Song Exploder

Hrishikesh Hirway

Song Exploder

  • 21 minutes 38 seconds
    Fenne Lily - Lights Light Up

    Fenne Lily is a singer and songwriter from Dorset, England. She released her first album in 2018, but I didn’t find her music until 2023, when she put out her third album, Big Picture. The album she released in between those two was one that got a little lost in the lockdown, when all her touring plans around it got canceled. All of that plays into the story she tells in this episode, about making her song “Lights Light Up” from that third album. I spoke to Fenne in front of a live audience at WBUR CitySpace in Boston. Coming up, you’ll hear how the song evolved across different versions of demos and then in the studio, where she recorded it with Grammy-nominated producer Brad Cook.

    For more, visit

    10 July 2024, 3:30 pm
  • 19 minutes 1 second
    Re-issue: Vagabon - Water Me Down

    Last year, Vagabon released her third album, Sorry I Haven’t Called, which I’ve been listening to a lot. So I wanted to revisit an episode that I recorded with her back in 2020, about her breakout song "Water Me Down." The episode also features the voice of Eric Littmann, who co-produced the track. He passed away in June 2021, way too young. Vagabon’s new album is dedicated to him. If you haven’t heard this episode before, I hope you like it. 

    When Laetitia Tamko started making the second Vagabon album, she really wanted to produce the entire thing on her own. It would be a new sound, and producing was still a relatively new skill to her, but she wanted to tackle it head on, and do it all herself. On this song, though, "Water Me Down," Laetitia actually has a co-producer, Eric Littmann. It’s the one exception to her otherwise entirely self-produced album. In this episode, she breaks down how she and Eric made the song, and why it was worth making that exception. 

    For more, visit

    26 June 2024, 3:40 pm
  • 22 minutes 5 seconds
    Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over

    Crowded House formed in 1985 in Melbourne, Australia. They’ve released eight albums, including their most recent one, Gravity Stairs, which came out last month. But on their very first album, they had a big hit with "Don’t Dream It’s Over."

    Crowded House made “Don’t Dream It’s Over” with Grammy-nominated producer Mitchell Froom, who they went on to work with multiple times. For this episode, I talked to frontman Neil Finn about how the song was first written, and how it developed with his bandmates and collaborators in the studio. And we talked about the profound connection people have had with the song over the years.

    For more, visit

    12 June 2024, 3:55 pm
  • 18 minutes
    Lizzy McAlpine - Staying

    Lizzy McAlpine released her first album in 2020, and her second album in 2022. And between the two, she’s had a lot of success. One of her songs, "Ceilings," was a viral TikTok hit, and has been streamed over half a billion times. So you might think, with all that success, you’d want to keep working in way that’s been working. But while Lizzy was making her third album, Older, after almost a year into the process of recording, she threw the whole thing out. She brought in a new band, and started over with a totally different approach. I talked to her about the song "Staying," from her new album. You’ll hear her original voice memos, as well as the first version she made in the studio, and then how it really came to life once she reimagined it.

    For more, visit

    29 May 2024, 3:45 pm
  • 20 minutes 14 seconds
    The Flaming Lips - Do You Realize??

    The Flaming Lips formed in Oklahoma City in 1983. Over the last four decades, they’ve put out 16 albums. In 1999, they put out their album The Soft Bulletin, and that brought them a new level of success. And then, in 2002, they followed it up with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which was their biggest album to date. Pitchfork named it one of the top 5 albums of the year, Stereogum called it one of the best albums of the decade, and they won a Grammy. And the biggest song from the album was "Do You Realize??" So, for this episode, I talked to Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd about how that song was first imagined. You’ll hear the very first demo Wayne recorded for the song, and the demo he and Steven put together later, on their way to making the final version with producer Dave Fridmann. 

    For more, visit

    15 May 2024, 4:02 pm
  • 24 minutes 34 seconds
    Re-issue: Arooj Aftab - Mohabbat

    One of the songs I keep coming back to is “Mohabbat” by Arooj Aftab. It’s really special to me. I listen to it all the time. I’ve been listening to it so often that I wanted to revisit Arooj's episode about it. In the time since the episode has come out, she has released a collaborative album with Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismaily called Love In Exile, which got two Grammy nominations. And she has a new album that’s about to come out on May 31st, called Night Reign. Here’s her episode: 

    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

    1 May 2024, 3:31 pm
  • 18 minutes 7 seconds
    War - Low Rider

    The band War formed in 1969, in Long Beach, California. “Low Rider” is from their 1975 album Why Can’t We Be Friends? The song was a hit as soon as it came out. It went to #1 on the Billboard R&B charts. And it’s just had tremendous lasting power ever since. Besides being in Dazed and Confused, where I heard it, it’s been sampled by The Beastie Boys, it was covered by Korn, and it was the theme song for all six seasons of The George Lopez Show.

    For this episode, I talked to War’s bandleader Lonnie Jordan, and their producer Jerry Goldstein. The two of them told me how “Low Rider” was made in the studio, through a combination of improvisation and meticulous editing.

    For more, visit

    17 April 2024, 3:57 pm
  • 18 minutes 23 seconds
    Shania Twain - You're Still The One

    Shania Twain is a singer and songwriter from Ontario, Canada. She’s the only female artist to have had three consecutive Diamond albums — albums that have sold over ten million copies. Actually, her 1997 album Come On Over is the best-selling album by a female solo artist of all time. One of the most iconic songs from that iconic album is "You’re Still The One." It was co-written and produced by Mutt Lange, who had previously produced some other classic albums, like Back in Black by AC/DC and Pyromania by Def Leppard. He had also produced Shania Twain’s previous album, The Woman in Me.  For this episode, Shania told me the story of writing “You’re Still The One.” She told me about what the song meant to her when she was making it, over 25 years ago, and what it means to her now.

    For more, visit

    3 April 2024, 3:07 pm
  • 17 minutes 33 seconds
    Danny Brown - Y.B.P. (feat. Bruiser Wolf)

    Danny Brown started his career in 2007 by handing out mixtapes in Detroit, where he’s from. In 2011, he put out his acclaimed second album, XXX. Since then, he’s collaborated with rappers like Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and JPEGMafia, but he’s also worked with electronic bands like Purity Ring and The Avalanches, and he did a verse on a remix for Korn.

    When I first heard him, around when XXX came out, I was really drawn to his voice. And I also appreciated that, given how young so many artists are now when they get really famous, Danny Brown’s career really started taking off in his 30s. He put out his sixth album, Quaranta, in 2023. And for this episode, I talked to him about one of the songs from that album, called “Y.B.P.," which features guest vocals from Bruiser Wolf.

    For more, visit

    20 March 2024, 4:30 pm
  • 19 minutes 44 seconds
    Rhiannon Giddens - You Louisiana Man

    Rhiannon Giddens has released five solo albums since 2015. Before that, she was a member of the Grammy-winning band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She is now also the artistic director of the Silkroad Ensemble, the musical supergroup that Yo-Yo Ma founded.

    Rhiannon Giddens is one of those people where I feel like they have to start inventing new awards, because she’s already won all of them. She’s got multiple Grammys, she won the Pulitzer Prize for an opera she co-wrote called Omar, she’s a MacArthur Genius, and the new Beyonce song “Texas Hold ‘Em,” the one that features the banjo? That’s Rhiannon Giddens playing the banjo. (I guess that’s not technically an award, but it feels like one to me.)

    In 2023, Rhiannon released an album called You’re The One, and I talked to her about the song she wrote called "You Louisiana Man," which was nominated for a Grammy for Best American Roots Performance.

    For more, visit

    6 March 2024, 4:22 pm
  • 19 minutes 35 seconds
    Re-issue: Arlo Parks - Black Dog

    I wanted to revisit an episode about one of my favorite songs from 2021, “Black Dog” by Arlo Parks. A few months after this episode originally came out, Arlo Parks won the Mercury Prize for Album of the Year. She was also nominated for two Grammys: Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album. Since then, she released a new album called My Soft Machine, and she’s going to be on tour this spring.

    Arlo Parks is a singer and songwriter from London. In January 2021, she released her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams. It hit number three on the UK charts, and she won this year’s BRIT award for Breakthrough Artist. Last year, NME called her song "Black Dog" the year’s "most devastating song." In this episode, Anaïs breaks down “Black Dog," which she made with producer Gianluca Buccellati.

    For more, visit

    21 February 2024, 5:23 pm
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