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Episode #202

Song Writers

Air date 00/00/00 | CC
Host: Gene Edwards
Guest(s): Nielson Hubbard, Garrison Starr, Molly Thomas

When Molly Thomas composes a new song, she writes the words first. Garrison Starr takes the opposite approach. “I have to have a melody to sing to.” “But one way or another, you have to adapt,” adds Neilson Hubbard. This time on Writers, three Mississippi-born songwriters and the music they make. Gene Edwards hosts.



“Don’t Throw Your Head.” That’s the first song Garrison Starr ever wrote. “I was probably about five—or four,” she claims. “I started writing songs in my bedroom, crazy songs with drumsticks on my bed.”

Neilson Hubbard waited a little longer to begin composing. “It was a really bad song,” he laughs, “about a girlfriend in 11thgrade.”

Molly Thomas may not remember her first song, but she claims, “For me, it’s very difficult to write a song.” Since she’s a trained musician—and a self-proclaimed melody person—when she does write, she says it’s weird that the words come first.

Hubbard is just the opposite. He says, “Music and melody have always come first.” And Starr expands, “I do have to have a melody to sing to.”

Like all writers, the words come from their feelings. “You know,” says Thomas, “feelings that I feel or experience or see other people experience.” Hubbard adds that observing is important. “Learning how to listen and hear things” is vital. Starr takes the premise one note further. “Be honest. Try not to fool people.”

The music business is changing. While a literary writer may still need a publishing house, a song writer doesn’t “need a distributor to go out and put it in record stores across the country,” Hubbard claims. “Now there’s so much power with the artist.”

Starr put out her latest CD with a partner. “We can push this record. We can try, do anything. We can work this record for two years if we want to because there are no rules. Anything you can dream up, you can do.”

The digital revolution impacts more than just distribution. “It’s a time of great creativity,” observes Hubbard. “Some kid in Idaho can make a record for $2000 if he buys a little computer.”

At the end of the day, the three Mississippi-born songwriters say that being real makes the difference—listening to their hearts and being honest their writing. And “learn about your business,” Starr concludes.


Molly Thomas

  •  Shoot The Sky                       2005

  Neilson Hubbard

  • Slide project                          1997
  • Why Men Fail                        2002
  • Sing Into Me                          2003
  • I Love Your Muscles             2005

Garrison Starr

  • Pinwheels                               1993
  • Stupid Girl                              1995
  • Eighteen Over Me                   1997
  • 24/7                                        1998
  • Something to Hold You Over        2001
  • Songs from Takeoff to Landing     2002
  • Airstreams & Satellites                  2004
  • The Sound of You and Me            2006
  • The Girl That Killed September     2007
  • Fans Greatest Hits, Volume 1        2007
  • RELIVE                                              2010

Garrison Starr

Neilson Hubbard

Molly Thomas


A collection of songwriting articles

 Tips on how to write songs


Songwriters Resource Network

Songwriters Resource Network is a news and education resource for songwriters, song lyricists and composers.



A large, and well-organized resource that offers tips on how to find those missing chords or lyrics in songs



A resource with links to music publishers, record labels, record companies, songwriting organizations, industry information, music magazines, billboard charts and more


 Songwriting Tips

Tips, tricks and info on the craft (and even some on the business) of writing songs


For serious songwriters looking for improvement


River of Song

PBS series of music along the Mississippi River


Click here for a complete list of teaching resources related to this episode.


Producer: Edie Greene

Technical Director: Clark Lee

Cameras:  Earnest Seals

Mike Koskie

John Lanford

Jeremy Burson

Floor Director: Earnest Seals

Production Audio: John Busbice

CCU: Larry Uelmen

Videotape: Steve Downing

Location Videography: Jeremy Burson

John Lanford

Chris Gordon

Lighting Director: Kenneth Sullivan

Production Supervisor: Paul Miller

Editor: Edie Greene

On-line Editor: Larry Uelmen

Editing Supervisor: Scott Colwell

Production Assistant: Laura Mann

Art Director: Karen Wing

Makeup: Audrey Fitzpatrick

Animation and Graphics: Frank Cocke

Percussionist: Jonah Greene

Percussion Engineer: Josh Greene

Audio Post Production: Taiwo Gaynor

Ron Carbo

Closed Captioning: Keri Horn

Scenic Designers: Karen Wing

Jack Thomas

Frank Cocke

Kenneth Sullivan

Scenic Craftsman: Jack Thomas

Jimmy Thrasher

Ray Green

Announcer: Kevin Farrell

Production Coordinator: Glenroy Smith

Publicity: Mari Irby

Sam Wells

Kathy Broom

Webmaster: Thomas Broadus

Host:  Gene Edwards

Guests: Neilson Hubbard

Molly Thomas

Garrison Starr

Director of Productions: Darryl Moses

Deputy Executive Director, Content: Jay Woods

Executive Producer: Rick Klein


Special Thanks to

CantonConvention and Visitors Bureau and Film Office

Wanda Clark

Foundation for Public Broadcasting in Mississippi

Millsaps Arts and Lecture Series

Jim O’Neal and Bluesoterica

Eric Stracener


Image of Alamo Theatre used by permission of Gil Ford Photography. All rights reserved.

“Misty Blue” from the album “Misty Blue” © 1976.  Song and album cover used by permission of Malaco Records. All rights reserved.

Images of Son House and Mississippi John Hurt used by permission of Dick Waterman. All rights reserved.

James Cotton Studio Portrait

Hooks Bros., Memphis, 1961

© 1961, 1993 Delta Haze Corporation

All Rights Reserved.  Used By Permission.

Image of Muddy Waters used by permission of Terry Cryer. All rights reserved.

“Baby Please Don’t Go” from the album “Live Sessions” ©2007. Copyright implications: Used according to the Fair Use Doctrine.

Image of Charley Patton from the collection of John Tefteller and Blues Images. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

“High Water Everywhere” from the album “Founder of the Delta Blues” © 1969. Used by permission of Randall Grass. All rights reserved.

Image of Willie Dixon used by permission of Robert Barclay. Photo by Robert Barclay. All rights reserved.

Robert Johnson Studio Portrait

Hooks Bros., Memphis, 1935

© 1989 Delta Haze Corporation

All Rights Reserved.  Used By Permission.

“Crossroad Blues” from the album “The Complete Recordings” © 1990. Copyright implications: Used according to the Fair Use Doctrine.

Howlin' Wolf

KWEM radio, West Memphis, c. 1950

courtesy photo archives, Delta Haze Corporation

All Rights Reserved.  Used By Permission.

Howlin’ Wolf

Chicago, early 1950s

courtesy photo archives,

Delta haze Corporation

All rights reserved. Used By Permission

“Moanin’ At Midnight” from the album “Howlin’ Wolf: His Best” © 1997. Copyright implications: Used according to the Fair Use Doctrine.

Image of Bo Diddley used by permission of AP/Wide World Photos. All rights reserved.

Tommy Johnson Studio Portrait

(Victor Records catalog half-tone)

Hooks Bros., Memphis, 1928

© 1928, 1993 Delta Haze Corporation

All Rights Reserved.  Used By Permission.

Image of Eudora Welty courtesy Eudora Welty House Museum. All rights reserved.


Created by

Gene Edwards

John Evans


Copyright © MAET 2008