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“Glee” star Mike O’Malley received an Emmy nomination for his role as Burt Hummel on the show and the talented actor opens up about his favorite music in his Guest DJ set. From the biggest band in the world to indie artists, he chooses songs that reflect the struggles of being a creative individual as well as battles of the heart.
Jason Bentley: Hi, This is Jason Bentley from KCRW and I am here with actor Mike O'Malley. He’s been nominated for an Emmy for his work on "Glee" and is currently a writer on Showtime's "Shameless"
Today we will be playing excerpts of songs he has selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Why don’t we get this started - what's your first pick for us?
Mike O’ Malley: My first pick is "Sunday Night" by the band Buffalo Tom, that’s from Boston. Buffalo Tom, for me, was one of the first bands that I discovered by myself. I have an older brother who so much of my musical taste came from him because he would discover the music and I would listen to what he brought home. But there was something about Buffalo Tom,their ability to speak about complex subjects. This song “Sunday Night” is about what do you do when you go through a heartbreak and it's just so profoundly disappointing how do you get through not only just an evening, but how do you look forward and move on with your life.
MO: Heartbreak is something that obviously is a part of so many different songs and I think one of the reasons that is isbecause it's probably the most lonely thing that you have to go through. Most other kinds of pain whether it’s a loss of some kind, a family loss, a disappointment, you can share. But there is something so specific and lonely about going through heartbreak and so when you find a song that is able to carry you through it you think, ‘oh, ok this is a feeling that someone else has gone through and I can kind of get through this just listening to this song.’
JB: That was Buffalo Tom "Sunday Night" as chosen by our guest DJ Mike OMalley. Now, your second pick is not a whole lot brighter (laughs) it's music from The National, "Bloodbuzz Ohio".
MO: Yes, The National. There's something about their songs where you're really able to immerse yourself in the characters in the stories of the songs and you're able to experience what the characters are going through without really knowing anything about them. And the propulsion of their music, with the lead singer’s voice, its just one of those bands that you hear them the first time and you're like, ‘I don’t know who these people are but, I need to buy this music right away.’
MO: Their creativity is just very inspiring to me, they're unafraid to sing about things that matter to them, and they're unafraid to work really, really hard at it to get it right. That's inspiring as a writer and as an actor, to think of a bunch of guys just working so, so, so hard on a record so that when it goes out there, you can have this transformative inspired experience listening to it.
JB: That was The National’s "Bloodbuzz Ohio" as selected by Mike O’Malley our guest DJ. What do you have next for us?
MO: This is a little known band from Ireland that I thought needed some exposure on KCRW (both laugh), this song is "One" by U2. In particular, I think one of the reasons why I picked this song I remember this time when “Achtung Baby” came out when I was living in New York. I was sleeping on my friend's couch -- he had taken me in, I needed a place to stay and I was able to stay there -- and every morning we would start the day with this record. But, one of the things about “One” that I really admire is it's one of those songs that you hear, but you can't believe it hadn't been written before. It's just very clear cut what Bono's singing about. I just think it's a perfect song.
MO: I like when a narrator in a song is talking about something in particular -- that time and time again I have to go back to and put together what it is they're talking about. I like when songs go in unexpected places. I like where my imagination goes in trying to understand a little bit about where the characters in the song or even the songwriter’s themselves, what they experienced that caused them to write the song.
JB: That was U2 with "One", our Guest DJ Project with Mike O’Malley on KCRW.com. Well, from probably the biggest band in the world to a more obscure choice here. Tell us what your next pick is.
MO: This is a song called "Make A Deal with the City" and it's by East River Pipe which is really only one guy, Fred Cornog. And a little bit of back story is that he was homeless and making music and had a friend who believed in him, passed it along to someone who listened and said, "Yeah, this is great." Next thing you know, Melody Maker Magazine in the UK picks up one of his songs and really responds to it and then he got a record deal to put some more polish on his songs.
MO:This song in particular, "Make A Deal with the City", has so much to do with being a creative person and living in a city. The idea that sometimes you're going to be deflated, sometimes you're going have to just dust yourself off, and sometimes you have to pull the weight. And I think that’s the hardest thing as creative people. We want people to respond to our writing, our music, what it is that we do – immediately. And we don’t want to do the hard work of making people pay attention to us because we want them to accept us with open arms right away. And again coming back to these songs where you're able to experience a story and tap your toe while you're hearing the story rather than it just be a friend telling a tale of woe about disappointment or heartbreak or not having something fulfilled in the way that they wanted it to be fulfilled, talking it out. It's always just more powerful with music.
JB: That was East River Pipe, "Make A Deal with the City", as chosen by Mike O’Malley, he is our guest DJ. And, I'm not sure who this last one is either (laughs), but I will tell you that this of all bands, if I had to pick one band that was the most influential on me and I had a poster up on my wall, it would be The Who. And your final pick is a great one from “Quadrophenia” its "Love, Reign o'er Me".
There's something about the operatic nature of what The Who began to sing about in “Quadrophenia”, and in “Tommy” obviously, that The Who is so singular in that time. And I love The Who's passion, I love Townsend's passion, I love Daltrey's passion, I love that when he's singing on this song his voice isn't cracking, but its straining and they don’t take out the strain, its not polished, it's just this guy singing about these things that really matter to him.
The was "Love, Reign o'er Me" from The Who, our guest DJ Mike O’Malley on KCRW.com. Mike, thanks so much for joining us and sharing some of your musical influences and of course thank you for your ongoing support of KCRW. It's Mike O’Malley our guest DJ on KCRW.com.
For a complete track listing to find these songs, go online to KCRW.com/guest DJ project