The actress and songwriter of She & Him may seem like an unlikely pair until you begin to examine the facts.
“New Girl” actress Zooey Deschanel and singer-songwriter/producer M. Ward mesh very well, especially in their love for old-style rock and pop. It's no vanity project for Deschanel, who writes all the band's original songs, including those on the duo's third original album, appropriately titled “Volume 3.”
Her musical talents may surprise fans of Deschanel, but it all fits with Ward, a well-regarded solo artist and member of Monsters of Folk alongside Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Omahans Mike Mogis and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.
We caught up with Ward while the duo was on tour with Omaha band Tilly and the Wall to talk about the new album, She & Him's old-school vibe and Omaha's amazing talent pool.
Q. When you started making music with Zooey, did you see this as a long-term project?
A. When we started, we knew we wanted to make a record and then whatever happened next would happen next. We love that it's lasted as long as it has. Is six years a long time? I don't know.
Q. The two of you match up really well. Why do you think that is?
A. I'm not sure why it works. It just does. Somehow our musical instincts seem to fit. A big part of it is our influences start and pretty much end with older music and songs that nobody seems to care about anymore.
Q. You're both pretty busy people, so how does your writing process work around that? Do you trade a lot of demos?
A. Zooey emails me her demos and I'll listen to them for a few years. After compiling 20 or so, we will meet in the studio and start recording. It all starts with Zooey's demos.
Q. Does anything from your initial takes or demos make it into the final product, or do you re-record everything?
A. We re-record everything. The demos are recorded digitally, and, for me, digital is great for taking notes and recording sketches of ideas.
Q. Do you ever sit on songs or song ideas, or do you work with fresh ideas on each album?
A. Some songs take a while to find the right approach, but in general we are tackling new material when we start recording a record.
Q. You seem to use big arrangements (like the strings on “Turn to White”) on She & Him songs, but this is the first time I remember hearing horns. How did you decide to include them?
A. Whenever I'm producing anything, I listen to the demos over and over again until I start hearing layers or sounds that aren't there. If those imagined parts persist long enough through re-listening to the demos, then they will usually turn into a layer in the arrangement.
Q. You included Tilly and the Wall on this album again. Why did you bring them back?
A. They have an energy when they sing together that I can't describe. I loved their additions to “Volume 2,” so it seemed like a good idea to follow it up for “Volume 3.” We love Tilly and the Wall.
Mike Mogis mixed a couple songs on the record. We love working with Mike, too. The people of Omaha should wake up happy every day in their good fortune of living among all this talent.
Q. I always ask this when I talk to one of you, but have you guys thought or talked about a second Monsters of Folk record?
A. We do talk about it, and we would all love to do another one someday when the timing is right.