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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
I really enjoy this podcast! It has been so fun to learn about some of my favorite artists and the songs they have written. I would love to hear more! Keep it up!
So, so sad
What’s going on here? Really enjoyed these podcasts but they’re all so sad now: family violence, suicide, abuse, addiction, heartache…every week. I get it that they all can’t be happy, but when was the las time this podcast DIDN'T start with a warning?!
I love this podcast so much! The artists are free to relate their inspirations and styles without any extra talk from a host. For runners, this is an incredible podcast to listen to on any distance run—music and thoughtful conversation. Also learning about artists with whom I was unfamiliar. Awesome!