Bob Boilen

In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.

Significant listener interest in the music being played on All Things Considered, along with his and NPR's vast music collections, gave Boilen the idea to start All Songs Considered. "It was obvious to me that listeners of NPR were also lovers of music, but what also became obvious by 1999 was that the web was going to be the place to discover new music and that we wanted to be the premiere site for music discovery." The show launched in 2000, with Boilen as its host.

Before coming to NPR, Boilen found many ways to share his passion for music. From 1982 to 1986 he worked for Baltimore's Impossible Theater, where he held many posts, including composer, technician, and recording engineer. Boilen became part of music history in 1983 with the Impossible Theater production Whiz Bang, a History of Sound. In it, Boilen became one of the first composers to use audio sampling — in this case, sounds from nature and the industrial revolution. He was interviewed about Whiz Bang by Susan Stamberg on All Things Considered.

In 1985, the Washington City Paper voted Boilen 'Performance Artist of the Year.' An electronic musician, he received a grant from the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to work on electronic music and performance.

After Impossible Theater, Boilen worked as a producer for a television station in Washington, D.C. He produced several projects, including a music video show. In 1997, he started producing an online show called Science Live for the Discovery Channel. He also put out two albums with his psychedelic band, Tiny Desk Unit, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Boilen still composes and performs music and posts it for free on his website BobBoilen.info. He performs contradance music and has a podcast of contradance music that he produces with his son Julian.

Longtime NPR fans may remember another contribution Boilen made to NPR. He composed the original theme music for NPR's Talk of the Nation.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:57 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Tweedy: Tiny Desk Concert

Tiny Desk Concert with Tweedy on September 8, 2014.
Nick Michael NPR

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 9:08 pm

There's something heartwarming about a family making music together. I'm especially sentimental when I see a father with a son, because my son and I made music in contra dance bands and Irish sessions as he grew up.

Years ago, while interviewing Jeff Tweedy before a Wilco concert, I asked him if he'd made music with his kids. He told me about going to his son Spencer's preschool class and writing a tune with all the kids; "Monkey Mess" was their final creation.

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All Songs TV
12:56 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Kevin Morby, 'All Of My Life'

Kevin Morby, 'All Of My Life'
Woodsist

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 2:12 pm

Here's a sweet song filmed on a faux '60s TV show set. Kevin Morby, who recently moved from New York to Los Angeles, played in Woods as a bassist and The Babies (now on hiatus) as a guitarist and singer. I saw Morby on a recent solo tour for his new record Still Life and enjoyed the simplicity of his songs.

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All Songs TV
10:44 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Holly Williams, 'Waiting On June'

Holly Williams
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon September 15, 2014 12:09 pm

Holly Williams is a powerful singer and a songwriter. She writes songs from the heart and I've witnessed this song bring more than a few people to tears (I'm included). You may know Holly Williams as the daughter of Hank Williams Jr., and the granddaughter of Hank Williams, though the elder Hank died long before she was born.

But this song, "Waiting on June," is a story of her maternal grandparents, the other side of the family. Holly Williams wrote to us to tell us about the grandfather and grandmother this tear-jerker is about.

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All Songs TV
1:08 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Mirah, 'No Direction Home'

Mirah
Shervin Lainez

Originally published on Sun October 26, 2014 5:26 pm

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Front Row
12:01 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

The New Pornographers, Live In Concert At The Brill Building

The New Pornographers celebrated the release of their new album, Brill Bruisers, with a special show inside the Brill Building in New York.
Ebru Yildiz for NPR

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 3:20 pm

Last week in New York City, on the fringe of Times Square, a band of busy artists gathered in a building brimming with songwriting history. The Brill Building's golden age, when songs like "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "Be My Baby" were written in its offices, are in the past, but The New Pornographers' pop music would fit into the mold of that era. You can easily imagine the group's members writing songs in small, secluded rooms to be played on tiny transistors and monophonic record players.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:21 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Justin Townes Earle: Tiny Desk Concert

Justin Townes Earle performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Colin Marshall NPR

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 4:09 pm

We threw a curve ball at Justin Townes Earle. Despite his five albums full of well-loved songs, we asked him to play new material for this Tiny Desk Concert; songs we hadn't yet heard. Earle's new album Single Mothers comes out this week, and here he performs two tracks from that record: "White Gardenias," his nod to Billie Holiday, and "Burning Pictures."

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sat September 6, 2014

Jessica Lea Mayfield: Tiny Desk Concert

Jessica Lea Mayfield performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
NPR

Originally published on Sun October 26, 2014 5:27 pm

These days, Jessica Lea Mayfield is all contrasts, starting with the way she sets her wistful voice against her shimmering guitar. It's got a harder edge to it than the rootsier music of her past. Then there's that cotton-candy hair and all the glitter; her guitar glitters, her eyes glitter, her shoes glitter. It's easier to talk about what isn't glittered — and mostly that'd be her lyrics. In the final song from both her album Make My Head Sing...

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Tiny Desk Concerts
9:03 am
Wed September 3, 2014

Trampled By Turtles: Tiny Desk Concert

Tiny Desk Concert with Trampled by Turtles on July 16, 2014.
Sarah Tilotta NPR

What immediately attracted me to Trampled by Turtles when I first saw the band was its speed, but the Minnesotans are about more than just blistering bluegrass. They also write beautiful, heartfelt folk-pop songs, as this Tiny Desk Concert demonstrates.

All three of these tunes come from Trampled By Turtles' new eighth album, Wild Animals. Watching the band gathered around one mic seemed perfectly right.

Set List

  • "Come Back Home"
  • "Winners"
  • "Lucy"

Credits

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All Songs TV
8:03 am
Tue September 2, 2014

Hozier, 'Jackie And Wilson'

Hozier, performing his new song "Jackie and Wilson"
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon September 15, 2014 12:04 pm

The song title "Jackie and Wilson" is a playful nod, of course, to the great R&B singer Jackie Wilson. And don't worry — Hozier, the 24-year-old Irish soul singer and guitarist, has the grace and the backbeat to make it work.

Andrew Hozier-Byrne has already released two hit-filled EPs, and on Oct. 7, he'll finally release his first album. A version of this song will be on that record, but in the meantime, you can watch Hozier perform it live with his band in the studio.

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