias Téllez, and later, with Grammy-winning artist and producer Finneas O’Connell, in order to finish the song.
05/05/2021 • 19 minutes 14 seconds
Porter Robinson - Get Your Wish
Porter Robinson is a Grammy-nominated electronic artist and DJ from North Carolina. In 2014, his first album hit #1 on Billboard’s Dance chart, and he was named MTVU’s Artist of the Year, and one of the top DJs in the world — but then, he got stuck. He didn’t release his second album for seven years, until April 2021. In this episode, he talks about what he was grappling with in those intervening years, and how all of that became part of his song "Get Your Wish."
For more, visit songexploder.net/porter-robinson
21/04/2021 • 17 minutes 59 seconds
Lianne La Havas - Can't Fight
Lianne La Havas is a singer and songwriter from London. She’s been nominated for a Grammy and a Brit award, and in 2020, she released her third album. In this episode, she breaks down her song "Can’t Fight," and traces its evolution — along with her own evolution – over several years.
For more, visit songexploder.net/lianne-la-havas.
07/04/2021 • 21 minutes 4 seconds
Jon Batiste - We Are
Jon Batiste is a pianist, songwriter, and composer from New Orleans. He’s been nominated for multiple Grammys, and just won the Golden Globe and got an Oscar nomination for the soundtrack to the Pixar film Soul, which he composed along with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Jon is also a recipient of the American Jazz Museum’s lifetime achievement award, and on weeknights, you can see him as the bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In March 2021, he put out his new album, We Are. But the title track from it came actually came out much earlier, last year, in June 2020. In this episode, Jon talks about how he drew from his roots, at a very personal level — and at a cultural, historical level — and wove all of it into the song.
For more, visit songexploder.net/jon-batiste.
24/03/2021 • 23 minutes 23 seconds
Glass Animals - Heat Waves
Glass Animals is a band from Oxford, England. They’ve released three albums since forming back in 2010. One of their biggest hits is the song "Heat Waves," which came out in June 2020. It was certified Gold in several countries, and Platinum in Australia, where it hit #1. Dave Bayley is the singer, songwriter, and producer of the band. He won the UK’s Music Producers Guild award for "Self-Producing Artist of the Year," and he’s produced songs for other artists, as well. In this episode, Dave tells the story of making "Heat Waves," over several months. First, on his own, and then later with his bandmates, Joe Seaward, Ed Irwin-Singer, and Drew MacFarlane.
For more, visit songexploder.net/glass-animals.
10/03/2021 • 19 minutes 41 seconds
Sasha Sloan - Until It Happens To You
Sasha Sloan is a singer and songwriter based in Nashville. She put out her debut album, Only Child, last year. Before that, she’d written songs for artists like Katy Perry, John Legend, and Charli XCX, and she’s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by electronic artists Odesza and Kygo. Sasha made her album with her boyfriend, producer Henry Allen, aka King Henry, whose other production credits include songs by Beyoncé and Diplo. In this episode, Sasha, along with Henry, tells the story of making her song "Until It Happens to You."
For more, visit songexploder.net/sasha-sloan.
24/02/2021 • 19 minutes 44 seconds
PJ Morton - Say So (feat. JoJo)
PJ Morton is a singer, songwriter, and producer. He’s the first artist ever to be nominated for a Grammy for the Best R&B album three years in a row. In 2020, he won the Grammy for Best R&B song for his track, "Say So," which is a duet with the singer JoJo, a platinum-selling artist in her own right. But that version of "Say So" almost didn’t come to exist. In this episode, PJ takes us through his original voice memos, the demos, and the isolated pieces of the final studio recording, as he tells the story of how the track was created, then disappeared, and then got re-created—and ended up becoming one of his biggest songs.
For more, visit songexploder.net/pj-morton.
10/02/2021 • 19 minutes 18 seconds
HAIM - Summer Girl
HAIM is a band from Los Angeles, made up of the sisters Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim. They’ve released three albums, and they’ve been nominated for three Grammys. Over the years, they’ve worked extensively with Grammy-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid. Danielle and Ariel share the emotional backstory of the song “Summer Girl,” from HAIM’s third album, Women in Music Pt. III. In this episode, they break down their experience creating the song, along with Este Haim and the song’s co-producer and co-writer Rostam.
For more, visit songexploder.net/haim.
27/01/2021 • 24 minutes 46 seconds
Yusuf / Cat Stevens - Father and Son
The legendary singer/songwriter Yusuf / Cat Stevens released his first album in 1967. He’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and his albums have sold millions. In 2020, he released Tea for the Tillerman², a re-imagining of his hit 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. In the song “Father & Son,” he sings a duet between the two title characters, doing both voices. But in the 2020 version, he approached this song in a kind of astonishing way—he recorded the part of the father, but for the part of the son, he used a live recording of himself from 1970, taken from a show he played at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. So the two parts are still both sung in his voice, but 50 years apart. In this episode, the 200th episode of Song Exploder, Yusuf / Cat Stevens tells the story of how he created, and then re-created “Father & Son.”
For more, visit songexploder.net/yusuf-
13/01/2021 • 18 minutes 28 seconds
Common - A Riot In My Mind
Common is a Grammy- and Oscar-winning rapper, actor, and activist from Chicago. He’s been making records since 1992, and in October, he released his thirteenth album, A Beautiful Revolution. In this episode, he breaks down how he made the song “A Riot In My Mind,” along with a handful of collaborators, including Lenny Kravitz and a cameo from Chuck D.
16/12/2020 • 23 minutes 9 seconds
Jewel - You Were Meant For Me
Jewel is a singer-songwriter from Homer, Alaska, who’s received four Grammy nominations and sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Her debut album, Pieces of You, came out in 1995, and a 25th anniversary edition was released in November 2020. That album contains the hit song "You Were Meant for Me," but it turns out it wasn’t a runaway success—not at first. In this episode, Jewel traces the history of making “You Were Meant For Me,” starting with the demo, and moving through all the different versions that were made along the way.
02/12/2020 • 17 minutes 58 seconds
Billie Eilish - Everything I Wanted
Billie Eilish started releasing music when she was 14 years old. Her debut album came out last year, when she was 17. It debuted at Number 1 on Billboard, went triple platinum, and won five Grammys. Billie made that record with her brother and creative partner, producer Finneas O’Connell, in their parents’ house in Highland Park, Los Angeles.
While working on that album, they also started writing this song, “Everything I Wanted,” which came out as a single in November 2019. It was Billie’s second top ten hit, and it went double platinum, too. In this episode, you’ll hear some of the original voice memos Billie and Finneas made while writing, and the two of them explain why the song was almost never finished.
18/11/2020 • 27 minutes 4 seconds
Re-issue: Phoebe Bridgers - Scott Street
This episode is a little different. It’s a re-issue of Phoebe Bridgers’ Song Exploder episode from January 2019, along with a brand new segment where she and I talk about dealing with writer’s block.
Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. In September 2017, she released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps. One of the breakout songs from that album was “Scott Street,” a song Phoebe co-wrote with her drummer, Marshall Vore. Coming up first in this episode, Phoebe and Marshall break down how that song went from an unfinished cassette recording, to an acoustic demo, and then finally to the album version.
And then, after that, after you hear "Scott Street" in its entirety, Phoebe and I talk about writer’s block: what causes it for her, and how’s she’s dealt with it. So stick around after the full song to hear that conversation.
11/11/2020 • 31 minutes 31 seconds
Deftones - Ohms
Deftones are a Grammy-winning band from Sacramento who’ve sold over ten million albums. Their ninth album, Ohms, came out this year, on September 25th, 2020. In this episode, singer Chino Moreno breaks down how the title track came together, and how they literally went back to where things started in order to create it.
04/11/2020 • 20 minutes 30 seconds
Run the Jewels - JU$T
Rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P first met in 2011. They both had established rap careers, but they entered a new era when they started making music together as Run the Jewels in 2013. They’ve been nominated for a Grammy, and they released their fourth album, RTJ4, in June 2020. Like all of their albums, they made it available to download for free. In this episode, El-P and Killer Mike break down the song "JU$T," which features guest vocals from their frequent collaborator, Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, and guest vocals from Pharrell Williams.
21/10/2020 • 20 minutes 35 seconds
Dua Lipa - Levitating
Dua Lipa is a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter from London. Her second album, Future Nostalgia, came out in March 2020. It hit #1 on the charts in thirteen countries, and it was shortlisted for the UK’s Mercury Prize.
Dua co-wrote the song "Levitating" with some of her closest collaborators, including producer Stephen Kozmeniuk, AKA Koz. In this episode, Dua and Koz break down “Levitating” and how Dua’s childhood memories shaped its sound.
07/10/2020 • 17 minutes 21 seconds
Selena Gomez - Lose You to Love Me
Selena Gomez is a singer, songwriter, and actress, who’s spent most of her life in the public eye. She started her acting career as a child, and put out her first albums as a teenager. She’s had three number one albums and eight Top 10 hits, and in 2017, Billboard named her Woman of the Year. At one point, she was the most followed person on Instagram, and the details of her life are constantly discussed in tabloid headlines.
So, when your private life is that public, how do you write a song about something as personal as heartbreak? Selena teamed up with the Grammy-winning production duo Mattman & Robin, who she’d worked with before. And she turned to her longtime songwriting collaborators, Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Julia Michaels is also a Grammy-nominated artist in her own right, and Justin Tranter, also a Grammy nominee, was named BMI’s 2017 Pop Songwriter of the Year. The three of them have written 10 songs together, including this one, “Lose You t
23/09/2020 • 19 minutes 10 seconds
Re-issue: Ludwig Göransson - Black Panther
On August 28, 2020, actor Chadwick Boseman died. He was only 43 years old. Unbeknownst to many, even some of his closest collaborators, he’d been battling colon cancer since 2016. His family released a statement, and in it, they said, "It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther." After hearing the news, I went back and re-watched the movie, and I don’t know, it was a completely different experience this time. I went and listened to the score again, and that had changed for me, too. So, I wanted to back and share this episode from 2018, about a piece of the film’s score by composer Ludwig Göransson. It’s one of my favorites, and since it first aired, Ludwig went on to win the Grammy and Oscar for the Black Panther score.
I hope you enjoy this re-visiting this episode, and I hope it makes you remember how great Black Panther is, and how great Chadwick Boseman is in it, in a role that defined a career that was way t
16/09/2020 • 21 minutes 17 seconds
Kelly Lee Owens - On
Kelly Lee Owens is an electronic music producer and songwriter originally from Wales. She’s released two critically acclaimed albums and done remixes for Björk and St. Vincent. Her most recent album is is called Inner Song. It came out in August, following what Kelly described as the hardest three years of her life. In this episode, she takes apart her song "On," and explains how its tone and shifts mirrored her journey processing her own trauma.
09/09/2020 • 20 minutes 24 seconds
Black Pumas - Colors
Black Pumas formed in Austin, Texas in 2017, when singer Eric Burton met producer Adrian Quesada. Their self-titled debut was released in June 2019, and got them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. In this episode, they break down their hit song “Colors,” which Eric started writing ten years ago, when he was first learning how to play guitar.
26/08/2020 • 17 minutes 12 seconds
The 1975 - The Birthday Party
The 1975 are a band from Manchester, England, made up of Matty Healy, Adam Hann, Ross MacDonald, and George Daniel. They started playing music together in 2002, when they were teenagers. Since then, they’ve released four albums, won three Brit awards, and gotten two Grammy nominations. Their most recent album, Notes on a Conditional Form, came out in May 2020. In this episode, Matty and George break down how they made the song “The Birthday Party.”
12/08/2020 • 18 minutes 16 seconds
Waxahatchee - Fire
Katie Crutchfield is a singer and songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama. She’s been making music under the name Waxahatchee since 2010. Her fifth album, Saint Cloud, came out this past March. Pitchfork named it Best New Music, and The Guardian called it the best album of the year so far. In this episode, Katie breaks down how she made the song “Fire."
29/07/2020 • 17 minutes 27 seconds
Khruangbin - So We Won't Forget
Khruangbin is a band from Houston, Texas, who first formed in 2010. NME called them the "low key superstars" of psychedelic music. They’ve released three albums. The most recent, which came out in June 2020, is called Mordechai.
In the past, most of Khruangbin’s songs have been instrumental, or if they did have vocals, they'd be minimal. Their new album is different. It features vocals prominently, and in this episode, the three of them explain their philosophy on vocals and their process on writing lyrics. I spoke to each of them to get their perspective on how they made the song "So We Won’t Forget."
15/07/2020 • 25 minutes 3 seconds
Apparat - Goodbye (Theme from "Dark")
The Netflix original series Dark debuted in December 2017. It’s a really mysterious, mind-bending German science fiction show with a unique tone. A big part of that tone is announced every episode with the music in the show’s opening title sequence. It’s the song “Goodbye,” by German electronic artist Apparat, the solo project of Sascha Ring. This song actually came out years ago, on the 2011 Apparat album The Devil’s Walk. Since then, before it was used as the theme song for Dark, it’s been featured in a bunch of films and commercials, and notably, in the Season 4 finale of Breaking Bad. The final season of Dark just came out last week, so I wanted to find out how the show’s theme music was made. “Goodbye” features vocals from Anja Plaschg, an Austrian artist who makes music under the name Soap&Skin. In this episode, Sascha and Anja break down how the song was created.
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01/07/2020 • 26 minutes 26 seconds
Mobb Deep - Shook Ones, Pt. II
The rappers Prodigy and Havoc met when they were still in high school in New York. Havoc grew up in Queensbridge, the biggest public housing projects in the country, and as a teenager, Prodigy lived there for a while, too. The two of them formed Mobb Deep in 1991.
In 1995, they put out their second album, The Infamous. It was a success when it came out, but in the 25 years since then, the influence of the album has only grown. Complex named it one of the 10 best rap albums of the 90s, and Pitchfork gave the album a rare perfect score, 10 out of 10. The Washington Post called it a “masterpiece” of hardcore rap, and in Slate, it was called one of the best albums of the ‘90s, and one of the best hip-hop albums ever made.
Their biggest song from the album was “Shook Ones, Pt. II.” Havoc made the now-legendary beat that he and Prodigy rap over. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Havoc told me the story of how the whole song cam
17/06/2020 • 20 minutes 45 seconds
Re-issue: Michael Kiwanuka - Black Man in a White World
Instead of a new episode this week, revisiting this episode originally published in May 2017. Please consider donating to local and national organizations engaged in the work of racial equality. Here are some links:
American Civil Liberties Union
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Community Bail Funds
Michael Kiwanuka is a singer/songwriter from London. His second album, Love and Hate, came out in 2016, and was named one of the Best Albums of the Year from the BBC, NME, The Guardian, GQ, and mor
04/06/2020 • 20 minutes 47 seconds
100 gecs - Money Machine
100 gecs is a duo, made up of Laura Les and Dylan Brady. In 2016, they put out an EP called 100 gecs, and three years later, they released their first album, called 1000 gecs. It was named the Best Album of 2019 in Vice and in The New York Times. It was also on year-end lists in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Stereogum and more. Dylan lives in Los Angeles, and Laura in Chicago—they work remotely, sending files back and forth to each other. In this episode, the two of them break down how they made the song "Money Machine."
20/05/2020 • 16 minutes 33 seconds
Laura Marling - Song for Our Daughter
Laura Marling is a singer and songwriter from London. She won the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist—she’s been nominated five times for that, along with the Mercury Prize, and the Grammy for Best Folk Album. Since 2008, she’s released seven albums. The most recent album is called Song for Our Daughter. It’s also the name of the song that she takes apart in this episode.
06/05/2020 • 23 minutes 8 seconds
Tame Impala - It Might Be Time
Tame Impala is the project of Kevin Parker, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Perth, Australia. Since putting his first EP in 2008, Tame Impala has been nominated for two Grammys and won eight of Australia’s ARIA Awards. Multiple albums of his have been named best of the year. As a producer, he has collaborated with Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, The Weeknd, and more. The most recent Tame Impala album is The Slow Rush, which came out in February 2020. For this episode, Kevin chose to take apart the song, "It Might Be Time."
22/04/2020 • 16 minutes 2 seconds
FKA twigs - Mirrored Heart
FKA twigs is a singer, songwriter, and producer from London. She’s released three EPs and two albums. Her most album, Magdalene, came out in November, 2019, and was named one of the best albums of the year by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Time, NME, and more.
For this episode, twigs chose the song "Mirrored Heart" from Magdalene. She wrote and produced it in Los Angeles with a few collaborators, but it’s an intensely personal song.
08/04/2020 • 20 minutes 52 seconds
Nathaniel Rateliff - And It's Still Alright
Nathaniel Rateliff is a singer and songwriter from Colorado. He’s released four solo albums, and two with his band, the Night Sweats.
Those two Night Sweats albums were produced by Richard Swift, who passed away in 2018. In a statement, his family said that he "suffered from alcohol addiction, and it’s ultimately what took his life." Nathaniel Rateliff’s new solo album, And It’s Still Alright, was supposed to be produced by Richard Swift as well, but Richard died before they could work together again. In this episode, Nathaniel breaks down the title track, which was inspired by his own complicated relationship with alcohol, and by his friendship with Richard Swift.
25/03/2020 • 23 minutes 52 seconds
Eric Nam - Love Die Young
Eric Nam is a Korean-American pop singer from Atlanta. He’s currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he found fame as a K-pop star. He was named “2016 Man of the Year” by GQ Korea, and Forbes named him one of their “30 under 30 Asia.”
But his success in Korea has been complicated a little by what he wanted to do with his career versus what he felt he was allowed to do. As his career as an artist has evolved, he’s gotten closer and closer to making the music he wants to make. In November 2019, Eric released Before We Begin — his first album entirely in English. In this episode, Eric Nam and producer Rabitt break down a song from that album called “Love Die Young.”
11/03/2020 • 20 minutes 49 seconds
Soccer Mommy - Circle the Drain
Sophie Allison makes music under the name Soccer Mommy. Her debut album came out in 2018, when she was 20 years old, and the New York Times named it one of the best album of the year. Her second album, Color Theory, comes out this week, and it includes this song, "Circle the Drain." In this episode, she takes "Circle the Drain" apart and explains how it was influenced by songs from her childhood.
26/02/2020 • 20 minutes 47 seconds
Caribou - Home
Dan Snaith has been making Caribou records since 2001. He won Canada’s Polaris music prize in 2007, and this month, he’s releasing the seventh Caribou album, Suddenly.
In this episode, Dan breaks down the song “Home.” He talks about how he managed to get past several moments of creative uncertainty to figure out the final track.
12/02/2020 • 18 minutes 57 seconds
Vagabon - Water Me Down
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 Littman. 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.
29/01/2020 • 18 minutes 14 seconds
Semisonic - Closing Time
The song “Closing Time” by the American rock band Semisonic came out in March 1998. It hit #1 on the Alternative charts, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Song. It gets played in stadiums, Weird Al covered it, and it’s the last song of the night in countless bars.
Since then, Dan Wilson, the lead singer and songwriter of Semisonic, has become a powerhouse songwriter who has written or co-written for artists like John Legend and Taylor Swift. And he’s won Grammys for his songwriting with the Dixie Chicks and Adele. But over two decades ago, Dan and his bandmates John Munson and Jacob Slichter were in Minneapolis, getting ready to start work on their second album, Feeling Strangely Fine. In this episode of Song Exploder, Dan breaks down how that process led to "Closing Time."
15/01/2020 • 25 minutes 5 seconds
Vampire Weekend - Harmony Hall
The band Vampire Weekend started in 2006, in New York. Their third album came out in 2013, and was named one of the best albums of the year all over the place, and it won a Grammy. But it took six years for their next album, Father of the Bride, to come out. This album’s also been nominated for a Grammy, for album of the year. And the lead single from it, “Harmony Hall,” was nominated for Best Rock Song.
In this episode, Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend takes “Harmony Hall” apart. I spoke to him along with producer Ariel Rechtshaid, and the two of them detailed winding path the song went down, over several years, before it finally took shape.
25/12/2019 • 26 minutes 2 seconds
Intro Theme and Thao's Farewell
Thao Nguyen has been guest hosting Song Exploder this year, with Christian Koons producing, to give Hrishikesh a little room to daydream. That’s all been possible because of the support of Radiotopia listeners. In this bonus episode, Thao says goodbye, and we break down the intro music that Hrishi made to go with Thao’s time as guest host. Thanks to everyone who has listened this year. If you’d like to support the future of the podcast, you can donate to Radiotopia. You can help make new things possible for the podcast. Make your mark. Go to radiotopia.fm to donate today.
17/12/2019 • 10 minutes 42 seconds
Meek Mill - Trauma
Meek Mill is a rapper from Philadelphia. He’s put out five albums. His most recent, Championships, debuted at #1 on the charts, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Album.
Back in 2007, He was arrested on a gun charge at the age of 19, and over the last eleven years, he was sent to prison four times for parole violations. But in July 2019, based on evidence of alleged police corruption, the Pennsylvania Superior Court threw out his conviction, and the parole violation that had led to his most recent time in prison, a five-month sentence.
It was soon after Meek Mill was released that this song, “Trauma,” was created. He took inspiration from his experiences in prison, and his early life in Philadelphia.
In this episode, Meek Mill and Don Cannon, who produced the track, break down how the whole thing came together.
11/12/2019 • 18 minutes 10 seconds
Bat for Lashes - Kids in the Dark
Natasha Khan makes music under the name Bat for Lashes. She’s released five albums, including Lost Girls, which came out in September 2019.
In this episode, she breaks down the making of the lead single from that album, called “Kids in the Dark.” But just before she started writing it, she wasn't sure if she would make another album at all.
Right now, Radiotopia is holding its annual fundraiser. You can help support Song Exploder and the network that makes it possible. Make your mark. Go to Radiotopia.fm to donate today.
27/11/2019 • 20 minutes 8 seconds
Jay Som - Tenderness
Melina Duterte goes by the name Jay Som. She’s a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. She’s released three albums as Jay Som, and has produced, engineered, and mixed each one.
Her third album, Anak Ko, came out in August 2019. And in this episode, Melina breaks down a song from it called “Tenderness.”
13/11/2019 • 17 minutes 35 seconds
Slipknot - Unsainted
Slipknot is a Grammy-winning metal band from Des Moines, Iowa, who first formed in 1995. They’ve sold over 30 million records. In this episode, guitarist Jim Root breaks down how Slipknot made the song, “Unsainted,” from their 2019 album We Are Not Your Kind.
30/10/2019 • 16 minutes 33 seconds
Raphael Saadiq - Kings Fall
Raphael Saadiq is a Grammy-winning songwriter, producer, and artist from Oakland, California. He was the lead singer of the legendary ‘90s R&B group Tony! Toni! Tone!. As a producer, he’s worked with D’Angelo, TLC, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, Solange Knowles, and John Legend.
In August 2019, Raphael released his fifth solo album, Jimmy Lee, which is named for his late older brother. In this episode, he breaks down a song from he made with his nephew, Dylan Wiggins, called “Kings Fall.”
16/10/2019 • 13 minutes 21 seconds
Clairo - Alewife
Claire Cotrill is a singer, songwriter, and producer who goes by the name Clairo. She started releasing music in 2014 as a teenager. A few years later, songs she had uploaded to YouTube had racked up over 40 million views. This year, Clairo put out her debut album, Immunity. She’s recently performed on Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel, and played arenas, opening for Khalid. In this episode, Clairo breaks down her song “Alewife.” I spoke to Claire and her co-producer Rostam Batmanglij about how the song was made.
02/10/2019 • 23 minutes 23 seconds
Brittany Howard - Stay High
Brittany Howard is the guitarist and lead singer of the four-time Grammy-winning band Alabama Shakes. This month, she’s releasing her first solo album, called Jaime. In this episode, Brittany breaks down the song “Stay High,” which was the album’s first single. She started working on it while staying at a house in Topanga Canyon, near LA.
18/09/2019 • 18 minutes 33 seconds
Robyn - Honey
Robyn is a Swedish singer and songwriter. Her first album came out in 1995, when she was 16 years old. It went platinum in the US, double-platinum in Sweden. Since then, she’s been nominated for five Grammys and started her own record label. But there was an eight-year gap between Robyn’s album Body Talk, which came out in 2010, and her most recent album, Honey, which came out last October. Time, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork all named it one of the best albums of the year.
For Song Exploder, Robyn breaks down the song “Honey,” the title track from that album. The first time the public heard the song was in a 2017 episode of the HBO show Girls, but that’s not the final version that was released on the album. In this episode, Robyn traces the long history of how she made “Honey,” a song that The New York Times called “her masterpiece.”
04/09/2019 • 23 minutes 3 seconds
Bon Iver - Holyfields,
Justin Vernon founded the band Bon Iver in 2006. Bon Iver’s released four albums, and won two Grammys, including Best New Artist.
The most recent album, i,i, came out in August 2019, and in this episode, Justin breaks down a song from it called “Holyfields,.” He’s joined by producers Chris Messina and Brad Cook. We spoke to him in July, from his studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where the song started. They finished it at Sonic Ranch studio, in Tornillo, Texas, on the border of the US and Mexico.
21/08/2019 • 16 minutes 59 seconds
Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here
Sleater-Kinney was formed in 1994 by Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. Drummer Janet Weiss was a member of the band from 1997 until 2019. In Time Magazine in 2001, author and critic Greil Marcus named Sleater-Kinney “America’s Best Band.” Over the years, they’ve made nine albums, including this year’s The Center Won’t Hold, which was produced by Annie Clark of St. Vincent. In this episode, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein break down how the song “The Future Is Here” was made.
07/08/2019 • 18 minutes 17 seconds
Denzel Curry - RICKY
Denzel Curry is a rapper from Miami. He started his career at age 16 as part of the hip hop collective Raider Klan. He released his first solo album while still in high school.
In May 2019 Denzel released his fourth album, ZUU. He made it with the Australian production duo FnZ, who have been collaborating with him since 2016. The album was named Best New Music by Pitchfork, and Denzel made his TV debut on The Tonight Show.
24/07/2019 • 14 minutes 40 seconds
Jamila Woods - BALDWIN
Jamila Woods is a singer, songwriter, and poet from Chicago. She’s released two albums, and she’s collaborated with artists like Chance the Rapper, Noname, and Macklemore.
In May 2019, she put out her second album, LEGACY! LEGACY!, to critical acclaim. NME called it one of the albums of the year, Rolling Stone called it a “revelation,” and Pitchfork named it “Best New Music.”
In this episode, Jamila and her producer Slot-A break down a song from that album, called “BALDWIN,” named after the late author and civil rights activist James Baldwin.
10/07/2019 • 20 minutes 53 seconds
Big Thief - Cattails
Big Thief is a four piece folk-rock band from Brooklyn, New York. In May 2019, they released their third album, U.F.O.F., to critical acclaim. Pitchfork named it “Best New Music.”
In this episode, singer Adrianne Lenker and drummer James Krivchenia break down a song from that album called “Cattails.”
26/06/2019 • 16 minutes 58 seconds
Sheryl Crow - Redemption Day (feat. Johnny Cash)
Sheryl Crow is a singer-songwriter from Missouri. She’s released ten studio albums, sold over 50 million records, and has won nine Grammys.
In April 2019, Sheryl Crow released a new version of her song “Redemption Day,” which was first released on her self-titled album in 1996. This new version features vocals from Johnny Cash, who recorded a cover of the song that was released posthumously in 2010. And in this episode, Sheryl Crow breaks down how it all came together.
12/06/2019 • 22 minutes 15 seconds
Raleigh Ritchie - Time in a Tree
Raleigh Ritchie is the musical alias of Jacob Anderson, a musician and actor who’s probably best known for playing the character Grey Worm on Game of Thrones.
Raleigh Ritchie released his first album in 2016, and he’s put out a handful of EPs. In September 2018, he put out the single, “Time in a Tree.” He made the song with Grammy-nominated producer Daniel Traynor, aka Grades. In this episode, the two of them take apart “Time in a Tree” to explain how it came together, and how it was influenced by classic Hollywood movies, Billy Joel, and overwhelming anxiety.
29/05/2019 • 17 minutes 39 seconds
The Mountain Goats - Cadaver Sniffing Dog
John Darnielle has been writing and recording songs as the Mountain Goats since 1991. He’s released 17 studio albums, and also written two books of fiction.
In April 2019, the Mountain Goats released the album In League with Dragons, and in this episode, John Darnielle breaks down a song from it, called Cadaver-Sniffing Dog. We’ll hear his original demo, and then, hear how the song evolved at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, with the help of John’s band, some incredible session musicians, and producer Owen Pallett.
15/05/2019 • 25 minutes 19 seconds
The Cranberries - All Over Now
The Cranberries formed in Limerick, Ireland in 1989. Singer Dolores O’Riordan joined a year later, and the group went on to become one of the defining bands on the ‘90s, eventually selling over 40 million records worldwide.
In January 2018, while the band was working on their eighth album, Dolores O’Riordan passed away unexpectedly. Later that year, remaining members Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, and Fergal Lawler announced that they would end the band, and that this would be their final album. It's called In The End.
It was released in April 2019, and in this episode, guitarist and songwriter Noel Hogan breaks down a song from it called “All Over Now.” You’ll hear how Hogan and O’Riordan first started the song, and how the remaining members worked to finish it without her.
01/05/2019 • 23 minutes 56 seconds
Panda Bear - Dolphin
Panda Bear is musician Noah Lennox. He’s a founding member of the experimental, genre-defying band Animal Collective, and as a solo artists, he’s released six albums.
In February 2019, Panda Bear released the album Buoys, and in this episode, he and his co-producer Rusty Santos break down the opening song, “Dolphin.” You’ll hear the original demo, and how they drew inspiration from music from all over the world.
17/04/2019 • 13 minutes 57 seconds
Sharon Van Etten - Seventeen
Sharon Van Etten is a singer and songwriter who’s put out five albums. She's also an actress—she’s in The OA and Twin Peaks. Her most recent album, Remind Me Tomorrow, came out in January 2019.
In this episode, Sharon breaks down a single from that album called “Seventeen.” She shares the original demo she made with the song’s co-writer Kate Davis, and we’ll hear from producer John Congleton, who helped craft Sharon’s new, more electronic sound.
03/04/2019 • 26 minutes 48 seconds
Nakhane - New Brighton (feat. Anohni)
Nakhane is a singer and songwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. His first album, Brave Confusion, won the South African Music Award for best alternative album in 2014. He starred in the award-winning film “The Wound,” which was shortlisted for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
Nakhane’s second album, You Will Not Die, was originally released in 2018, and then released in the US in 2019, as a deluxe version. The deluxe version includes this song,“New Brighton,” featuring guest vocals from Anohni. In this episode, as Nakhane breaks the song down, he talks about his complicated relationship with Christianity, why the song wasn’t on the original version of the album, and what it was like to work with one of his musical heroes.
20/03/2019 • 22 minutes 37 seconds
Mumford & Sons - Beloved
Mumford & Sons are a Grammy-winning band that formed in London in 2007. They’ve put out four albums, and sold millions of copies. Their last three albums have all debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. The most recent of those albums is Delta, which came out in November 2018. The band is made up of Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall, and Ted Dwane, and in this episode, Marcus and Ben break down a song from Delta called “Beloved.” You’ll how the song went from Marcus’s original raw voice memo to the intricate finished track.
06/03/2019 • 20 minutes 57 seconds
Phoebe Bridgers - Scott Street
Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. In September 2017, she released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps. One of the breakout songs from that album was “Scott Street,” a song Phoebe cowrote with her drummer, Marshall Vore. In this episode, Phoebe and Marshall break down how the song went from an unfinished cassette recording, to an acoustic demo, to the finished album version.
20/02/2019 • 22 minutes 19 seconds
Wonderly - The Daily (Theme)
The Daily is a hit podcast from The New York Times, hosted by Michael Barbaro. Every weekday, over 1.7 million people download the show. It launched in February 2017, and in honor of its two-year anniversary, we’re publishing a bonus episode about the show’s theme song, which was composed by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. It was originally published on the New York Times website, in 2018.
06/02/2019 • 11 minutes 28 seconds
Japanese Breakfast - Boyish
Japanese Breakfast is the musical project of Michelle Zauner, who’s been making music under that name since 2013. In July 2017, she released her second album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, to critical acclaim.
In this episode, Michelle breaks down a song from that album called “Boyish,” along with her co-producer and bandmate Craig Hendrix. We’ll hear the original demo, plus a version Michelle recorded with her old band. And she’ll talk about how her perspective on the song has changed over the years.
23/01/2019 • 18 minutes 14 seconds
Hozier - Nina Cried Power (feat. Mavis Staples)
Andrew Hozier-Byrne is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter from Ireland. His debut single from 2013, “Take Me to Church,” was a massive, multi-platinum hit.
In September 2018, Hozier released the song “Nina Cried Power,” which features the legendary gospel singer Mavis Staples. In this episode, Hozier breaks down how he made the song, and Mavis Staples tells the story of how she got involved.
09/01/2019 • 19 minutes 5 seconds
Yo-Yo Ma - Prelude, Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major
Yo-Yo Ma is perhaps the most famous and well-loved cellist in the world. He was born in Paris in 1955; his family moved to the U.S. when he was seven. He played for President Kennedy that year. He played at Carnegie Hall for the first time when he was 16. He’s won 18 Grammys, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
For this special episode of Song Exploder, Yo-Yo Ma talks about the Prelude to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G Major. He discusses learning, performing, and recording the piece across 58 years of his life.
20/12/2018 • 15 minutes 29 seconds
Re-issue: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down - Astonished Man
Thao Nguyen is taking over as the new host of Song Exploder in 2019. This is a reissue of an episode from 2016 in which she was the guest.
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down released the album A Man Alive in March 2016. In this episode, Thao Nguyen breaks down the song "Astonished Man." Thao talks about working with Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards, who produced the album, and she speaks candidly about her relationship with her estranged father, the subject of the song.
13/12/2018 • 14 minutes 43 seconds
Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way
Lindsey Buckingham is a singer-songwriter, a guitarist, and a producer. In 1974, he joined the band Fleetwood Mac, along with Stevie Nicks, his girlfriend at the time. A few year later, in 1977, Fleetwood Mac released the album Rumours, which would go on to sell over 40 million copies and become the eighth highest-selling album in history. In this episode, Lindsey Buckingham breaks down “Go Your Own Way," a song he wrote for that album about his relationship with Stevie Nicks.
05/12/2018 • 21 minutes 28 seconds
Breakmaster Cylinder - Reply All
Four years ago, on November 24, 2014, the first episode of the podcast Reply All came out. It’s a podcast about the internet hosted by Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt. And since then, they’ve put out 131 episodes. The show has gotten over 100 million downloads so far. Robert Downey Jr. is going to star in a movie based on one of their episodes. And from the debut, it’s been one of my favorite podcasts. A while back, in 2015, I did a special edition of Song Exploder for Reply All, about their theme song by Breakmaster Cylinder. I’d hear the guys talk about the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder in the show’s credits, but I didn’t really know who or what that was. And I wanted to find out more. So in honor of the four year anniversary of Reply All’s launch, I’m putting out this special crossover episode for the first time here on Song Exploder.
26/11/2018 • 12 minutes 32 seconds
Empress Of - When I'm With Him
Lorely Rodriguez is a singer, songwriter, and producer who goes by the name Empress Of. She’s released two albums, and she’s sung on tracks with Khalid, Blood Orange, and Dirty Projectors. Her first album, Me, was made on her own. But her second album, Us, features a bunch of collaborators. In this episode, Lorely breaks down the Empress Of song “When I’m With Him.” She co-produced it with Jim-E Stack and Dan Nigro, and I spoke to Jim-E Stack for this episode, too. Lorely explained how collaborating with producers opened up her process. Plus, the song’s lyrics are in English and Spanish, and Lorely describes how she relies on both languages to write.
19/11/2018 • 14 minutes 50 seconds
Big Boi - Order of Operations
Big Boi is a rapper from Atlanta. When he was a teenager, he and Andre 3000 formed OutKast, and went on to sell over 25 million records and win six Grammys. He’s released three solo albums, including Boomiverse, which came out in 2017. In this episode, Big Boi breaks down a song from that album called “Order of Operations.”
05/11/2018 • 15 minutes 22 seconds
John Carpenter - Halloween (Theme)
In 1978, John Carpenter wrote, directed, and scored the film Halloween. It was made on a $300,000 budget, and ended up grossing over $70 million, making it one of the most successful independent movies ever released. The main theme to the film became one of the most iconic pieces of cinematic music ever made. *Halloween *became a franchise with ten more Halloween films since the original. In 2018 a new Halloween film was released, directed by David Gordon Green. And for the first time since the first film, John Carpenter composed the score. That included remaking his theme song for the new film, this time with the help of his son Cody Carpenter and his godson Daniel Davies. In this episode, the three of them break down how they did it.
26/10/2018 • 12 minutes 10 seconds
Janelle Monáe - So Afraid
Janelle Monáe is an award-winning musician and actress who released her first record in 2007. She’s been nominated for multiple Grammys, and starred in the Oscar films Moonlight and Hidden Figures. In April 2018, she released her third album, Dirty Computer, which includes the 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.
15/10/2018 • 19 minutes 7 seconds
Cat Power - Woman
Chan Marshall is a singer-songwriter who’s been making records under the name Cat Power since 1995. In 2018, she put out her tenth album, Wanderer. It includes this song "Woman," which has Lana Del Rey on backing vocals. In this episode, Chan breaks down the song and what it means to her, as she tells the story of how she made "Woman" in Miami and Los Angeles over the course of a few years.
04/10/2018 • 18 minutes 34 seconds
Blood Orange - Saint
Blood Orange is the project of songwriter and producer Devonté Hynes. He’s produced and co-written songs for artists like Carly Rae Jepsen, Solange, HAIM, and ASAP Rocky, among others. He’s been releasing his own music as Blood Orange since 2011. In August 2018, he released his fourth Blood Orange album, Negro Swan. In this episode, Dev breaks down how he made the song “Saint.” You’ll hear the original version of the track from 2015, as well as the layers and voices that were added over years to create the final version that appears on the album.
25/09/2018 • 18 minutes 7 seconds
Re-issue: Patrick Carney feat. Ralph Carney - BoJack Horseman (Main Title Theme)
Last week, Netflix released the fifth season of BoJack Horseman. I wanted to revisit this episode about the show’s Main Title Theme, which was written by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, and his uncle, Ralph Carney, who passed away unexpectedly in December 2017.
BoJack Horseman is a Netflix original series, an animated comedy about a washed up 90s sitcom star who's trying to figure out his life and career without drowning in self-loathing and existential despair. It won the 2016 Critics Choice award for best animated series. The theme song for the show was created by Patrick Carney, who is one half of The Black Keys, and his uncle, Ralph Carney, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked artists like Tom Waits, St Vincent, The B-52s, Galaxie 500, and a lot more. But the track wasn't written for the show, originally; it was just something that Patrick and Ralph made without knowing what it was for. In this episode, the two break down how the song was created, and how it went fro
19/09/2018 • 15 minutes 53 seconds
The Decemberists - Once In My Life
The Decemberists are a Grammy-nominated five-piece band from Portland, Oregon. They released their first album in 2001, and since then they’ve put out seven more, including the 2018 album I’ll Be Your Girl. In this episode, singer and guitarist Colin Meloy breaks down The Decemberists’ song “Once In My Life," from his first demo, to the final tracks they recorded in the studio.
05/09/2018 • 21 minutes 43 seconds
Re-issue: Mitski - Your Best American Girl
In honor of Mitski’s new album, “Be the Cowboy,” here’s the episode she did in 2016. — Mitski has been making records since 2012. Her third record, Puberty 2, came out in June 2016 and was critically acclaimed Pitchfork gave it Best New Music status. Her music has been featured in the tv show Adventure Time. In this episode, Mitski breaks down her song Your Best American Girl, along with her long-time collaborator Patrick Hyland.
29/08/2018 • 13 minutes 35 seconds
Christine and the Queens - Doesn't Matter
Christine and the Queens is a singer, songwriter, and producer from France. Her debut album was first released in 2014 in French, and in 2015, she released an English version of it. It was critically acclaimed and she won the Victoire de le Musique—France’s equivalent of the Grammy—for Best Female Artist in 2015.In July 2018, she released the single “Doesn’t Matter” in advance of her second album,Chris. Like before, she made a French version and an English version, but this time she wrote both versions simultaneously. In this episode, she talks about what that translation process was like, and the possibilities it opened up, as she takes apart "Doesn’t Matter." The song and the story first began in Chris’s basement.
15/08/2018 • 19 minutes 37 seconds
Neko Case - Last Lion of Albion
Neko Case is a singer and songwriter. She’s been nominated for multiple Grammys, and in addition to her own music, she’s a member of the band The New Pornographers. In June 2018, she put out her 7th album, Hell-On, which she also co-produced. In this episode, Neko Case breaks down the song “Last Lion of Albion.” Albion’s one of the oldest names for island of Great Britain, and it was while she was in England that this song first began. This episode is guest-hosted by Thao Nguyen (of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down).
01/08/2018 • 16 minutes 48 seconds
Re-issue: Courtney Barnett - Depreston
Earlier this year, in May 2018, Courtney Barnett released her second album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. And last fall, she and Kurt Vile made an album together. So I thought this would be a good time to go back and listen to an episode she did in January 2016 about “Depreston,” my favorite song from her first album. Here it is.
Courtney Barnett released her debut album in March 2015. By the end of the year, she had been nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist, Spin named her the Songwriter of the Year, and she won four ARIA Music Awards in her native Australia. In this episode, Courtney Barnett breaks down the song "Depreston," which began with a visit to an open house, on a house-hunting trip she took in the town of Preston.
25/07/2018 • 16 minutes 52 seconds
Action Bronson - The Chairman's Intent
Action Bronson is a rapper from Queens who’s been making records since 2011. He also stars as the host of two TV shows about food on Vice’s channel, Viceland. His third album, Blue Chips 7000, came out in 2017, and features this song – “The Chairman’s Intent.” It was produced by his longtime collaborator, producer Harry Fraud. In this episode, Action Bronson and Harry Fraud tell the story of how “The Chairman’s Intent” was made.
18/07/2018 • 11 minutes 43 seconds
Jhené Aiko - Sativa (feat. Swae Lee)
Jhené Aiko is a Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter. She’s released three albums so far. In addition to her own records, she’s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Childish Gambino, and many, many others. In 2017, she released her third album, Trip, which debuted at #5 on the Billboard Charts, and includes the song "Sativa." The song features guest vocals from Swae Lee, who’s one half of the band Rae Sremmurd. In this episode, Jhené tells the story of how “Sativa” was made, and how it got stuck, and then, how it got unstuck. She’s joined by producer Brian Warfield of the production duo Fisticuffs, who made the beat.
04/07/2018 • 17 minutes 53 seconds
Re-issue: CHVRCHES - Clearest Blue
I interviewed the Scottish band CHVRCHES back in March 2016, in Austin, Texas. A few weeks ago, in May 2018, they released a new album called Love is Dead. It features contributions from David Stewart of the Eurythmics, and another past Song Exploder guest, Matt Berninger of The National. So in honor of CHVRCHES new record, I wanted to go back and listen to their episode again. Here it is:
CHVRCHES is a trio from Glasgow, Scotland. In this episode, they break down the song “Clearest Blue,” from their sophomore album Every Open Eye. You’ll hear the band’s original demo as well as why they start songs with a set of rules, but then quickly abandon those rules.
This interview was recorded live at the Dropbox Podcast Studio at SXSW.
28/06/2018 • 13 minutes 47 seconds
Yo La Tengo - Here You Are
Yo La Tengo formed in 1984. The band is made up Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew. In March 2018, they released There’s a Riot Going On, their 15th album. They made the record themselves—they recorded it entirely in their rehearsal studio with James handling the engineering duties. The album came together slowly, over a few years. In this episode, Georgia, James, and Ira break down the experiments and accidents that led to the the closing track from the record, the song "Here You Are."
20/06/2018 • 17 minutes 46 seconds
Wolf Alice - Don't Delete the Kisses
Wolf Alice is a band from North London. Their second album, Visions of a Life, was released in September 2017. In this episode, singer Ellie Rowsell and drummer Joel Amey tell the story of how they made the song “Don’t Delete the Kisses.” The album was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and coming up later, you’ll hear some of his thoughts, as well. The song went through a lot of versions. A home demo that Ellie made, another demo with the full band, plus studio versions they recorded in LA with Justin. There were a lot of ideas that were created and then scrapped. In this episode, they trace the path through those ideas, as well how the song was influenced by Father John Misty, PJ Harvey, and the film Frances Ha.
06/06/2018 • 22 minutes 7 seconds
Re-issue: Kelela - Rewind
In November 2015, I interviewed Kelela about her song “Rewind,” from her debut EP, Hallucinogen. Since that EP was released, she's gone on to collaborate on songs with Gorillaz and Solange, and released her first full-length, Take Me Apart, which was named one of the Top 10 albums of 2017 by Vulture, Pitchfork, Cosmo, and a bunch of others. So I wanted to go back and revisit Kelela’s episode, which originally came out in January 2016. Here it is:
Kelela is a singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. In 2015, she released Hallucinogen EP, and landed on critics lists in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Pitchfork, and more. In this episode, Kelela takes apart her song “Rewind.” To make the track, she worked with five different producers, picking and choosing each for what they could best contribute to her overall vision for the song. This interview was recorded live in San Francisco at Fusion’s Real Future Fair.
31/05/2018 • 15 minutes 8 seconds
Jon Hopkins - Luminous Beings
Jon Hopkins is an electronic music producer whose been nominated twice for the UK’s Mercury Prize. Along with his frequent collaborator, Brian Eno, he co-produced Coldplay’s Grammy-award winning album, Viva la Vida. In May 2018, Jon Hopkins released his fifth album, Singularity. It was named Best New Music by Pitchfork. In this episode, Jon Hopkins takes apart the song "Luminous Beings," which was inspired in part by the meditative and therapeutic effects of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms. Jon talks about his own experience with drug, and how it shaped this song. He also details the less magical moments where he hated the music was he making, and had to destroy it as part of the creative process.
23/05/2018 • 32 minutes 21 seconds
Liz Phair - Divorce Song
In 1993, Liz Phair released her debut album, Exile in Guyville. It was an instant hit, critically and commercially. It sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Spin and The Village Voice named it album of the year. Soon after, Rolling Stone put her on the cover of their magazine. Now, twenty-five years later, Exile in Guyville is being reissued as a deluxe boxset with photos, essays, and Liz Phair's original four-track cassette recordings. In this episode, Liz and Exile in Guyville's producer, Brad Wood, look back to tell the story of the creation of one of the songs on the album, "Divorce Song."
09/05/2018 • 24 minutes 24 seconds
Arcade Fire - Put Your Money On Me
Arcade Fire is a Grammy-winning six-piece band originally from Montreal. They’ve released five albums, and the last three have all debuted at number one on the charts. In this episode, singer Win Butler takes apart "Put Your Money On Me," from their 2017 album Everything Now. He breaks down how the influence of Marvin Gaye, Harry Nilsson, and ABBA all helped shape how the song eventually turned out. You’ll hear the original demo, and an alternate version of the song that was never finished. The story begins when Win and his wife and bandmate Régine Chassagne moved to New Orleans.
25/04/2018 • 21 minutes 6 seconds
Kimbra - Top of the World
Kimbra is a singer from New Zealand. Her first album came out in 2011, and in 2013 she won two Grammys for her collaboration with Gotye, the multiplatinum hit song "Somebody That I Used to Know." In this episode, Kimbra breaks down a song from 2018 called "Top of the World,” a song she also made in collaboration—this time with artists Skrillex and Diplo.
11/04/2018 • 19 minutes 16 seconds
Jack Johnson - You Can't Control It
Jack Johnson is a grammy-nominated singer-songwriter from Hawaii. He's had four number one albums on the Billboard charts. In September 2017, he released his seventh album, All the Light Above It Too, and in this episode, Jack Johnson breaks down a song about parenting, politics, and the ocean. It’s called "You Can't Control It."
28/03/2018 • 14 minutes 30 seconds
Ludwig Göransson - Black Panther
Marvel’s Black Panther was released in theaters on February 16, 2018, and in just a few weeks, it made over a billion dollars worldwide. It’s already broken some box office records and it looks like it’s going to break some more. The score for the film was created by Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson. His film and TV credits include Creed and New Girl. He’s also Grammy-nominated producer, who’s worked most often with rapper Childish Gambino. In this episode, Ludwig takes apart one of his pieces from Black Panther. The track is called “Killmonger,” and it’s the theme for Erik Killmonger, a character played by Michael B. Jordan. Black Panther is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and coming up, Ludwig tells the story of doing research and making recordings in Africa, and how he incorporated that into the score for the film.
14/03/2018 • 20 minutes 20 seconds
Natalie Prass - Short Court Style
Natalie Prass released her debut album in 2015. That year, Time Magazine called her an Artist to Watch, Pitchfork gave the album Best New Music, and Stereogum named it one of the Top Albums of the Year. In this episode, Natalie Prass takes apart a new song form 2018, called "Short Court Style," her first track to come out since that debut album.
28/02/2018 • 20 minutes 3 seconds
Moses Sumney - Quarrel
Moses Sumney is a singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. His first album, Aromanticism, came out in September 2017, but before that, he’d already worked with an impressive and diverse list of collaborators, from Sufjan Stevens, to Solange, to Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to Skrillex. That spirit continues with the song Moses takes apart in this episode, which has contributions from producer Cam O’bi, Paris Strother, and legendary bassist Thundercat.
14/02/2018 • 25 minutes 20 seconds
Bleachers - I Miss Those Days
Bleachers is the moniker of Jack Antonoff, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. He won two grammy awards as a member of the band fun., and another for his production work on Taylor Swift’s album 1989. He’s also co-written songs with St. Vincent, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lorde, Sia, and more.
In June 2017, Antonoff released his second album as Bleachers, Gone Now. In this episode, he breaks down a song from that album, called “I Miss Those Days" and traces the process of making it—from the original demo, to a version he discarded, to the final song.
31/01/2018 • 16 minutes 26 seconds
Julien Baker - Appointments
Julien Baker is from Memphis, Tennessee. She released her second album, Turn Out The Lights, in October 2017, on Matador Records. The New York Times called her music "devastating" and Pitchfork gave the album Best New Music. In this episode, Julien tells the story of her song "Appointments," and how writing it helped her work through her thoughts around addiction, depression, and relationships. Julien also takes apart the track "Over," which was written as part of Appointments, but then split off as a separate track.
17/01/2018 • 19 minutes 43 seconds
The Roots - It Ain't Fair (feat. Bilal)
Drummer Ahmir Thompson, also known as Questlove, and rapper Tariq Trotter, aka Black Thought, started The Roots when they were in high school in Philadelphia in 1987. Over the last thirty years, the band has released 17 albums. They’ve received a bunch Grammy nominations including three wins. They’re also the house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. In this episode, Questlove tells the story of how they made the song "It Ain’t Fair." It was created for the film Detroit, directed by oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow, who also made the films The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Detroit is about the 1967 Detroit riots, centered around the events at the Algiers Motel, where police killed three young black men and beat and tortured nine others. The Roots recruited the singer Bilal to contribute vocals to the song, and they worked with The Dap-Kings, the backing band for the late soul singer Sharon Jones, to create a sound that evoked the music of 1967.
03/01/2018 • 23 minutes 42 seconds
R.E.M - Try Not to Breathe
R.E.M. was formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 by singer Michael Stipe, bassist Mike Mills, guitarist Peter Buck, and drummer Bill Berry. They’ve won three Grammys, and have sold over 85 million records. In 1992, the band released their eighth album, Automatic for the People. In honor of the 25th anniversary of its release, in this episode, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills take apart the song, “Try Not to Breathe.”
20/12/2017 • 16 minutes
Nine Inch Nails - The Lovers
Trent Reznor started Nine Inch Nails in 1988. He released eight albums, sold over 20 million records, won two Grammys and was nominated for 11 more. Then, in 2010, Trent Reznor and his longtime collaborator Atticus Ross scored the film The Social Network, and they won an Oscar for it. A few years later, in 2016, Atticus Ross joined Nine Inch Nails as an official member. The duo’s most recent release is Add Violence, an EP, and in this episode, Trent and Atticus break down a song from it called “The Lovers.”
06/12/2017 • 23 minutes 15 seconds
Rachel Platten - Broken Glass
Rachel Platten is a singer and songwriter who’s released four albums, including her 2016 album Wildfire, which went Gold. The lead single from that album, “Fight Song,” was used prominently by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. For a normally apolitical artist, the sudden proximity to the election had profound effects, both positive and negative. In this episode, Rachel breaks down her song “Broken Glass," which was inspired by that experience, and written just days before the 2016 election.
08/11/2017 • 20 minutes 57 seconds
Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Stranger Things (Main Title Theme)
The show Stranger Things is a Netflix original series. It was first released in July 2016. Season two’s release date: October 27, 2017. After the first season, the show was nominated for 18 Emmys, and won the Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. The theme music, along with the rest of the show’s score, was composed by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon of the band SURVIVE. In this episode, they break down how they made the main title theme.
26/10/2017 • 11 minutes 24 seconds
TOKiMONSTA - Bibimbap
Los Angeles producer and beatmaker Jennifer Lee released her first album as TOKiMONSTA in 2010. She has released music on Flying Lotus's label Brainfeeder, and has collaborated with Kool Keith and Anderson .Paak, among others. Her newest album, Lune Rouge, was released in October 2017. In this episode, TOKiMONSTA breaks down her song "Bibimbap," which is named after a Korean dish.
18/10/2017 • 13 minutes 35 seconds
The Killers - Rut
The Killers formed in Las Vegas in 2001. Since then, they’ve released five records. Their newest album, Wonderful Wonderful, came out in September 2017. In this episode, singer Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci break down the song "Rut" from that album.
06/10/2017 • 18 minutes 28 seconds
Lorde - Sober
Lorde is a Grammy-award winning singer, songwriter, and producer. Her second album, Melodrama, debuted at number one on the charts in June 2017 – five months before her 21st birthday. In this episode, Ella breaks down her song “Sober.” You’ll hear how it started, with the original demos she made with her co-producer Jack Antonoff, and how the song changed over the course of working on it for months and months.
25/09/2017 • 19 minutes 4 seconds
Rostam - Bike Dream
Rostam Batmanglij is a songwriter, producer, and composer, who first rose to prominence in 2006 as one of the members of Vampire Weekend. He’s produced songs for Frank Ocean, Solange, Carly Rae Jepsen, and more. But his September 2017 album ‘Half-Light’ is his first as a solo artist. In this episode, Rostam breaks down his song “Bike Dream.” He explains how it was influenced in part by bands like T.Rex and Coldplay, but “Bike Dream” began very differently from how it ended up.
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14/09/2017 • 18 minutes 23 seconds
Ibeyi - Deathless
The band Ibeyi is made up of twin sisters Naomi Diaz, and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz. When they were only teenagers, they were signed to a record deal by Richard Russell, who had previously signed artists like Adele and Vampire Weekend to his label, XL. He also co-produces their records. In this episode, Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé take apart their 2017 song Deathless, featuring saxophonist Kamasi Washington.
05/09/2017 • 18 minutes 24 seconds
Maggie Rogers - Alaska
Maggie Rogers had a breakthrough moment when she was a student at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute. Pharrell Williams visited to her class, and when he heard her song "Alaska," his reaction was dramatic, and caught on video. The video of Pharrell listening to Maggie’s song went viral, and "Alaska" became a hit, with over 40 million streams on Spotify alone. Maggie Rogers is now playing sold out shows across the country, just a year after graduating. In this episode, Maggie tells the story of what came before that day in class—all the steps and missteps that eventually led to her writing the song "Alaska."
24/08/2017 • 20 minutes
St. Vincent - New York
Annie Clark grew up in Texas, studied the guitar, and moved to New York in the mid-2000s. She started recording and performing under the name St Vincent in 2006. She’s released five albums, and won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 2014. Earlier this year, in 2017, St Vincent released this song, called “New York,” partly inspired by the city and neighborhood she calls home, although nowadays, Annie splits her time between coasts, with a studio in Los Angeles. She collaborated on this song with Grammy-winning producer Jack Antonoff.
15/08/2017 • 16 minutes 2 seconds
Grizzly Bear - Four Cypresses
Between 2004 and 2012, Grizzly Bear put out four critically-acclaimed albums. Their newest album is called Painted Ruins, and it features this song, Four Cypresses. In this episode, two members of the band, Chris Taylor and Daniel Rossen, tell the story of how the song came together.
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03/08/2017 • 20 minutes 6 seconds
Phoenix - Ti Amo
Phoenix is a Grammy-winning band from Versailles, France. They started putting out music in 1999, and in June 2017, they released their sixth album, Ti Amo. In this episode, singer Thomas Mars and guitarist Laurent Brancowitz break down the song "Ti Amo," the title track from that album.
25/07/2017 • 22 minutes 9 seconds
Slowdive - Sugar for the Pill
Slowdive formed in 1989 in Reading, England. They put out 3 albums between 1991 and 1995, and their sound helped define the shoegaze genre. In 2017, the band released a critically-acclaimed self-titled album, their first in over twenty years. In this episode, singer and guitarist Neil Halstead takes apart the song “Sugar for the Pill.”
13/07/2017 • 15 minutes 22 seconds
Goapele - Stand
Goapele is a singer/songwriter from the Bay Area. She released her first album in 2001. Since then, she’s released five more albums and collaborated with Snoop Dogg. In 2017, on her album DreamSeeker, she put out the song "Stand." It was written in the wake of the shooting death of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man who was shot and killed while unarmed and handcuffed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer. The shooting took place in 2009. Coming up, Goapele tells the story of why it took 8 years for her to finish the song.
05/07/2017 • 15 minutes 54 seconds
Fleet Foxes - Mearcstapa
Fleet Foxes formed in Seattle, Washington in 2006. In 2011, they put out their second record, which was nominated for a Grammy, and then, the band went on hiatus. The lead singer and songwriter, Robin Pecknold, moved to New York to go to Columbia University. After six years, in 2017, the band returned with their third album, Crack-Up. And in this episode, Robin breaks down a song from that record called “Mearcstapa.”
22/06/2017 • 23 minutes 4 seconds
Michelle Branch - Best You Ever
Michelle Branch is a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. She released two platinum albums when she was still a teenager. Because those records were such huge hits, for a long time they defined her as an artist—for better or worse. Over a decade later, in 2017, Michelle put out her third album, Hopeless Romantic. In this episode, Michelle talks about why she was in musical limbo for so long, as she takes apart her song “Best You Ever."
14/06/2017 • 18 minutes 23 seconds
alt-J - In Cold Blood
Alt-J formed in Leeds, England in 2007. Their debut album won a Mercury Prize and their second was nominated for a Grammy. Their third album, Relaxer, came out in June 2017. In this episode, they break down “In Cold Blood,” from their new album.
02/06/2017 • 15 minutes 4 seconds
Michael Kiwanuka - Black Man in a White World
Michael Kiwanuka is a singer/songwriter from London. His second album, Love and Hate, came out in 2016, and was named one of the Best Albums of the Year from the BBC, NME, The Guardian, GQ, and more. One of the songs on the album was used as the theme for the hit HBO series Big Little Lies. In this episode, Michael breaks down the song "Black Man in a White World."
22/05/2017 • 19 minutes 35 seconds
Perfume Genius - Slip Away
Mike Hadreas has been making music under the name Perfume Genius since 2008. In May 2017, he put out his fourth album, No Shape to widespread critical acclaim. In this episode, Mike breaks down the song Slip Away. I also spoke with producer Blake Mills, who also plays on the track, and recording engineer Shawn Everett about the unusual way the song was recorded.
For more, visit songexploder.net/perfume-genius
11/05/2017 • 21 minutes 15 seconds
Little Dragon - Sweet
Little Dragon is a Grammy-nominated band from Gothenburg, Sweden. They formed in 1996, and they released their fifth album Season High in April 2017. In this episode, Yukimi Nagano and Erik Bodin from the band break down the song “Sweet.”
02/05/2017 • 15 minutes 1 second
Aimee Mann - Patient Zero
Aimee Mann is a Grammy- and Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter. In the 80s, she fronted the band Til Tuesday, and in 1993, she released her first solo album. In 2017, Aimee released her 9th album, Mental Illness, and in this episode, she tells the story of how the song "Patient Zero" was made. I talked to Aimee along with the song’s co-writer, Jonathan Coulton. The interview was recorded in front of a live audience, on board the JoCo Cruise, a music and comedy themed cruise organized by Jonathan Coulton.
21/04/2017 • 18 minutes 49 seconds
Gorillaz - Andromeda (feat. D.R.A.M.)
Gorillaz is the creation of musician Damon Albarn and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett. They’re a virtual band made up four animated characters. Their songs are written by Damon Albarn and a roster of collaborators. Since the first album was released in 2001, Gorillaz have sold over 16 million records worldwide. In this episode, Damon breaks down the song "Andromeda" from the 2017 Gorillaz album Humanz. It’s a dance song, but also an elegy to people in his life who he’s lost, like legendary soul singer Bobby Womack, a former Gorillaz collaborator. Andromeda features guest vocals by the rapper and singer D.R.A.M., whose own hit single, "Broccoli," went quadruple platinum in 2016. Coming up later, D.R.A.M. tells the story of how he got involved with this track, and Damon shares an exclusive clip of a scrapped version of the song with D.R.A.M. on lead vocals.
(This episode contains explicit language.)
11/04/2017 • 15 minutes 59 seconds
Norah Jones - Day Breaks
Since her debut in 2002, Norah Jones has sold over 50 million albums, and won 8 Grammys. She released Day Breaks, her sixth album, in 2016. In this episode, she takes apart the title track and details how all the pieces unexpectedly came together. You’ll hear her original demo for the song and how it was transformed in the studio, including a session with jazz saxophone legend Wayne Shorter. Plus, a few thoughts from Norah’s co-producer and longtime collaborator Sarah Oda.
30/03/2017 • 14 minutes 22 seconds
Dirty Projectors - Up in Hudson
Dave Longstreth started making music under the name Dirty Projectors in 2002, while he was in college. Since then, he’s released seven albums and collaborated with Bjork, Solange, and Kanye West, Paul McCartney, and Rihanna. And Dirty Projectors went from a solo project to a full-band, performing on TV, and at Carnegie Hall. Dave and one of his bandmates were in a relationship for much of that time, but then that relationship and the band broke up. In February 2017, with Dirty Projectors as solo project once again, Dave released a self-titled album, a breakup album, looking back on those years. In this episode, Dave breaks down the song "Up in Hudson," and the winding road he went down to create it.
21/03/2017 • 24 minutes 4 seconds
Sleigh Bells - I Can Only Stare
Sleigh Bells formed in 2008. They released their fourth album, Jessica Rabbit, in 2016. In this episode, Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller break down their song "I Can Only Stare." I interviewed the two of them in front of a live audience at the Kaufman Music Center in New York, as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival.
14/03/2017 • 14 minutes 26 seconds
Bonobo - Break Apart (feat. Rhye)
Simon Green is a producer and DJ who’s been making music under the name Bonobo since 2000. In January 2017 he released his sixth studio album, Migration. For the song “Break Apart," he enlisted Rhye to add vocals, and in this episode, the two of them tell the story of how the track came together.
28/02/2017 • 16 minutes 8 seconds
Sara Watkins - Without a Word
Sara Watkins began her music career when she was only 8 years old, as one of the founding members of the Grammy-award winning band Nickel Creek. In 2016, she released her third solo album, Young in all the Wrong Ways. In this episode, Sara breaks down her song "Without a Word." This interview was recorded in front of a live audience at the Chicago Podcast Festival.
17/02/2017 • 12 minutes 55 seconds
Dropkick Murphys - Blood
The band Dropkick Murphys formed in Boston in 1996. For over twenty years, they’ve made music that’s reflected the culture and community they’ve come from, including their platinum single "Shipping Up to Boston." In January 2017, they released the album "11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory," which includes the song Blood. In this episode, guitarist Tim Brennan breaks down how the music for Blood was made, and the band founder Ken Casey explains the inspiration behind the lyrics.
07/02/2017 • 17 minutes 35 seconds
Nicholas Britell - Moonlight
The film Moonlight tells the story of its main character, Chiron, in three chapters: when Chiron is a young boy, nicknamed Little, when he's a teenager, and when he's an adult, nicknamed Black. For each chapter of the film, composer Nicholas Britell created a theme, and in this episode, Nicholas takes those themes apart. The score for Moonlight was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, and the film itself won the Golden Globe for Best Drama.
30/01/2017 • 16 minutes 15 seconds
Solange - Cranes in the Sky
Solange Knowles released her first album in 2002, at the age of 16. Her third album, A Seat at the Table, came out in September 2016, and debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. It’s gotten widespread critical acclaim, including being named album of the year by Pitchfork and by Vibe. In this episode, Solange takes apart the song "Cranes in the Sky," which began back in 2008.
16/01/2017 • 25 minutes 4 seconds
Metallica - Moth into Flame
Metallica formed in 1981. They were teenagers. Since then, they’ve gone on to become one of the most successful bands of all time, selling over 110 million records worldwide. In November 2016, they released their tenth album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. In this episode, the song “Moth into Flame" gets taken apart by singer and guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich.
06/01/2017 • 17 minutes 26 seconds
Justin Hurwitz - La La Land
The film LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia, an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone, and Sebastian, a jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling, both of them struggling artists in Los Angeles. The musical was written and directed by Damien Chazelle in collaboration with composer Justin Hurwitz. It’s the third film they’ve made together, the follow-up to the Oscar-winning film Whiplash. In this episode, Justin Hurwitz breaks down a song from the film sung by Emma Stone; it’s called Audition (The Fools Who Dream). Plus, some thoughts from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the lyrics.
21/12/2016 • 19 minutes 36 seconds
DJ Shadow - Mutual Slump
In 1996, Josh Davis, aka DJ Shadow, released his first album, Endtroducing. It’s been hailed pretty much universally as one of the best albums of the 90s, and Time Magazine included in its top 100 Albums of all time. It changed hip-hop and electronic music, and helped define the trip-hop genre. Now, for the 20th anniversary of the release, DJ Shadow breaks down the song "Mutual Slump."
08/12/2016 • 15 minutes 6 seconds
Angel Olsen - Shut Up Kiss Me
Angel Olsen released her third album, My Woman, in September 2016. It’s been critically acclaimed, including Pitchfork’s Best New Music and NME’s best albums of the year. In this episode, Angel Olsen takes apart the song "Shut Up Kiss Me." She breaks down how she recorded it live in the studio with her band, and how she tried things with her voice that she’d never done before.
30/11/2016 • 12 minutes 57 seconds
Jóhann Jóhannsson - Arrival
In the film Arrival, Amy Adams plays a linguist trying to decode an alien language. The score was composed by Johann Johannsson, his third film collaborating with director Denis Villeneuve. In this episode, Johann breaks down a piece from the score called Heptapod B, and how, like the film, it revolves around the concept of language.
17/11/2016 • 14 minutes 3 seconds
Flatbush Zombies - Bounce
Flatbush Zombies are a hip hop trio from Brooklyn. They formed in 2010. Their album 3001: A Laced Odyssey came out in 2016, and debuted in the top ten on the Billboard charts. Erick the Architect is one of the three MCs in the band (along with Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice) and he's also the group's producer. In this episode, Erick breaks down how the song Bounce was made.
08/11/2016 • 11 minutes 22 seconds
Oathbreaker - 10:56 / Second Son of R.
The band Oathbreaker formed in 2008 in Belgium. In this episode, Caro and Gilles from the band break down the two-part song that opens their third album, Rheia. These two tracks, 10:56 and Second Son of R., were written and performed as one song. Coming up, they talk about how and why their sound transformed from a pure hardcore band to something more amalgamated, and Caro talks about her own evolution as a vocalist and a lyricist, writing candidly about her own past.
28/10/2016 • 20 minutes 54 seconds
James Vincent McMorrow - Get Low
James Vincent McMorrow is a singer/songwriter whose first albums fell somewhere on the folk music side of things. But his sound has changed over the years, incorporating elements of R&B and electronic music. On the album We Move, James worked with the producer Nineteen85, whose credits include tracks by Drake and Nicki Minaj. In this episode, James breaks down the song "Get Low" from that record and how it was inspired by Clipse, minimalism, and Los Angeles.
19/10/2016 • 14 minutes 37 seconds
Phantogram - You Don't Get Me High Anymore
Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter started Phantogram in 2007. They’ve worked on crafting a particular sound and they’ve had a particular way of making their dense productions since the beginning. But for their new record, Three, things changed. The song "You Don’t Get Me High Anymore" took the band outside of their comfort zone. And, in this episode, Sarah and Josh break down how they made the original demo, and how outsiders like The-Dream and co-producer Ricky Reed influenced the way the song ultimately turned out.
06/10/2016 • 16 minutes 7 seconds
Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks
In 2006, Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John released their third album, Writer’s Block. For months and months after that, it felt like you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing the first single from that album, "Young Folks." It was on top 10 lists for song of the year in places like Pitchfork and NME. It’s been covered by James Blunt, and remixed by Kanye West, along with countless other versions out there. Now, ten years later, Peter Bjorn and John break down the song and how it all came together, and how it almost didn’t come together at all.
21/09/2016 • 18 minutes 15 seconds
Mitski - Your Best American Girl
Mitski has been making records since 2012. Her third record, Puberty 2, came out in June 2016 and was critically acclaimed Pitchfork gave it Best New Music status. Her music has been featured in the tv show Adventure Time. In this episode, Mitski breaks down her song Your Best American Girl, along with her long-time collaborator Patrick Hyland.
07/09/2016 • 13 minutes 8 seconds
Tobacco - Gods in Heat
Tom Fec, aka Tobacco, has released four albums since 2008. He's also the frontman of the band Black Moth Super Rainbow, and he created the theme music for the HBO show Silicon Valley. In this episode, Tom breaks down his song "Gods in Heat" from his newest album, Sweatbox Dynasty, recorded entirely on cassette.
More at songexploder.net/tobacco.
25/08/2016 • 12 minutes 14 seconds
Andra Day - Forever Mine
Singer/songwriter Andra Day put out her first record in August 2015. Since then, she’s been invited by the Obamas to perform at the White House on multiple occasions, and the record was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B album. In this episode, Andra breaks down her song Forever Mine along with the track’s producer, Rob Kleiner.
15/08/2016 • 12 minutes 51 seconds
Patrick Carney feat. Ralph Carney - BoJack Horseman (Main Title Theme)
BoJack Horseman is a Netflix original series, an animated comedy about a washed up 90s sitcom star who's trying to figure out his life and career without drowning in self-loathing and existential despair. It won the 2016 Critics Choice award for best animated series. The theme song for the show was created by Patrick Carney, who is one half of The Black Keys, and his uncle, Ralph Carney, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked artists like Tom Waits, St Vincent, The B-52s, Galaxie 500, and a lot more. But the track wasn't written for the show, originally; it was just something that Patrick and Ralph made without knowing what it was for. In this episode, the two break down how the song was created, and how it went from their long-distance collaboration to become a TV theme song.
04/08/2016 • 14 minutes 3 seconds
Band of Horses - Solemn Oath
Band of Horses released their 5th album in June 2016. In this episode, the band’s frontman, Ben Bridwell breaks down the song Solemn Oath, and how in the process of writing it, he confronted writer’s block, and balancing his life in the band and at home as a husband and father.
25/07/2016 • 13 minutes 43 seconds
Grimes - Kill V. Maim
Grimes is the project of Claire Boucher. In 2015, she released Art Angels, her 4th album. In this episode, she breaks down her song Kill V. Maim, her feelings about singing, and how the experience of writing songs for other artists opened up the way she writes for herself.
14/07/2016 • 12 minutes 37 seconds
Andrew Bird - Roma Fade
Andrew Bird is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, maybe known best for his violin playing and his whistling. In this episode, Andrew breaks down his song Roma Fade, from the 2016 album Are You Serious?
05/07/2016 • 13 minutes 46 seconds
CHVRCHES - Clearest Blue
CHVRCHES is a trio from Glasgow, Scotland. In this episode, they break down the song "Clearest Blue," from their sophomore album Every Open Eye. You'll hear the band's original demo as well as why they start songs with a set of rules, but then quickly abandon those rules.
23/06/2016 • 13 minutes 17 seconds
ODESZA - Kusanagi
In September 2014, Odesza put out their album In Return. It debuted at #1 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic charts, and spent 13 weeks in the top 10. But the song Kusanagi isn't a dance track. It slows down the pace of the album, and in this episode, Clay and Harrison of Odesza explain why. They tell the story of how they made the track, along with their friend and collaborator who they named the song after, Sean Kusanagi. This episode was recorded live at Moogfest in Durham, North Carolina.
14/06/2016 • 12 minutes 34 seconds
Old Crow Medicine Show - Dearly Departed Friend
Old Crow Medicine Show is a six-piece band from Tennessee, who have been around since 1998. They were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2013, and they won the Grammy for Best Folk Album in 2015, for their record Remedy. In this episode, bandleader Ketch Secor tells the story of how they made "Dearly Departed Friend," one of the songs from Remedy.
29/05/2016 • 17 minutes 56 seconds
Busdriver - Worlds to Run
Busdriver is a rapper from Los Angeles, and since 2001, he's been releasing albums with a signature hyperliterate, intellectual style. But over a decade later, Busdriver has found himself reaching for something more intimate and personal. In this episode, he breaks down the 2015 song "Worlds to Run," along with the track's producer, Kenny Segal. It features guest vocals from Anderson Paak and Milo, and you'll hear how their contributions shaped Busdriver's vision for the song.
24/05/2016 • 16 minutes 44 seconds
Carly Rae Jepsen - When I Needed You
Carly Rae Jepsen released her third album, Emotion, in 2015. The closing track on the record is When I Needed You. In this episode, Carly tells the story of how the song was made. You'll hear the first demo for the song, a version she co-wrote with her longtime collaborator Tavish Crowe. And you'll hear how that led to the album version. Plus, producer Ariel Rechtshaid breaks down some of the parts that he created for the recording.
09/05/2016 • 15 minutes 32 seconds
The Lumineers - Ophelia
The Lumineers released their second album on April 8, 2016. Their first album went platinum, and they spent months touring relentlessly in support of it. That schedule took a toll on their relationship, but they ended up putting it into their songs. In this episode, Wes and Jeremiah break down their song “Ophelia." You’ll hear their demos and a version that didn’t make it to the album. They’ll explain how the final track is not just a product of what they put into it, but what they decided to leave out.
This episode is sponsored by SeatGeek and Lagunitas Brewing Company.
28/04/2016 • 15 minutes 42 seconds
Weezer - Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori
Weezer's 10th album, the self-titled "White" album, came out April 1, 2016. In this episode, Rivers Cuomo breaks down the meticulous process of making the song "Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori," through the different demo versions that the track went through, and the array of spreadsheets that he uses collect, analyze, and harvest his ideas.
18/04/2016 • 20 minutes 56 seconds
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down - Astonished Man
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down released the album A Man Alive in March 2016. In this episode, Thao Nguyen breaks down the song "Astonished Man." Thao talks about working with Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards, who produced the album, and she speaks candidly about her relationship with her estranged father, the subject of the song.
05/04/2016 • 14 minutes 15 seconds
Iggy Pop - American Valhalla
Iggy Pop is a pioneer of punk rock, whose legendary career began over fifty years ago. In 2015, he began collaborating on music with Joshua Homme, of Queens of the Stone Age. The result was Iggy Pop’s 23rd album, Post Pop Depression. In this episode, Iggy and Josh break down the song "American Valhalla," and tell the story of how it was shaped by reverb, opera, and the military.
22/03/2016 • 15 minutes 52 seconds
Oneohtrix Point Never - Sticky Drama
Daniel Lopatin has been making experimental electronic music as Oneohtrix Point Never since 2007. In this episode, he takes apart the song "Sticky Drama," from his 2015 album Garden of Delete. He breaks down how he created artificial voices using software for the vocals, and how he sees his songs as pieces of science fiction.
This episode is sponsored by Loma Vista Recordings, Slack, and Moogfest. To win a pair of tickets to Moogfest, enter here.
10/03/2016 • 15 minutes 52 seconds
KT Tunstall - Suddenly I See
Singer/songwriter KT Tunstall released her debut album in 2004. It was nominated for a Mercury Prize. The song "Suddenly I See" from that record was a hit on the radio and it’s been used in the soundtracks of big movies and television shows. But the song was originally written back before KT Tunstall had a record deal, when she was a struggling street musician, living in a small apartment in North London. In this episode, which was recorded live at the Sundance Film Festival, KT breaks down how she made the song, with help from producer Steve Osborne.
This episode is sponsored by Squarespace, MeUndies, and Lagunitas Brewing Company.
01/03/2016 • 12 minutes 48 seconds
Clipping - Work Work
Clipping is a trio made up of producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, and rapper Daveed Diggs. You might be familiar with Daveed’s voice from his roles as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. But in Clipping, the whole band takes on different roles, playing with different tropes and genres within hip-hop, but setting up these strict overarching rules for how they make their music. In this episode, the three of them break down how they made their song "Work Work," featuring guest vocals from rapper Cocc Pistol Cree.
This episode is sponsored by Slack and MeUndies.
18/02/2016 • 13 minutes 27 seconds
The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers
The New Pornographers are kind of a supergroup, with seven members in the band, including Neko Case and Dan Bejar, who are both acclaimed songwriters with their own successful solo careers. But the band is led by Carl Newman, and in this episode, he breaks down the title song from their sixth album Brill Bruisers. Plus you'll hear some thoughts from bassist and co-producer John Collins. My interview with Carl Newman was recorded live at the Greene Space at WNYC.
09/02/2016 • 10 minutes 50 seconds
Kelela - Rewind
Kelela is a singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. In 2015, she released Hallucinogen, and landed on critics' lists in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Pitchfork, and more. In this episode, Kelela takes apart her song Rewind. To make the track, she worked with five different producers, picking and choosing each for what they could best contribute to her overall vision for the song. This interview was recorded live in San Francisco, at Fusion's Real Future Fair.
This episode is sponsored by Parachute (use code SONGEXPLODER for $25 off).
28/01/2016 • 14 minutes 54 seconds
MGMT - Time to Pretend
MGMT was formed by Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden in 2001. The song Time to Pretend was one they wrote early in their career. It first came out on their debut: the Time to Pretend EP in 2005. And three years after that, they put out a new version of the song, on their first full-length album, Oracular Spectactular, which was named album of the year by NME and was one of Rolling Stone's top 20 albums of the decade. It went on to sell over a million copies worldwide. In this episode, Ben and Andrew trace how the song Time to Pretend was made, from its dorm room origins, to its first recording, to re-envisioning it with Grammy-winning producer Dave Fridmann. They also uncover the hidden sounds and easter eggs within the recording.
19/01/2016 • 15 minutes 20 seconds
Courtney Barnett - Depreston
Courtney Barnett released her debut album in March 2015. By the end of the year, she had been nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist, Spin named her the Songwriter of the Year, and she won four ARIA Music Awards in her native Australia. In this episode, Courtney Barnett breaks down the song "Depreston," which began with a visit to an open house, on a househunting trip she took in the town of Preston.
07/01/2016 • 16 minutes 40 seconds
Björk - Stonemilker
In January 2015, Björk released Vulnicura. She described it as "a complete heartbreak album." And in November, she released Vulnicura Strings, a companion album that stripped away the electronics. In this episode, Björk breaks down the making of both the original version of the song "Stonemilker," as well as the strings version. She traces her writing and recording process for the track, her collaboration with the electronic producer Arca, and why she wanted to make a second version.
This episode is sponsored by Hover, Lagunitas Brewing Company, and Turntable Lab.
17/12/2015 • 18 minutes 44 seconds
Dustin O'Halloran - Transparent (Main Title Theme)
Transparent is an Amazon original series, created by Jill Soloway. The story centers on a family where the father, played by Jeffrey Tambor, comes out to his children and the to world at large as transgender. The first season was released in September 2014. It was critically acclaimed and won a lot of awards, including an Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music. In this episode, composer Dustin O’Halloran breaks down how he made the Transparent theme, using an 80-year old piano and channeling his own family nostalgia.
This episode is sponsored by Hover, Lagunitas Brewing Company, and MeUndies.
11/12/2015 • 10 minutes 35 seconds
Wilco - Magnetized
Wilco formed in 1994, and 21 years later, they released their 9th album, Star Wars. In this episode, Jeff Tweedy, the band’s singer and principal songwriter, breaks down the song Magnetized. In addition to collaborating with his five bandmates, John Stirrit, Pat Sansone, Mike Jorgensen, Nels Cline, and Glenn Kotche, it turns out Jeff Tweedy makes an active effort to remove his own ego from the process of songwriting.
This episode is sponsored by Vinyl Me Please, Turntable Lab, and lynda.com.
03/12/2015 • 13 minutes 47 seconds
Natalia Lafourcade - Hasta la Raíz
Natalia Lafourcade has won eight Latin Grammys, including three for the song Hasta la Raíz, which won the 2015 Song of the Year and Record of the Year, as well as Best Alternative Song. In this episode, Natalia breaks down the writing and recording process for the track, which borrows from a traditional Mexican folk music called huapango, but also still includes a Juno synthesizer and a pop sensibility.
This episode is sponsored by Lagunitas Brewing Company, Larsen & Lund, and MeUndies.
23/11/2015 • 13 minutes 45 seconds
Youth Lagoon - The Knower
Youth Lagoon is the moniker of Trevor Powers, who has been releasing albums under the name since 2011. In this episode, Trevor breaks down “The Knower,” the lead single from his newest record, Savage Hills Ballroom. He talks about how the idea for the song started by manipulating sampled vocals, and how he flew to Bristol to record the album with producer Ali Chant.
This episode is sponsored by Hover (use offer code LAGOON), Sony Legacy Recordings presenting the new Bob Dylan Box set, andMeUndies.
16/11/2015 • 12 minutes 20 seconds
The Arcs - Put a Flower in Your Pocket
The Arcs is a new project from Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. He started the band with some of the musicians and producers he's worked with over the years. For this episode, Dan and his bandmates Richard Swift and Leon Michels break down how they made the song Put a Flower in Your Pocket, and how its title was inspired by a three-year-old girl.
Plus: the story behind the Radiotopia logo, and the sounds that went into making it.
This episode is sponsored by Hover (use promo code POCKET), MeUndies, and lynda.com.
05/11/2015 • 11 minutes 31 seconds
Chet Faker - Gold
Chet Faker is the stage name of Australian singer and songwriter Nick Murphy. His debut album, Built on Glass, won five ARIA Awards, Australia’s version of the Grammys, including Best Male Artist, Producer of the Year, and Best Independent Album. In this episode, Nick breaks down the song Gold from that album, and traces the journey it took from a dream, to a cover, to a love song.
This episode is sponsored by iZotope Spire, Dropbox for Business, and Lagunitas Brewing Company.
26/10/2015 • 14 minutes 17 seconds
Harry Gregson-Williams - The Martian
In the film "The Martian," astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars, forced to rely on science and his ingenuity in order to survive. The film opened at #1 at the box office, and has earned critical praise as well. In this episode, composer Harry Gregson-Williams breaks down his music from the film, where part of his job was to score the excitement of scientific discovery and the grandeur and mystery of Mars itself.
15/10/2015 • 14 minutes 20 seconds
Deradoorian - A Beautiful Woman
Angel Deradoorian has been a member of the bands Dirty Projectors and Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks, and has contributed to albums by Vampire Weekend, Flying Lotus, and Brandon Flowers. This year she released her first full-length album as Deradoorian, The Expanding Flower Planet. In this episode, Angel breaks down the album's lead single, "A Beautiful Woman." After leaving the Dirty Projectors, Angel moved from the east coast to Los Angeles to focus on her own solo music. She talks about how "A Beautiful Woman" was inspired by the loneliness of moving across the country, overcoming creative self-doubt, and transitioning from a secondary role in other bands to the main role of songwriter and producer for her debut album.
This episode is sponsored by Hover (use offer code ANGEL), Lynda.com, and <a href="https://lagunitas.com/" rel="nofollow" ta
05/10/2015 • 15 minutes 7 seconds
The Magnetic Fields - Andrew in Drag
Stephin Merritt has fronted the band The Magnetic Fields for over twenty-five years. In this episode, he breaks down the song "Andrew in Drag" from the band’s latest album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, even though he doesn't actually remember writing it. After releasing his triple-album 69 Love Songs to huge acclaim in 1999, Stephin stopped using synthesizers for the next three Magnetic Fields albums. He talks about why he stopped, and why started using them again, and why he doesn’t write down his melodies.
This episode is sponsored by Spire Recorder by iZotope; Merge Records (use code SONGEXPLODER at checkout for 20% off); and Audible.com (go to audiblepodcast.com/exploder for a free audioboo
24/09/2015 • 13 minutes 19 seconds
Joey Bada$$ - Hazeus View
Joey Bada$$ released his debut album on January 20, 2015: his 20th birthday. It hit the Top 5 on the Billboard charts. For the track "Hazeus View," he worked with Kirk Knight, another member of the Pro Era hip-hop collective. In this episode, the two of them break down the process of making "Hazeus View," how the lyrics reflect Joey’s wide-angle take on religion, and how the beat was inspired by DJ Premier and a beat he made for the Biggie song "Ten Crack Commandments."
15/09/2015 • 13 minutes 13 seconds
American Football - The One With The Tambourine
The band American Football formed in 1997, and released only one album and an EP before breaking up about three years later. Their critically acclaimed debut went on to achieve cult status as one of the most influential records of the '90s, and was reissued as a deluxe double-LP last year.
In this episode, Mike Kinsella, Steve Holmes, and Steve Lamos of American Football break down the first song they wrote together, "The One with the Tambourine," from their self-titled EP. They talk about being influenced by the Chicago music scene of the '90s, and how they combined alternative tunings, unconventional time signatures, and naiveté to craft their sound.
This episode is sponsored by Hover, Lynda.com, and Lagunitas Brewing Company.
03/09/2015 • 13 minutes 11 seconds
Best Coast - Feeling Ok
In this episode, Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno of the band Best Coast take apart their song "Feeling Ok," from the 2015 album California Nights. They trace their process and their influences, from the movie "10 Things I Hate About You" to the video game Rock Band. Plus, we'll hear from producer Wally Gagel.
This episode is sponsored by Hover (use the offer code BESTCOAST), Simple, and Lagunitas Brewing Company.
27/08/2015 • 12 minutes 19 seconds
HEALTH - Stonefist
The band HEALTH formed in Los Angeles in 2005. Their newest record, Death Magic, came out in 2015. They spent four years trying to make it. They describe themselves as a noise band, but for this record, they reinvented their palette and their process. In this episode, John and Jake from HEALTH take apart the song Stonefist, which they made with their bandmates, Jupiter Keyes and BJ Miller.
This episode is sponsored by Hover, Lagunitas Brewing Company, and Simple.
18/08/2015 • 10 minutes 53 seconds
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-Love
Multi-Love is the title track from the 2015 album by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. In this episode, Ruban Nielson tells the story of how he made the song with help from his brother Kody Nielson, and how it was influenced by Romeo and Juliet, Questlove, and a broken synthesizer.
This episode is sponsored by Hover, Lagunitas Brewing Company, and Simple.
10/08/2015 • 13 minutes 30 seconds
Thundercat - Them Changes
Thundercat is the alter-ego of bassist and singer-songwriter Stephen Bruner. He’s played bass for both Suicidal Tendencies and Erykah Badu and went on to help shape Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp a Butterfly.' In this episode, Thundercat will break down the song "Them Changes" off his new mini-album. Thundercat co-produced the track with long-time collaborator Flying Lotus, with Kamasi Washington on saxophone.
This episode is sponsored by Hover, Lagunitas Brewing Company, and Simple.
30/07/2015 • 12 minutes 6 seconds
Death Cab for Cutie - El Dorado
Death Cab for Cutie released Kintsugi, their 8th album, on March 31, 2015. The song El Dorado, like other songs on the record, was written in the wake of the divorce between the band's lead singer Ben Gibbard and actress Zooey Deschanel. In this episode, Ben talks about the metaphor of the city of El Dorado and how it fit the story he wanted to tell, about separation, unrealized dreams, and Culver City. Plus, he explains how a few pieces of equipment - a Fender Mustang, a Rhythm Master drum machine, and the VoiceLive unit - ended up shaping the creative process.
This episode is sponsored by Hover, Frank and Oak, and Lagunitas Brewing Company.
20/07/2015 • 11 minutes 57 seconds
Sylvan Esso - Coffee
Sylvan Esso has two members, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, who met while they were both working on other projects. Amelia asked Nick to do a remix of a song by the band she was in at the time, and when that remix was done, they both loved how it turned out. They emailed song ideas back and forth for a while, until they found a time to be in the same place. It was at that point that they first started working on the song, "Coffee." In this episode, Nick and Amelia talk about the origins of the sounds and lyrics within the song, from a Little Tikes xylophone to "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells.
08/07/2015 • 11 minutes 32 seconds
U2 - Cedarwood Road
10 Cedarwood Road is the address of Bono’s childhood home in Dublin. For the U2 song "Cedarwood Road," Bono looked back to his life there as a teenager, when skinhead culture seeped into his neighborhood via the Seven Towers, housing projects that were built around that time. In this episode, Bono traces the arc from those memories to the lyrics of "Cedarwood Road," and The Edge breaks down the process of how the music was written, with the original demo and the isolated tracks from the final recording.
29/06/2015 • 14 minutes 50 seconds
Will Butler - Anna
Will Butler is a member of the band Arcade Fire, and he co-wrote the score for the film Her, which earned him an Oscar nomination. In March 2015, he put out his first solo album, Policy, and in this episode, he breaks down the song "Anna" from that record.
22/06/2015 • 11 minutes 59 seconds
Ramin Djawadi - Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in April 2011 and became the most watched show in HBO's history. The main title theme was written by Emmy-nominated composer Ramin Djawadi. In this episode, he'll break down the different elements in the piece, and how themes within the show inspired his composition and choice of instruments.
11/06/2015 • 10 minutes 37 seconds
Brian Tyler - Avengers: Age of Ultron
The title card for Avengers: Age of Ultron comes up twelve minutes into the movie. Against a black background, the Avengers logo takes up almost the entire screen. You might expect a triumphant, heroic piece of music, but the film called for something more complicated. Coming up, you'll hear why, and how composer Brian Tyler tackled that piece of score, in his third feature for Marvel Studios. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with the London Philharmonic, with Brian himself conducting.
29/05/2015 • 8 minutes 11 seconds
tUnE-yArDs - Water Fountain
In this episode, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs breaks down "Water Fountain." It's a song that draws inspiration from the politics of drought and dancehall reggae, and you'll hear how (and why) she tried to make this song less catchy. Despite that effort, in 2014 the tUnE-yArDs album Nikki Nack climbed the Billboard Charts and got widespread critical praise.
18/05/2015 • 14 minutes 6 seconds
My Morning Jacket - Spring (Among the Living)
Jim James is the lead singer of the Grammy-nominated band My Morning Jacket. Since starting in 1998, they've put out six albums, and in this episode, Jim breaks down the song Spring (Among The Living), from their soon-to-be released seventh album, The Waterfall.
23/04/2015 • 13 minutes 8 seconds
Toro y Moi - Half Dome
Over the past five years, Chaz Bundick, aka Toro y Moi, has made music that's spanned a range of genres and styles. On his newest album, What For?, he shifted styles again. In this episode, Chaz explains why. He'll break down the song Half Dome, named after a landmark in Yosemite National Park that's a popular hike, but also a difficult one.
14/04/2015 • 10 minutes 37 seconds
RJD2 - Games You Can Win (feat. Kenna)
RJD2 has been making music since 2002. His song "A Beautiful Mine" was turned into the opening credits music for Mad Men. He's a producer and beatmaker, but also a singer and songwriter. But for the vocals on the song "Games You Can Win," he tapped Kenna, a Grammy-nominee whom Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in Blink. In this episode, you’ll get to hear the parts that make up the track, as well as the unreleased demo vocals that RJ originally recorded himself.
01/04/2015 • 13 minutes 31 seconds
How to Dress Well - Pour Cyril
In an interview with Belgian filmmakers the Dardenne brothers, talking about the kinds of stories they tell, Luc Dardenne says, "Human suffering; that interests us very much." It also interests Tom Krell, a songwriter and producer who goes by the name How to Dress Well. After seeing one of the Dardenne brothers films, The Kid with a Bike, he was inspired to make the song "Pour Cyril." In this episode, he'll dig deep into that where that inspiration led him, from transformations within the song, to within the film, and within himself.
25/03/2015 • 13 minutes 29 seconds
White Hinterland - Ring the Bell
Casey Dienel is a producer, singer, and songwriter who goes by the name White Hinterland. In this episode, she'll break down her song Ring the Bell. To make it, she had to break out of her comfort zone of working alone and reach to other people. She got a little unexpected help from Beyonce.
13/03/2015 • 14 minutes 1 second
Warpaint - Love Is to Die
In 2013, Warpaint starting working on their sophomore album. They retreated away from their home in Los Angeles to the nearby desert oasis of Joshua Tree, California. There, they wrote the song "Love Is to Die," and it was decided that it would be the single from the record. Now, with over 6 million plays on Spotify and nearly 3 million more on YouTube, "Love Is to Die" is by some measures their most popular song. Designating it as the single was a decision that was easy to make early on, but it was also carried unforeseen consequences for the band. In this episode, three of the four members break down the sounds in the song, and weigh in on some of the difficulty they faced getting this track from the initial idea to the finished recording.
03/03/2015 • 13 minutes 33 seconds
Jeremy Zuckerman - The Legend of Korra
In 2005, Nickelodeon premiered an animated series called Avatar: The Last Airbender, about a young boy and his friends who have to keep peace and balance in the world. It combined fantasy and martial arts, and ran for four seasons, won an Emmy and a Peabody, and in 2012, spawned a sequel called The Legend of Korra. This time, the story was about a girl, Korra, a teenager, and just as the characters were older and the world they inhabited was older, the themes of the show matured as well. In December 2014, after 4 seasons of its own, the series and franchise aired its finale. It made headlines for the final shot of the very last scene. Composer Jeremy Zuckerman used a mix of Chinese and western instruments for the series. In this episode, he deconstructs the music he wrote that scene, reflects on its significance, and also what it felt like to close the curtain on a franchise he'd been working on over the course of twelve years of his life.
20/02/2015 • 13 minutes 5 seconds
The Long Winters - The Commander Thinks Aloud
On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart while reentering the earth's atmosphere. John Roderick, singer and songwriter of The Long Winters, wrote "The Commander Thinks Aloud" about that fateful moment. This episode was made from an interview I did with John Roderick in front of a live audience in Seattle, where we discussed how and why he made this song.
30/01/2015 • 19 minutes 35 seconds
Blonde Redhead - Penultimo
The band Blonde Redhead formed in 1993. Twenty-one years later, in 2014, the trio released their 9th album, and in this episode, they deconstruct Penultimo, a song from that record that caused some dissent between the band members. At the heart of the controversy was the Pitchfactor effect pedal by Eventide, a harmonizer that does a lot, or maybe too much. Coming up, you'll hear how tricky it was to begin this song, as well as finish it.
19/01/2015 • 12 minutes 12 seconds
Ghostface Killah - The Battlefield
In November 2014, Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan released his 11th album, called 36 Seasons. A lot of people worked on it: soul band The Revelations served as a kind of house backing band for the whole thing. Lil' Fame from M.O.P. and engineer Daniel Schlett helped produce, and there's a host of guest vocalists, including the ones on this track: singer Tré Williams, and rappers AZ and Kool G Rap. But the person who put the whole thing together, came up with the idea, and corralled all of these contributors is someone who doesn't appear on the record. His name is Bob Perry, and his title is A&R, which stands for artist and repertoire. Nowadays, that usually means the person at a record label who acts as a talent scout for new artists, but back in the day, the A&R reps were often responsible for much more. In this episode, Bob Perry talks about how the Ghostface song "The Battlefield" came together, and Revelations guitarist Wes Mingus breaks down how the beat was assemb
07/01/2015 • 16 minutes 29 seconds
The National - Sea of Love
The National formed in 1999. They've released six albums, and have been nominated for a grammy. Their music is everywhere from Game of Thrones, to Bob's Burgers, to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. In 2013 they released their sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts. The band is made up of singer Matt Berninger along with two sets of brothers: guitarists Bryce and Aaron Dessner, who are twins, and Brian and Scott Devendorf, who play drums and bass, respectively. In this episode, Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner break down "Sea of Love," a song that they co-wrote. You'll hear how it went from Aaron's original guitar demo to a densely layered recording with contributions from their bandmates and others, and they'll talk about how collaboration is an intrinsic part of their process and their band identity.
22/12/2014 • 16 minutes 37 seconds
Tycho - Awake
Tycho is the project of designer-turned-musician Scott Hansen, along with guitarist Zac Brown and drummer Rory O'Connor. For this episode, which was recorded in front of a live audience in San Francisco, Scott breaks down the title track from the 2014 Tycho album Awake, including a note he misplayed, and a vocal part you aren't really supposed to know about.
08/12/2014 • 11 minutes 40 seconds
Stars - No One Is Lost
Stars is a band from Toronto, who have been making music together since 2000. Their seventh album was released in October 2014. For this episode, I spoke to several members of the band: singer Amy Millan over the phone, and to Evan and Patty in their studio in Toronto along with their co-producer Liam O’Neil. In this episode, they talk about the inspiration for the phrase No One Is Lost, which is the title of this song as well as the album. And you’ll hear the original version of the chorus: one that they wrote, recorded, mixed, and finished but then, ended up changing completely.
26/11/2014 • 11 minutes 47 seconds
The Books - Smells Like Content
Before The Books broke up, they released four albums that combined composed music and found sounds. In this episode, Nick Zammuto explains how he crafted the song Smells Like Content, off of their 2005 album Lost and Safe, out of unlikely sources, like geometry, chance encounters, and a corrugated PVC pipe.
12/11/2014 • 15 minutes 51 seconds
Julia Holter - Horns Surrounding Me
Julia Holter studied composition, and in the song Horns Surrounding Me, she arranges not only acoustic and electronic instruments, but also layers of ambient field recordings and background noise. The song was released in 2013 on her acclaimed album Loud City Song. In this episode, Julia deconstructs the recording, and talks about what she did to evoke a feeling of fear in both the music and the way she sang, changing her voice on different parts of the song to create character and texture.
29/10/2014 • 13 minutes 27 seconds
Valley Lodge - Go
Dave Hill is a comedian and host of his own podcast which, like Song Exploder, is on the Maximum Fun network. He's also the frontman of the band Valley Lodge. In this episode, Dave will deconstruct the Valley Lodge song Go, which you might recognize as the opening credits of the HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. This is a special episode produced for MaxFunWeek, seven days of celebrating the community of listeners and shows that make up the Maximum Fun podcast network.
15/10/2014 • 13 minutes 3 seconds
RAC - Let Go (feat. Kele & MNDR)
Andre Allen Anjos is better known as RAC, a musician who first found success by remixing other people's songs. His remixes for artists like Lana Del Rey have gotten millions of plays online. In 2013, RAC released Strangers, his first album of original material, and in this episode, he breaks down the song Let Go from that record. It features guest vocals from Kele, best known as the frontman of the band Bloc Party, and singer MNDR, who also talks about her experience working on the track.
01/10/2014 • 14 minutes 20 seconds
The Thermals - No Culture Icons
The Thermals originally began as Hutch Harris's solo recording project. He sang and played all the instruments on the 2003 Thermals record More Parts Per Million. In this episode, Hutch breaks down his lo-fi recording of the song No Culture Icons. The track was later mixed by Chris Walla, who's known best for his work with Death Cab for Cutie, and we’ll hear some thoughts from him as well. I spoke with Hutch in front of a live audience at the XOXO Festival in Portland, Oregon.
18/09/2014 • 13 minutes 40 seconds
Anamanaguchi - Prom Night
In addition to guitars, drums, and bass, the band Anamanaguchi makes their music with the 8-bit sounds that were built into Nintendo video game consoles made in the 1980s. They use software called a tracker to meticulously sequence and produce those sounds. Most of their music is instrumental, but in this episode, they break down one of the first times they’ve incorporated vocals, for the song Prom Night, which features singer Bianca Raquel. Prom Night is from their most recent album, Endless Fantasy, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart when it came out in 2013.
02/09/2014 • 13 minutes 4 seconds
Spoon - Inside Out
Spoon was formed in 1993 by singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno. They've released eight albums, including their most recent record, They Want My Soul, which came out in August 2014. In this episode, Jim Eno breaks down the song Inside Out, explaining how it went from the original demo to the finished album version, including what other music influenced the recording. Plus, we'll hear from their co-producer, Dave Fridmann, whose other credits include The Flaming Lips album The Soft Bulletin, and Oracular Spectacular by MGMT.
19/08/2014 • 16 minutes 35 seconds
Brian Reitzell - Watch Dogs
In May 2014, the video game company Ubisoft released Watch Dogs, about a vigilante hacker in Chicago in the near future. Here's how the game is described on their website: "You play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug, whose criminal past led to a violent family tragedy. While seeking justice for those events, you'll monitor and hack those around you." It sold over 4 million copies in its first week of release. The music for the game was made by Brian Reitzell, who played drums in the bands Air and Red Kross before becoming a composer and music supervisor for films like Lost In Translation and Beginners. He also creates the music for the NBC television show Hannibal. In this episode, Brian talks about the unique challenges posed by scoring video games, where players control what happens on screen and as a result, what happens in the music. He'll break down a piece called Donovan, which he wrote for a chase sequence within the game. He also describes the instrument he
06/08/2014 • 17 minutes 6 seconds
Open Mike Eagle - Dark Comedy Morning Show (feat. Toy Light)
In this episode, rapper Open Mike Eagle talks about making the song Dark Comedy Morning Show, along with the track's producer, Walker Ashby, aka Toy Light. Mike breaks down how Toy Light's original instrumental version of this song inspired him, and how his view of his own vocals on the track has changed since recording them.
15/07/2014 • 11 minutes 6 seconds
The Microphones - I Want Wind to Blow
In the fall of 2001, Phil Elverum released the album The Glow Pt 2 on K Records. Pitchfork named it the best album of the year. In this episode, Phil recounts how he created the first song on the record at Dub Narcotic Studio. He spoke with me from his home in Anacortes, Washington, about his love of being alone in the studio, evoking nature through music, and where the name The Microphones came from. Plus a few words from Calvin Johnson, the founder of K Records. This episode is presented in conjunction with The Creators Project.
01/07/2014 • 17 minutes 34 seconds
Converge - Dark Horse
The band Converge formed in 1990, when its members were teenagers. They've been making music that lives somewhere in the intersection of punk, hardcore, and metal for almost 25 years. Guitarist Kurt Ballou spoke to me from his studio GodCity, which is where Converge writes and records. I also spoke over the phone with singer Jake Bannon. Coming up, they'll talk about how the physical space of GodCity influenced their songwriting, how the Boston hardcore scene gave them a home, and how to get the classic Swedish death metal guitar tone.
19/06/2014 • 12 minutes 33 seconds
Nite Jewel - One Second of Love
In this episode, we'll get a deconstructed view of the song One Second of Love by Nite Jewel. I spoke to Ramona Gonzalez of Nite Jewel and her partner and producer Cole MGN in their home studio in Los Angeles as they took a break from making a new record. Coming up, they'll talk about the process they undertook, including recording to tape as a creative restriction, and collaborating with their friends and each other.
02/06/2014 • 14 minutes 26 seconds
Garbage - Felt
The band Garbage formed in 1994 when three guys from Madison Wisconsin — Butch Vig, Steve Marker, and Duke Erikson, met Scottish singer Shirley Manson. Twenty years later, they've sold over 17 million records worldwide. In this episode, we'll get a view inside their 2012 song "Felt" from the album "Not Your Kind of People." Butch Vig, who is also a legendary producer behind some of the most influential albums of all time like Nevermind by Nirvana, Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins, Dirty by Sonic Youth, and countless others, spoke to me from his home studio in Los Angeles. I also interviewed Shirley Manson separately to get her insight on how the song was made. Plus some thoughts from their longtime engineer and now co-producer Billy Bush.
15/05/2014 • 19 minutes 4 seconds
Poliça - Smug
Ryan Olson is a member of the band Polica. Though he doesn't perform with them live, he put the band together, produces the songs, and co-writes them. I interviewed Ryan in his bedroom studio in Minneapolis. In this episode, he breaks down the song Smug, from their 2013 album Shulamith. He also talks about two pieces of equipment that have helped shape the sound of Poliça, and how he was introduced to one of them by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and the other by DJ Shadow.
01/05/2014 • 13 minutes 19 seconds
Loren Bouchard - Bob's Burgers (Theme Song)
Loren Bouchard is the creator of the animated television comedy Bob's Burgers, a series about a family and the restaurant they own and live above, currently in its fourth season on Fox. In addition to being the co-executive producer and showrunner, Loren also composed the show's opening theme. I interviewed Loren in his office, where his desk is surrounded by musical instruments. In this episode, he talks about which ones went into the theme, and the emotions he wanted to evoke with each of them. Plus a few thoughts from cast members Jon Benjamin and Eugene Mirman.
15/04/2014 • 14 minutes 28 seconds
Jeff Beal - House of Cards (Main Title Theme)
Composer Jeff Beal deconstructs the main title theme music to the Netflix original series House of Cards. The show has been nominated for multiple Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Original Main Title Theme and Outstanding Music Composition. The show was adapted from a British series of the same name by writer Beau Willimon, and director and executive producer David Fincher. Jeff talks about his collaborative process with Fincher, and how they found the mood and musical palette for the show and its theme, and how it changed from season one to season two. A word of warning: if you haven’t watched the first season, there are spoilers about how that season ends.
01/04/2014 • 15 minutes 15 seconds
Daedelus - Experience
Alfred Darlington, better known as Daedelus, takes apart his song Experience. This early track of his is made with only acoustic sounds, but Alfred still considers it a piece of electronic music, and explains why. He also talks about the unexpected life the song has had since he recorded it, after being sampled by Madlib for his collaboration with MF Doom, Madvillain. Experience became the beat for Madvillain’s Accordion, the first song on their highly acclaimed album, and later referenced and resampled by artists like Drake and Kitty (aka Kitty Pryde). Daedelus deconstructs the song and discusses what its legacy means to him.
17/03/2014 • 11 minutes 11 seconds
Sea Wolf - Kasper
Alex Brown Church of Sea Wolf breaks down Kasper, a song from the album Old World Romance. He talks about his songwriting process, collaborating with his bandmates, and the evolution that comes with learning the difference between making something that's good, and making something that's perfect.
01/03/2014 • 12 minutes 9 seconds
Baths - Miasma Sky
Will Wiesenfeld of Baths breaks down his song Miasma Sky, which came out last year on his highly-praised sophomore album Obsidian. Will talks about using the computer to intentionally destroy sounds, trying to find a balance in his music between simplicity and complexity, and what went into making his drum tracks.
14/02/2014 • 12 minutes 12 seconds
YACHT - Plastic Soul
Claire and Jona of the band YACHT deconstruct their brand new single Plastic Soul, a fun pop song about human suffering. They explain how technology inspired them musically as well as lyrically, and how they recycle bits of their old recordings to create new songs.
01/02/2014 • 10 minutes 5 seconds
The Album Leaf - The Outer Banks
Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf takes apart The Outer Banks, a song he recorded in Iceland with members of Sigur Ros accompanying him. He reveals how the melody of the song was made from a glockenspiel, violin, and Moog synthesizer; and he talks about the importance of letting go of control during the recording process.
15/01/2014 • 16 minutes 16 seconds
The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
Our first guest on Song Exploder is Jimmy Tamborello, aka Dntel, aka one half of The Postal Service (the other half being Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie). Jimmy breaks down the song The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, and talks about his instruments, his influences, and accidentally making a loop out of Jenny Lewis's backing vocals.