Song Exploder, The Podcast That Will Change How You Hear Music, Welcomes Thao Nguyen Into The Host Seat

Photo: Courtesy of Maria Kanevskeya/Sacks and Co.
If you’re a fan of hyperbole, then you should know that this podcast will change your life. At the very least, this podcast will fundamentally reshape your relationship with music. Song Exploder, which launches its sixth season today, spent its first five seasons breaking down the mechanics of amazing songs by some iconic artists, from Solange to Death Cab for Cutie to Lin-Manuel Miranda to Lorde. Hrishikesh Hirway decided to step aside as host for the show’s sixth season and invited indie rock singer and songwriter Thao Nguyen to take over.
Nguyen, who has acted as composer and guitar player as well as the front person with her band, Thao & the Get Down, Stay Down, is well aware that this job centres her in some deep conversations about the nuts and bolts of making music, where the voices of women are often tamped down if not completely unheard. And she’s excited about the prospect.
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“This podcast reminded me that I was a fan of music first. It got me reinvigorated about the craft of songwriting,” Nguyen tells Refinery29. “It is a bonus that I am working in a more visible capacity, especially dealing with the craft of music and the themes around production and composition.”
Nguyen has some past experience with the podcast, having been interviewed on it about her song “Astonished Man,” and stepping in to guest host an episode last year that featured Neko Case.
Guests are still being booked for this season, and Nguyen has high hopes. “At this point, luckily, Song Exploder has been built into an entity that I think a lot of people who are releasing records will get in touch with and make an effort to be considered for,” Nguyen says. “Now, a lot of it is going through who has reached out and checking out releases to see who we think would be interesting to speak to.”
In her first episode, Nguyen spoke to the legendary gospel and R&B singer Mavis Staples, who expounded on her role in the Civil Rights movement (including marches with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and the role of songs and artists during that historic time. It’s a theme that Nguyen expects to continue given our current political climate and the charged music it has inspired.
“I plan on focusing on lyrical content and motivations behind the songwriting as much as, if not more than, the sonic elements,” Nguyen promises. “[Delving into] what is compelling people to write, even if it’s not overtly political - there are some songs that are consciously written as an antidote to the times. But, I don’t think that anybody is not informed by what’s happening, however they choose to manifest it.”
The new season of Song Exploder launches on January 9, 2019. Listen to the first episode, with Hozier and Mavis Staples, below or anywhere you get podcasts.
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