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Author: Ben Arthur

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SongWriter turns stories into songs, ft. Questlove, Joyce Carol Oates, David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), George Saunders, Steve Earle, Susan Orlean & Neil Gaiman
67 Episodes
Andrew Sean Greer won the Pulitzer Prize for his comic novel, Less. For this episode he reads an excerpt from the follow up book, Less is Lost, and describes how he thinks of the book as more serious than many readers.  For the songwriter in this episode, Andrew requested Torquil Campbell of the  band Stars, and Torq secretly invited Andrew’s close friend Daniel Handler (aka the wildly popular children’s author Lemony Snicket) to collaborate on it. Unbeknownst to many of his fans, Daniel is a seriously experienced songwriter and session musician, who has collaborated with Death Cab for Cutie, The Decembrists, and Magnetic Fields, and he and Torq trade anecdotes, make fun of each other relentlessly, and talk about the truly sweet surprise they cooked up together for Andrew, a song called "Not the Best."
Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You? is a follow-up to her wildly successful novel Normal People, which was made into a popular series on Hulu. The newest novel is about falling in love in the digital age – her exquisitely-drawn characters struggle to connect with each other, and slowly expose their vulnerabilities to each other over time. Songwriter Sam Himself describes how he fell in love REMOTELY during the pandemic, and had the bizarre, terrifying, and ultimately beautiful experience of meeting the woman he already knew so intimately from their written conversations and phone calls – and was already deeply in love with – in person for the first 
Kevin Allison is a storyteller, the host of the wildly popular RISK! podcast, and a former member of MTV’s The State. He tells a story about meeting his future husband in the days after 9/11, and talks about how late he came to dating and self-acceptance, and wrestles with a recently broken heart. Carolyn Kendrick is herself a star in the podcast world, as she produces the popular podcasts “You’re Wrong About” and “You Are Good.” She talks about her own reactions to 9/11, and shares her brand new song, “What If.”
Author and illustrator Dolan Morgan reads an excerpt from his story, “The Quartering Act,” which combines fantasy and emotional realism to explore self-loathing and trauma. Melissa Faliveno and John Walsh from the band Self Help talk about their reactions to the story, and share their new song, “3A.”
Charlie Gilmour reads an excerpt from his bestselling memoir, Featherhood, which connects the story of raising an abandoned magpie with explorations around his father, noted actor and poet Heathcoate Williams, and his stepfather, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. British musician and podcaster Matshidiso shares the story of coming to grips with her own father, and shares a live recording of her song, “Who Can Tell a Bird”
Bestselling author Jean Hanff Korelitz reads an excerpt from her recent novel, The Latecomer, and talks about the connections and disconnections she feels between her job and the movies and tv shows that are made from her work (Hugh Grant, Nicole Kidman, Tina Fey). Jean reads from The Latecomers – a rambling multi-generational picture of a family dealing with secrets and trauma – and talks about how it was inspired by the work of John Irving. Jean’s friend Warren Zanes, who was in his brother’s band, the Del Fuegos, talks about his long collaborative friendship with Tom Petty, his jobs as an author and a professor, and plays his song, “The Aftermath of the Accident.” He also discloses some complicated history with his brother, and connects it to the
New Yorker staff writer, Russian dissident journalist, and author Masha Gessen  (@MashaGessen) tells the story of being called in for a death-defying meeting with Putin, and how it confirmed the dark conclusions in their bestselling biography of him, Man Without a Face. Ukrainian American musician and scholar Maria Sonevytsky (@MarusiaSays) talks about the war, and plays her song, “Culture War”
New York Times writer Dan Bergner reads an excerpt from The Mind and the Moon, which explores the lives of three people coping with serious mental illness and the pharmaceutical and medical systems brought to bear on their treatment. Dan’s brother Bob is one of those featured in the book, and he describes his journey and the very inspiring way that he lives as a pastor, an artist, and an activist. Bob also plays “A Song for Dad,” about his complicated feelings on saying goodbye in his father’s later years.Content warning: though there are no graphic or upsetting details in this story, it does mention
Neil Gaiman + FourPlay

Neil Gaiman + FourPlay


Bestselling author and storyteller Neil Gaiman (@NeilHimself) talks about his long collaborations with the FourPlay String Quartet (@FourPlaySQ), and their new album, Signs of Life. Neil describes how he first wrote a letter to a friend who was suffering a series of miscarriages, and how that became the song "The Wreckers," and discloses his own painful experience with miscarriage. Lara and Tim from FourPlay talk about the anxieties and joys of working with Neil, and how they composed the beautifully spare and delicate music to accompany Neil's performance. All music in this episode is by, and courtesy of,
Cheryl Strayed + MILCK

Cheryl Strayed + MILCK


Cheryl Strayed (@CherylStrayed) returns to SongWriter to read another letter from "Tiny, Beautiful Things" (which is now a series on Hulu!), a lovely and very personal meditation on the subject of self-forgiveness. Dr. Suzanne Freedman of the International Forgiveness Institute talks about the scientific mechanics behind the often misunderstood practice. And finally songwriter MILCK (@MILCKMusic) - whose song "Quiet" became the unofficial anthem of the women's march - plays a song written in response, "I'm Alright, You're Alright." This episode was made possible by a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, and parts of this content first appeared at the 2022 Global Scientific Conference on Human Flourishing. For more, go to
Season Five Trailer

Season Five Trailer

Former Google engineer Blake Lemoine (@cajundiscordian) describes how he came to the conclusion that LaMDA, an AI developed by Google, is sentient. Blake details what LaMDA is, how he tested its capabilities and limitations, and what LaMDA fears most. Songwriter Jonathan Mann (@SongaDayMann) talks about writing a song every day for 14 years, some of his big hits, and about his wildly successful NFT project. Jonathan wrote a song inspired both by the ethics of engaging with LaMDA and one of his favorite episodes of Star TrekBlake's conversation with
Questlove  (@Questlove) reads an excerpt from his critical history of modern America, Music is History, about songwriter Bill Withers. Songwriter Chris Pierce (@ChrisPierce) talks about his own interactions with  Withers, and performs a multi-level tribute called “Just As I Am”
Grammy Award-winning songwriter Mary Gauthier (@MaryGauthier_) talks about her memoir Saved By a Song, and describes grappling with her history as an adopted child and the birth mother who refused to meet her. Songwriter Kelley McRae (@KelleyMcRae) talks about her long admiration for Mary’s art and philosophy, and her struggles with organized religion, and performs her song "What Do You Do?"
Bestselling author Jonathan Franzen reads an excerpt from his newest novel, Crossroads, and talks about a band that he loves, Wussy (@WussyMusic). Franzen also speaks about his relationship with music, and reveals why marijuana is not a good drug for him. Lisa and Chuck from Wussy talk about their long collaborations, and about the song they wrote in response to Crossroads, called "All My Life." They also discuss the death of band member John Erhardt, and how they are trying to reimagine their work without
Bestselling author Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) reads an excerpt from her memoir, Somebody's Daughter, about her complicated relationship with her mother, and some unforgettable advice about family from her grandmother. Filmmaker and songwriter Be Steadwell (@BeSteadwell) performs a song constructed of sinuous vocal loops that speaks directly to Ashley, and Be describes the empathy she feels with Ashley's experience as a vulnerable Black
Southern author Tom Franklin reads two pieces of short fiction – including one about a visit to the beach near Chicago – and talks about his history in Mississippi.  Irish songwriter Ben Glover (@BenGloverMusic) recounts his journey to America, and the resonances he feels between Northern Ireland and the South. He also speaks about co-writing songs, including with Mary
Author and former longtime “lieutenant” for Anthony Bourdain, Laurie Woolever, (@LaurieWoolever) tells an exclusive story about a day in Sri Lanka when she fears that she would get killed over a bucket of fried chicken and a bottle of whiskey. Composer and songwriter Mike Ruffino (@MRuffino), who also worked with Bourdain for more than a decade, performs a song he wrote using inspiration and actual audio recorded during the shoot in Sri Lanka. 
Biographer and social historian Mark Harris (@MarkHarris) tells the life story of Mike Nichols, one of the most influential directors of the 20th century. Anna Kline of the band Swift Silver (@SwiftSilverBand) talks about her reaction to Mike’s story, and shares the genesis of her vintage-vibing song, “The Picture Show.” Anna also speaks about her mother’s dementia from Alzheimer’s, and connects her ongoing grief to Nichols’ experience of losing his father at a young
Author and journalist Wright Thompson reads a story about the death of his beloved uncle, and how time and place memorialize our lives. Songwriter Drew Holcomb (@DrewHolcomb) talks about the loss of his brother at a young age, and performs his brand new song, “Slower Than the Highway.”
Comments (1)

Shad Hasty

"gender issues" F off.

Nov 23rd
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