Greetings from another corner of the Listening World! My name is Brian Laidlaw, and in addition to being a poet and singer/songwriter, I am the other Co-Founder of Unrestricted Interest. In addition to sending out a new poem each week, the series will also share monthly songs by neurodivergent lyricists, written and recorded in collaboration with our teaching artists at Unrestricted Interest.

The inaugural song in the series comes from Dustin Duby-Koffman, a 21-year-old author and songwriter based in Maryland. Dustin is a nonspeaking writer, and the process by which his songs take shape is a marvel: each line that he types emerges pitch-perfect, not only in terms of its content and cleverness, but also in its navigation of syllable counts, stressed and unstressed syllables, and rhyming end-words. I remember working once with a well-established Nashville songwriter, who said certain artists just have “the Knack” – an innate feel for how a song ought to be constructed. Dustin has the Knack.

Dustin also has a subtle and sophisticated self-awareness of how he moves through the world – as his song “Typical” so beautifully illustrates. It’s a wise, half-playful-half-serious meditation on similarity and difference. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting tune to kick off the musical side of The Listening World, so I recorded it this week and you can listen to it by clicking here.

You can see Dustin present alongside Chris Martin at the Innovations in Education conference this March in Atlanta and order his beloved chapbook here. Keep an ear out for an album sometime soon!