Under the Skin is the haunting horror that stars Hollywood's most glamorous starlet, Scarlett Johansson, as an alien seductress roaming the streets of Scotland. With today's release, we look back to our interview with Scarlett as i-Con in The Hot Beaches Issue, June 2008 where she talks Chet Baker, Bowie in a leotard and that gravelly voice...
Golden Globe nominated actress and Louis Vuitton campaign girl – with her big lips, big curves and deviously dry sense of humour, is the cause of crushes in boys and girls the world over. Funny, fabulous, beautiful, intelligent and talented, she has now gone and added yet another string to her already gold-plated bow, and is set to release her debut album this month. Entitled Anywhere I Lay My Head, the album is homage to her favourite blues singer Tom Waits. Boasting collaborations with none other than David Bowie and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Nick Zinner, the album includes ten-cover songs and one original track penned by Scarlett herself. We met the super talented starlet, Scarlett.
Hi Scarlett, what you up to at the moment?
Well, I’m in New York; I have a break from filming.
Has music always been your passion?
I’ve always loved to sing, and always wanted to be on stage so I assumed I’d go into musical theatre or something, but I was always told, even as a nine- year-old girl, that my voice was too deep! I ended up getting into film eventually but I always started off thinking I’d get into music.
Did it feel like your voice was a curse?
My voice was never a curse, of course I appreciated the voice I had, but I couldn’t work with it. So I ended up moving into film despite always loving to sing and be on stage. I’ve always maintained that passion for music ever since I was a little girl. It’s a huge part of my life.
What was it about Tom Waits that made you want to do a cover album?
I first discovered Tom Waits when I was about 12. My friend and I were going on a road trip with her dad and he played Tom’s albums for the whole ten hour drive. We were just like "what’s this weird music?" but then it kind of became our thing, and then as I grew up I discovered his whole career, and just became a big fan of his.
Does the music hold specific memories?
I think of many different parts of my life. I couldn’t catalogue it. When I was younger there were times when I’d just obsess over one album for a long time, then all of sudden I’d change what I loved. I think he’s an artist who has a very different song for every occasion.
Did you approach Tom before undergoing the project?
I didn’t want to do it unless I received the ok from Tom, I didn’t want to take his child and give it some alternative life or something. I wanted to be respectful.
Were you worried about his reaction?
I was so excited... I’d sent him over some rough tracks and he was happy with that and gave the go ahead. I was so blown away by what we’d accomplished and so proud of all the effort we’d put into it that I was just excited really. It was like a valentine for his work so it figures he’s gotta be at least a little bit pleased with that.
You’ve certainly got his gravelly voice down to a tee.
How did you go about approaching all the collaborators, you’ve got some amazing people on there – Dave Sitek, Nick Zinner, David Bowie...
The band was put together by David, you know from TV On The Radio, I think Dave just thought everyone he approached would just gel together like mad scientists. With such an amazing band I felt very much that my voice was just another instrument, no more important than the guitar or the drums.
What about David Bowie?
Like everybody I’ve always been the biggest fan and loved him forever, I discovered my pubescent self through his music in a way. I feel like he was every girl’s first crush.
I love him too, what was he like to work with?
Well I’d met him before at a show of his and I was like a stuttering idiot, I was literally like "yrrr yrrr yrrrr your... beautiful."
I love him in that leotard in Labyrinth.
It’s so wrong though, isn’t it?
I don’t care. He looks so good in lycra and eye shadow. Yeah, so I’d seen him at this kind of after-show dinner, and we’d chatted and I said I was doing this project and if he ever had a minute he should come on down. I obviously never thought it would happen and I was overseas working and David Sitek called me and said "Guess who decided to come down?"
Wow. I would’ve screamed.
I actually cried. He’d been sent the rough mixes and he actually came in with thirteen original riffs, and I missed the goddamn recording! I was so, so bummed. I was in the middle of doing a job so I couldn’t get away. It was such
a shame. I cried – again. At least I got the track.
Are you pleased with the end result?
I’m so happy. It’s been such an incredible, amazing experience. And to work with all those wonderful inspiring musicians and to come up with such a fantastic result.
So many people are judgemental about actors making the transition into music, was that something you were worried about?
Hmm not really. I have a very dim idea of how I’m perceived publicly. I don’t really know what the public thinks of me, I never really think about it because it’s such a weird idea. With the album, the last thing on my mind was what would everybody think. As long as I was happy with it, and my friends thought it was ok, that was fine. I think everybody’s just proud of the whole effort. It’s been such a positive life-changing experience. Sometimes you pour your heart and soul into something and some people like it and some people don’t, so I think as long as you’re happy that’s the most important thing.
What other music do you love?
I love, love, love Chet Baker.
He was so handsome, especially in those Bruce Weber shots...
Yeah, he really was. There’s this book by William Claxton, William was a jazz photographer and he basically found Chet in the depths of some jazz dungeon and as he built his career he followed him around the US between ’52 and ’57. It’s a great book, you can see the disintegration of Chet through drugs over the years, it’s terribly sad.
So is acting going to take a back seat now while you concentrate on promoting the album?
I don’t know. I never pretend to have any idea where my life or career is going. It’s already been such a great year being able to sing, act, travel, do what I love. I have no future planned; I like it this way.