Dec 23rd, 2009

Scarlett & Pete Yorn were featured on the September issue of BlackBook magazine, where they gave an interview about their Break Up album. Read it after the cut and view the new magazine pic on the gallery by clicking on it!

Even when critics weren’t so kind to your first album?
SJ: I’ve had plenty of films that were released with mixed reviews. You win some, you lose some, I suppose. My only hope is that the album was actually listened to before it was reviewed.

“Belle & Sebastian,” says Scarlett Johansson, who then goes on to name Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, and the White Stripes, when listing off her favorite musical duos. The 24-year- old actress and musician should be forgiven for her error—the Scottish purveyors of indie-pop currently boast seven members—because, after all, she’s here today to discuss another duo altogether.

With her longtime friend, singer-songwriter Pete Yorn, the four-time Golden Globe nominee (two of those nods came in the same year, for 2003’s Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring) recorded The Break Up, an album of harmonious he said/she said tracks loosely inspired by the rapport between Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. About love and its aftermath, the songs were recorded three years ago, over two afternoons, with little thought given to the outcome.

“When Scarlett showed up,” says Yorn, “we had no idea what was going to happen. We just went with what felt right. I knew a handful of their songs, and had seen some videos that I thought were fun.” This is not, evidently, a passion project on the level of Johansson’s debut album, Anywhere I Lay My Head, her tribute to Tom Waits, whose music she fell in love with at the age of 12. “I didn’t start listening to these recordings until five years ago,” she adds. But despite their casual interest in the famous French musical partners, the collaboration between Yorn and Johansson perfectly captures the playful tenor of their sexually liberated predecessors.

Like Bardot, Johansson has become lauded as an international sex symbol, and had been romantically linked to a swarm of high-profile Hollywood types—until settling down last year with her husband, actor Ryan Reynolds. And like Gainsbourg, whose later life included a slew of drunken embarrassments, Yorn, 35, has been forthcoming about his excessive past, although he summoned the courage to dry out when the rock- star cliché veered too closely to self-destruction. “I’ve never felt tempted by self-destructive behavior,” says Johansson, who quickly shifts the discussion away from any real-life parallels: “The album happened in a very organic way. Pete asked me if I’d like to record with him—it was as simple as that.”

In what ways did the relationship between music and film color this album?
SCARLETT JOHANSSON: I never thought of this as an actor-and-musician collaboration. It was merely a project between friends. Perhaps Pete felt differently—he had such a strong idea about what the duets should be.
PETE YORN: The Serge-and-Brigitte thing is really loose, not much more than a guy- girl concept. It really could have been Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. Thinking back on it, my work with Natalie Maines on “The Man” might have been the initial catalyst for wanting to make a record with a female perspective.

What is it about Gainsbourg and Bardot that makes them so iconic?
SJ: I just enjoyed the ambiance of the sound—perfect for winter in New York.
PY: It was more of a feeling I got when I thought of them, the vibe that Brigitte seemed to bring to the table. It made me think of Scarlett.

Bardot once defined what it meant to be a sexy, spirited, cultured woman. Is she someone you admire?
SJ: I don’t know that I have a fully formed opinion about who exactly I look up to. There are actors, however, who encompass that sort of spirited quality: Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood and Bette Davis. A varied group, I know, but all equally strong, sensual and feminine performers.

Where do you mine inspiration from when conveying heartbreak, when you’re happily partnered in a relationship?
PY: I seem to be able to feel or tap into all emotions at all times. If I’m happy in a situation, and I want to go the dark side, I just remind myself how fleeting that happiness will be for me. Anyway, I’m usually led there naturally.
SJ: Past relationships, I suppose.

In what ways has your music evolved on this project?
SJ: The singing voice on Break Up is very different from the vocals on Anywhere I Lay My Head. On the Waits covers album, the register is much lower, and the songs are grittier and sort of dreamlike. Break Up gave me the opportunity to harmonize.
PY: In a weird way, this record reminds me of my younger self, maybe because of the way it was made, back in someone’s garage without outside influences or expectations—just innocent fun.

Do you normally try to shut out critical reception?
SJ: I’ve never been one to focus on reviews. I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to critiquing music and film—I always think my opinion is the most thoughtful. I realize, of course, that’s not the case, so I guess I put just as much faith in everyone else’s critical reception as I do my own, which is to say that I understand that each person is entitled to their own opinion.

Even when critics weren’t so kind to your first album?
SJ: I’ve had plenty of films that were released with mixed reviews. You win some, you lose some, I suppose. My only hope is that the album was actually listened to before it was reviewed.

Scarlett, when working on your solo album, you said, “There wasn’t anybody asking if we wanted lattes.” What about this time around?
SJ: Well, there was that time I asked Pete for gum…

How does the pressure of live musical performance compare to appearances in front of the camera or on a red carpet?
SJ: I have terrible stage fright. I’ve never had to sing in front of a live audience, other than some back-up vocals. It seems incredibly revealing, very different from making a red-carpet appearance, where the glitz and glamour of movie stardom can mask any sort of insecurity.

What is the most significant compliment you’ve received for your work?
SJ: Having David Bowie agree to sing on Anywhere I Lay My Head—after hearing it.
PY: While listening to track 11 on one of my records, Bono said, “I keep waiting for you to drop the ball, but you’re not dropping the ball!”

If you could wear anything onstage, what would you choose?
SJ: I’d dress like a character from The Dark Crystal.
PY: If I was getting weird, I’d wear something furry, like a costume from the Banana Splits or that dude in the hotel room in The Shining.

How much of what you’re wearing helps you get into performance mode?
PY: Sometimes my black leather boots help me snap into it, for sure. I have terrible stage fright. Live performance is very different from the glitz and glamour of movie stardom, which can mask any sort of insecurity.






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