“Song Exploder,” in which artists deconstruct their tunes, comes to visual life in the new Netflix docuseries of the same name.
Hrishikesh Hirway, a musician who leads the One AM Radio project, created the popular music podcast in 2013 and now hosts the show — which features Alicia Keys, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ty Dolla $ign and a reunited (if separately) R.E.M. breaking down one tune per episode.
Hirway, 41, spoke to The Post about making the transition from his podcast to Netflix, how he got R.E.M. to reveal the secrets behind “Losing My Religion” and what song he wishes he had written.
Were you worried about how the podcast would translate as a docuseries?
Yeah, for sure. The podcast is not just a show that happens to exist in audio — it’s about audio. And so trying to figure out how that would translate into something visual was a real puzzle. The podcast was something that I started in my bedroom and continue to make in my garage. A part of the reason why the podcast existed is because it was something that I could literally do myself. With the television show, the number of people that are involved is hard to keep track of.
What is it like seeing yourself on TV now?
It’s brutal. [Laughs.] This is my first time on camera for anything.
Why did you decide to do “3 Hour Drive” instead of one of Alicia Keys’ big hits?
When I spoke to Alicia for the first time, she said, “I have these new songs, and I would love to tell the story of one of them.” When she told me the story of “3 Hour Drive,” I said, “That’s gotta be it. That’s so beautiful and so meaningful and deep.”
How did you get R.E.M., who aren’t even together as a band, to discuss “Losing My Religion”?
That was sort of an alley-oop from a past experience with them. When the 25th-anniversary [reissue] of “Automatic for the People” came out, their publicist suggested that they do “Song Exploder,” and we did an episode on the song “Try Not to Breathe.” And I heard later that it was their favorite interview they did for that whole project. So with that in mind, I went back and I said, “Will you give me another shot in this totally different medium? And wouldn’t it be cool if we could do ‘Losing My Religion?’” And they said yes.
What song do you wish you had written?
The first thing that popped into my head is Jeff Buckley’s cover of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. That song cuts through me. But it’s the Jeff Buckley cover of it that really kills me, and that wouldn’t have existed if Leonard Cohen hadn’t written “Hallelujah.” So it’s the combination of the songwriting and the performance. It’s not just the songwriting that gets talked about in the show — it’s also about the expression of that.
What other docuseries do you like?
There’s a show on Netflix called “Abstract” that was a really important touchstone for “Song Exploder.” I love design, and here was this show that was all about design. And watching the first episode, I was like, “Oh, somebody did a visual version of ‘Song Exploder!’” That was sort of my lightbulb going off.
What was the last thing you watched on Netflix?
An episode of “The Great British Baking Show.” To me, “Song Exploder” and “The Greatest British Baking Show” are really kindred spirits. They’re like siblings to me because, in both cases, they’re about somebody trying to solve a creative problem.
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