Zach Braff Breaks Down 'Wish I Was Here' Soundtrack Song by Song

The actor-director offers his thoughts on tracks by the Shins, Bon Iver, Paul Simon and a duet between Coldplay and Cat Power

July 9, 2014 5:05 PM ET
Wish I Was Here soundtrack Zach Braff
Wish I Was Here
Focus Features

Director and actor Zach Braff is still fully aware of the impact the platinum-selling soundtrack to his 2004 movie Garden State had. So when he began work on Wish I Was Here, the Scrubs alum's first major movie since his ode to New Jersey–bred ennui, he devised a way to make another soundtrack that meant something more than a mixtape. Braff explained his approach in commentary tracks for each of the songs on the soundtrack, which is streaming in full on Entertainment Weekly's website. The record features artists like the Shins, Bon Iver and a duet between Coldplay and Cat Power, among others, but Braff's approach is just as interesting as the song selection.

See Where the Shins' 'Oh, Inverted World' Ranked Among the 100 Best Albums of the 2000s

"In the last 10 years since the Garden State soundtrack came out, iTunes has happened and the music stores are all gone," he said. "So in order to do something special with this one, I thought, 'What about finding as much original content as possible, stuff that isn't available everywhere else.' We wanted to fill this soundtrack with stuff that is just special and unique to the film. So I just asked some of my favorite bands, 'Would you consider watching the film and then writing the song that is the piece of art that came out of you after you've seen this movie, which is funny but also quite emotional?' What a great, fun collaboration."

Regarding the Shins' wistful contribution, "So Now What," Braff said he simply asked James Mercer & Co. to make a song "in the spirit of [their] first album." More precisely, he said, "We had a wonderful coming out party together in that Garden State not only broke me as a filmmaker but I think exposed a lot of the world to the Shins. They're just an amazing band."

And as for "Wish I Was Here," the dreamy track by Cat Power with Coldplay, Braff said that it was probably his favorite one on the soundtrack. The actor explained that after Coldplay frontman Chris Martin wrote the song, he felt that the track should be sung by a female, an idea that Braff appreciated since the film spotlights actress Kate Hudson. "I loved it being a woman singing the song," Braff explained. "Chris and I were on the phone, and we both kind of simultaneously said, 'Cat Power....' It's just a beautiful, beautiful track. I love it. I'm just so honored that those two powerhouse musicians collaborated together because they loved the movie so much."

The movie Wish I Was Here, which was financed via Kickstarter, features Braff as a struggling actor in a rocky relationship with his wife. A twist of fate forces him to stay home and homeschool his kids and take care of his sick father. The film stars Mandy Patinkin, Kate Hudson, Jim Parsons, Ashley Greene, Josh Gad and Joey King, among others, and is due in theaters on July 18th. The soundtrack will come out July 15th.

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