Johansson, Yorn prepare for the 'Break Up'

Duets album features eight original songs

DETROIT -- An afternoon nap amidst a bout of insomnia about three years ago was the impetus for "Break Up," a new song cycle of duets by Pete Yorn and actress Scarlett Johansson that's due out Sept. 15.

Yorn tells that "after I kind of dozed off one afternoon for a few minutes, I just woke up and my heart was racing and I had this thing in my head...'I have to do a duets album, a guy-girl album.' It just popped into my head. I wasn't dreaming about Scarlett Johansson or anything like that. I was really into 'Bonnie & Clyde' at the time, by Serge (Gainsbourg) and Brigitte (Bardot), and I thought, 'Brigitte...Scarlett! She's Brigitte!' It was a really manic thought pattern that was going on.

"Within 10 minutes, I was texting Scarlett, 'We have to make a record!'"

As previously reported, Yorn recorded "Break Up" with producer Sunny Levine during February of 2007, at Levine's garage studio in Los Angeles. Johansson -- who had not yet released "Anywhere I Lay My Head," her 2008 collection of Tom Waits songs -- came in for two days of the session and impressed Yorn with her ability to nail her parts in all nine songs in that short amount of time. "She blew me away with how fast she learned the songs," Yorn recalls. "We didn't send her anything before. She just came in and...had a really natural ability to pick up songs fast."

Yorn wrote eight of the nine songs for "Break Up" and added a stylized cover of former Big Star member Chris Bell's "I Am the Cosmos." The cycle, he explains, tells the story of "the demise of a relationship...the place where you first realize it's not going all the way to the end and a little bit of the aftermath and then moving on. Some people, when they make that realization, move quick, but I find with most of us it takes a few years before it's over, so that's kind of what's reflected here."

Yorn, who's currently touring to promote his latest solo album, "Back and Fourth," which came out in June, says he and Johansson are planning to do some live work together to promote "Break Up." "We're working on that now," he says, "so hopefully we'll be able to put a couple of events together where we could perform a little bit."