For Songs

A podcast for and about songs and songwriting

About the show

This podcast is for those who love music but can't write a tune to save their lives. We talk with singer/songwriters of all stripes, professional touring musicians to those who can't quite catch a break. Maybe you'll hear something you'll like. Maybe not. But you will come away with a greater appreciation for the gift of songwriting, and how hard it really is.

Now sponsored by @thepugdc!

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  • Episode 52: A Conversation with Nora O'Connor

    November 1st, 2022  |  Season 1  |  36 mins 45 secs
    countryrock myheart, decembrists, folkrock, nekocase, noraoconnor, singer-songwriter

    There’s a moment in singer/songwriter Nora O’Connor’s new album My Heart when you realize just how special her talent is. By admission, the Chicago-based musician is more comfortable in the background, singing backup and playing with such Americana luminaries like Neko Case, the Decembrists, Robbie Fulks, among others. But for the first time in 18(!) years, Nora is back with My Heart, released in early October. With a soothing voice, Nora has been an in-demand harmony vocalist for two decades. In this episode, Nora gives a refreshing interview about My Heart. We discuss about four songs—Sore, Cambridge Cold, the album’s one cover It’s Alright Now, and Fare Thee Well. Nora walks us through how these songs came to be and how performing outdoor shows during the COVID lockdowns unlocked her creative juices. So sit back and listen in as Nora O’Connor joins me for this episode of For Songs!

  • Episode 51: A Conversation with John McCutcheon

    October 10th, 2022  |  Season 1  |  40 mins 11 secs
    banjo, folk, folkmusic, guitar, johnmccutcheon, songwriting, woodyguthrie

    You think you’ve been productive during COVID? Well, you may have been, but not as much as my next guest did. In fact, folk singer John McCutcheon’s latest album Leap, released in September 2022, is his third album since 2020 AND but his 43rd of his career! John’s love of folk music began as a young teenager watching the 1963 March on Washington. He’s been writing and recording folk music since the mid-1970s, and hasn’t looked back. In this episode, we talk about four songs from Leap—The Ride, The Troubles, Sorryland, and Work. We take a deep-dive into his prolific songwriting process, how the material keeps flowing, and how he hopes to stay “useful” as long as possible. Listen in!

  • Episode 50: Another Conversation with Paleface

    October 3rd, 2022  |  Season 1  |  18 mins 12 secs
    beck, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, danieljohnston, indierock, newmusic, paleface, songwriting, womeninrock

    As you’ve no doubt heard in listening to this podcast, the music industry is not for the faint of heart. In this special episode of For Songs, we are joined again by indie-rock legend Paleface and his drummer/partner Monica “Mo” Samalot. Paleface has seen it all, a veteran of the industry since the early 90s. PF and Mo discuss the crowdfunding campaign currently underway to support their next release, which is expected to come out in early 2023. We talk about what goes into writing, recording, producing, and releasing an entirely independent record. We discuss how you can play a key role in getting their new album out on the streets by supporting their efforts.

  • Episode 49: A Conversation with Barry Lynch

    July 13th, 2022  |  Season 1  |  45 mins 33 secs
    armagh, belfast, ireland, irishmusic, mumming, session, sessions, strings

    For me, this episode is 11 years in the making. For my guest Barry Lynch and his group the Armagh Rhymers? We’re talking 30 years. The Armagh Rhymers, a traditional Irish mummers band from Northern Ireland, released their first album in 1992. So now 30 years later, “Vol. 2” is on the streets and, well, you need to take a seat, grab a pint or two, and listen in. Mumming, for those who don’t know, is an ancient tradition, dating back in Ireland to the pagan, pre-Catholic days. Barry helped produce and mix the album, as well as playing all kinds of stringed instruments and adding his distinctive vocals. I met Barry more than 11 years ago on a trip to Northern Ireland and we stayed in touch over the years. Barry is an accomplished musician, having played all over the world and even at the White House in the late 90s, promoting the peace process that ended decades of sectarian strife in Northern Ireland. So go grab that pint (or two) and welcome Barry Lynch to For Songs.

  • Episode 48: Another Conversation with Peter Argyropoulos of Sons of Silver

    June 11th, 2022  |  Season 1  |  45 mins 2 secs
    grunge, hardrock, indierock, pandemic, pearljam, punkrock, songwriter, sonsofsilver

    Peter Argyropoulos has a way with words. The lead singer/songwriter of the LA-based hard-rock band Sons of Silver has his finger on the pulse on what’s happening across the country and, indeed, the world. On his band’s debut EP Doomsday Noises, he presaged the pandemic, the social unrest, and the decaying fabric of society that has been our existence the last two years. Now, a year and half later, the band is back with a blistering follow-up EP called Ordinary Sex Appeal. As much as this is a commentary on society, this interview is also a clear love letter to the power of music. So sit back, get on your thinking caps, and welcome Peter Argyropoulos back to For Songs.

  • Episode 47: A Conversation with Ben Vaughn

    May 23rd, 2022  |  Season 1  |  42 mins 15 secs
    benvaughn, filmnoir, indierock, songwriter, songwriting, writing

    There’s something about simplicity and subtlety that sets the best songwriters apart. Few artists have attained a mastery of both quite like my next guest, singer/songwriter Ben Vaughn. An exceptionally talented musician, Ben is a persistent writer; indeed, he says he writes almost every day. The tough part is getting it all down before it goes away. His music may remind you a bit of They Might Be Giants, a little Tom Waits mixed in with some Lou Reed. We spoke from his California home about his newest album The World of Ben Vaughn, released in May 2022. Listen in as he discusses four songs from new album—Wayne Fontana Was Wrong, Blind Alley, Asking for a Friend, and New Jersey Rock and Roll. Dig in and welcome Ben Vaughn to For Songs.

  • Episode 46: A Conversation with the Waymores

    May 6th, 2022  |  Season 1  |  41 mins 27 secs
    country, countrymusic, countryrock, elvis, indierock, johnnycash, junecarter, thewaymores, waymores

    Funny how the world works, at least in the world of music. This is the story of Kira Annelise and her husband Willie Heath Neal, who together make up the country duo The Waymores. When they met, Willie was a seasoned songwriter about to hang it up. He was still singing in bands when Kira saw him performing, and her world changed. Kira started playing guitar and found out that she was a helluva songwriter too. Fourteen years later, Kira and Willie are still at it, and their newest album The Stone Sessions is proof positive of their magic. In this episode of For Songs, Willie and Kira talk about their past, their future, and, most importantly, their compelling present. Buckle up, grab a drink, and welcome Kira and Willie to For Songs.

  • Episode 45: For Songs Singles! Restless Companion, Michael Patrick F. Smith

    April 18th, 2022  |  Season 1  |  23 mins 10 secs
    dakota, folkmusic, folkrock, indierock, newmusic, thegoodhand

    It’s been a little more than since my next guest first joined me on For Songs. Michael Patrick F. Smith returns to the show for the first time since January 2021, a few weeks before his book The Good Hand was published. The Good Hand is a blistering read, telling the tale of his journey to North Dakota at the height of the shale-gas revolution that turned parts of the state into a latter-day gold rush. With the paperback version having just been released, Michael joined me to discuss a new song called Restless Companion. Restless Companion is a breezy tune that would fit right at home on Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne, or Son Volt’s Trace. The song itself is an ode to The Good Hand and all the literal blood, sweat, and tears that went into it. So sit down, grab a beer, and welcome back Michael Patrick F. Smith to For Songs.

  • Episode 44: Another Conversation with The Pug--Talking the Clash, Joe Strummer, Big Audio Dynamite & Much More!

    April 10th, 2022  |  Season 1  |  39 mins 53 secs
    bigaudiodynamite, clash, dc, gogo, indierock, london, music, pandemic, poguetry, punk, punkrock, theclash

    It’s been a rough two years, to say the least. In this unique episode, Tony from the Pug joins me for an enthralling conversation about music, the Clash, and so much more. The general theme of this conversation is as follows: What Big Audio Dynamite/Joe Strummer solo songs would’ve been great Clash songs? We tried to put in some ground rules, but those quickly went out the door. So rather than sum it up, it’s better if you just listen in. And join us online for an ongoing conversation!

  • Episode 43: A Conversation with Emily Capell

    March 20th, 2022  |  Season 1  |  45 mins 33 secs
    blondie, donletts, dreadzone, emilycapell, indierock, joestrummer, london, newmusic, ska, theclash

    If you had the chance to spend an hour in the car with one of your musical heroes—you are driving—what music would you play? My next guest, London-based Emily Capell, faced this very dilemma. Emily, who literally grew up on the Clash and its various offshoots, is inspired by, well, the Clash, Big Audio Dynamite, but it goes beyond that. In his exhilarating interview, Emily and I talk about two songs from her 2019 debut album Combat Frock and then we talk about two newer songs, 2020’s Flamingo, recorded with the London-based Dreadzone, and a cover of Big Audio Dynamite’s E=MC2. Emily is one of the freshest talents recording today, so go grab your beer, sit down, and welcome Emily Capell to For Songs.

  • Episode 42: A Conversation with the Whitmore Sisters

    February 18th, 2022  |  Season 1  |  44 mins 58 secs
    americana, ghoststories, indierock, newmusic, steveearle, themastersons, thewhitmoresisters

    It is a cliché that blood is thicker than water, but its also true. And my next guests are living proof.. Eleanor and Bonnie Whitemore have been in and around the Americana genre for pretty much their whole lives. Eleanor and her husband Chris Masterson make up folk rock duo The Mastersons, and they also play in Steve Earle’s backing band The Dukes. Bonnie has released a number albums over the years and has played with a who’s who. Despite their roots, though, Ghost Stories is their first album together, and let’s hope there’s more to come. We talk about four songs—Hurtin’ for a Letdown, Ghost Stories, Greek Tragedy, and The Ballad of Sissy and Porter. We talk about death, drugs, influences, and, of course, songwriting. This interview gets pretty heavy at times, so be ready. It is my high honor to welcome Eleanor and Bonnie Whitmore to For Songs.

  • Episode 41: A Conversation with Ian Jones

    January 21st, 2022  |  Season 1  |  40 mins 58 secs

    So if there’s one theme in most all these interviews I’ve conducted the last nearly two years, it’s that the music biz is a tough one, even in the best of times. And my next guest, Seattle-based singer/songwriter Ian Jones, knows this better than most. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, Ian left his Pacific Northwest home to give music a go in California, moving to Santa Barbara. While the weather may have been better, the industry changed so dramatically from when he first started that after a good many years, it was time to head back home. He chronicles portions of this journey on his new EP The Evergreens, released in October 2021. We discuss four songs from the EP—Evergreens, Liars Beggars Criminals and Thieves, Promised Land, and Last Call. Please join me in welcoming Ian Jones to For Songs.

  • Episode 40: For Songs Singles! Keeping On, Franklin Gotham

    January 7th, 2022  |  Season 1  |  21 mins 54 secs
    altrock, franklingotham, icewagonflu, indierock, newmusic, poprock

    Here we go—nearing Year Three of this pandemic. If you are struggling to trudge ahead as the news seemingly gets worse every day, have I got a song for you. Joining me for this first episode of 2022 is my old friend Kevin Adkins of Franklin Gotham. In this episode, Kevin and I talk about Franklin Gotham’s latest single Keeping On, a tune for our time. It is no doubt one of the catchiest songs you’ll hear all year, and it’s also a perfect way to start 2022. Kevin and I talk about how the song came to be, how they recorded it across two states, and how their writing process works. If you need a bit of a pep talk heading into the year, dig into this!

  • Episode 39: A Conversation with Nicole Atkins

    December 26th, 2021  |  Season 1  |  41 mins 55 secs
    indierock, jerseyshore, judygarland, memphisice, newepisode, nicoleatkins

    It is Christmas time, and while this isn’t a Christmas episode per se, it is the gift that keeps on giving. If you’ve ever heard Nicole Atkins sing, you know there’s something eerie, calm, haunting yet beautiful about her voice. In this episode of For Songs, Nicole joins me from her home in Nashville, which was filled to the brim with her newest album Memphis Ice. Recorded in Memphis in one day, Memphis Ice is Nicole’s Judy Garland moment. She stripped down songs from her slick, enchanting 2020 release Italian Ice and recreates them here, and the results are breathtaking. We talk about four songs—Promised Land, Domino, Mind Eraser, and Captain. Nicole discusses her songwriting process, how she was able to do more with less, and how her hometown still seeps into her music. Please welcome Nicole Atkins to For Songs.

  • Episode 38: For Songs Singles! Dreaming of a Revolution, by the Sweet Lizzy Project

    December 17th, 2021  |  Season 1  |  24 mins 54 secs
    cubalibre, cubanband, dreamingofarevolution, protestsongs, slp, soscuba, sweetlizzyproject, womeninrock

    In this episode of For Songs-Singles, we bring back Lisset Diaz of the Sweet Lizzy Project to discuss her band’s latest single, Dreaming of a Revolution/Otra Revolucion. The song is inspired by the protesters in Cuba, who are putting their lives on the line to protest against the existing regime. we talk about the English and Spanish versions of the song, along with the special editions featuring legendary Cuban singers Carlos Varela and Raul Malo. Listen in as Lisset details the emotional ride that led to this song and the difficulties in getting the translations just right. Ready to be inspired? Listen in!

  • Episode 37: A Conversation with the Mighty Joshua

    December 3rd, 2021  |  Season 1  |  42 mins 43 secs
    africa, bemighty, bobmarley, mightyjoshua, rasta, reggae, reggaemusic

    Never doubt it—music can change lives. My next guest is living proof. Renowned reggae singer The Mighty Joshua certainly had no intentions of singing and playing in front of thousands. But at the heavy urging of well-traveled reggae keyboardist Chris ‘Peanut’ Whitley, Joshua embraced his calling and truly became Mighty. In this episode of For Songs, The Mighty Joshua talks about his journey, how he went from a shy percussionist to an energetic front man capable of moving mountains. You will be inspired, educated, and uplifted. Please welcome The Mighty Joshua to For Songs.