[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Site Navigation

  • News and features
  • Events
  • Membership
  • About Us
Songs from Scratch

The lyricist

Stephen BurtSTEPHEN BURT is the author of two poetry volumes, "Popular Music" and "Parallel Play." He's the former chair of the English Department at Macalester College, and he'll start teaching poetry this fall at Harvard University.

The songwriters

The OwlsTHE OWLS' first album, "Our Hopes and Dreams," won raves for its intricate melodies and unique harmonies. All four Owls members help write their songs, and each plays more than one instrument in the band.

The Roe Family SingersTHE ROE FAMILY SINGERS summon the darker side of Appalachia in their mournful melodies. Quillan Roe is the primary songwriter. He and his wife Kim share the singing spotlight. They're joined by a rotating cast of pickers, blowers and strummers.

Matt WilsonMATT WILSON is the former frontman of Trip Shakespeare, a local band known for its dramatic, ornate songwriting. Wilson is starting a new collaboration with John Munson, a former Trip Shakespeare bandmate and bassist with Semisonic.

Reporters: Larissa Anderson, Chris Roberts, Sanden Totten, Nikki Tundel
Broadcast editor: Jim Bickal
Online editor: Melanie Sommer
Online producer: Charlie Knutson
Web designer: Rebecca Cioni
Interactive producer: Julia Schrenkler
Audio engineer: Michael DeMark
Video production: Ben Krueger, Bo Hakala, Brian Becker, Jeff Harkness

Minnesota Public Radio
August 2007

There's something magical about a great song, whether it's Stravinsky or Springsteen. But where do great songs come from? How do they go from words and melodies to something more? To find out, we gave three local bands -- The Owls, The Roe Family Singers, and Matt Wilson -- two weeks to take one set of lyrics and put it to music. Songs From Scratch follows all their scribbling, singing, strumming, and doubting to get a first-hand look at how a song unfolds.

What's this all about?
MPR's Cathy Wurzer talked with Larissa Anderson and Sanden Totten, two of the people who created the Songs from Scratch project.

Meet the lyricist
Stephen Burt, our poet turned lyricist, once had dreams of being a rock star.

The bands get their first look at the lyrics
The three bands get the lyrics from writer Stephen Burt, and begin shaping his words into songs.

Songwriting begins in earnest
We check in with our three bands as they try to turn the words into songs.

The bands record their Afternoon Songs
We invited our musicians to come in and record the songs they've written.

What does the lyricist think of the songs?
It's time for Stephen Burt to hear what his words sound like in the hands of the musicians.

See the lyrics
We asked poet Stephen Burt to write a set of lyrics to be put to music by these three local bands. Here's what he came up with. Read and download the lyrics
Listen to submissions
Listen to songs that others have sent in and read about their songwriting process.

Share your song
Try your hand at writing music to go along with these lyrics. Send us your song before Aug. 31.

Have questions on how to do it? Read the FAQ

Audio Slideshows
Take a peek inside the songwriting process of our musicians.
The Owls | Matt Wilson | The Roe Family Singers

Video Performances
Watch the musicians record their final songs.
The Owls | Matt Wilson | The Roe Family Singers

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]