music reporter

Pic was perfect match for Vedder's even flow

Eddie Vedder fans are thrilled to get their hands on the soundtrack to "Into the Wild." In downtime from Pearl Jam, Vedder wound up writing nine original songs for the Sean Penn-directed film and played most of the instruments on the recordings. So the soundtrack is not just a companion for the film, it also feels like a Vedder solo acoustic album.

Although he has recorded a handful of soundtrack exclusives in the past, Vedder never had delved headlong into writing multiple pieces strictly for a film before "Wild," which Penn adapted from Jon Krakauer's 1996 book.

"It is not a move on Eddie's part to do soundtracks," says Mark Flaherty, vp marketing at J Records, which released the album Sept. 18. "He was moved by the content of the film, which called for his musicianship. It is a project that found him."

Says Penn: "It was during the shooting of the film that Vedder's voice as singer and songwriter came to mind as the right voice for this movie. Within a month of his accepting the request, these great and moving songs poured out of him."

The contemplative, acoustic-driven music is a perfect match for the intense narrative onscreen, which tracks a recent college graduate's tragic cross-country journey to the Alaskan wilderness. Two tracks are covers: lead single "Hard Sun," which features vocals by former Sleater-Kinney principal Corin Tucker, and "Society," which was written by Penn's friend Jerry Hannan.

Vedder's superstar stature gave J an easy fan base to target. On Sept. 4, began a soundtrack presale with a limited- edition T-shirt, and the site gave away a trip to the film's Sept. 18 premiere in Los Angeles. The album, which debuts at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 this week, also is helping launch Starbucks' digital download card program, in conjunction with iTunes.

To give the film an extra boost, Vedder made a surprise appearance Sept. 10 during the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Jonathan Cohen and Michael Paoletta in New York contributed to this column.