There’s so much more to great music than what you hear coming through the speakers.
More often than not, it’s the result of interesting twists of fate that inspired the lyrics or melody, hours of studio tweaking and fine-tuning, and then work with labels and managers to get the best possible iteration on the album.
Some of the best groups and artists have hilarious, heartbreaking and/or serendipitous reasons behind how they got together, why the broke up, why they make the music they do, and what life in the industry is like.
And because we’re living in the golden age of podcasts, there are now shows that give us music lovers a chance to peak behind the curtain, be a part of critical discussions, and hear straight from the artists we love.
Here are five of my favorite podcasts, and what makes them special.
Hosted out of Minneapolis by Steven Hyden, author and rock critic at Uproxx.com, this weekly podcast examines all things rock.
Topics Hyden has covered include the rise and fall of The Black Crowes, the best albums of the Britpop movement of the 1980s and 1990s, and the fluctuating state of rock criticism. He’s had interviews with musicians like David Crosby, Father John Misty, and Har Mar Superstar, and fascinating discussions with music critics like Ian Cohen, Caitlin White and Rob Sheffield.
To anyone who says rock is dead, point them to this podcast.
Recommended episode: March 13 — Vitalogy-ology, a seven-episode look at the career of Pearl Jam, begins on this date
The Great Albums
This fascinating show sees musicians Bill Lambusta and Brian Erickson go deep on classic albums from every decade and genre.
Just a few of the albums they’ve discussed is Wu-Tang Clan’s “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),” Violent Femmes’ self-titled, and Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville.”
Sometimes the discussions include other musicians or music writers who can share insight into the album they’re discussing, but even when its just Lambusta and Erickson, it’s always absorbing and illuminating.
Recommended episode: May 21 — Counting Crows — August and Everything After
In this podcast, host Hrishikesh Hirway sits down with musicians as varied as Dropkick Murphys, Solange and Ghostface Killah to discuss the story behind one of the guest’s songs.
Each episode provides enough technical details for process nerds like myself, but also incredibly personal stories and interpretations from the makers of the music. In one episode, Hirway speaks to Bono about growing up at 10 Cedarwood Road in Dublin, and why he wrote a song about it on the band’s most recent album, and in another you can hear how composer Ramin Djawadi was inspired to write the “Game of Thrones” theme.
Recommended episode: May 9, 2016 — Carly Rae Jepsen — “When I Needed You”
Talkhouse Music Podcast
There are some things that only people who are in the same industry will understand, and that’s what makes the Talkhouse Podcast so interesting — it’s all artists interviewing artists.
This approach provides listeners a window into what it’s like to be a musician in the studio, out on the road, and trying to break into an industry very much in flux. The pairings are often surprising, like Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood interviewing rapper Talib Kweli, but it makes for inspired listening.
Recommended episode: June 13, 2016 — Ben Gibbard with Lauren Mayberry
The Vinyl Me, Please Podcast
Hosted by Tyler Barstow, co-founder of the Denver-based Vinyl Me, Please, this weekly podcast features a variety of some of today’s best music writers to discuss new albums, interview great artists more people need to be paying attention to, and exploring some of the exciting albums the company is sharing.
The episodes are a perfect blend of the personal and critical, and will make you laugh and want to go relisten to some of your favorite albums. It’s like having a conversation about music with your best friends.
Recommended episode: Tie between Feb. 23 — Record of the Month Interview with Tennis/June 29 — Lorde’s Melodrama
Clarke Reader’s column on how music connects to our lives appears every other week. A community editor with Colorado Community Media, he is still waiting for someone to vinyl him, please. Check out his music blog at calmacil20.blogspot.com. And share your favorite music podcasts at firstname.lastname@example.org.