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
74 Episodes
Season 6 Trailer

Season 6 Trailer


Season 6 is here, with the return of friends like Joyce Carol Oates and Susan Orlean, and new ones like W. Kamau Bell, Imbolo Mbue, Crys Matthews, and Ali Sethi! Episode 1 is out July 2nd
Bonus episode! News of the mildly delayed season six, as well as some upcoming live shows, including:5/11 Joyce Carol Oates + Ali Sethi with special guests Tony Trischka and Dr. Allison Applebaum at LeFrak Concert Hall in Queens, NY6/13 Susan Orlean + Diana Gameros with special guest Laura Simone Lewis at KQED in San Francisco7/10 W. Kamau Bell + Las Cafeteras with special guest Shira Gabriel at KQED in San FranciscoAlso a peek at what the good folks who have premium subscriptions on Apple Podcasts have been enjoying - an excerpt of an interview with Jakob Ewald of Slaughter Beach, Dog conducted by Ruby Arthur.
Bestselling author David Sedaris reads an excerpt from Theft By Finding, a collection of his diaries from when he was a young artist. Jacob Ewald of the pop indie band Slaughter Beach, Dog (and formerly Modern Baseball) recounts how reading the book backstage at a college show had the effect of giving him permission to call himself a songwriter, and to take his art seriously. He shares a brand new song written from the perspective of a frustrated painter, “Get Me Through the Night”Audio from Theft by Finding is provided courtesy of Hachette Audio.
Bestselling author Raven Leilani reads an excerpt of her short story “Breathing Exercise,” and talks about art, racism, and carnality in her work. Raven shares how her brother – who died of ALS – introduced her to art, as well as her favorite bands. Jennifer Charles of Elysian Fields explains that she has been a Raven Leilani fan since her debut novel, Luster, and shares the band’s newest song, “The Contortionist”Listeners are invited to share their art made in response to episodes – however directly or indirectly – at the SongWriter Community Art pageContent warning: There are brief mentions of violence and suicide in this episode
This is part one of a two-part episode featuring "Sea Oak" by George Saunders. Part one contains a song written by Ben Arthur, Vienna Teng, and George Saunders; Part two contains a new song written by Craig Finn.Bestselling author and MacArthur genius George Saunders reads a comic-but-serious zombie story called “Sea Oak” – which was made into an Amazon TV show starring Glenn Close – and shares wisdom on writing dark things. Craig Finn of The Hold Steady talks about heartbreak, advice from Bruce Springsteen, and shares his song “Swan’s Glen.”
This is part one of a two-part episode featuring "Sea Oak" by George Saunders. Part one contains a song written by Ben Arthur, Vienna Teng, and George Saunders; Part two contains the song written by Craig Finn.Bestselling author and MacArthur genius George Saunders reads a comic-but-serious zombie story called “Sea Oak” – which was made into an Amazon TV show starring Glenn Close – and shares wisdom on writing dark things. Craig Finn of The Hold Steady talks about heartbreak, advice from Bruce Springsteen, and shares his song “Swan’s Glen.”
Bestselling author, screenwriter, and founder of McSweeney’s, Dave Eggers reads an excerpt from his short story, “The Museum of Rain,” and talks about the way music informs his creative process. Dave says the song Vienna wrote for the episode, “hit him like a truck,” and expresses his delight that Vienna decided to make the song a fundraiser for the non-profit 826 Valencia.Songwriter Vienna Teng makes a second appearance on SongWriter, describing how this song, and the one she wrote for an episode with Kurt Andersen, make up two-thirds of her written output over the last decade! Vienna talks about reading Dave’s story out loud to her young family during the pandemic, and explores self-doubt and creativity before sharing her song, “The Riversitter (The Museum of Rain).” The song is for sale exclusively on Bandcamp, and all proceeds benefit 826 Valencia
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 time. 
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 book.
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 suicide.
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, FourPlay.
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 HumanFlourishing.org
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 LaMDA
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”
Comments (1)

Shad Hasty

"gender issues" F off.

Nov 23rd