Multi-hyphenate Mark Duplass has seen success as both a star/creator of indie cinema and in mainstream TV shows like The Mindy Project and The League. From his youthful adoration of Roberta Flack to the perfect sensitivity of Iron and Wine’s songcraft, he shares the artists that have moved him. Mark stars in The One I Love, which was a Sundance favorite and opens theatrically on August 22.
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1. Roberta Flack - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
2. Tracy Chapman - Fast Car
3. David Bowie - Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
4. Talking Heads - This Must Be the Place
5. Iron and Wine - Naked as We Came
Chris Douridas: Hi, this is Chris Douridas from KCRW. I’m here with Mark Duplass. He’s written and produced a number of acclaimed indie films with his brother Jay and they are also the creative force behind the current HBO series Togetherness, which he also stars in. As an actor, you’ve probably seen him in The Mindy Project and the hit FX series The League, as well as numerous movie roles over the years, including the Sundance 2014 favorite, The One I Love. Needless to say, he stays very busy and we’re really, really happy you’ve made some time to for us. So what’s up first?
Mark Duplass: So we have “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack.
When I was about three years old, I broke into my father’s record collection, which he had locked, but the lock wasn’t very good, and he came home to find me frisbeeing his beloved records across the living room floor and he was very, very upset.
And I was upset because Court and Spark got crashed, and Joni Mitchell was my big crush.
But, luckily enough Roberta Flack made it out alive and my mom, who was the peacemaker said, “You know, why don’t we listen to this?”
Song: Roberta Flack – “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”
Mark Duplass: I hadn’t heard it for whatever reason and put it on. As a three-year-old, little, white, suburban boy, I fell in love with a much older black woman at that moment and it stayed with me for a very long time.
I didn’t know it then, but I think the way she is right up on the mic and whispering in your ear, and the whole band is probably recorded on one or two mics in the back of the room, so they’re way in the background. If you get the chance, put your headphones on now before we listen to this.
If you don’t, listen to it again sometime with headphones and fall in love with Roberta Flack because it’s a good place to be.
CD: That was the Ewan MacColl classic “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” the just impossibly beautiful Roberta Flack version. So I see Tracy Chapman on the list.
MD: This one … I think I’m about 11 years old. I’m knee-deep in my skater-punk phase. I’ve got one side of my head shaved. The bangs go all the way across my face so I can chew on them during class.
MD: and I’m a metal head. And me and my friends are sleeping over at one of my friend’s houses and we’re watching Saturday Night Live. We’re sneaking his dad’s vodka, and the musical guest is this woman who comes on stage with a guitar and no shoes on. She’s probably 19 years old, and we’re Metallica fans.
MD: So, all of us start to make fun of her and this stupid earnest song that she’s singing about “fast car…what is this?” And I engage just as much as everybody else does.
When the song’s over I excuse myself and go to the bathroom and I cry for about 10 minutes. I had such -- everyone has these at puberty, but I had this feeling of “I’m not like these people and I’m not like how I’m dressed, and what I’m doing. All of the cynicism and sarcasm is something else completely.”
At that point, I was a drummer and I was playing drums in a metal band. I switched over to guitar and that kind of brought me into more of my singer-songwriter phase.
Song: Tracy Chapman – “Fast Car”
CD: “Fast Car.” That is from Tracy Chapman from her debut album, which I guess was just called “Tracy Chapman”, wasn’t it?
MD: That’s exactly it.
CD: Yeah. Mark Duplass is our guest here on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Going back a few years earlier for this next one.
MD: So, I was lucky enough to have an older brother and when you have an older brother, they bring you cool music more quickly than you would normally discover it. So, a couple years after I discovered “Fast Car,” my brother brought home “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust,” which was mind blowing to say the least.
I happened to be at our video store called Major Video, where, you know, I’m a lover of movies, so I was always renting films. Monday through Wednesday, if you rented two, you would get one free. And, the one free I picked happened to be a 1973 video concert of one of the last performances of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
He plays an extended version of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” and he gets up there and says, you know, “This has been a very special tour for us and I just want to thank you all for being here because not only is the last show of the tour, but this is the last show we’ll ever do.”
And the audience just explodes, (in British accent) “David, NO! David, don’t! No!”
They stay in close up on him while he’s playing “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” I would rent that movie once a week and I would watch that performance over and over again, and see what he was doing to those people, and the earnestness to it.
Song: David Bowie – “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”
CD: David Bowie, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” I think that’s what consistent throughout, what you pointed out earlier, is the heart behind a lot of what you’re choosing here is so deep and so powerful, and sometimes shrouded in, you know, other candy that betrays that heart. This next one is a great example of that.
MD: I think you nailed that with “This Must Be the Place”. The Talking Heads couch this thing in such a beautiful little upbeat, poppy melody and instrumentation. And, at the heart of it, is this really yearning, earnest song.
It’s funny that I used to, like everybody does, you kind of pop around and dance to this song, and then when I was touring as a singer-songwriter, I was lucky enough one time to play a show opening up for Shawn Colvin and she did an acoustic version of this song, and slowed it down.
I didn’t really realize until strip that stuff away what’s going on in the lyrics and the feel of it. And while I intensely prefer the Talking Heads version, seeing Shawn Colvin do it kind of delivered that to me, and now when I go back and listen to the Talking Heads, you can’t avoid that sort of dull, achy heart that’s throbbing beneath the little “doom-doom-doom-tick-doom-doom-doom-tick.“ It’s an incredible combination.
Song: Talking Heads – “This Must Be the Place”
CD: What’s the final song you brought for us?
MD: You know I came to Iron and Wine when I was no longer a musician, when I had just transitioned out of being a musician and into becoming a filmmaker.
There were a lot of reasons for that. I had been on the road like 200 days out of the year, and I was very close with my brother and, I was very close with my girlfriend, now my wife, Katie.
And feeling that yearning that, I’m a homebody and I wanted to have a career where I could have kids and stay home. It was very heartbreaking for me because I loved music so much and for so many years.
Then, someone showed me this Iron and Wine record, and it was delivered to me at the perfect time because all false humility aside, I got to listen to someone do exactly what I had been trying to do for years as a singer-songwriter -- bring that level of sensitivity and, I guess, restraint. And, the quietude and the beauty of what it feels like to be in a lifelong relationship, and the comfort of that, and what that could be.
That’s what I was trying to do, and he just did it infinitely better than I thought I could ever do it. So I was like, “Okay, I’m now ready to punch out because Iron and Wine is here doing this better than I ever could.”
CD: Let’s listen to “Naked as We Came” by Iron and Wine.
Song: Iron and Wine – “Naked as We Came”
CD: Mark Duplass, I can’t thank you enough for bringing this in and bringing so much thought to it. Thanks for putting this together for us.
MD: Thanks for having me here and letting me be sappy on your show.
It’s the Guest DJ Project here on KCRW. Our guest this time around, Mark Duplass. For a complete track listing and to find these songs online you can go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.
I’m Chris Douridas, thanks so much Mark.
MD: Thanks for having me.