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Pete Yorn: "Scarlett Johansson Could Be Brigitte Bardot"

May 27, 2009 4:56 PM ET

Pete Yorn has been swamped recording three separate albums, but only one of the trio features an Golden Globe-nominated actress who's a famous fan of Tom Waits: Scarlett Johansson. On Break Up, due September 8th, Yorn sings duets with Johansson in the style of '60s partners Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. Yorn tells Rock Daily the idea came to him after a week of insomnia, when he finally had a dream: " 'I have to make a record inspired by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot and it has to be like that.' So who is Brigitte Bardot? And I was like, Scarlett Johansson could be the Brigitte Bardot type. So I reached out to her and she was into it and we did it," he says. "I'm really proud of that record."

But before that collaborative LP hits stores, Yorn will release Back and Fourth on June 23th, an album produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley fame. Mogis yanked Yorn from his comfort zone — playing all instruments himself — and assembled a band of musicians including Beck drummer Joey Waronker, Bright Eyes pianist Nate Wolcott, John Cale bassist Joe Karnes and Azure Ray vocalist Orenda Fink. "It was definitely a challenge to let go," Yorn says, "I just wanted to try something different, and Mike was all for working with the band." The album was laid down in Mogis' home studio in Omaha, Nebraska; executive producer Rick Rubin advised Yorn through the early stages of the record, helping with song selection.

But around a week before heading to Omaha, Yorn became restless and took a detour to record with Pixies' Frank Black. Yorn explains, "I had an opportunity to go and work with Frank Black so I just jumped on a plane on my own dime and I went up to Salem, Oregon, and we recorded." The end result was 14 raw songs captured in merely six days. This LP has no set release date, but Yorn isn't sitting idle now: he's on tour with Coldplay until June 4th and will continue to tour solo in support of Back and Fourth after those dates.

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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