'The Hottest State' Gets an All-Star Soundtrack When Ethan Hawke was adapting his novel The Hottest State into a film, he turned to Jesse Harris to assemble its soundtrack. Rather than merely compile other artists' songs, Harris enlisted a star-packed roster to perform his own material.
NPR logo

'The Hottest State' Gets an All-Star Soundtrack

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/12884461/12884494" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'The Hottest State' Gets an All-Star Soundtrack

'The Hottest State' Gets an All-Star Soundtrack

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/12884461/12884494" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


A new film called "The Hottest State" is a coming-of-age story about a struggling actor from Texas trying to make it in New York, because if you can make it there, you can make in Notrees(ph), too.

Mark Webber plays the actor who falls in love with a woman who doesn't return the favor but at the same time deals with the abandonment of his father. In this scene, the boy returns to Texas to seek advice from his father, played by Ethan Hawke, who also wrote and directed the film.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Hottest State")

Mr. MARK WEBBER (Actor): (As William Harding) And what do I got to do to get this girl back?

Mr. ETHAN HAWKE (Actor): (As Vince) Well, I can't will you anyway to do anything.

Mr. WEBBER: (As William Harding) What do I have to do?

Mr. HAWKE: (As Vince) What was her name?

Mr. WEBBER: (As William Harding) Sarah.

Mr. HAWKE: (As Vince) Don't do anything. Just be cool, you know? Just wait. She'll call you.

Mr. WEBBER: (As William Harding) She won't.

Mr. HAWKE: (As Vince) Yes, she will.

Mr. WEBBER: (As William Harding) No, she won't.

Mr. HAWKE: (As Vince) People who give up on love aren't worth loving.

SIMON: No, they ain't. But the movie's soundtrack is attracting an awful lot of attention. It includes an amazing range of talent: Willie Nelson, M. Ward, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones and Cat Power.

Jesse Harris has composed the soundtrack. He also performs three of his own songs. An Argentinean newcomer, Rocha, performs in both English and Spanish, the movie's centerpiece, "Never See You."

(Soundbite of song, "Never See You")

ROCHA (Singer): (Singing) Now they're such aware of the time and all the things have no clear vision. Makes me kind of sorry in the end.

SIMON: Jesse Harris joins us from our studios in New York City. Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. JESSE HARRIS (Actor, Singer, Composer): Thank you. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: How did you get enlisted into this project?

Mr. HARRIS: Ethan Hawke is an old acquaintance of mine. And he called me pretty much out of the blue and said that he was going to be making a film of his novel, "The Hottest State," and that a lot of music would be needed for it. And he asked me if I would read the script and if I'd be interested in doing it.

SIMON: This is a more extensive undertaking than a lot of people that score films have to do because music is so central.

Mr. HARRIS: Oh, yeah.

SIMON: It's almost like a musical.

Mr. HARRIS: You know, it's funny because, in a way, it was. We wanted each song to act almost as like a Greek chorus to the film. And there were a lot of elements of the music. First, of course, there was the score music. Secondly, there were the songs that were to be performed in the film. And then, third, were all these soundtrack songs that we had recorded originally for the soundtrack. So all these amazing groups who we asked to record new versions of songs of mine for the film.

SIMON: Was there a lot of picking and choosing? Or, how do you go about drafting all the talent for that?

Mr. HARRIS: Well, first we went about choosing all the songs. In fact, Ethan chose the songs. He - I gave him about - I don't know - 70 or 80 songs to…

SIMON: I'm sorry. I have got to stop you. You gave him 70 or 80 songs to listen to.

Mr. HARRIS: Everything except for two songs in this film, one of which is "Never See You," the one that you played and another that I sang over the end credits of the film called "It Will Stay With Us" is an old song. So those two are new but the rest were taken from previous albums of mine. And then we went about dreaming of this list of artists who we love and picking songs for each of these artists and then - and presenting this idea to them. And somehow a lot of them said yes.

SIMON: Let's hear a song Norah Jones performed. It's called "World of Trouble."

(Soundbite of song, "World of Trouble")

Ms. NORAH JONES (Singer): (Singing) They say it's the last time or the beginning whenever you say it's enough. While each day and each month rolls out behind you, the lost time is calling your bluff.

SIMON: You and Norah Jones go back awhile, don't you?

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah. I actually first met Norah in 1998.

SIMON: You won a Grammy. "Don't Know Why" was your first successful single.

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah. And I played on the album and I played on her following two records.

SIMON: Where does this song come into the film?

Mr. HARRIS: It's a sort of a broken love story. And so it's just one of the many scenes where they're having some kind of fight on the street but then it turns sort of sexy. So, you know, it's good to have Norah there.

SIMON: You performed - what is it - three songs of the soundtrack?

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah.

SIMON: Now, did you get to choose first or just wait until everybody else have gone?

Mr. HARRIS: No. It was separate. I act in the film as well. Those two songs are songs that I performed in a club in the film. And Ethan wanted me to perform those songs specifically. The third song, "It Will Stay With Us," was something that I wrote for the film and we chose to use over the end credits.

SIMON: Could you choose one of those three songs for us to listen to?

Mr. HARRIS: Sure. Let's listen "It Will Stay With Us."

(Soundbite of song, "It Will Stay With Us")

Mr. HARRIS: (Singing) There was a time that tells you. 'Til we turn to dust. Everything that we found it would all stay. It will stay. It will stay with us.

SIMON: You produced a dozen of the 18 tracks that are on this album.

Mr. HARRIS: Uh-hmm.

SIMON: Do you like that part of it?

Mr. HARRIS: I really do. And in this case, I got to produce Willie Nelson, Cat Power and Norah Jones. And that was just really thrilling.

SIMON: Willie Nelson performs "Always Seems To Get Things Wrong."

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah.

(Soundbite of song, "Always Seems To Get Things Wrong")

Mr. WILLIE NELSON (Singer): (Singing) Way back when the world was young, long before the song was sung, I know someone. I must have her to like me.

Mr. HARRIS: He came to the studio in his tour bus and he'd heard the song a few times, but I don't think he'd really practiced it. And he came in and he asked me to sing it for him. And I sang it for him and he read the lyrics and sort of sang along a little bit and played along. And then he turned to me and he said, okay, let's do it.

And with the whole band live in the room, he cut one take and he said, I think I can do it better. Did a second take, he said, one more. Third take, live, that was is. And he came in to the room, he said, let's listen to that one. And he said, what do you think. And I said, it's amazing. And he said, good. And then he left. We went to the Beacon Theater for his concerts.

(Soundbite of song, "Always Seems To Get Things Wrong")

Mr. NELSON (Singer): (Singing) And now I'm stuck here, looking back at where I lost the thread. So ashamed here thinking back at how I lost my head.

SIMON: For someone of your generation, to have Willie Nelson sing his song, is that some kind of sign that you must be doing something right?

Mr. HARRIS: I don't really think about it like that. To have Willie do my tune is quite an honor, and especially to have him sing it as well as he did it. It's just a thrill.

SIMON: Would everyone to think that you're always kind of looking over the horizon?

Mr. HARRIS: I'm not, you know, stuck in a particular idea of myself as being this thing or that thing. And so yeah, I am open to new experiences and trying new things. And I find that's what makes it fun for me.

SIMON: Another piece of music here you'd like to point out to us?

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah. Let's play Feist. A lot of people love this track. "Somewhere Down The Road."

(Soundbite of song, "Somewhere Down The Road")

FEIST (Singer): (Singing) Somewhere down the road, I'll see you again. I don't know when. And I know you'll be the same. And I know I'll be the same. Unchanged.

SIMON: Mr. Harris, awfully nice talking to you.

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah. Nice talking to you, too. Thanks so much.

SIMON: Jesse Harris. He's the composer for the soundtrack for the feature film "The Hottest State." The film comes out on August 24th.

(Soundbite of song, "Somewhere Down The Road")

FEIST (Singer): (Singing) As memories.

SIMON: And you can hear complete songs from "The Hottest State" soundtrack and discover more new music at npr.org/music.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.