Boilen is the host and creator of NPR's All Songs Considered (one of the most downloaded music podcasts on iTunes) and Tiny Desk Concerts (intimate shows performed in Bob's cubicle), and a musician in his own right (his band was the first to play at the 9:30 Club).
His first book, Your Song Changed My Life: From Jimmy Page to St. Vincent, Smokey Robinson to Hozier, Thirty-Five Beloved Artists on Their Journey and the Music That Inspired It, is an oral history of modern music, told in the voices of iconic and up-and-coming musicians.
Is there an unforgettable song that changed your life? Boilen posed this question to some of today's best-loved musical legends and rising stars, giving readers a revealing look into the most meaningful, personal experiences of musicians including Dave Grohl, Trey Anastasio, Jimmy Page, Michael Stipe, Carrie Brownstein, Cat Power, Smokey Robinson, Jeff Tweedy and more.
Your Song Changed My Life shares the momentous events that have shaped not just the lives of these stars, but ultimately the landscape of modern music, and illustrates the ways in which music is revived, restored, and revolutionized. In conversation with musician and writer Carrie Brownstein, co-creator of Portlandia, guitarist in Sleater Kinney and author of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.
In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.
Significant listener interest in the music being played on All Things Considered, along with his and NPR's vast music collections, gave Boilen the idea to start All Songs Considered. "It was obvious to me that listeners of NPR were also lovers of music, but what also became obvious by 1999 was that the web was going to be the place to discover new music and that we wanted to be the premiere site for music discovery." The show launched in 2000, with Boilen as its host.
Before coming to NPR, Boilen found many ways to share his passion for music. From 1982 to 1986 he worked for Baltimore's Impossible Theater, where he held many posts, including composer, technician, and recording engineer. Boilen became part of music history in 1983 with the Impossible Theater production Whiz Bang, a History of Sound. In it, Boilen became one of the first composers to use audio sampling - in this case, sounds from nature and the industrial revolution. He was interviewed about Whiz Bang by Susan Stamberg on All Things Considered.
In 1985, the Washington City Paper voted Boilen 'Performance Artist of the Year.' An electronic musician, he received a grant from the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to work on electronic music and performance.
After Impossible Theater, Boilen worked as a producer for a television station in Washington, D.C. He produced several projects, including a music video show. In 1997, he started producing an online show called Science Live for the Discovery Channel. He also put out two albums with his psychedelic band, Tiny Desk Unit, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Boilen still composes and performs music and posts it for free on his website BobBoilen.info. He performs contradance music and has a podcast of contradance music that he produces with his son Julian.
Boilen is the author of Your Song Changed My Life.
Brownstein is a musician and writer, co-creator of Portlandia, guitarist in Sleater Kinney and author of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.