Zach Braff is familiar to TV watchers, movie lovers and music fans alike as the star of Scrubs and writer/director of Garden State, whose soundtrack helped launch KCRW-supported artists like The Shins to mainstream stardom. He tells Anne Litt about his love of poetic lyrics and great melodies, as well as his determination to shine the spotlight on singers who deserve it. He plucks a few special artists from LA’s singer-songwriter scene to showcase in his set. New episodes of Scrubs are now airing on ABC.
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1.) Colin Hay - I'm Doing Fine
2.) William Fitzsimmons - It's Not True
3.) Allie Moss - Passerby (Demo)
4.) Jump Little Children - Mexico
5.) Jay Clifford - Know When to Walk Away
Anne Litt: Hi! This is Anne Litt from KCRW and I am here with Zach Braff and we are going to talk about the music that has inspired him over the years and more recently as well. Zach, thank you so much for coming down.
Zach Braff: Thank you for having me.
Anne Litt: So what songs do you have for us today?
Zach Braff: Well, it's so hard to pick five songs. And then I thought, well, I'll pick five songs that will tell a quick story of how I sort of got into liking music and indie music and that would help me narrow down the 5 songs.
Anne Litt: Let's just jump into your first pick. What is it?
Zach Braff: My first pick is a Colin Hay song called "I'm Doing fine."
So when I first moved to L.A., a girlfriend I was dating brought me to Largo on Fairfax to see Colin Hay. I had never heard of Colin Hay, I heard he was the lead singer of "Men at Work" – and if anyone ever has a chance to see Colin Hay at Largo, it's a particularly amazing experience, he does like stand up comedy and he's very funny -- and sat in Largo and watched Colin Hay and he played this song, "I'm Doing Fine". And I just thought it was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. And so it was sort of my first, very first entry into exploring singer-song writers in Los Angeles.
Song: Colin Hay’s "I'm Doing Fine"
Anne Litt: That was Colin Hay "I'm Doing Fine" and I know you brought some others so let’s hear them.
Zach Braff: Alright, skip many years and I have become friends with some musicians, Joshua Radin and Cary Brothers in particular, who you guys have played here many times …
Anne Litt: For sure
Zach Braff: Through Josh Radin and through Ingrid Michaelson, who has become a good friend of mine, I've met these next two musicians. So the first song I'm going to play you is William Fitzsimmons. This gentleman is a genius and I was blown away when I saw him live at the Hotel Café for the first time.
No one was there, he was just starting to make a name for himself, and it was one of those things where there was probably ten people in the audience and you realize that you are seeing something really, really special that people were going to find out about. And his name is William Fitzsimmons.
Song: William Fitzsimmons’ "It's Not True"
Zach Braff: This guy is just really special. And if you ever get -- you know check his MySpace page out -- and if you ever get to see him live, it's one of those things where, you know, sometimes you go to see someone, a singer/songwriter with one instrument, the place is dead silent and you just have goose bumps the whole time.
Anne Litt: That was William Fitzsimmons, a song called "It's Not True" from the album Good Night. I'm Anne Litt from KCRW here with Zack Braff, talking about some of the music that he loves and has inspired him. And I know you have a few more, so let's hear what you’ve got.
Zach Braff: Well the next song I wanted to play, also is related to Ingrid Michaelson, sort of Six Degrees of Ingrid Michaelson … We were all hanging out one night at a friend's house and I felt really lucky because Ingrid Michaelson had her guitar, she had just played a show, she was with her friend Allie Moss, and we were getting this sort of private show. We were all sitting around drinking wine -- it was like your dream scenario -- we're all sitting around, drinking wine, these musicians are playing guitar, I felt really cool that I knew these people. And Allie Moss, as I mentioned, who is currently sings backup for Ingrid and plays guitar said "Hey, do you guys want to hear one of my songs?" And she plays this song and I was just, we were all dropped jawed, it was just so incredibly beautiful. And this is a demo, that I asked her permission if I could play on KCRW and she was of course very excited. This is that song. Her name is Allie Moss and she's going to be giant.
Song: Allie Moss "What If I Knew Your Name"
Zach Braff: Because of the success of the two soundtracks that I put together, the compilations, Garden State, was the film that I wrote and directed, the other one that people know less about, which I really like a lot, is a film called the Last Kiss. I get sent a lot of music and on MySpace it's all people talk about often is music.
Anne Litt: Do you feel a responsibility to expose new artists or is that just something you're passionate about?
Zach Braff: I see it as a way of sharing the wealth in a sense -- more figuratively than literally in most cases -- but whenever I go see an artist, for example I hear Allie Moss play her guitar in my friend's living room and I just can't believe that no one knows this girl and no one- you know- it's kind of- it's just an exciting feeling that you can share that. I do it for no other reason than it just makes me so excited for them; for the artist.
Anne Litt: Alright. well let's move on. What do you have next for us?
Zach Braff: We were talking about MySpace before -- on MySpace people send me suggestions for bands I gotta listen to all the time. Most of the time I'm too busy to check them all out, but one time I had a night off and I was just scrolling through and I said, you know what, I'm going to write down all these bands the ones I keep hearing people say. So, the one that kept coming up the most, was this band Jump Little Children. I had never heard of them. They are from South Carolina, I believe, and people were right. I just fell in love with the band. I just was like, "Wow! So many cool songs. I love this song. This is my new favorite song and that song I put on non-stop," and I discovered that they had sort of broken up. One of those things where like, ahhhh I was too late. But the song that I most fell in love with. I don't think there is anyone out there who could not love this song. It's a great song in the summer, roll down your windows. It just makes you so happy. It's a song called "Mexico".
Song: Jump Little Children’s "Mexico"
Anne Litt: Jump Little Children with "Mexico" from their album Between the Dim and the Dark. Anne Litt here on KCRW with Zack Braff.
Zach Braff: Alright, so the story continues in that I tracked down Jay Clifford who was the lead singer of Jump Little Children. Super talented guy, like why does everyone not know the name Jay Clifford, and I just befriended him. I went in the studio when he was recording his first solo album. And I just really liked him and his solo album is out and this is the first single and it's called "Know When to Walk Away".
Jay Clifford’s "Know When to Walk Away"
Zach Braff: I like the poetry of great lyrics and melody a lot. I think if you're really into the singer-songwriter folk rock vibe, the thing you are most into often is melody -- but it's not melody like pop melody, that just makes you, you know have a bad taste in your mouth like fast food -- it's the Paul Simons and the James Taylors of this generation that write beautiful poetry with a beautiful melody that make you think about your own life.
Anne Litt: The thing that I am struck by listening to all of the songs and talking to you about them is that you're sort of like this activist.
Zach Braff: I love this idea of working together with fellow artists. When you work on bigger projects like a giant TV show, it's about so many other things than the small collaboration between creative minds and I think that that's what I see. And also I just feel injustice when I go to a show and there is five people in the audience and the artist is giving me goosebumps on my spine I want to do whatever I can.
Anne Litt: Well you are uniquely situated to do that.
Zach Braff: Yeah.
Anne Litt: Thank you so much for coming in Zach.
Zach Braff: Thank you so much for having me. I think this should be stretched to at least an hour segment, cause this is quality radio.
[PLAYLIST GOES HERE]