Actor Andrew Garfield followed up his stint as the title character in the Amazing Spider-Man movies with critically acclaimed work on Broadway. His thoughtful song selections are deeply connected to his pursuit of acting and show his more playful side as well. Andrew stars in and produced the film 99 Homes, out on October 2.
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- Don McLean - "Vincent"
- Cat Stevens - "Father and Son"
- Louis Prima - "Just a Gigolo"
- Bugsy Malone - "You Give a Little Love"
- Nina Simone - "Mississippi Goddam"
Aaron Byrd: Hey there, I’m Aaron Byrd. I’m really excited to be joined by actor Andrew Garfield, who you may know from his portrayal as the title character in the Amazing Spider-Man movies, and his critically acclaimed work on Broadway.
In fact there’s already a bit of Oscar buzz around his role in the film 99 Homes, which he also produced. Today, we’re here with Andrew to talk about music that has inspired him throughout his life. Welcome Andrew.
Andrew Garfield: Thank you very much for having me, I’m very excited to be here.
AB: Alright, so getting into the first song we have something by Don McLean, “Vincent”, correct?
AG: Yes. This song gave me the courage to try to be an actor, really.
And it kind of came into my consciousness just before I was doing my first public performance as an actor, which was at the Globe Theater, in London.
And I remember walking up and down the South Bank of the Thames, and, you know, just every cell and bone and muscle in my body was wanting to run a mile away - if not further - because I was just struck with this sudden fear and self-doubt and just mortal terror, that I have no idea what I’m about to do. I’m about to step on to this historic stage, and claim to have something to offer.
And there was a street performer, a busker, playing this song. It struck me that, here was a street performer who’s an aspiring artist singing a song by an incredible artist, Don McLean, about an artist Vincent van Gogh, who wasn’t understood in his time, but has left so much legacy and so much beauty for us to feast upon.
And I suddenly felt like the next aspiring artist, in that chain and I knew that if I didn’t offer whatever it was, I had to offer, even if it was nothing… I had no idea what it was I had to offer, I knew that I had to step onto the stage, no matter what. And if you listen to the lyrics of the song, I think it’ll make sense what I’m saying.
Song: Don McLean – “Vincent”
AB: And that was Don McLean with “Vincent.” Alright, so for your second pick we have “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens.
AG: It feels like every young man, can’t help but be affected by this song. Two, three years ago I did a play called Death of a Salesman, the Arthur Miller play. That was a profoundly transformative time for me to work on that material and to sit in that place.
And the journey of that character, the journey of Biff in Death of a Salesman, is that he somehow has to cut the umbilical cord, the invisible cord between him and his dad, in order to fully enter into the man that he’s supposed to be.
And this song just puts it so fiercely, tenderly, and tragically. And what I love is the tone changes and how Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam as we now know him, goes from the father voice, which is this kind of more deep resonant voice to the son voice which is this higher pitched yearning, to take the last leap out of the nest and fly. And there’s such agony in the tearing away from the father. And I can’t listen to it without wailing and calling my dad, and just letting him know I love him, even though I’ve flown away.
Song: Cat Stevens – “Father and Son”
AB: Alright, that was Cat Stevens with “Father and Son,” the choice of our Guest DJ, actor Andrew Garfield. Next I think we have something from Louis Prima.
AG: Yes. This song is “Just a Gigolo.” Louis Prima is someone that my dad introduced me to actually, as a musician. And his father before him, so there’s something kind of ancestral in it, I don’t know. But when I hear it, I just have to move. I have to jiggle and shake. I can’t help but be joyous.
There’s something about the rhythm, there’s something about his voice. Sam Butera on saxophone and his sound, that Louis Prima sound, represents a part of me that I don’t get to express all that much in my work, or I haven’t as yet. And I’m really excited, to because it’s this kind of high vibration, joyous, life’s just one big party, kind of feeling. And it’s just full of humor and lightness and joy and fun and it reminds me of my dad in like the sweetest way.
AB: So the song is “Just a Gigolo.”
AB: I think a lot of inquiring minds would like to know, are you, Andrew Garfield, just a gigolo?
AG: (laughs) No, I’m most definitely not just a gigolo. I am a one woman kind of guy, but there’s probably some hidden deep disowned part of me that is just a gigolo, that I’ll get to experience and express one day in my life.
Song: Louis Prima –“Just a Gigolo”
AB: Alright the classic “Just a Gigolo” from Louis Prima. So coming up next what do you have for us?
AG: It’s called “You Give A Little Love” and it’s the last song in the musical Bugsy Malone. This musical was probably one of the first movies I saw that gave me the idea that being an actor was a thing to do.
Because it was all young kids pretending to be gangsters and singing these incredible songs within these incredible sets.
The essence of this song is kind of how I try and long to live my life, and it’s a very simple message, and a beautiful message, and it makes me happy any time I hear it.
And the first time I was on the stage as a kid, was playing Fat Sam in Bugsy Malone, strangely enough. I wasn’t fat, but I did have a pillow up my shirt and, yeah, that was my first kind of foray into acting in a kind of silly, fun way.
Song: Bugsy Malone – “You Give a Little Love”
AB: And of course, that was “You Give A Little Love” from Bugsy Malone. So, what do you have for the final song?
AG: My last song is kind of contrasting to what we’ve heard so far, and it’s “Mississippi Goddam” by Nina Simone.
It feels like a great protest song for what we’re experiencing in the U.S. right now, especially. And the beauty of it is that it can be applied to any struggling community.
When it comes to the chorus “that’s just the trouble watching the wind blow, picking the cotton is just plain rotten.” And the band shouts back at her with, um, I thought they said “too slow,” but they’re actually saying “go slow.”
For the longest time I thought they were saying “too slow” and that was, like, my motto for so long when I, when I saw injustice and I saw and felt injustice around me in any way, in minor ways, on the playground, in greater ways, with going and fighting in Iraq. And especially right now, I always thought ‘too slow’ was the perfect war cry full of very righteous accurate anger, toward the slowness and the horror that our society can sometimes present us with. So it feels like a necessary response to our culture right now and throughout time, throughout history.
Song: Nina Simone – “Mississippi Goddam”
AB: And, of course, that was Nina Simone with “Mississippi Goddam.” Andrew, thank you so much for joining us at KCRW.com and putting so much thought into your song picks.
AG: Thank you for having me. Thank you for bearing with them.
Andrew Garfield, actor