The podcast format: I interview you, a guest songwriter. After some introductory chit-chat, we play one of your recorded songs in full and discuss it: Why did you write it? Why did you write it that way? We can discuss the musical and recording techniques, but mostly focus on the existential/psychological/ideological stuff that went into it.
We do that with three different songs, and hopefully cover a few different themes that build over the discussion. We could talk about how you relate to your influences, to genre conventions, whether you’re self-expressing or storytelling or whatever. I know that music often comes from an intuitive place, and you may not really know why you did what you did, but that’s so much the better: As with all good post-facto analysis, we’ll speculate and make stuff up, and I’ll be there prodding you, putting forward stupid ideas for you to rebut, and making lame jokes. It’ll be fun, and I’ll edit it smoothly after the fact so that you sound smart and sure of yourself.
Why you should do this podcast: My previous (and still active) podcast, The Partially Examined Life, has been downloaded over 11 million times over 6 years. These are smart people, many of whom love music, and they may well become your fans. Moreover, I’m going to listen again and again to your songs, and will try to immerse myself in your larger catalog so that I can contribute to the conversation: This is meant to be a discussion, not just an invitation for you to give the same monologue that you may have given many times. Moreover, we don’t need to pick your most well-known songs; this is meant to be fun for you and encourage you to think freshly about your work.
This recording should not take more than an hour of your time; I’d ideally like to keep these interviews to around 45 minutes. My schedule is flexible, and we’d do it from Skype (audio) from your house.
Picking your songs: We’ll analyze three songs, and then play a fourth song at the end as a send-off which we won’t do much more than introduce.
- I suggest that this fourth song be whatever it is that you want to promote and/or your highest-quality thing to serve best to get listeners to go find out more about you and maybe buy your album.
- The three analyzed songs should all be different, getting at different parts of what you’re trying to do musically, coming from a different psychological place, preferably from different eras in your career.
- I want at least one of them (#3) to be a comparative failure, something that didn’t quite work or that you don’t like as much now as when you wrote it, so we can discuss why.
- You need to give me the rights to play these four songs in full in perpetuity on the podcast, royalty-free. So only pick recordings that you have the rights to, and if you co-wrote it, check with your co-writer and make sure this is OK. I will need an emailed statement explicitly giving me this permission.
- It’s OK if some of the songs are demo versions, but I’d prefer if most or all of the recordings were intended for release as is.
- I want listeners to be able to get these songs, or some of them, in some way outside of the podcast. So you need to have an album released, or a SoundCloud page, or something. If you just want to let me host them on our page, that’s fine. Also, we have a members-only portion of our website, where 2000ish paying fans of the Partially Examined Life podcast go to get bonus material, so if there’s anything (your new single? an old album or live performance?) that we can give to those folks, all the better.
How to prepare: We’ll talk over Skype, but you should ideally record your own voice on your end while we do so (I’ll record a backup in case your recording screws up; David Lowery just used his iPAD and I recorded the whole thing). Use a nice mic and headphones; you can install Audacity if you don’t already have a recording program on your computer. Try running Skype and your recording at the same time while doing a Skype test call to ensure that the recording is only picking up your voice and not the Skype Test Call lady’s voice and that you’re getting a decent recording level without a lot of background noise. Issue a Skype contact request to me (you can find me by searching on my name Mark Linsenmayer in Madison WI) so I can connect to you at the time of the call.
I will need the list of songs at least a week in advance of our recording, and you’ll need to send me the files to insert into the podcast: preferably in .WAV or .FLAC form: either uncompressed or losslessly compressed. Please also send me lyric sheets if applicable. I plan to listen to each of them five times or so and take notes. I suggest that you do something comparable. During our discussion, I don’t think we need to or should stop and listen to the song (we could, but I don’t know how that would work with Skype anyway), so you need to have them fresh in mind.
How to get invited on as a guest: If I’ve already invited you, congrats! However, I encourage ALL of our listener/songwriters who might be interested in being a guest or who just want to plug their music to create a demo: Either as a YouTube or mp3, create a clip no more than 10 minutes long where first the whole song plays and then you talk about it using the guidelines above. I will plan to post nearly all submissions (even ones I stylistically hate, though there may still be reasons why I reject something) on our blog to encourage listener networking, and if your song and your explanation are interesting enough, then you’ll be in consideration to come on as a guest. This podcast will definitely cover not only famous/established musicians (though I’ll need some of those to get the ratings up), but unknown, interesting artists… Whatever will make for an entertaining, insightful discussion.
Note that I’m also considering the idea of having guest co-hosts to help me interrogate a particular songwriter. (I’m hesitant to do this only because of the hassle of engineering an extra voice in the mix.) I’m especially likely to invite you to do this if you have a connection to that songwriter and can help me get him or her on the show. In particular, I encourage music journalist-types (professional or blogger-level) to reach out to me if you’d like to be involved. Another idea is to have someone on as a guest, and then have that person help me interview a future guest (so you could come on yourself, and then we could get your bandmate or colleague). If you know of anyone that would make a great guest and/or have their contact information, please let me know or clue this person into this project and encourage him or her to reach out to me.