Three years ago, Pete Yorn contacted Scarlett Johansson about recording a duets album. He wanted to create something with a ’60s vibe like Serge Gainsbourg’s recordings with Brigitte Bardot.
Yorn didn’t know if Johansson could sing, but thought she would be a good fit.
“I figured, you know, most actors are multitalented. They’ve got to be able to do a lot of things and they probably have some ability to sing,” the 35-year-old singer-songwriter said.
Last year, Johansson released “Anywhere I Lay My Head,” a gauzy assortment of covers of Tom Waits songs. Many argued that her singing voice was hidden behind a curtain of effects so impenetrable, it was impossible to tell if she could sing.
Some fans and critics weren’t sold on the idea that she was serious about pursuing a musical path.
Now that “Break Up,” her collaboration with Yorn, has been released, does she hope it will add some positive notes to her music career?
Johansson says she’s still not looking for anyone’s approval.
“I don’t hope for anything. Of course whenever you put something out you hope that people are into it,” the 24-year-old actress said. “But I don’t really validate myself through critical praise.”
AP: Pete, why did you reach out to Scarlett?
Yorn: For some reason the image I had in my head and the context of the project, Scarlett just seemed right for it. In fact, when I asked her if she would do it I didn’t even know she could sing. ... I knew that she was very talented and it was like an afterthought. I was like, “Oh, I’m sure she can sing.”
AP: What surprised you the most, musically speaking, about working with her?
Yorn: I was really surprised with how fast she learned the songs. She didn’t hear any material beforehand. She came to the studio and I had to teach her the songs very quickly. We didn’t have much time because she was very busy at the time.
AP: Scarlett, your first album, “Anywhere I Lay My Head,” received mixed reviews. Was that discouraging?
Johansson: No, I mean I’m really proud of ... “Anywhere I Lay My Head.” It’s a sound that I’m really into. I think for me the most important thing was that I was happy with the end result. ... The entertainment industry in general is that you have to have a thick skin in general to survive it and it’s something that I have developed for ... since I was 8 years old. Just projection and praise and all those things. I think it’s important to not let that stuff get to your head so you can keep a clear picture of what it is that you want to do.
AP: Scarlett, a lot of people thought it was perhaps going to be a one-time thing when you released your CD last year. Here you are back again. Do you think this will prove to the critics that you’re serious about your music career?
Johansson: I don’t hope for anything. Of course whenever you put something out you hope that people are into it. But I don’t really validate myself through critical praise. You know it’s wonderful to have that but you know you expect when you put something out that people are going to like it, some people aren’t going to like it.