Matthew McConaughey

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Actor Matthew McConaughey’s musical inspirations range from the spiritual to the sounds of his Texas youth. He tells DJ Chris Douridas about a hard rockin’ band with the “best bass line in the business,” an artist he discovered on an Austin street corner, and a singer he liked so much, he started his own record label (jk livin) just to put out his CD. Matthew also shares an unbelievable story about a musical adventure in Africa, sparked by a recurring dream. McConaughey is currently starring in Surfer, Dude, a tale of a soul searching surfer experiencing an existential crisis.

For More:


1.) John Mellencamp,"Between a Laugh and a Tear"
2.) Ted Nugent, "Stranglehold"
3.) Ali Farke Toure (with Ry Cooder) "Ai Du"
4.) James McMurtry, "Every Little Bit Counts"
5.) Mishka, "Above the Bones"


Chris Douridas: Hi, I'm Chris Douridas. I'm here with actor Matthew McConaughey for KCRW's guest DJ project. Welcome.

Matthew McConaughey: Good to be here Chris, thanks for having me, man.

Chris Douridas: And we asked you to pull together some songs. That was a bit of a trick for you.

Matthew McConaughey: Yeah, it was a trick. I tried to give you a nice pastiche, a chronological order of songs that mean something to me and I dug, starting back around early 80's. John Mellencamp, then known as John Cougar Mellencamp, “Between a Laugh and a Tear.” This was a very Texas song for me. I'd go out on Saturdays and wash and wax my truck and he kind of shaped what I thought it was to be an American, what I thought it was to be a patriot, the man I wanted to become. It was the first artist I heard that I thought "he's reading my mail, he's singing that to me."

Song: John Cougar Mellencamp, Between a Laugh and Tear Matthew McConaughey: For me, growing up, you know 14, 15, trying to figure it out and seeing where I'm going to go in life, it was nice to hear a little boundary saying ‘hey man, life is just about between a laugh and tear.’ That the pendulum will swing left and right and you do have those parameters, you know, on both sides but everything in between is just the human condition, so deal with it. Do the best you can.

Chris Douridas: That is John Cougar Mellencamp.

Matthew McConaughey: At that time.

Chris Douridas: “Between a Laugh and a Tear,” it's from the album “Scarecrow.” I'm Chris Douridas here with actor Matthew McConaughey. It's KCRW’s Guest DJ Project.

Chris Douridas: Now we’re going to rock out a bit here. This is...

Matthew McConaughey: yeah…now we're gonna rock out.

Chris Douridas: This is a mad man...

Matthew McConaughey: elbow grease

Both: laugh

Matthew McConaughey: Ted Nugent. I mean I grew up on rock ‘n’ roll. My older brother, Pat - he was 9 years older than me or 8 years older. He would turn me onto his music and he was a rock ‘n’ roller so he turned me on to Mellencamp. He also turned me onto guys like Nugent. I remember we went to the Tyler Oil Palace...

Matthew McConaughey: …and we jammed to Nugent and I remember my brother and I going back in the bathroom and he was like ‘it's so loud man, look at the water in the bottom of the toilet, it's shakin!’

Chris Douridas: laughs.

Song: Ted Nugent, Stranglehold

Matthew McConaughey: and Nugent would swing out there in his, you know, his shammy or whatever he was in, his Tarzan or coonskin outfit.

I love a rock ‘n’ roll tune that he builds. It was like 7min 13seconds long. And I remember loving the bass line. And I would sit there and go (sings) "bum dibby dum be doom be dibby dum dum, bum dibby dum be doom be dibby dum dum". And it does that over and over and over and over and over. But it's the best bass line in the business for my money.

If I was going to be a boxer or a UFC fighter, this is the song I would come out to right here.

Chris Douridas: That's Ted Nugent “Stranglehold.” It's from the album Great Gonzos. Its part of the guest DJ set for Matthew McConaughey who is our guest here at KCRW I'm Chris Douridas.

You've traveled so much. You spent some time in Australia. You've been everywhere from here to Timbuktu.

Matthew McConaughey: Yes I have. Speaking of Timbuktu, there is such a place. I found that out in seeking this next artist. I'd had a recurring dream and the first time I'd had the exact dream frame by frame. And I had it 3 times. And it had to do with being on -- I knew the river was the Amazon -- ok, in the dream - but the men on the banks of the river were all African. So in ‘96 I chased the Amazon. So I went to Peru and got my Amazon experience. But I came back and thought I had completed the dream.

Then I had it for the 3rd time. Frame by frame. This is ‘99 when I was in Ireland. So I said now I go to find the African on the banks here. And I was sitting in my hotel room listening to Ali Farka and I said ‘well where is this guy from?’ And he's from Mali, a little town called Niafunke on the Niger River. So I said ‘there's my dot. I’m going to go to Mali and go find Ali.’ I flew to Bomako. Hitchhiked to Mopti, hooked up with a guy there, got on a boat and about nine days into it, in the town of Niafunke, found Ali Farka. We went to his house, sat there. He had an Orange Crush, I got water. And he played this song for me. And we hung out for an afternoon at both of his wives' house and he played this song.

Song: Ali Farka Toure, Ai Du

Matthew McConaughey: I went back, too, and found him in 2004. I returned to Festival au Desert. It's a festival they throw north of Timbuktu, about 35 kilometers north. We were traveling out to the concert which is basically, if you can find it out there in the middle of the desert, good, you've made it. We came across this truck that was broken down -- the radiator had overheated. And we pulled up and got out to help them. And it was Ali and a bunch of his friends and he comes up to me and it's 5 years later and he's like "dowda! You've eaten well my friend!"

Chris Douridas: That's I Do. It's from Talking Timbuktu, an album you can find on Hannibal Records. It's a collaboration between Malian guitarist and singer, Ali Farka Toure and the great slide guitarist, Ry Cooder.

I'm Chris Douridas it's KCRW's guest DJ set. Our guest DJ is Matthew McConaughey. Now here's a little bit of Texas, James McMurtry.

Matthew McConaughey: Yeah, son of Larry McMurtry, the great Texas writer.

Song: James McMurtry, Every Little Bit Counts

Matthew McConaughey: I was in Austin on like so said Tuesday night. Early 90s. And in Austin you can find some good live music and you don't necessarily know where you're going to find it. Well, we came up around this corner and there was a dead end street. And there was this guy jamming. And there was about 40 people hanging around in front of this stage and we walked up and ended up front row to James McMurtry jamming. I became a fan of his then, went and got his album. A great storyteller. The way he spins a phrase. In this one, “Every Little Bit Counts,” he talks about the high --when you're trying to work something out -- the highs might be slightly higher, the lows are just as low, but hey, every little bit counts. He throws the picture of the woman off the mantle. He slams the bottle of whiskey in the sink. He's not happier. He's not better. But hey, everything little bit counts. And I dig that.

Chris Douridas: From the album, “Walk Between the Raindrops,” that's James McMurtry, “Every Little Bit Counts.” And its part of our Guest DJ set here with Matthew McConaughey. I'm Chris Douridas. It's KCRW’s guest DJ project.

I remember, years ago, Heather Nova came through this studio. She did a live set here and she was talking about how she grew up in Bermuda off the coast of Bermuda on a…

BOTH: …a boat.

Chris Douridas: Years later that story comes back again sitting here with you.

Matthew McConaughey: Yes it does. This guy, Mishka, he grew up on that same boat. And this is a guy who I got turned on to by a friend of mine called Hauser, at the turn of the millennium. 1999 turns to 2000, I'm in Jamaica with friends, and it sort of became the album -- you know you when you go on trips like that, you have a theme album. For the next 10 days, this was our album, and I got to know it backwards and forwards.

Song: Mishka, Above the Bones

Matthew McConaughey: And I call him up. Now I know everything about him -- he doesn't know a thing about me. He didn't know what I did, didn't care what I did, nothing. But I knew him real well and he could tell how much I liked his music. Well, we talked music every three weeks on the phone for the next two years. And about 2006, he and I talked about how we could work together more and I said ‘well, hang on a second.’ I got off the phone and I called my lawyer and said ‘I want to start a record company, JK Livin Records.’ Called him back and said ‘you want to sign with Just Keep Livin Records?’ and he said "yeh man".

Chris Douridas: laughs

Matthew McConaughey: ..and this is the title track off the new album Above the Bones. It is a bless up song and album. And it's talking about above the bones, let's live above the bones. Let's get past the ashes of the past, the lies, the regrets, the who-you-did-wrongs. Let's live in the high life. Let's live in the positive.

Chris Douridas: It's the title piece from the album “Above the Bones” from Mishka. It's a new artist who is putting out an album on JK Livin Records sometime in February….February 2nd?

Matthew McConaughey: yep.

Chris Douridas: Thanks so much for coming in.

Matthew McConaughey: yea, my pleasure. I could keep talking all day about music and such man.

Chris Douridas: Matthew McConaughey, it's our Guest DJ project here on KCRW. I'm Chris Douridas. Thanks so much for joining us on today.