Sodajerker On Reaching 100 Episodes

In late July of 2011, during a break from demoing a new song, Simon and I sat in our little loft studio in the Liverpool suburbs and tentatively discussed the possibility of doing a podcast. A songwriting podcast, to be precise. Our motivation was thus: we’d been plugging away, writing songs under the Sodajerker sobriquet for a while and, to put it bluntly, were looking for ways to attract some attention to ourselves and the music we were making. Podcasting was becoming an increasingly popular medium, so we figured that this could be one small way to put ourselves on the map.

The first idea we kicked around was to dedicate each episode to a specific songwriter (living or dead), discussing his/her approaches and techniques with specific reference to certain key tracks and the odd musical excerpt or demonstration. However, we quickly realised it was unlikely that anyone would give a stuff about two unknown Scouse musicians yakking for an hour about songwriters they admired. As the conversation progressed we realised the only way to really get people interested would be to talk to the writers themselves. Of course, this conversational format was hardly breaking new ground; longform interview podcasts such as WTF, Nerdist and NPR’s Fresh Air were already firmly established by this time. However, to our astonishment, a quick online search revealed that there was no such podcast devoted solely to interviews with songwriters. We had, it seemed, found our niche. (I should also point out that we drew a great deal of inspiration from the mighty Paul Zollo’s wonderful book, Songwriters on Songwriting – not least its title!)

Sodajerker Towers Sodajerker Towers

By the end of that initial discussion, we not only had the basic concept in place, but also a lengthy list of potential guests, which would grow exponentially in the coming weeks and months (and years). From the get-go there seemed to be an unspoken understanding between us that we would aim as high as possible in terms of the people we wanted to interview. We fired off some emails to prospective candidates and busied ourselves with figuring out the technical side of things while we waited for the replies to come rolling in. Unsurprisingly, an abundance of positive responses was not forthcoming. However, two recipients, to our delight and surprise, did consent to be interviewed; pop songsmith extraordinaire Billy Steinberg and ‘the wizard, the true star’ himself, Todd Rundgren.

Those first couple of episodes (recorded in mid-October 2011) are, for me, hard to listen to now, like looking at old photos of yourself with an embarrassing haircut. I’d had zero experience of interviewing prior to us calling Billy in LA for the flagship episode, and my delivery of both the intro and some of the questions is less than authoritative to say the least. Luckily, Si had conducted a lot of interviews by this point, and his experience helped settle my jitters enough to get through it. Content wise, however, we really hit the ground running. Billy was the perfect guest – warm, relaxed, informative and witty, and more than happy to share his stories (of which he had many). His vivid account of working with Roy Orbison on ‘I Drove All Night’ remains one of my all-time favourite moments on the show. That it went so well gave us the extra shot of confidence we needed to face the potentially trickier proposition of Todd, to whom we’d be speaking the following day. He too, however, was super nice and terrific value, and though some technical issues meant we had to reluctantly lose several minutes of audio, we had another solid (if slightly truncated) show in the bag.

Without both these gentlemen’s generosity of spirit, it’s arguable the podcast may never have got off the ground, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. Billy in particular has continued to be a good friend to the show over the years, following our progress and putting us in touch with several of his songwriting peers.

As time went by and we got more episodes under our belt, we naturally grew in confidence, and our expanding back catalogue seemed to make us a much more attractive prospect for potential guests, leading to more bookings. Eventually we had publicists offering up their artists to be interviewed, which was not something we’d envisaged ever happening when we started out. Indeed, our 50th show with the great Nick Lowe came about that way, and last year we were nothing short of flabbergasted to be approached by Paul Simon’s publicist (and you’ll hear more about that whole experience in the 100th episode bonus Q&A).

Simon, Lamont, Brian Simon and Brian with Lamont Dozier

Now, over half a decade later and 100 episodes in, it’s actually quite hard to take in what we’ve accomplished with the show. Every so often, during an idle moment, I’ll open iTunes, scroll down our episode list, and never fail to be taken aback by the roll call of names. Did we really speak to all these people? When we first thought about doing a podcast, we could never have dreamed it would lead to us rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paul Simon, Alicia Keys and Lamont Dozier; chatting with bona fide Hollywood movie stars like Jeff Daniels and Kevin Bacon; talking satire and song parody with comedic icons like Harry Shearer and “Weird Al” Yankovic; getting Paddy McAloon on the blower from Andromeda Heights; interrogating a newly-reformed Ben Folds Five in a Manchester art gallery; hearing first hand from Richard Sherman how it was to work for Walt Disney; or sitting in Willy Russell’s office while he talked us through the genesis of Blood Brothers.

Suffice to say, Sodajerker on Songwriting has been very good to us over the years. Also, for all of the show’s success it remains very much a fiercely independent, homespun affair, which is a source of tremendous pride for us both. On a personal note, it’s been a genuine pleasure to work alongside one of my oldest friends and produce a body of work of such quality together that will hopefully endure for years to come.

Will we make it to episode 200? Well, we’ll see. There’s certainly a lot more left in the tank, and, frankly, I never thought we’d reach triple figures (yet here we are). So anything’s possible. Of course, the podcasting world is a lot more competitive and densely populated than it was 6 years ago, but that’s to be expected, and a bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone.

And what of our own music, the very reason we began this amazing journey in the first place? Don’t worry, we’re getting to that, we’ve just been a little distracted for a while…

Brian

1 comment

  • J. Philpot June 20, 2017

    You guys rule! Your podcast is highly entertaining and ever so inspirational to the rest of us amateur songwriters. Hearing firsthand from some of our favorite artists and introducing others we are enthralled to discover makes your show the best of its kind. Cheers to you and your next 100 episodes!

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