Nine years after Break Up united them as an unlikely musical duo, singer-songwriter Pete Yorn and Avengers: Infinity War actress Scarlett Johansson are back together again with Apart. The dreamy alt-pop on the new EP demonstrates that the creative kinship between the troubadour and the movie star is much closer than you might expect. We spoke with the two about their new project (their first in nine years), Musicforthemorningafter, and Black Widow.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did it take almost a decade apart for you two to make another record?
Johansson: There was no outside pressure. It just kind of happened in a natural way. I had been sort of sewing the seeds in the hopes that he would want to make up with me [after Break Up], but then that never happened. We’re still fighting [Laughs]. I think that’s just the place that Pete likes to live.
Yorn: We would joke that this would be the make-up record, but we didn’t quite get there yet. Now we barely know each other. We’re living completely separate lives.
What was the biggest difference between making the first record and the new one?
Johansson: In a decade of time, so much has happened. We’re coming in out of relationships, we’re both parents now, we’ve grown as artists. It feels like a step we probably couldn’t have taken 10 years ago because we didn’t have the perspective that we have now.
Yorn: I think it’s cool to come back to something after a bunch of time has passed. Obviously, Scar went off and did a lot of other projects and had so much life experience, and I went off and made some other records. Over the years sometimes I’d write a song and I’d think, “Oh, that would be so fun to sing with Scarlett,” and I’d keep those aside. The first time I just kind of launched [the idea to collaborate] on her out of left field as a total surprise, and I sort of did that again this time.
Scarlett, you also released a solo album, Anywhere I Lay My Head, in 2008. What is the itch that this collaboration is scratching for you?
Johansson: I really just love to sing with Pete. I’m a huge fan of his music. I’ve known Pete since I was probably like 15, 16 years old. When you have that much history with somebody, you have a certain kind of shorthand with them. There’s a kind of seamless familiarity between us. Whether I’m working with a writer-director or another actor or, in this case, a singer-songwriter, the idea of continuing to collaborate with the same people on different material in different stages of our lives is really interesting to me. Having that sort of shared creative experience with someone, it’s a pleasure for me.
Yorn: Scarlett is one of the more professional non-professional musicians I’ve ever met. She comes in the studio and she just nails it. She’s one of the quickest studies. She’ll learn a song so fast and make it her own.
Scarlett, how has making music affected your acting?
Johansson: I don’t know if it’s affected my acting necessarily, but I’ve had the opportunity to be able to record some music for some of the [movies] that I’ve done. Jon Favreau asked me to record a song for The Jungle Book soundtrack, which was fun. When I did Sing, I played a punk-rock porcupine and got to do one of the original tracks [“Set It All Free”] for that, which is great because every 3-year-old I know — and I know a lot of them at this point — likes to sing that at the top of their lungs and dance around.
Pete, what are the challenges of working with someone when music isn’t their main thing?
Yorn: I don’t even think about that. I remember when I was first interested in Scarlett to sing on some stuff, it was more about her personality, the way she carried herself. I thought that her persona would lend something interesting. And then I was like, “I wonder if she can sing.” Scarlett has this voice that is uniquely her own. Her personality shines through, and that’s what I like most about it.
Scarlett, do you have a favorite song or album by Pete?
Johansson: Of course I love Musicforthemorningafter because I grew up [on that]. It was the perfect collision of time and place. I was the right age for that album, and it still sounds so fresh and great and personal.
Pete, what’s your favorite of Scarlett’s movies?
Yorn: I’m definitely a big fan of Match Point. That movie was really special. And Her, even though it’s just her voice, which I think speaks to how big of a personality she is.
Pete, if you could be one Avenger for a day, who would you be?
Yorn: I’m supposed to say Black Widow, I think [Laughs]. I don’t know. I get confused with who all’s in there. Thor — the hammer guy — is pretty badass. I haven’t been able to see Avengers: Infinity War yet. I don’t get out much.