FEATURE: Memorable First Times, Guitar Chat and These Three Works: Podcasts and Radio Shows That Get Under the Skin of Artists




Memorable First Times, Guitar Chat and These Three Works

IN THIS PHOTO: Natalie Merchant is one of the guests on John Wilson’s new podcast, These Three/PHOTO CREDIT: @These3Three

Podcasts and Radio Shows That Get Under the Skin of Artists


IN tomorrow’s feature…

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I am celebrating Prince’s Purple Rain at thirty-five but, right now, I have been thinking about the way we view music and digest records. I have just written a feature regarding music documentaries and the fact we do not really have many of them around right now. Once was the time, not so long ago, when music documentaries were common: whether it was a study of a classic album or the celebration of a musical movement, it was wonderful immersing yourself in these fantastic, detailed shows. There are documentaries I would like to see on T.V. and I do wonder whether, in a streaming age, we are less concerned with the visual and more fixated by the quick and easily-accessible song. T.V. is one area we need to preserve and promote but, as podcasts and radio still hold huge power, maybe music T.V. has mutated into podcasts and radio shows. Even with our audio options being open and limitless, how many options are out there when you want to hear your favourite artists undressed and open? I know there are a few interviews series but, with a new podcast out, These Three, it adds to the already-excellent The First Time with… He will forgive me for mentioning his show a lot but, hosted by Matt Everitt, The First Time with… brings musical figures to the microphone and explores their first records, gigs and memories.

I think I have written a feature about it before – my mind does get a bit blurry considering the amount of work I put out! – but you can listen to the series here. The most-recent edition focused on Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and, like all the other broadcasts, it was funny, informative and revealing. One reason why I wanted to refocus on Matt Everitt’s series is because it continues to compel and inspire me. Like Desert Island Discs, it is a chance to hear popular figures in deep conversation. There is a book available – that collates some of the best guests from The First Time with… and I think the series (if that is the right word?) will continue for years. I do think that, as we want something instantly and love our music super-quick, maybe we are spending less time getting to know artists. How often do we go out and buy music biographies and general music reference books? Apart from the fact I am re-reading (for the xth time) a Kate Bush biography (for research purposes/the million-to-one shot I will get an interview with her one day), I do spend a lot of time reading music books – I am also ploughing through a couple of books concerning The Beatles. If music T.V. has declined and we have fewer documentaries out there than we should, I do feel like we need more options like The First Time with…

I adore music of all shapes and sizes but, when you get to learn more about the artist and where they came from, it links you to other artists and sounds. It is almost like a sample in a Hip-Hop album: one hears the original song but, nestled between the beats, there are other tracks that take your mind in all directions. Radio shows like this are also valuable because many people do not have the time to sit down and read; they might not have a moment to catch a T.V. show but, as they can take things like The First Time with… in their ears, you can hear conversations with your favourite artists on the go, whilst commuting or, if you fancy, when out jogging or on the can! Whilst his podcast is a little broader, another one of my favourite broadcasters, John Wilson, has launched These Three. Like First, Last, Everything on Radcliffe and Maconie’s weekend breakfast show (on BBC Radio 6 Music) Wilson’s podcast focuses on the power of three. In this case, he asks guests about a work they have made, one they wish they had made and, looking ahead, one they are working on now. You can listen to John Wilson’s These Three at your leisure so check out the podcast’s official site and you can take it wherever you go. Wilson talks with actors and artists but, for the music fans, there are talks with Natalie Merchant, Paul Weller and Tom Odell.

Like Matt Everitt’s warm conversations with great musicians, Wilson hones to three works and asks a question I think everyone in the art has considered: Which work do we wish we had written? From a music perspective, songs are under the microscope. It is fascinating seeing Wilson and people like Paul Weller, in a studio, chatting about music and such. I am a big fan of Weller and to hear him chat about his future plans and a song that is dear to him (I will not spoil things by revealing his choice), it does give you a new perspective. I am not sure how many more episodes are coming in this series but, from Hayley Atwell (actor) and Kwame Kwei-Armah (actor and playwright), These Three is an illuminating and addictive series. I hope it does continue and runs for many series but after six episodes, it has proved popular and gained some good reviews. Miranda Sawyer, in this review, highlights These Three and Wilson’s interview style:

In which John Wilson, he of Radio 4’s Front Row and Mastertapes, branches out into his own podcast. Wilson is a culture vulture of eminent standing, and his interviews are always informed and intimate. In this new show, launched last week, he talks to musicians, actors, directors and artists about three works: one they made, one they wish they’d made, and one they’re working on right now. The first interviewees are Hayley Atwell, Paul Weller, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Natalie Merchant, Tom Odell and Jonathan Yeo. Great idea, beautifully executed. Recommended”.

There are other music podcasts that dig deep and take an almost forensic approach to memories and aspirations and, between Everitt and Wilson’s projects, it provides a chance for passionate music lovers to learn more about great artists – whether it is their favourite songs, early memories or songs they wish they’d written. I am not sure whether there are other podcasts/shows similar in nature but, to me, you need to check out The First Time with… and These Three. A third I will add is probably reserved for those who love their guitars over everything else. One will forgive me for not including audio samples of The David Gilmour Podcast (from Apple rather than YouTube, that is) but I have not figured out how to! The iconic Pink Floyd lead has just sold some of his guitars to raise money for ClientEarth – a charity that is dedicating to fighting climate change. You can read the story here but, as you can tell, the money raised is eye-watering. One suspects that a knighthood cannot be far away considering the great work Gilmour has done through the years. Although some of the instruments sold were featured on The Dark Side of the Moon, Gilmour talks us through some of his favourite guitars and why they mean a lot to him. I do love the fact there are series that feature musicians and their memories but it is great this iconic figure is talking about his guitars!

I urge everyone check out David Gilmour’s podcast and, whether you are a guitar nut or not, it is a wonderful way to spend some time. Not only can you discover more about Gilmour’s process and passion but you learn something about these cherished guitars. Listening to Gilmour talking so intently leads me to think there is legs in the idea of musicians talking about their instruments. At a time when schools are scrapping Music on the curriculum and we are worrying about the future, it is more important now more than ever to keep the beauty and purity of music alive. Gilmour is not the only person bringing us an instrument-based podcast but, having such a reputation, he will help others pick up a guitar and get into music. If streaming and disposable music makes it easier for us to soundtrack our day and discover the best new acts around, I do feel like we need to slow down once in a while and focus on a longer, more passionate piece. Whether that is a podcast or interview series, we not only get to listen to music but learn something in the process. It would be interesting to know whether other people have podcast recommendations or have found a radio series that appeals to those who want to know more about the artist – rather than merely scratch the surface. Whether you want to dig deeper into Gilmour’s guitar collection, discover the ‘first times’ of musicians across the spectrum or discover some song-specific stories from some great musicians, I have some recommendations that are worth…  


 PHOTO CREDIT: @juja_han/Unsplash

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