Two lifelong friends challenge each other to write new songs on the No More Covers podcast
Michigan natives Chris Erickson and Hadley Robinson have been friends since birth.
“Before birth, actually," Erickson says. "Our dads grew up together, our grandmothers went to college together and they lived on the same street in Midland.”
The two stayed in touch through adulthood as each became artists in different ways.
Robinson is a video producer based in Brooklyn: “My background is in journalism, I used to be a newspaper writer. I’ve worked in video full time for the past five years while dabbling in audio, which has been helpful with this endeavor.”
Erickson teaches in the IB program at Huron High School where he also serves as the creative activity service coordinator, guiding students to find and pursue their creative interests.
In 2010, the two launched an online ‘zine, Sedge. “We were interested in forming a creative community and outlet for ourselves," Erickson says. "Like other artists, we were making art but had no place to put it.”
Adds Robinson, “So we came up with the idea of an online ‘zine where we put out a call for a theme and people sent us their art -- everything from poetry, writing, visual art, illustrations, audio, and video clips.”
Sedge propelled Robinson and Erickson to create art every month because, says Robinson, “it can be very easy to fall into the grind of working at your job, not forcing yourself to be creative.”
The desire to find time to create art is what led to the pair’s next creative endeavor, the No More Covers podcast, which showcases original songs by the duo, written and recorded around a pre-selected theme.
“We wanted to personally challenge ourselves to write songs every month and then share them with each other," Robinson says. "Chris joked we should make a podcast … ”
“And Hadley said, that’s actually a good idea,” Erickson finishes. “This project forces us to examine our creative process in a public way while creating music.”
A topic is selected each month, something that might relate to current events or might just be something that interests one or both of them. “The goal is to pick something more non-conventional and then use that as an opportunity to go in multiple directions,” Robinson says.
“We hope to demystify the process of songwriting,” Erickson adds. “Students seem to think that you can just sit down and write a song and that isn’t usually how it happens. The podcast gives an insight into the process … what can be challenging, or how we struggle or how sometimes it just sort of flows and you can create easier than other times.”
As a way to create a community around their podcast, the hosts set up voicemail to get listeners involved.
“Sometimes people have a fear of engaging,” Robinson says. “Putting yourself out there, getting involved in the creative process … can be scary. We wanted to reach out to people in a low-stakes way and make it feel more authentic to them.”
From there, they plan to get listeners to create art and engage in a community of artists.
“We hope to get out there and get a wide range of people subscribing to the podcast, calling in, talking about it,” Robinson says. “There is not a good infrastructure for sharing podcasts, as a lot relies on the algorithms. It is challenging to be independent podcasters … so we try to make them as timeless as possible so someone can listen at any moment, at any speed, and still engage and enjoy them.”
Currently, five episodes of No More Covers are available on numerous podcast platforms. The shows deal with topics ranging from ghosts and protests to things that go viral and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We shifted a little bit to be more about the moment, especially after the shutdowns began," Erickson says. "Our songs reflect that, reflect racial injustice, things that are happening now. Songwriting and music are ways to process the world, and that is what we want to help people do.”
Patti F. Smith is a special education teacher and writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cat.