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Get to Know the Creator of Song Exploder

Jan 16 2018

Podcasts are the most important medium of our time. That’s right. They provide a meritocratic platform, and the best of them verge on art. One such podcast, Song Exploder, introduced me to the creative talent of Hrishikesh Hirway about three years ago. Since then, Hrishi and I have kept in touch—he even gave a visiting lecture on the intersection of sound and graphic design at our San Francisco studio. Like all of us at IDEO, Hrishi approaches every project as a design problem. I was thrilled to again catch up with him in this installment of Creative Crushes.

Hh By Carlos Lerma

Image by Carlos Lerma

In one sentence, who are you?

I'm a creative jack of all trades, I guess, which can be useful but is often frustrating, especially because I'm surrounded by very talented people with a depth of skill and knowledge that always feels out of reach for me.

What do you do? How did you learn it? 

These days, I mainly make music and podcasts. I write and sing songs under the name The One AM Radio, I've scored some film and TV, and I make beats in a project called Moors. The podcasts I make are called Song Exploder, in which musicians trace the creative decisions that went into a song of theirs, and The West Wing Weekly, in which the Aaron Sorkin TV series is discussed in detail. As far as how I learned—I studied graphic design in school and I think that had a big influence on how I think about things. With music, I mainly learned by listening to others talk about what they do. That became the basis for starting a podcast, too; Song Exploder is about listening closely.

3 favorite possessions?

  1. My computer (whatever it is at any given time, it's my way into everything)
  2. My custom Healy electric guitar (it looks and sounds beautiful, and it's the first time I'd ever had anything custom-made)
  3. My house (it's small but peaceful and cozy, it's where I live and work, and it feels like an extension of who I am).

What does a typical work session look like?

Part of the garage at my house was converted into an office, which I use as a makeshift recording studio. I have my computer, my piano, and my guitars in there. I sit in front of the computer, and usually work in two-hour bursts until my focus runs out. Then I pace around the backyard and in and out of the house for a while until my ears and my brain settle back down, and then get back to work. I usually start in the early afternoon and work until pretty late into the night.

How do you get over creative block?

I'll let you know once I figure it out. I started Song Exploder in part because of writer's block in my own songwriting…and I'm still not sure that I've gotten through it.

How do you see the world in 2078?

At this point, I'm just hoping there will still be a world left to see in 2078.

What’s your number one bucket list item?

One casualty of my dilettantism is that I don't have a a number one bucket list item. I have three items that might rank at number four, though: I'd like to produce a feature film, design my own house, and see all seven continents. But if none of them happened, I'd find something else.

Who are you creative crushin’ on lately?

I am in love with the music of Grouper and the prints of Phil Chang, who is pushing at the edge of what photography can be.

Hrishi This That Card
  • Chris Nyffeler

    Design Director, IDEO San Francisco
    Chris Nyffeler, Design Director at IDEO, was all about print as a kid — in fact, he apprenticed at a print shop. But after building his first website in 1995, he never turned back. Today, his preferred medium is anywhere people and technology intersect. His goal: to create unobtrusive digital products that integrate with and improve daily life.

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