Award-winning actor and director John Krasinski is beloved for his role as Jim Halpert on The Office. From the “unbelievable talent” of Nick Drake and The Strokes, to a timeless classic by Bobby Darin, he talks about “musical awakenings” from throughout his life. He directs and stars in The Hollars, which premiered at Sundance this year and is in theaters on August 26.
1. Ike and Tina Turner - Proud Mary
2. Led Zeppelin - Your Time Is Gonna Come
3. Nick Drake - Hazey Jane 1
4. The Strokes - The Modern Age
5. Bobby Darin - The Curtain Falls (Live from Las Vegas)
Hi I’m Eric J. Lawrence, and I’m here with award-winning actor and director John Krasinski, loved for his role as Jim Halpert on The Office. He’s taken on more responsibility behind the camera these days, both directing and starring in his latest film The Hollars which premiered at Sundance this year. But today we are here to talk about some songs that have inspired him through the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. John, thank you so much for coming down!
J: Oh my Gosh, It’s so good to be here!
E: What’s the first track you got for us?
J: The first track I have is “Proud Mary” by Ike & Tina Turner. I have to say music has been a huge part of my life for many different reasons that I will try to walk you through today. But first and foremost, it started in the kitchen with my mom. She was a Motown nut. I mean this song to me is such a powerhouse, such a powerhouse that I even dressed up in a dress on Lip Sync Battle, to this song to show my true support. If you really love a song, you should dress up in a dress to prove it.
*Song: Proud Mary by Tina Turner
E: Why the Ike & Tina version vs the CCR version?
J: It’s interesting. I think again, that my mom listened to it a lot. And I think that her intro, and with that voice. I don’t think anybody can say, “We never ever do nothing nice” like Tina. Nobody can say that. I mean what I just sounded like was an idiot. Because only she is allowed to say those words.
E: That was “Proud Mary”, Grammy Award-winning song from icon Tina Turner. What’s the next track you got for us?
J: The next track is a very special song for me and time. So basically, when I was a kid growing up, I listened to whatever my mom was listening to or anything on the radio. And then my brother came back from college to go to Med school in Boston, and we ended up spending a lot more time together because he had been gone for so long. And it was that perfect time in my life where I was very susceptible to anything and luckily I had a cool enough brother who gave me good music when I was susceptible, it was sort of our Irish Catholic Boston version of Almost Famous. And he handed me a gift, which I gotta say, at the time, it’s very expensive, this box set by Led Zeppelin, and he gave me the Led Zeppelin box set as a gift. And it changed my life, it truly did. It sort of was one of those gateways into a whole other dimension of music because, again, I had only really listened to songs that were on the radio. So, I was a perfect representative of what we all were supposed to be because of what radio was putting out there, and this sort of made me the beginnings of a music rebel. And the song that I always loved was -- - I remember hearing the organ for the first time -- on Your Time is Gonna Come. And it just blew me away. And weirdly as a side note, I then went on to be Conan O'Brien’s intern in college and it was during the tour where Chris Robinson was touring with Jimmy Page and doing the whole coming back of the Led Zeppelin songs and they played “Your Time is Gonna Come” on air that night. And so I thought, ‘That’s a little bit of serendipity there!’
*Song: Your Time is Gonna Come by Led Zeppelin
E: That was “Your Time is Gonna Come” from the legendary Led Zeppelin, as selected by our guest John Krasinski. Well, what’s the next song you got for us?
J: The next song is huge for me, too. This is sort of a very thumbnail sketch of my music experience, but when I got to school, I went to Brown University, and everybody there was cooler than me, I guarantee it. And as the kid who had never seen an independent film or listened to any song that wasn’t on the radio – that’s a recurring theme in this conversation - I actually did something that I look back and I’m proud of myself for, I said to all my friends, “Every single week give me a new album and a new movie that I should see.” So my college experience was fantastic, but this sidebar college experience was really what changed me forever and sort of threw me into wanting to be an artist whatsoever. And the first album that a friend of mine, Alex Isola, gave me was Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter. And the first song that I fell in love with and still to this day- I think it might have been the first song I ever played my wife that we listened to together- was Hazey Jane I.
*Song: Hazey Jane I by Nick Drake
E: I think that he is one of those unbelievable talents, but also so much more. I believe there is a philosophical leadership to his music that he is guiding you to look at the world in a way that it’s almost a hint if you don’t get it, it’s too bad. He is trying to tell you how the good life can be.
E: That was Nick Drake with Hazey Jane I from his album Bryter Layter. What’s the next song you got for us?
J: After leaving college, I think everybody goes through that moment of, ‘Oh my god, where is my security blanket? Real life is hitting.’ And I think I kinda went through that in music, too, which is I didn’t have that unbelievable source of inspiration from friends getting me albums. And, luckily, as soon as I graduated college the EP of The Strokes came out. And to me it was just such a calling of ‘Look you can like your own music right as its happening and not have to go back into all your friends’ archives. We are the band to say: here is your new musical awakening.’ And it was The Strokes. I remember that EP was unbelievable and it was also pre 9/11 so it was a whole different album that came out just before 9/11. And then 9/11 honestly, they changed the album a bit for various reasons. So I remember there was this whole sort of political thing going on with the album, too, and it just felt like it was my first time being like: ‘This is a band I found, I chose.’ Along with- only three people found The Strokes, right? Only three people like The Strokes?
E: You were one of three.
J: One of three. Yeah, yeah, I feel special, nobody else liked The Strokes. They weren’t a huge international sensation, it was just me… or at least it felt that way.
*Song: The Modern Age by The Strokes
E: That was The Strokes with The Modern Age. What’s the last track you got for us?
J: The last track is Bobby Darin and I think that, for me, because I’m 94 years old and at the end of my life, this song is called “The Curtain Falls”. That’s not why I chose it. I think that it’s funny, like I said when I was a little kid I used to listen to standards a whole lot and then I found myself very recently listening to standards a whole lot more. There’s something about that timeless idea of music that is so powerful that obviously many bands can do for you, but there’s something about the standards that never get old and they always feel like they’re there for you. This song I think is truly one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard. And you know in this lovely idea that there’s a showbiz room when you pass on to the next life I imagine it’s Bobby Darin at the piano playing this for all these amazing stars and I go get to have a martini with Humphrey Bogart or something.
*Song: The Curtain Falls by Bobby Darin
E: Well John, thank you so much for coming down.
J: Absolutely, this was great!
E: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.