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Actor Nick Offerman has created an iconic character with Ron Swanson, the no-nonsense public servant he plays on NBC’s “Parks And Recreation. For his personal music selections, he gets nostalgic about his rural upbringing and chooses mavericks who blazed their own trail. His new film Smashed is out on October 12.
For more: http://offermanwoodshop.com/index.html
1. How'm I Doin'? Hey Hey! - Mills Brothers
2. Lucky Day - Tom Waits
3. Thrasher - Neil Young
4. Danny Boy - Megan Mullally
5. Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan
Anthony Valadez: Hi, I’m Anthony Valadez and I’m here with actor Nick Offerman. He has created an iconic character with Ron Swanson, the stern, no nonsense, public servant he plays in NBC’s “Parks And Recreation”. Today, we’re going to talk about songs he has selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Nick, how are you?
Nick Offerman: I’m very good. Thank you for having me Anthony.
AV: So, what did you bring for us today?
NO: First thing up is a Mills Brothers song called, “How’m I Doing, Hey, Hey”. When I was a kid my dad had a workshop in the basement, and we heated our house with a wood-burning stove. And I was his main laborer, so I was often with him working in the shop or feeding the fire. There was a radio station out of Chicago called WJJD and they played a lot of Big Band and Swing, but my favorite thing they would play was the Mills Brothers. For me, the sound of the Mills Brothers is the most nostalgic music. It makes me feel the warmth of the wood-burning stove, and just that everything is okay ‘cause my dad is next to me, and if I can’t get that nail hammered in he’ll show me how to.
Song: Mills Brothers -- “How’m I Doing, Hey, Hey”
NO: Not a lot of people in my age group know of them, and one of my favorite things about ‘em is they were broke when they started. They were originally called, ‘Four Boys and A Guitar’. And that’s all they could afford was a guitar, but all of their songs had brass parts in ‘em. So, this song is a good example. They would sing the trumpet and trombone and tuba parts…fantastically. So, there’s a lot of songs where they’re singing trumpet solos and you can’t even tell that it’s a person, that it’s not an actual brass instrument.
AV: That was the Mills Brothers with “How’m Doing Hey, Hey” selected by Nick Offerman part of Nick Offerman’s KCRW’s Guest DJ project. What’s next for us.
NO: Next up is my ridiculously number one favorite musician Tom Waits. When I discovered Tom Waits, it was as though I had discovered breathing air. I said, “oh my God”, this music sounds like it’s coming from deep in my belly. And his songs inspire me across a gamut of circumstances. His songs were the most romantic, but then he also inspires me in a sort of hobo way, which this song pertains to.
Again, I get a great feeling of nostalgia where he’s saying ‘don’t cry for me I’m going away’. Sort of, I’m packing up my pack and going to find my fortune, but I’ll be back some lucky day…
Song: Tom Waits --“Lucky Day”
NO: This song always just really struck me as kind of a personal anthem. Unfortunately, you know, the days of the beatniks are long gone, but I like to romanticize that I would have packed my bindle, and hopped a freight train, and got in fist fights with guys hopped up on gin. I missed that terrific opportunity. And so yeah, in my attempts to be an individual unique artist, he always tells me through his songs that it’s okay to be a maverick, and to hold yourself outside the crowd.
AV: That was Tom Waits with “Lucky Day”, selected by Nick Offerman as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. What’s next for us Nick?
NO: Well, next up, coming in a close second to my favorite music, is the work of Neil Young.
I grew up in a really small town with very little culture. So even though I sort of grew up in a Neil Young song, I didn’t get turned on to him until I was in college.
And the sound of Neil Young and his evocative lyrics really bring to mind more of my rural upbringing, and they really sort of take me back to driving through central Illinois in a pick up truck with the windows down. Hopefully, with a lady sitting next to me, but sometimes just a dog…or a beefy friend [laughs] and a six pack.
Song: Neil Young – Thrasher
NO: This song in particular really brings to mind my feelings towards all the people in my hometown where I came from. It’s sort of a piece with what we were saying with Tom Waits -- it represents sort of leaving the group and striking out on one’s own to find what I think might be my truth in the world.
AV: That was Neil Young with “Thrasher” selected by Nick Offerman part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. What’s next for us.
NO: Next up is a lesser known recording artist, but very popular comedy legend, my wife, Megan Mullally. She does this cover of “Danny Boy”, and one of the things I love about her is she kind of deconstructs songs. She does mostly covers, but she has her own take on every song. We both have ties to Ireland, both of our families come from there. And “Danny Boy” is this sort of classic, almost cliché, Irish song. But when you really listen to the lyrics, it’s actually really deep and tragic. And Megan tries to bring that sense of emotion to it When she plays it live it’s one of the show closers, and it just blows out the room. As you’ll see at the end of the song she really [laughs] she really will make your hat fly off.
Song: Megan Mullally -- “Danny Boy
AV: That was Megan Mullally with “Danny Boy”. So, what’s next for us Nick?
NO: The last song on my list is by a gentleman named Bob Dylan. One of his lesser known records is the soundtrack to the Sam Peckinpah movie “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”. It’s an incredible record and it’s also a great film. And that’s the original appearance of this song “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. It’s set to the scene in which Slim Pickens, who plays the sheriff in the movie --spoiler alert, he gets shot --and he’s sitting by the river with a bullet in his gut, and his wife is looking at him crying and it’s this incredible panoramic shot. And Slim Pickens has so much pathos on his face and the lyrics…they’re specifically referring to what’s going on with Slim Pickens in this death scene.
Song: Bob Dylan -- “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”
When I first got out to Los Angeles, it was kind of a bleak time. I was coming from a really rich career in the fecund theater community in Chicago. I moved to LA, I had gotten a couple of film jobs, and I thought I was on my way. And when I got here it was just nothing like I expected. The crappy parts of the business really knock you down. You know, you’re faced with the reality that everybody is looking for pectoral muscles and fake boobs and gleaming teeth. I didn’t really have any of those categories covered. So, the songs of Bob Dylan, particularly this one, definitely bolstered my spirits in that time.
AV: That was Bob Dylan with “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” as selected by Nick Offerman part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Nick, thank you so much for joining us on KCRW.com.
NO: Thank you kindly it’s a great honor to be here.
AV: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.