The Apple adverts used to tell us that for every need, “there’s an app for that”. These days “there’s a podcast for that” could be an equally justified strapline, with thousands of different shows offering expert insight into all manner of industries and disciplines.
Music-makers are brilliantly served by the podcast world, with a huge range of excellent shows dealing with everything from the technical side of production and songwriting through to more anecdotal interview style formats. Here’s our guide to some of our favourites.
The Liverpool-based songwriting duo Sodajerker host a compelling podcast of the same name where they speak to a wide range of songwriters about their craft. You can hear everyone from Paul McCartney to Alicia Keys, Noel Gallagher and Paul Simon discuss how they go about putting a song together, and how the process has changed over their career. It’s a rare opportunity to hear some true musical legends talk about more than the usual subjects and really get under the skin of what they do. Reaching across genres and decades, it can help you discover new techniques for writing and to glean inspiration from some of the biggest names in the business.
Jamie Lidell is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and increasingly, a producer for other artists. Known for his own wonderful electro-soul output, his podcast has quickly grown to become one of the most engrossing places to learn about the ins and outs of production. Each episode sees him interview a different producer about their studio habits, equipment and techniques, with previous guests including Bonobo and Mark Ronson. He also shares his own tips and tricks each week, using different iterations of audio recordings to demonstrate the processes he’s talking about.
When it comes to deconstructing music, Cole Cuchna’s podcast is unrivalled for its commitment to detail. Taking one album each series and picking it apart on a track-per-episode basis, the levels of hidden meaning and background to the records in question he unearths is quite staggering. From lyrical analysis to music theory and socio-political context, he exhausts every single element of the making of the records in question, and what he serves up will hugely increase your appreciation of these records. His focus is on major hip-hop and R&B albums by the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West.
For those wanting to learn more about the genesis of rock and pop albums, this US podcast takes a different classic album each episode and provides some substantial analysis of it. From its background to a track-by-track discussion and a look at its legacy, it’s a great place to learn more about albums in these genres in a round-table format.
Resident Advisor not only pioneered the DJ mix podcast, but they were also the first to make a real success of interview podcasts in the electronic scene. Their range of guests has varied hugely from Fatboy Slim to Richie Hawtin, Goldie and disco legend Giorgio Moroder, and their candid one-on-one chats can be hugely inspirational and revealing for aspiring electronic producers who all too often are used to making music in isolation with no-one else to feed off.
Everyone from Björk to Q-Tip has shared stories of their life and career on these sessions recorded as part of Red Bull Music Academy’s globetrotting incubator programmes for aspiring musicians. The select few who make it onto their annual programme are treated to lectures and masterclasses from a dazzling array of musical legends and geniuses, and many of these sessions are eventually published through their Couch Wisdom podcast.
Loud & Quiet magazine’s podcast serves up one-on-one interviews hosted by the very natural and enjoyable Greg Cochrane with a wide range of big-name guests and alternative heroes alike. Charli XCX, Novelist and Johnny Marr are among previous guests, and the relaxed, laid-back approach of Cochrane seems to get the most unguarded and natural responses from his subjects.
This podcast from Hrishikesh Hirway crops up on most lists of recommended podcasts, music or otherwise, and deservedly so. Each episode sees a different artist deconstruct one of their songs in detail, explaining how the song first came about, and how it developed over time. You’ll get to hear stems, acapellas and demo versions which are exciting in themselves, and you’ll hear about everything from the inspiration behind the track to happy studio accidents that ended up giving the track its distinctive sound. It’s also reassuring to hear in these episodes that everyone from U2 to Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham has had insecurity and anxiety about what people will think of their music.
The most interesting musicians are usually the ones who take inspiration from different genres, walks of life and disciplines. Soaking up knowledge from successful and inspiring musicians—regardless of whether they make the same kind of music as you—can be incredibly useful and motivating. The better you understand the different methodologies of creative people and the more techniques you learn, the more sophisticated you’ll be able to make your music—whatever genre you’re in.