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For his Guest DJ set, Academy-Award winning documentarian Davis Guggenheim chose artists who capture the experience of being a creative person and "what it means to put yourself out there in the world." He also selects an "under-appreciated" songwriter and favorites from Jack White and Jimmy Page, two of the stars of his new documentary, It Might Get Loud.
For More: It Might Get Loud
1. Wilco: What Light
2. Steve Earle: Over Yonder (Jonathon's Song)
3. Jack White: Fly Farm Blues
4. The White Stripes: Little Room
5. Son House: Grinning in Your Face
6. Led Zeppelin: Going to California
Raul Campos: Hey it's Raul Campos from KCRW and I'm here with Davis Guggenheim, he directed and produced the Academy Award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." His latest film, It Might Get Loud, features music pioneers Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. We're going to be playing excerpts from songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project, welcome Davis, how are you?
Davis Guggenheim: It's great to be here, thank you for having me.
RC: It's our pleasure. And I see you brought in a very cool selection of some guitar-driven tunes. What's this first song we're going to get into?
DG: This is by Wilco, it's called "What Light" Now when I was honing my list on this -- it's very unfair to pick five songs, I must say, it's cruel to the people like me. I started with about 80 songs and when I got it down to ten, there were three Wilco songs. That's how much I love this guy.
Song: Wilco’s "What Light"
DG: I like this one because it's one of the inspiring things when I made "It Might Get Loud," because it's a song about what it means to be an artist and what it means to put yourself out there in the world. And if you're trying to paint a picture and no one else understands what you're doing then it doesn't matter because you've got this light inside you and you've just got to let it shine out. My wife's an actress, I 'm a director and we talk about it and we listen to the song. Whenever we get down, we play this song.
RC: That was music from Wilco. Jeff Tweedy and company doing a gorgeous tune called "What Light." This next song is going to be by Steve Earle, right?
DG: Steve Earle wrote this song…he had this comeback album called "Transcendental Blues," such a great album. I just think this guy is a songwriter, so under-appreciated and song after song have, you know, so much soul. This is the last track on it and it's called "Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song)." I heard this song…I remember where I was, I was driving on La Cienega Boulevard and by the time the song was over, I had tears streaming down my face because it was just so beautiful. Apparently, Steve Earle got a letter from a guy on death row. Steve had written another song about death row for the Susan Sarandon/Sean Penn movie "Dead Man Walking." And this guy on death row said ‘I heard that song and I want you to become my friend,’ and they became pen pals. And when it came time for this guy to be executed he asked Steve Earle to come and witness his execution, and he wrote this song about Jonathan.
Song: Steve Earle’s Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song)
DG: I make documentaries and I try to help tell people’s story. This is Steve Earle telling this guys story in a way that I could never do it. He talks about giving his friends in the cellblock … you know, send my bible home to mama, give Thibodeau my fan, you know, and talking about the people who hate him, ‘I hope my going gives them peace.’ I just cannot believe that this song was written. It moves me every time I hear it.
RC: "Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song) by Steve Earle. Our guest DJ is Davis Guggenheim and we're going to get into two tunes by Jack White and The White Stripes. The first one is from your movie, right?
DG: Yeah, this is an experiment of sorts and when I was making "It Might Get Loud," I was filming with Jack White and he was talking about how he hates how music is so overproduced -- a band spends three weeks putting down backing tracks and finding the perfect drum loop. He says you got to write a song quickly and get it out and make it raw and dirty. I was like, ‘great, well, why don't we do that right now and I'll film you doing it?’ And to Jack's credit and to his sense of bravery and courage as an artist, he said fine. And he sat there, there was a lot of quiet time. And he just picked up a pencil, started scribbling…
Song: Jack White’s "Fly Farm Blues"
DG: There's a rawness to his stuff and from pencil to paper to writing the song to actually using just an old reel-to-reel, you'll see it in the movie. Just plays record, at the end rewinds it, and hands it to me and this is that song.
RC: Let's get into another one of these little jams you brought in. What have we got next?
DG: So this song is a very short song. I think it's under a minute and it's Jack White playing "Little Room." I heard this song and it's like him and the drums banging away and it means two things to me -- one is what it means to have success in what you're doing. He says when you're in your little room you're doing all this great work and you're expressing the way you want to express and you write the song you want to write the song, and then you get a bigger room. And when you get the bigger room -- these are my words -- it gets confusing, let me tell you, and you kind of think I wish I had my little room back.
DG: And that just says everything to me about what it means to live in Hollywood, what it means to be a creative person. You know, you're longing for people to like your stuff and when people like your stuff you're like, you lose your compass, your creative compass.
Song: Jack White’s "Little Room"
DG: The other part about it, in the movie, Jack talks about the song that changed his life and it's this Son House song called "Grinning in Your Face." And what's so surprising about it is there's no guitar in it at all. It's just this blues singer clapping and he's clapping out of time, there's no guitar, and Jack says that captured the spirit of what he was trying to do and he says when I heard that, it changed me forever.
Song: Son House’s "Grinning in Your Face"
RC: Son House with "Grinning in Your Face," alongside the White Stripes with "Little Room." Davis, what is your final selection?
DG: This song, as I was making "It Might Get Loud," I just had to find a place in the movie for this and it's called "Going to California." There's this longing to it, this feeling of like, in this case, I think they're leaving where they are, they're going to California, and there's this sort of longing to be an artist but it's also this longing, this hurt, of having to be away from the people you love. If you listen carefully at the beginning when you hear that guitar and you hear that breath. I love that the engineer left that in. It just feels…I don't know why, I hear that and it makes me melt.
Sometimes you think of Led Zeppelin as this hardcore big guitar band, the thing people don't appreciate is how beautiful and quiet sometimes their music is and how soulful Jimmy Page's guitar is, how sweet and mournful is can be.
Song: Led Zeppelin’s "Going to California"
RC: So Davis, thanks so much for joining us here on kcrw.com. It was awesome to hear these songs and see what they represent and what they mean to you. So thank you so much for doing this.
DG: Thank you.
RC: So for a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject.