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What Songs Defined an Experience For You?

At first glance, “Songs That Defined an Experience” seems like it would be simple and straightforward topic — especially compared to some of the more ridiculous and ambiguous themes we’ve used on the Soundfly podcast before! But, it ended up being trickier than expected, with every interpretation eliciting a different kind of vulnerability from the members of the episode’s panel.

It really makes you think! What are songs that either define some quintessential experience of that band or artist, or a current event, or something deeply personal to your life? It’s not easy.

So to hash that one out, and discuss everything between early music school experiences and humanity’s most looming, unanswerable question, Carter and I were joined by the brilliant singer/songwriter and producer, Jessi Lee, who is as delightful as she is insightful. Song selections for the episode included pieces by heavy-hitters: J.S. Bach, Radiohead, and Death Cab for Cutie. 

Listen in to Episode 41 in its entirety right here:

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Episode 41 Highlights

1. Carter explains why playing one of Bach’s Cello Suites on an electric bass was such a valuable experience for him. 

Carter: “As a bass player, the first thing I got out of it was developing tone. Practicing it, unplugged, just what do your fingers, the strings, and the wood sound like, and can you make it sing close enough to the cello? Can you kind of get close to that sound? And you know, whatever your instrument, if it’s a stringed instrument or not, I think diving into the Cello Suites, there’s definitely something very valuable that awaits anybody that kind of goes to that process.”

2. Jessi shares powerful words about allowing yourself to listen to music you like — even when it’s mainstream.

Jessi: “Don’t let anybody shame you for liking anything if, at the time, they seem, you know, way too popular or way too famous. Especially now that I’ve like been able to kind of break away from my sort of like musical constraints that I’ve had on myself in the past, I kind of want to love and like everything, no matter how pop-y, no matter how famous. Every artist doesn’t have to be just some like tragic vilified human being who doesn’t get recognized until after, you know, they’re gone. It’s like sometimes you can just listen to the radio and have a fun time, you know? It’s okay.”

3. Mahea gets existential thanks to a deceptively simple song.

Mahea: “The reason I chose this song and the experience that I feel it defines is basically mortality, the entire human experience. I think this song, for being such a dark, sad subject matter in some ways, is really comforting. Like when you’re laying in bed at night and you’re struggling with the fact that you’re gonna die one day, ’cause you can’t fall asleep and insomnia is doing that thing. And then eventually you come to that place where you’re like, ‘It’s going to be okay.’ You just kind of accept your existence. This song somehow manages to sum that entire thing up for me. And that’s so complex for something that sounds so simple.”

Join Our Collaborative Playlist

Yes, it’s “collaborative!” As in: you can add tracks to the playlist that fit the theme!

Every other week, and with every new episode of Themes and Variation, we launch a new collaborative Spotify playlist that includes the songs mentioned in this episode and more, which you can add to and enjoy. Here’s this week’s collaborative Spotify playlist!

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a (bass) line at [email protected]!

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Mahea Lee

Mahea Lee is a classically trained pianist and composer who has a degree from a jazz school and leads an electro-pop band. Her greatest musical passion is lyrical songwriting, but she's been known to write the occasional fugue. She graduated from Berklee College of Music, where she majored in Contemporary Writing and Production and minored in Music Theory. For more Mahea, check out Soundlfly's course, The Improviser's Toolkit.