The Tiny Desk Contest Is Back! : All Songs Considered Send us a video of you or your band playing an original song behind a desk of your choosing. You could win a chance to play your own Tiny Desk concert.
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The Tiny Desk Contest Is Back!

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The Tiny Desk Contest Is Back!

The Tiny Desk Contest Is Back!

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We know you wait all year for this. It's more star-studded than the Van Cliburn Competition, more exciting than the Grammys. It is NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest. Last year's winner, Gaelynn Lea, performed at our Tiny Desk venue. And to remind you all, that's a pretty good gig. Artist like John Legend, Neko Case and even the Blue Man Group have stopped by for intimate performances behind the desk of NPR Music's Bob Boilen. Hiya, Bob.

BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: Hello there, Robert.

SIEGEL: Tiny Desk Concerts are an event here. They're attended by a vast audience of interns at the office, but also they're put out, streamed out.

BOILEN: Yeah, millions and millions of people get to see you. It changes people's lives.

SIEGEL: OK, Bob Boilen I should explain is host of the podcast All Songs Considered and creator of the Tiny Desk series. And Bob, last year, we talked to the winner Gaelynn Lea. She won for her haunting and unusual violin strains. Let's listen to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEDAY WE'LL LINGER IN THE SUN")

GAELYNN LEA: (Singing) Our love's a complex vintage wine, all rotted leaves and lemon rind. I'd spit you out, but now you're mine.

SIEGEL: Did Gaelynn overdub in front of your Tiny Desk?

BOILEN: Yes, it's quite a remarkable thing the way she plays. I just got off the phone with Gaelynn 15 minutes ago. She's playing the Christ Church in Dublin thanks to her winning the Tiny Desk Contest.

SIEGEL: Where talking about a stepping stone to greatness here to win the Tiny Desk Contest.

BOILEN: Yeah, it's quite a remarkable thing that our first winner, Fantastic Negrito, played Madison Square Garden just recently.

SIEGEL: Jeez - inside the building, not on the curb outside.

BOILEN: (Laughter) Well, he's done that in his life, too, I'd imagine. But he just got nominated for a Grammy for contemporary blues album. So why don't we listen to a tiny bit of what he sounds like?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAST DAYS OF OAKLAND")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I don't want to (unintelligible).

FANTASTIC NEGRITO: (Singing) What do you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The last days of Oakland...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The Black Panthers...

FANTASTIC NEGRITO: (Singing) There was so much happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: This end of something...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Crack cocaine...

FANTASTIC NEGRITO: (Singing) What do you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: ...And the beginning of something.

BOILEN: What's wonderful about these things is the community that forms. I mean we have one winner. We get 6,000 or something like that entries - video entries. So many of them get highlighted on our blog and so many other places.

So even if you're not the one, even if you don't have that one singular voice that makes you the winner, there's many, many reasons that you may get highlighted and seen and heard by so many more.

SIEGEL: All right, well, all those aspiring Tiny Desk Contest winners listening now are very excited, so remind us of the rules and who can submit.

BOILEN: So you have to be 21 and over. You have to be living in the United States. Write an original song, submit it in video form behind a desk of your choosing. So get imaginative.

Though the main thing is that it be great music. You could film it as some do on their smartphone or on a tablet or get a big crew of video. I don't care. What matters to me, what matters to our judges is going to be the music, that it stands out, that when sifting through thousands and thousands of videos - and go, that is amazing.

SIEGEL: And how and when should people submit their amazing music?

BOILEN: You should start thinking about it now, but the submissions start January 13 through January 29. Play around with it. Have fun. Gather your friends. Make something of it that's memorable. It captures who you are at this moment in time.

SIEGEL: OK. That's Bob Boilen, who used to direct this program, by the way. Now he's a famous podcaster. And you can hear him on All Songs Considered, and you can also enter the Tiny Desk Contest. Thanks, Bob.

BOILEN: Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF FANTASTIC NEGRITO SONG, "IN THE PINES")

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