This week on All Songs Considered, wegrapple with the alchemy of creation — the myriad ways a musician gets from blank page and empty studio to a full sound and lyrics that ring true. We were inspired in part by a show Bob saw recently by Magnetic Fields front man Stephin Merritt, where he performed 26 songs, each based on a letter of the alphabet. (Merritt, whose projects are often governed by external limitations, claims that his best-known project, 1999's monumental triple album 69 Love Songs, took him only a year to write.)
The first thing you notice when you get on Willie Nelson's tour bus is a pungent aroma. Parked outside a gigantic casino and performance venue in Thackerville, Okla., Nelson offers NPR's David Greene a joint, which Greene declines. Nelson says he understands.
Vijay Iyer is probably best known as a pianist and bandleader in the African-American creative improvisational tradition — most say "jazz" for short — though he's also several other things in music. He's a composer of chamber, large-ensemble and mixed-media works; a Harvard professor; a student of Indian classical music; a father and New York City resident. Committed as he is to multiplicity, there's one place where you can see many of his interests distilled at once: in the trio he's led for nearly a dozen years.
This week's World Cafe: Next artist, John Moreland, is an Americana singer-songwriter from Oklahoma who just released his second album, High On Tulsa Heat.
Before turning to songwriting, Moreland was in a metal band; nowadays, though, his work channels a deep well of emotion and pain. In this segment, you can hear two of his songs, which can also be downloaded here.