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Nebraska, Bacharach, and Adam Sandler: How Milk Carton Kids Write a Song

Nebraska, Bacharach, and Adam Sandler: How Milk Carton Kids Write a Song

Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, the songwriters and musicians behind indie-folk favorites Milk Carton Kids, don’t cut corners when it comes to songwriting. Everything gets held under the microscope; everything is subject to change. There’s no ego in the room, just pure service of the song.


Ryan and Pattengale join hosts Sean Watkins and Peter Harper to talk influences—what gets through into your songwriting, and what do you block out?—before digging into a downtempo plucker built around a timeless, folk-country melodic convention. Once the basic pieces are in place, though, things get interesting. The gang calls this “Burt Bacharach-ing it up;” lashing the essential elements tightly to the deck. Word choices are analyzed and tweaked, melodies are shifted ever so slightly, and chord progressions are optimized, note by note.

The quartet settles on a simple, memorable lyrical composition (“An Orbison, one-nugget snapshot”), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for some Adam Sandler vocal influence to counterbalance the Nebraska-era Springsteen solemnity.

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