5 Music Podcasts to tap your feet to
Podcasting naturally lends itself very well to the theme of music, but podcasters have really pushed the boat out over the past few years by creating documentaries, podcast mixtapes and even breaking down what it’s really like to build a song from scratch.
There are so many pods to pick from, but here are my 5 top picks!
- Song Exploder by Hrishikesh Hirway
Song Exploder does what it says on the tin — it breaks up a song into its different components to figure out how it was made as told by its creators — be they musicians, producers or songwriters. Host Hrishikesh Hirway is a musician in his own right, but in his podcast he takes a step back and lets the guest musicians tell the story of their song in their own words. Many of these songs are quite well known and there are over 200 episodes — or songs — to choose from. You’ll never hear a song in the same way again and some of the effects that are in the backgrounds of songs - well let’s just say, you’d never have guessed where they came from!
You’ll love this if… you’re nerdy about music and want to go granular on some of your favourite songs.
Episode pick — Episode 206: Lianne La Havas is a brilliant listen and this episode is ideal to get you in the mood for summer.
2. Centuries of Sound by James Errington
This is more of an epic audio project than simply a podcast, and it’s a real labour of love by Centuries of Sound creator James Errington. In a nutshell, what James is trying to achieve is to create a mixtape for every single year of recorded audio. Perhaps you could imagine what a mixtape might sound like if it was from 1994… but what about 1894? And it’s not just music that James compiles - it’s announcements, news clips, film clips and global events, creating the most fascinating mixtapes each time and capturing a particular year for humankind, all expertly fused together with his talent as a producer.
You’ll love this if… you used to make mixtapes growing up and want to know what a 100 year old version of one might sound like!
Episode pick — 1931 takes you on an audio journey from Will Rogers’ “Bacon, Beans, and Limousines” to words from Mahatma Gandhi to a film clip from Dracula and smatterings of Louis Armstrong’s music.
3. Cocaine & Rhinestones by Tyler Mahan Coe
On its surface country music sounds like it might be a very benign genre, but anyone with an interest in it probably knows of its use of the darker side and history linked to the music and lyrics and some of the big, colourful characters that have made the genre what it is. Cocaine & Rhinestones is Tyler Mahan Coe’s ode to country music but with his own flavour of witty storytelling.
As he says, “I’m not gonna pretend like I have southern accent or talk to you about pickup trucks and chewing tobacco. This is about the truth. You don’t have to know what it’s like to drive a tractor. You don’t need to have spent the last 20 years listening to nothing but Merle Haggard 8 tracks while sipping Pearl beer from a can in order to appreciate these incredible stories and this genius music.”
…it’s true and it’s a fantastic listen!
You’ll love this if… you want to know about the darker side of country music and I promise — you really don’t have to know anything about any of the characters or the music to fall in love with this pod and Tyler’s distinct way of telling tales.
Episode pick — Episode 2: The Pill — Country star Loretta Lynn’s 1975 song about birth control was banned from the airwaves… but why?
4. Dolly Parton’s America by WNYC Studios
Staying in the genre of country but moving to a totally different style of podcast is Dolly Parton’s America. In this beautifully produced gem of a podcast you do a deep dive into the “Dollyverse” and discover lots of things you didn’t know about Dolly and her music and also things you thought you knew but didn’t really know at all! From learning how Dolly took on a genre dominated by men to a visit to a Kenyan Dolly Parton and so much more, if you’re not a fan of Dolly Parton already, you’ll definitely become one by the end of this podcast.
You’ll love this if… you enjoy storytelling podcasts that weave biography, documentary and of course, music!
Episode pick — You’ve got to start at the start of Dolly’s Journey so check out the first episode “Sad Ass Songs.”
5. Desert Island Discs by BBC Radio 4
Traditionally broadcast, but now also a podcast, this is the oldest pod on this list with its first episode dating all the way back to 1942 when Desert Island Discs was first hosted by Roy Plomley and broadcast on BBC Forces during World War 2. In each episode, the guest imagines they are a castaway on a desert island and have to pick a selection of music, a book and a luxury item to be stranded with. The music is interwoven with stories from the guests’ lives and this format has now been reproduced in different ways across the podcasting world, so this a truly pioneering podcast.
You’ll love this if… You want to know the soundtracks of famous people over time — from Jack Lemmon to Mo Mowlam to Kim Catrall.
Episode pick — Noughts and Crosses Author Malorie Blackman — always a thoughtful and interesting guest on a podcast!
And that’s 5 of my favourite music pods — from the classics to the contemporary ones, they are music to my ears — yes, I typed that on purpose guys. For more puns and podcasts, keep an eye out here where I’ll be dropping one of the most popular genres next month: true crime!