Zooey Deschanel

Zooey Deschanel
The singing actor is often the punch line to a bad joke, but ever since she warmed the hearts of viewers in 2003’s Elf singing "Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Zooey Deschanel has been considered one of the silver screen’s brightest voices. Partnering up with indie folkie M. Ward to record a cover of Richard and Linda Thompson’s "When I Get To the Border” for the soundtrack to last year’s The Go-Getter, Zooey found herself in the perfect position to show off her chops.

With an established but not exactly mainstream artist like Matt Ward, Zooey’s first real foray into music (she also moonlights in If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies, a cabaret act with actress pal Samantha Shelton) is aligned nicely with her filmography — which to date is select studio pics (Bridge to Terabithia) interspersed with a strong indie foundation (All the Real Girls), not to mention a forthcoming portrayal of classic rock goddess Janis Joplin in Gospel According to Janis.

As She & Him, Zooey and Matt play off each other to near-perfection. "Her” voice is what AM gold dreams are made of: a comforting, oft goofy personality with a smoky jazz club lilt that’s part Linda Ronstadt, part Karen Carpenter, and all delight. "His” arrangements are the utmost flattering for such a voice: predominantly but not completely breaking from the wistful country/folk template, Ward’s rich smattering of vintage ideals (’60s girl pop, Motown, alt-country, old-timey gospel) accentuate Zooey’s timeless taste. The result is an opulent, personable album called Volume One, a title that gratefully indicates this budding partnership is just beginning.

After taking some time out to answer our Questionnaire, Zooey was nice enough to have a go at these follow-up questions.

How did you first meet Matt "M.” Ward?
We met doing the cover of "When I Get to the Border” for the Go-Getter soundtrack.

What got you two together for that song and what made you decide on that song? And what happened with that film?
The director of the movie, Martin Hynes, picked that song. Matt was doing the soundtrack for the movie and Martin thought it would be a good idea to have me do the duet with Matt for the end credits.
The movie will be out in limited release in June.

After you and Matt collaborated on that tune, was it obvious that you’d put out an album together?
I think that it was obvious we got along and that we jived creatively. We started making the record because I had all of these songs and Matt thought it would be fun to record them properly. Before we knew it we had a record.

When did you begin writing songs for the album? Did you always have an album in mind to release or were these written more for personal pleasure?
They were written over a long period of time. Some of the songs on the record are really recent and some have been sitting around for as long as eight years. I really started writing music because I enjoyed it and I found it relaxing. I didn’t know what to do with it; I was confused about it for years.

It’s a very breezy and timeless sounding record. What kind of musical inspiration were you looking to for She & Him?
Lots of old records. Both Matt and I grew up listening to oldies radio. In the studio we spoke the same language of influences. There are so many I don’t even know where to begin: Les Paul and Mary Ford, Nina Simone, Emmyloud Harris, Beach Boys, to name a few.

There’s a nice balance of upbeat and soft numbers. Was there any kind of mood you were going for?
We just took it song by song and played each one the best we knew how. There was no grand design.

The album’s titled Volume One. Are we to assume there is another album on the way? Are there any details you can share?
Yes, there will be more, but there’s nothing to share right now.

You’re scheduled to appear as Janis Joplin in her biopic. I see the two of you having completely different voices. Will you be singing? If so, did you have to train your voice to sound like hers?
This project is on hold right now.

Finally, are we gonna see She & Him up here in Canada for some shows? Are you open to touring?
I love Canada! I have spent a lot of time in Vancouver, which is absolutely beautiful, and a little bit of time in Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg. I would visit any time you guys would have me back!