As if it wasn’t enough that Ed Harris co-wrote, directed, and stars in the new western Appaloosa (see my three-part Oscar Watch interview with him here), he’s also co-written a country ditty called “You’ll Never Leave My Heart” with composer Jeff Beal that he sings over the film’s closing credits. Listen for yourself to see how he sounds, then read on to learn how the four-time Oscar nominee became a crooner. It’s kind of shocking how much you sound like Johnny Cash. What’s that about?
Ed Harris: [laughs] I don’t know, I was in a low frame of mind that day, I guess. I’ve always liked the Cashman. I was going to sing it an octave higher, but it just felt appropriate, you know. I actually was going to try to sing it an octave lower, but I couldn’t get that low.

What kind of reactions have you gotten from friends and family when you’ve played it for them?
It’s hysterical. When I first played it for my wife [Amy Madigan], ’cause she’s a pretty big music fan, I started playing it and the first couple lines came out and she had this face on her. I looked over and she goes, “Ed, you know I hate this kind of music.” I said, “Thanks a lot.”

As I’m sure you know, with the new Academy rules, a song has a better chance of getting nominated if it’s actually part of the film, not just over the closing credits. Did you ever consider putting it in the movie?
No, I didn’t write it until we were near the end of post [production]. I wrote this thing, and I played it on the mixing stage, and the mixer and one of the producers were there and they went, “Ed, Ed, you gotta put this in the film.” So it was by popular demand on the mixing stage.

You’ve never sung on film before, have you?
I don’t think I ever have. When I first started acting, I did a bunch of musicals. I enjoy singing but I never do it publicly.

So is singing now a secret second career for you?
Not at all. I just was up late one night and thought I’d write this tune out. It was just really for fun.