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Eric J. Lawrence: Hi, this is Eric J. Lawrence from KCRW and I am here with actress Kristen Bell, who gained fame on the acclaimed TV series “Veronica Mars,” as a villain on “Heroes”, and as the title character on the comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Today, we are going to be playing some excerpts of some songs that she selected that have inspired her over the years, as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Kristen, thanks for coming down.
Kristen Bell: Thank you for having me.
Eric J. Lawrence: What’s the first song you’ve got for us?
Kristen Bell: “The Same Old Song” by The Four Tops. I grew up in Motown, I grew up in Detroit, and you got grounded in my house if you changed the station from the oldies. My sisters and I were under strict rules not to touch the radio when my Dad was around, because my Dad was Motown obsessed. There were even points at the dinner table where I remember him saying, ‘If anyone can tell me who the producer was on this album, I’ll give you a dollar.’ So we would go through his CD catalog and try to remember all the producers and you know, who the sound mixers were.
Kristen Bell: All of Motown reminds me of my Dad but, I remember when he moved to St. Louis for a year and I visited him on the weekends and we were driving and he turned it up really loud and he was so, so excited that he had heard a harmony buried—and I was about 14—deep in this song, and it was where some of the guys in the background are going, (Kristen Bell sings) “Sweeeet, Sweeeet Memorieees” and he had never heard it before. For a Motown connoisseur to find something new -- he was over the moon. And, I went to school for singing, I went to music school in New York so, it just reminds me of one of the first times I really heard and felt harmony in a song.
Eric J. Lawrence: That was The Four Tops, classic single from 1965 selected by our Guest DJ Kristen Bell. What’s the next track you got for us?
Kristen Bell: My next track is one of my favorites, Olivia Newton John’s “Make a Move On Me.” First of all, I love Olivia Newton John. This was the time where I fully accepted pop music and started to wear my hair in a side ponytail, and was French cuffing my jeans.
Kristen Bell: This song evokes so much still—I mean, I’m sitting here just smiling and kind of blushing. I—had a High School sweetheart who was kind of an on-again/off-again High School sweetheart; very turbulent and lovely relationship. And I remember I would sit outside his house and turn this song up so loud in my car when I was—I guess, 16—and just scream it to his front door. And, I mean and he knows who he is if he is listening to this, he knows exactly—and there was a point, there was a point when I was doing it with another girl, and we would get in the car, my friend Kathleen and I, and we would drive to the guy that I like’s house, we would drive to Dave’s house, and then we would drive to the guy that she like’s house, and we would just sing to the door in hopes that they would make a move on—us.
Eric J. Lawrence: Ha, ha.
Kristen Bell: Not together, but..
Eric J. Lawrence: And, and—was there any degree of success in this, tactic?
Kristen Bell: There was for both of us, yes. She dated her guy for about five years, and I dated my high school sweetheart you know, on-again, we waited for about six months a year, every year of high school.
Eric J. Lawrence: That was “Make a Move on Me” from Olivia Newton John, as selected by our Guest Kristen Bell. So what is the next track you got for us?
Kristen Bell: When I was growing up, I did really love music and I would go into my parents’ CD or tape catalog and I would pull out the only things that I liked, which was “The Best of Billy Joel”…
Eric J. Lawrence: Mm-hmm.
Kristen Bell: ...And Johnny Mathis.
Eric J. Lawrence: Okay.
Kristen Bell: My mother always had an affection for Paul Anka, Johnny Mathis, the crooners of her day, and I put this Johnny Mathis CD in and I just fell in love with this song. The first time you hear a song when you know it’s a classic, it’s the standard,—when you can tell there’s something magical about that. It’s a bold statement, but I would venture to say one of my favorites of all time—if not definitely in my top three.
Kristen Bell: And this particular song also has relevance in my dating life, because the high school sweetheart I referenced—I had made him like a mix tape, and had two of my favorite songs that I felt were so romantic and I just, I didn’t know what I was feeling inside my body but it made me want to kiss somebody, maybe with my tongue—I don’t know. But I made them with “Chances Are” and I made it with “Julia” by the Beatles. As I mentioned before it was a somewhat turbulent relationship and, the breaking point for me was at one point during the end of our last hoorah, he asked to borrow those CD’s. And I had found out a couple weeks later that that son of a B had made another mix tape…
Eric J. Lawrence: Ouch.
Kristen Bell: …for a different girl with “Chances Are” and “Julia” and I was so heartbroken. So, there’s a lot of love that goes into this song, ‘cause it was my first feeling of romance, but there is also a deep, deep, deep insecure heartache behind it when he gave it away to someone else.
Eric J. Lawrence: That was Johnny Mathis with “Chances Are” as selected by our guest, Kristen Bell. Well what’s the next track you’ve got for us?
Kristen Bell: It still, yet again, has to do….this whole Fiona Apple CD actually….has to do with this high school sweetheart. But this one is Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream.” Fiona Apple is just so weird and wonderful and you know, dark and goofy and not—she doesn’t play by anyone’s rules. And I was in that kind of mood I think at points in high school and “Sleep to Dream” was me cranking it up in my car screaming it at the top of my lungs.
Kristen Bell: It was a very close, close race for this slot—an Alanis Morissette song. I think that that album as much as maybe it seems cheesy nowadays to admit, those were huge parts of female high schooler’s life anywhere from ‘92 to 2000 whether you like to admit it or not. They were both those wonderful women who were talking back and sassing people and so I liked listening to it and feeling empowered.
Eric J. Lawrence: That was “Sleep to Dream” from Fiona Apple, as selected by our guest, Kristen Bell. What’s the next track you got for us?
Kristen Bell: This next track is a newer artist named Jackie Tohn—ironically enough, but it’s T-O-H-N like Cohen. It’s called “What is Love” and I kind of have a long history with Jackie of being her super fan. I had seen her perform here in LA and she is so engaging and funny onstage and she just has a voice that is smooth in a Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz way, but then it totally surprises you like in a Janis Joplin kind of way. It’s really like nothing I’ve ever heard, there’s like maybe five artists you’d have to put in a pot and mix up to get Jackie.
Kristen Bell: This song is called “What is Love” and I thought it was very fitting, not just ‘cause I love Jackie, but because the song itself feels like me setting my feet down and really landing in Los Angeles; and you’ll see by the lyrics, it sums up my experience in LA these days.
Eric J. Lawrence: Jackie Tohn with “What is Love”. Well Kristen, I want to thank you so much for coming down and sharing some of your picks with us.
Kristen Bell: Thank you for having me.
Eric J. Lawrence: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject.