Nakedly Examined Music Podcast Explores Songwriting with Cracker, King Crimson, Cutting Crew, Jill Sobule & More

I’m Mark Lin­sen­may­er, the host of The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast, and I’d like to intro­duce you to a new-in-2016 inter­view series called Naked­ly Exam­ined Music (iTunes — Face­book — RSS) that fea­tures great song­writ­ers talk­ing about their moti­va­tions and tech­niques regard­ing spe­cif­ic songs.

In episode one, for instance, indie rock icon and activist for artist rights David Low­ery decon­struct­ed the lyrics for his sto­ry songs “All Her Favorite Fruit” (Camper Van Beethoven, 1989) and “I Sold the Arabs the Moon” (from his 2011 solo album), con­trast­ing these with the non­sense song that launched his career, “Take the Skin­heads Bowl­ing.”

The songs dis­cussed are played in full, and the idea is to get a sense of the artist’s approach in very spe­cif­ic terms, and how this has changed over time. In episode 15, Craig Wedren shows us his devel­op­ment from writ­ing heavy (“post-hard­core”), dis­so­nant music in the 90s with Shud­der to Think, to cre­at­ing dis­co synth­scapes with his ear­ly 00’s band Baby, to now com­pos­ing music for sound­tracks like Net­flix’s “Wet Hot Amer­i­can Sum­mer: First Day of Camp.”

The empha­sis in a giv­en inter­view depends on the artist: Gui­tar vir­tu­oso Gary Lucas (Cap­tain Beef­heart, Jeff Buck­ley) eschews music the­o­ry, so the focus is more on the ide­ol­o­gy of cre­ation, where­as tap-gui­tar wiz­ard Trey Gunn (King Crim­son, David Syl­vian) instructs us in com­bin­ing time sig­na­tures and solo­ing in modes. The inter­views both teach us how to lis­ten to and appre­ci­ate music by show­ing us what to focus on, and also serve to instruct song­writ­ers real and vic­ar­i­ous about deci­sions that go into a choice of chord or lyric or instru­men­ta­tion.

What kind of music can you expect to hear? Offi­cial­ly, any­thing that has thought behind it, but I’m start­ing with my expe­ri­ence as musi­cian (see and music lover grow­ing up in the 80s and 90s lis­ten­ing to pop­u­lar, indie, folk, punk, and pro­gres­sive rock. There hare been some move­ment into soul (Episode 16 fea­tures the great Nara­da Michael Walden, who pro­duced Whit­ney Hous­ton among many oth­ers), elec­tron­i­ca (Gareth Mitchell), coun­try (Beth Kille), and future episodes will ven­ture into clas­si­cal, hip-hop, and world music. More typ­i­cal, how­ev­er (i.e. more akin to my own writ­ing), are fig­ures like 90s sweet­heart and polit­i­cal activist Jill Sob­ule, cow-punk pio­neer Jon Lang­ford (Mekons), grunge-ped­dler turned sym­phon­ist Jonathan Don­ahue (Mer­cury Rev), NPR dar­ling Chad Clark (Beau­ty Pill), and 80s Cut­ting Crew front-man Nick Eede. One of the episodes next to be released will fea­ture Bill Bru­ford (Yes, King Crim­son, Earth­works).

Lis­ten to Jill Sob­ule in episode 18:

In one of the most inter­est­ing inter­views (episode 3), major league music video director–and mem­ber of 70s super­group 10cc and 80s duo God­ley & Creme–Kevin God­ley takes us from 70s prog excess (and get­ting to record jazz leg­end Sarah Vaugh­an) into the New Wave and out of music alto­geth­er, only to redis­cov­er it post-retire­ment.

This is not about get­ting behind the scenes with your favorite stars or any oth­er hype of that sort, but about talk­ing with smart peo­ple to fig­ure out the lan­guage of music, the moti­va­tions behind cre­ation, and the tech­niques avail­able for self-expres­sion. In the course of these dis­cus­sions, we get into chang­ing trends in mak­ing a liv­ing in music (or not!), new music tech­nolo­gies, and, of course, philo­soph­i­cal issues.

Mark Lin­sen­may­er is a writer and musi­cian in Madi­son, WI. His Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast has been down­loaded more than 15 mil­lion times. Learn more about Naked­ly Exam­ined Music at, sub­scribe via iTunes, or fol­low on Face­book.

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