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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
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.
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
Arooj Aftab - Mohabbat

Arooj Aftab - Mohabbat

2022-05-0424:584

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
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 patience, plus some ineffable magic spark. So that’s what Partners is about. The first season came out in 2020, and the second season just began last week. You can subscribe to the show at partners.show, or wherever you get your podcasts, etc, but I also just want to play you this episode from season 2, with two music greats, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, who have made two incredible albums together. For more, visit songexploder.net/partners.
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 teachesofpeaches.com for tickets. For more info, visit songexploder.net/peaches
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
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 track, and recording engineer Shawn Everett about the unusual way the song was recorded. For more, visit songexploder.net/perfume-genius
Sarah Kinsley - The King

Sarah Kinsley - The King

2022-02-2320:155

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
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.
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.
Joy Oladokun - Look Up

Joy Oladokun - Look Up

2022-01-1222:267

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/joy-oladokun.
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 that moment of discovery. In this episode, Danny Elfman tells the story of how it all came together, and how writing and singing this song for Jack Skellington ended up profoundly connecting to his own life. For more, visit songexploder.net/danny-elfman.
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.
Hans Zimmer - Dune

Hans Zimmer - Dune

2021-11-1730:5925

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.
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.
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
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 songexploder.net/ted.
John Lennon - God

John Lennon - God

2021-10-0627:4114

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

Lucy Dacus - Thumbs

2021-09-2227:139

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.
Comments (184)

CheesecakeLasagna

Damn, never thought I'd get rickrolled by Exploder.

Jun 22nd
Reply

Burton Jim

Love this song! https://poppyplaytime.onl/

Jun 21st
Reply

Brandy Tran

I don’t know

Jun 16th
Reply

CheesecakeLasagna

Finally! I've been hooked on her since Vulture Prince and her work on the soundtrack for the video game, Backbone.

May 18th
Reply

msv777

La La Land was one of the best and most complete films I have ever seen, especially the soundtrack, which is impressive and can completely touch your soul.

Mar 13th
Reply

Linus Moses

Love this song, great to get an understanding of how it was made.

Dec 26th
Reply

Nour Ramadan

Thank you for this

Dec 3rd
Reply

Ruth Gordon

💛💛💛

Oct 23rd
Reply

Ruth Gordon

🧡🧡🧡

Oct 23rd
Reply

Elham Saei

wow

Aug 2nd
Reply

Mahyar Samadi

one of the best songs in the world we love you Queen #selenagomez #loseyoutoloveme

May 15th
Reply

dok dicer

so much effort to produce something so bland. remarkable.

Mar 29th
Reply

Shindokht Azadi

🤘

Mar 2nd
Reply

Sebastian Jonas

So good... Please more 90s Hiphop classics!

Feb 9th
Reply

sour pickle

🥺💚

Jan 2nd
Reply

Mehdi Tehrani

so nice and soft, one of the best song ever heard in pop music

Nov 19th
Reply

Mbali Malinga

I love this concept/ podcast, wish they had more artists!

Nov 7th
Reply

Luke Oaks

one of my favorite songs of The Lumineers

Sep 25th
Reply

Prasad K.Shetty

loved this . thank you :)

Jul 4th
Reply

Kristal Mendez

LOVE this song! And the show is top tier

Jul 2nd
Reply (2)
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