Summary: Nerdette is a weekly interview show that helps you unwind with fun conversations, inspiring ideas, and delightful recommendations. And join us on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month for the Nerdette Bookclub!
Wilco singer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy has been busy. He has a new solo album out called Love is the King. And his new book How to Write One Song has a lot of advice for aspiring songwriters. But it’s also about a lot more than that. Nerdette host Greta Johnsen spoke with Tweedy from his recording studio in Chicago. What’s your definition of a song? Jeff Tweedy: I think of a song as a moment that you can recreate, and that you can intentionally set out to share with someone. It doesn’t have to be musical. I think a lot of the ways we treat our friends is a type of song. Just the notion that you know how to make your mom laugh is a bit of a song. I think we can start with the idea of a song as being anything you want it to be, honestly, and move out from there towards whatever your musical ability allows. You say that you weren’t trying to write a self-help book. But so much of it is about how to give yourself permission to try something new and how to finally scratch that creative itch. It is a self-help book after all? Tweedy: Self-help is such an oxymoronic thing. If you can help yourself, you don’t need a book! But I think the book was a way for me to share a lifestyle that I think is beneficial to me. I don’t think the book succeeds quite as well as a direct practical guide to writing a song, even though there is some of that. I think it’s more successful as a kind nudge toward something that makes living worthwhile. You use the phrase “inviting inspiration” a lot, which counters the argument that making stuff is about sitting around waiting for divine inspiration to hit. Tweedy: Yeah. I think there is a gestation period for a lot of inspiration. And to me, opening yourself up to doing the work on a daily process allows that gestation to have a foothold in your consciousness. I don’t think a bolt of inspiration is going to have much of a place to land in your psyche if you aren’t actively seeking, on a daily basis, something that surprises you or excites you. I look at it more like you’re putting yourself in the path of inspiration consciously. I just believe that’s how it happens much more than somebody, for example, not having any intention of writing a song at all, and getting struck by a bolt of lightning, and then they have an amazing song that comes out of them. That doesn’t happen. What happens is, people who really like the idea of writing a song try it a lot, and then someday they’re walking along, and something clicks. And it’s because they did all that other work You’ve talked about, in terms of being creative, that the stakes are super low. What do you mean by that? Tweedy: I mean that you aren’t going to hurt anybody with a bad song. I don’t see a lot of downside. The only real downside there can be is to your ego, and I think it’s good for your ego to be bruised and challenged. I think your ego works for you in a lot of really healthy ways. It helps preserve your esteem and your sense of self. But it also can really inhibit you from growing and learning more about yourself. And to challenge that protective nature of your ego, I think, is really helpful for people. So the worst-case scenario is, you figure out you’re not really good at something, and nobody gets hurt. It’s just not brain surgery, And at the same time, the irony of it is, songs can mean everything! They can have such exalted places in our hearts and our spirit. They have such enormous ability to heal and retrieve lost emotions, and to pull us into some more communal space of believing in the world. I can’t think of anything more beautiful in the world than a song that means a lot to somebody. This conversation was lightly edited for clarity and brevity. Press the ‘play’ button to hear the full episode.
Would you take a deal with the devil? In The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, a new novel from renowned fantasy author V.E. Schwab, a young woman bargains with her soul to live forever. The catch? She’s cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. The novel is Nerdette’s November book club pick. Today, we host a spoiler-free chat with the author about the book, the many years it took her to write it and what comes next. Later this month, we’ll break it down with our group of panelists … and you! Send us a voice memo with your thoughts on the book. Just record yourself on your phone and send the audio file to email@example.com
Let Nerdette podcast get you ready for the weekend with a quick gut check after a long election week. Plus an interview with a great author and a new strategy for organizing your thoughts. First, we talk election distractions with Negin Farsad, comedian and host of the Fake The Nation podcast, and Clay Masters, lead political reporter for Iowa Public Radio. Then we talk with author Nick Hornby, author of many wonderful books like High Fidelity, About A Boy, and his newest novel, Just Like You. And finally, we talk with freelance reporter Sophie Hardach about the psychological benefits of reading out loud. Join us!
Welcome to the Nerdette Book Club! Each month, we read a book and chat about it with a rotating group of panelists. This month’s pick is Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation from author Anne Helen Petersen. In Can’t Even, Petersen argues that societal conditions and poor timing primed the millennial generation for burnout. Petersen points to the 2008 recession, the rise of the contract worker, the prevalence of cell phones and astronomical student loan debt as a few contributing factors. Listen along as Nerdette host Greta Johnsen discusses the book with Avery Trufelman, host of The Cut podcast, and Indira Allegra, a sculptor and performance artist. We also hear from many of you who called in with your feelings about burnout. Press play above to hear the conversation.
Election Day is nearly upon us. And instead of cold-calling you and everyone you know, we’d rather invite you to consider a few important (and non-partisan!) election-related questions. Like how did we get such a strange voting system? Why do more than 40% of eligible voters stay home? And why should we care? For some answers we turned to Erin Geiger Smith, author of the new book Thank You For Voting: The Maddening, Enlightening, Inspiring Truth about Voting in America.
We get you ready for the weekend with movies, books and everyone’s favorite thing: a new way to categorize life experiences. Trust us!
The millennial generation came into adulthood during an American recession, an era of crushing student loan debt and the rise of temporary workers and independent contractors. Add a global pandemic to that precariousness and you’ve got a perfect recipe for burnout. Today, Greta talks with author Anne Helen Petersen about Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. It's our October pick for the Nerdette Book Club. And even if you aren't a millennial or haven't read the book, we want to hear from you. Tell us about your burnout feels! Record yourself on your phone and email the audio to firstname.lastname@example.org and you may hear yourself in our longer panel discussion later this month.
You didn’t already know? Nerdette talked with two brand new MacArthur Fellows — also known as MacArthur “geniuses” — about the important work they’re doing and what it’s like to get that phone call. Mary L. Gray is an anthropologist and a media scholar honored for her work investigating how “labor, identity, and human rights are transformed by the digital economy.” And Damien Fair is a cognitive neuroscientist honored for his research on the developing human brain.
What a wild week! And to celebrate the return of another weekend, we assembled a bunch of fun people to take a look back … in a merry, pop culture kind of way, not a CAPS LOCK newsy way. To talk about the big week for movies, we called up Eliana Dockterman, who writes about movies, pop culture and feminism for Time. Then, to break down the gloriousness that is Fat Bear Week, we talked with Mike Fitz, the resident naturalist at explore.org. And for all the rest, we hung out with two of our favorite people: WBEZ education reporter Susie An and Vocalo radio host Jill Hopkins. Join us!
The seasons are changing but the novel coronavirus is still with us. And that’s left us with a lot of questions about how to safely socialize with friends and family when the weather makes small outdoor gatherings less viable. So we called up Dr. Emily Landon, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago. (She also gave Nerdette listeners some therapeutic advice about the pandemic back in June.) And now that autumn is upon us, Landon explains how we might approach the upcoming holiday season (including Halloween!) and the great indoors.
You know Gillian Flynn as the genre-redefining writer behind Gone Girl, both the 2012 novel and the 2014 movie adaptation starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck. Since the success of Gone Girl, Flynn has written only for the screen, including the 2018 movie Widows and the HBO series Sharp Objects. Out now on Amazon Prime, Utopia is Flynn’s latest work, based on a 2013 BBC show of the same name. Greta talks with Flynn about Utopia, Gone Girl and what’s next.
Welcome to the Nerdette Book Club! Each month, we read a book and chat about it with a rotating group of panelists. This month’s pick is Maaza Mengiste’s historical novel The Shadow King. It’s based on the true story of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the mid-1930s. Against Italian Prime Minister Benito Musolinni’s technologically-advanced army, the citizens of feudal Ethiopia didn’t seem to have a chance. But they eventually overcame— and they had the help of a number of forgotten female fighters. Listen along as Nerdette host Greta Johnsen discusses the book with Lydia Levy, founder of the African literature review website Omusana. She also has a doctorate in African Studies from Howard University. And then get ready for next month’s pick: Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen.
“I’m not woke. I’m aware.” That’s the answer Chicago comedian T. Murph gives when he’s asked about his relationship to the title of Woke, a new series that dropped on Hulu earlier this month. T. Murph plays the role of Clovis, friend and roommate of Keef, the show’s protagonist (played by Lamorne Morris), who tries to avoid controversy in his work until the world forces him to do otherwise. Greta talks with T. Murph about what being woke means to him, if he moves through the world like his character and whether art demands activism.
The Bechdel test asks a simple question: Does a work of fiction have two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man? Today we talk with Sarah Kozloff, who was a film professor at Vassar College when she learned that The Lord of The Rings movies fail the Bechdel test. That inspired her to write The Nine Realms, a series of fantasy novels about a young princess who must grow up and fight her way back to the throne. Greta talks with Sarah about the books, her career change and why she released all four novels in the same year.
Like it or not these seasons are a changing! And that means right now is a great opportunity to embrace flavors from late summer and early fall, and to make a chocolate zucchini cake! We talk with baker and cookbook author Shauna Sever — all about all the spices you should have, sourdoughs you should start, and pies you should scarf down immediately.