Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson talk 'Apart'
office had the pleasure of catching up with Pete a couple days ago to shed some insight on his musical relationship with Scarlett and Apart, among other things.
A successful collaboration usually entails a merging of two creative minds with a similar vision. This is not the first time you and Ms. Johansson have collaborated, so what drew you to her?
Well there was just something about her personality that I’ve always loved. I knew she would be able to sing, and I think she just has an interesting, highly original voice. One of the biggest things I think we both enjoy is figuring out how our voices are going to work together from song to song. As we come from different musical backgrounds, our voices are counterpointed by one another, and we are left with this very unique product. One of my favorite parts about collaborating with her is figuring out how to make the most of what we each bring to the table.
Is there any specific quality you look for in a potential collaborator?
Well, for me, it feels almost instinctual. It’s the way in which a person carries themselves. The funny thing about Scarlet is that when I first had the idea of singing with her, I had never even heard her sing before. I knew her speaking voice, I knew she would be able to sing because I knew she came from a theater background; she is very talented at whatever she does. But with her it was truly an instinct that I had, where I just really liked her persona and her personality and I thought that it would be fun to work together in that way.
In a press release for your first collaboration, you stated that if that album was about an unraveling relationship, “Apart is dealing with the aftermath.” Can you elaborate a little on this idea of narrative and continuation?
Some records I go into, and I’m not thinking of an overall narrative at all. I am writing and reacting to things occuring in the environment around me, but afterwards, I’m kind of like ‘oh, I see where this all fits together and what story this is trying to tell’. Scarlett used to make a joke, she used to send me emails saying, "When are we going to makeup," because the first record we collaborated on back in 2009 was called Breakup, and obviously the next step would be makeup. She jokes that I’m stuck in purgatory because I haven’t written the makeup record yet, I’m still stuck in this distant place. I mean she’s right, I’m always kind of interested in the concept of people dealing with adversity, navigating through adversity. My style of writing, and the types of songs that I am attracted to are the ones that don’t give all the answers, they are not linear or literal, they don’t spit out exactly what someone might want them to. Instead, they give little graces in between the lines, and kind of hint that certain things are going on. The whole concept of Apart is that moment when you're not physically with someone but they are still occupying a lot of your thoughts. You go to bed and think, "Ok, I’m alright," then you wake up first thing in the morning and you immediately think about them. That rough ride creates the heroes when people make it through to the other side of that process. That is the character of these songs in this EP.
When you're not writing or performing, you are…?
My main interest by a long shot asides from music is my little girl, who is two and a half years old. Ever since my wife and I had a kid, I’ve been so in love and involved in them, I put so much of my energy into my family. They are my biggest focus. You know, kids grow up too fast, you blink and then they’re grown up. Even the first two years happened too fast. I just don’t want to miss it.
Then would you say that your family is a major source of inspiration for you?
I would say for sure, they’re the people that are closest to me, and family for me naturally is the most important thing. I guess it’s just how I was raised. I’m very close to my parents, my brothers, my cousins. As I am writing stuff, as I put my songs together and I realize that a lot of my lyrics are about family members and the people close to me. So yes, they have been a very big source of inspiration for me, especially since I began writing back when I was a teenager. But don’t tell them that!
Haha I won’t, your secret is safe with me! Any big plans or hopes for the future?
Oh my, I just take it day by day, moment to moment. Stay healthy, stay in the game, and be the change I want to see in the world. That’s what I do.