Seth Meyers is the head writer for “Saturday Night Live” and anchor of “Weekend Update” and claims you will know everything about him through his five song picks, ranging from the funky soul of Al Green to the comedy of country singer John Prine and his favorite band, Wilco. Seth has a standup appearance here on the West Coast, at the Pechanga resort, on Saturday, September 17. Learn more at pechanga.com.
For More about Seth: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/bios/seth-meyers.shtml
1.) I'm A Ram- Al Green
2.) Most People Are DJ's- The Hold Steady
3.) Hate It Here- Wilco
4.) The Hymn For The Cigarettes- Hefner
5.) In Spite Of Ourselves- John Prine with Iris DeMent
Dan Wilcox: Hi, this is Dan Wilcox from KCRW and I am sitting here with Seth Meyers, the head writer for “Saturday Night Live” and host of “Weekend Update.” Today we’re going to be playing excerpts of songs he’s selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Seth, how are you doing?
Seth Meyers: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for having me.
DW: Yeah. Absolutely! Well, let’s get into this.
SM: Well, I want to preface this because I’ve listened to a lot of people that do this and they always start by saying, “You know, it’s really hard to pick five songs, and I don’t want you to think this is a complete representation of me.”
My five songs ARE a complete representation of me, and if you listen to them in the right order, you will know everything about me. (laughs)
SM: The first song is “I Am a Ram” by Al Green. I grew up in suburban New Hampshire and I might be like the least funky guy out there. This is the song that is the least like me that I love the most. It’s such a driving song and, at one point, Al Green says “I am a ram. Yes I am, and I know just what to do.” And I’ve never felt that about myself.
SM: I’ve never, I’ve never felt that kind of confidence or sexuality. And in fact, I feel like I am less sexual than the horns in this song, which means I have less sexuality than inanimate objects.
Yeah, but my dad introduced me to this song. And my dad is somebody who actually considers himself very funky, and probably he considers himself in that Al Green neighborhood. Which he’s not, but my dad has that kind of confidence that somehow did not genetically get passed down to me. I think, in my teenage years, when my brother and I started listening to a lot of hip hop, I think my dad felt he needed to step in and give us what he believed to be real, that real soul sound.
DW: Let’s give that real soul sound a spin here. This is Al Green’s “I Am a Ram” here on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project.
Song: Al Green, “I Am a Ram”
DW: Seth, what’s next on the list?
SM: “Most People are DJ’s” by The Hold Steady. It’s true. Never truer than this moment right here -- if I’m a DJ, goodness they’re letting in anyone.
This song… I have a very specific memory of this song, which is when I was getting into the Hold Steady was right around the writer’s strike of 2007, and this became my mantra song that I would play during this awful hundred days where I wasn’t working and it was the middle of winter and we were doing a lot of picketing. I just feel like “hold steady”, which is, you know, both the sort of the beginning of this song, and obviously, the name of the band, was like a very good mantra for me through that time. And Amy Poehler and I, that was sort of the thing that we’d say to each other through the writer’s strike. It was how we greeted and said goodbye to each other, was “hold steady.”
And the other thing I love is Amy Poehler and Craig Finn went to college together at Boston College. One of my favorite stories is Amy said they were in a class once where the teacher asked everybody what they wanted to do with their lives, and no one knew. The only two people that knew what they wanted to do -- Amy said she wanted to be in comedy and Craig Finn said he wanted to be a rock star. And it just makes me so happy that every now and then, obviously not everyone knows what path their lives are going to take, but every now and then there are a couple of college kids that will know exactly what they’re going to do.
DW: Were you one of those people that knew?
SM: Yeah. As I went through high school, every other skill set was showing itself to be below average for any sort of profession. But I did know at a very young age.
DW: This is The Hold Steady with the track, “Most People are DJs” here on KCRW.com.
Song: The Hold Steady -- “Most People are DJs”
DW: I’m sitting in here with Seth Meyers as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. What’s next?
SM: “Hate It Here” by Wilco. Wilco is probably my favorite band and this is a song they played on “Saturday Night Live” in 2008. And I was very excited because I had made it my personal goal to bother the Talent Booking department from the first day I was hired on the show, and I would always say “we should really have Wilco on the show.”
DW: What year is this that we’re talking about?
SM: So it was 2001, right around “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” And this is a real reminder that you can’t own a band, because that was the band that I felt most like “Yeah, I’m a Wilco guy.” “I’m kinda the Wilco guy.”
And then, Fred Armisen got hired and he was like, “Oh.” He saw like a Wilco poster. And he said, “Oh do you like Wilco?” And I was like “Yeah.” And in my head, I’m like “I’m kinda the Wilco guy.” And he was like, “Oh yeah, I’ve opened for Wilco.” He’s in the documentary, which I saw after. And I was like, I guess my poster’s been trumped, you’re in the documentary.
If the previous song was like the low days of not working, this was like the triumph of coming back to work. Getting to watch Wilco play this song on Thursday and then again a bunch of times on Saturday, that’s sort of where you pinch yourself where you’re working on the show you grew up loving, and your favorite band is there playing this song.
Song: Wilco -- “Hate It Here”
DW: Okay, we just heard a song from Wilco, called “Hate It Here” as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Sitting in here with Seth Meyers and Seth, where are we going next?
SM: “The Hymn for the Cigarettes” by Hefner. This is a band that I never knew anything about and I put this on the list because I heard them on KCRW. I heard Nic Harcourt play a different song by them. And it’s just the most I’ve ever been grabbed by a band where I was like, “Oh, I think I’m going to like everything they wrote.” And I totally did.
Song: Hefner -- “The Hymn for the Cigarettes”
SM: I’ve had girlfriends that have smoked and it’s awful to have girlfriends who smoke - it’s awful to kiss them, it’s also awful to be around their clothes, but he talks about how he loves to see girls smoke in his bed. And I like that. I always thought that there was something very James Bond about if you had a woman in bed smoking.
DW: Okay, we just heard a track from Hefner. The song is called “The Hymn for the Cigarettes”. I’m sitting in here with Seth Meyers, and Seth, what is the last song that we’re going to hear today?
SM: “In Spite of Ourselves” by John Prine and Iris DeMent. John Prine’s first album was the album my parents played the most. We just listened to it forever. When my brother and I go home and visit my parents, like, pretty much all we do is play hearts and listen to John Prine music. What I love about my entire family is that we listen to an album a million times, and we sing along with every song, and if you took out the actual song you would realize that we don’t know any of the words, and it’s awful to be around.
DW: To me, it’s maybe one of the funniest songs in terms of the lyrics. Every line is almost like a one-liner joke.
SM: Yes, he’s a just as funny as you can be with it still being a great song and not a piece of comedy. My parents bicker constantly, but I don’t believe there are any two people on earth who love each other as much as they do. And that’s what I’ve always thought the characters in this song are. And I had never heard Iris DeMent’s voice before. It’s like a Nichols and May comedy fitting. Like it fits together so well that that is the woman’s voice that matches up with John Prine’s.
DW: You’ve got a brother who’s also in comedy, who was on MadTV.
DW: Is that where maybe some of this stems from?
SW: There was like a “Motown Best Of” album commercial that was on TV. And my brother and I just learned every snippet of every song. We would sing that whole thing and we used to have to do it for neighbors when they came over.
DW: See, that sounds like pretty hilarious.
SW: That was hilarious and I’m going to be honest with you. I’m pretty confident we could still do it.
DW: It needs to be done.
SW: Yeah, I’m glad that came up... you know, it’s hard to come up with good comedy bits to do on television and we just came up with it.
DW: Let’s give this a listen. This is John Prine along with Iris DeMent with the song “In Spite of Ourselves.”
Song: John Prine & Iris DeMent, “In Spite of Ourselves”
DW: Seth, thank you so much for joining us here on KCRW.com
SW: This was really fun. Thank you so much for having me. And I think - and it’s not a contest - but I think I did better than anyone’s ever done.
DW: You’ve got my vote.
DW: So for a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through itunes.