Actress, screenwriter, and filmmaker Greta Gerwig describes herself as a person who “lives with very vivid emotions” and she gravitates towards musicians who are like that as well, from Kate Bush and Judee Sill to Brian Eno. Greta was nominated for a Golden Globe for her film Frances Ha, which she co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach. They join forces again on a film called Mistress America, which comes out on August 14.
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- Kate Bush - "Hounds of Love"
- Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans - "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"
- Judee Sill - "The Pearl"
- Laurie Anderson - "Baby Doll"
- Brian Eno - "Lay My Love"
Aaron Byrd: Hey I'm Aaron Byrd. I am here with actress, screenwriter, and filmmaker Greta Gerwig. She is a rising star who has been nominated for Golden Globe for her film Frances Ha, which she co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach. They join forces again in a film, called Mistress America, which is coming out soon.
We are here with Greta to talk about some of the songs that have inspired her throughout her life as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. So first of all, welcome Greta. Thanks for joining us.
Greta Gerwig: Hi, thanks for having me.
AB: What did you bring today?
GG: Well, I brought in a variety of songs. They all qualify as songs that I have listened to obsessively.
If I love a song, I listen to it over and over and over again. Until I feel like I can never hear it again and then I won’t listen to it for six months and then I will rediscover it. So the first song is "Hounds of Love" by Kate Bush.
I find her lyrics mysterious and evocative - almost like poetry -- and there is a real spaciousness to her music that feels cinematic to me. But specifically with this song, "Hounds of Love", I had really been obsessed with it for a long time. But then I did a play last summer - it was called “The Village Bike" -- and in the play a women is taken over by irrepressible, destructive lust and there was something about this song that really tapped into that for me.
I'm a person who lives with very vivid emotions that feel like they often can only be expressed in heightened states of either music or poetry or films or theater and I think that she makes the kind of music that feels like she is always at a 10, emotionally. That level of just sheer emotion and excitement, and it taps me into probably the reason why I make art.
AB: That's great. So up first we have "Hounds of Love" by KCRW favorite Kate Bush.
Song: Kate Bush – “Hounds of Love”
AB: And that was "Hounds of Love" by Kate Bush and, going on to the next song, what do you have for us?
GG: The next song is "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," which I think most people know from Disney movies. But this "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" was first recorded by a group called Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans in 1962, I believe.
It was produced by Phil Spector and it's the most haunting, mournful version of this song that you can think of that's associated with almost maniacal cheeriness.
The voices are just aching, but it also has that Phil Spector kind of wall of sound thing going on.
I haven't found the film I want to use it in yet, but it's definitely a song I would like to use in a movie so, I feel like I am taking a bit of a risk because, in a way, I want to play these more close to the chest so that nobody steals them out from under me. It's been my go-to song to play to friends or something. I’ll say listen to this and everybody just stops, and they're like, ‘WHAT! WHAT! I have never heard this recording.’ Then I look very cool indeed.
Song: Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans - "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"
AB: And there you have it. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah", the pick of our guest DJ today, Greta Gerwig. So up next we have something from Judee Sill, right?
GG: Uh huh, I first discovered Judee through my writing partner and my creative partner, Noah, when I first read his screen play for Greenberg. You know, she is sort of part of that folk scene of Californians in the sixties and seventies and she is actually quite religious; a lot of her songs have pretty religious imagery and angels and Jesus, but she was also a big druggy so it was that combination of heroine and Jesus, which makes for really great folk music.
But this song, "The Pearl," you have a sense of the thing you have been looking for has been inside you and that's what the lyrics of this song point to and there is a lyric in this song that can make me cry every single time. It’s a quite soaring part of the song when she sings, "I found a way outside myself to make my spirit climb."
Every time I hear that I think I know what she means to find your way outside of your own confines of what you think your goals are or your personality is and find something that goes beyond the edges and this song to me is about that. I think anytime I feel like, what am I doing? What am I doing with this writing and acting and filmmaking and I listen to this song, I think, Judee knows what I'm doing.
Song: Judee Sill – “The Pearl”
AB: That's great. So moving on from the combination of heroin and Jesus by Judee Sill, that was “The Pearl”. Let's see, what do you have next for us?
GG: "Baby Doll" by the great Laurie Anderson. This is not a sad song at all. This is an incredibly happy song.
It is also a song that I feel relates to my life as it is -- making art and not knowing exactly what you're doing all the time. It features one of the greatest lyrics, I think. She says, "Take me to the movies ‘cause I love to sit in the dark."
And it's about her brain, talking to her. It’s like one part of her brain is saying, "Why don't you get a real job?" and "What's wrong with you?" you know, and struggling to come up with words and the other part of her brain is like, "Take me to the movies" and "Take me to the ballpark" and "Take me out town tonight" and there is something about the celebration of the part of you that wants to slack off and just go have fun that I love!
Laurie Anderson – “Baby Doll”
AB: So moving on to the last song, I see you have Brian Eno for us.
GG: This is "Lay My Love" by Brian Eno.
I listen to music when I write. Not all the time, but I find writing to be quite isolating at times because it feels like the all the kids are outside playing and you have to stay inside and work and it can be lonely.
I don't listen to music all the time, but sometimes a well-placed song in the middle of writing will get my spirits back up. I've used this song for that a lot, because it’s got this kind of relentless beat underneath it, it’s got a driving sound. It’s not really like chorus, verse, chorus verse, it more just goes on a loop. It's the kind of song you would run to, but I write to it.
Song: Brian Eno – “Lay My Love”
AB: I like how you set us up with all the sad songs to lead us to the happy songs in the end.
GG: Yeah, yeah that’s right. I’m jealous of your listeners if they’ve never heard these songs and then they get to hear them for the first time. I mean that's my most exciting moment, when somebody says, “I’ve got a new song for you" and you think "Oh my God, yes! Now I have a new obsession!"
AB: That was amazing! Thanks so much Greta for joining us at KCRW.com.
GG: Thank you so much for having me, it was really super fun. It’s such a fun format!
Greta Gerwig, actress and filmmaker