The Music of The Hottest State


Hawke was joined for his interview by composer Jesse Harris, the Grammy winning singer/songwriter who wrote the original songs and score which play a large part in the feel of the movie. You have a couple of well-known artists on this soundtrack, including Cat Power. How did you get the rights to use the songs and were the artists aware of the movie?

Ethan Hawke: That’s the thing that I kind of wanted to explain. All those songs were recorded for this movie. Jesse Harris wrote all those songs. The Cat Power song, the Willie Nelson songs, the Bright Eyes song. All those Jesse wrote. We knew that falling in love should be set to music. This should be wall-to-wall music. It should have a soundtrack.

Jesse Harris: Ethan called me up and he just said I want to talk to you about something. I had no idea. I’ve known Ethan a long time. We never worked together before on anything before. Although we knew each other, Ethan had never called me up before and said, “I want to talk to you.”

Hawke: We just metÂ…

Harris: So we got together and he said he was making a movie of “The Hottest State.” I was aware of the novel. He said he needed some songs for the character Sara because she was going to be performing them in the movie. He also said there was this character that I could also play, who’s a singer/songwriter and ends up being in her band. From there somehow, I don’t really remember the moment. We were just talking about how to score the film because he needed instrumental score. He said you could do any number of these things. I said, “I’ll do everything if you let me.”

Hawke: I basically thought, “Would you be interested in scoring? Would you want to write the songs for Catalina’s character? Do you want to play this part? Or do you want to maybe just let me use a couple of songs?” There’s a couple of songs that Jesse recorded that I wanted to use. We decided to do the whole thing and to do something kind of new.

Harris: Ethan was kind of weary of all these films where all the music is licensed from pre-existing material — like a mix tape, you know? He wanted to have something original. So in the future, if anyone heard a song, they’d remember this film instead of some other personal experience. Also it’d would give the experience of watching it, a uniqueness because no one would be able to associate the music with anything else with whatever they already heard.

Hawke: Doesn’t have any previous connotations. It also lets it be part of the story. It tells the story. And in the songs that we picked and we used in the movie, it could kind of become a Greek chorus. It’s such a legacy of love songs. This is, in many ways, this is a little ditty of that. It’s Yesterday or whatever.

CS: So all of these songs were written before you started shooting the movie?

Harris: Most of them. The 2 original songs to the film are “Never See You” and “It Will Stay With Us.”

Hawke: The one that Catalina’s always playing and the one that Jesse sings at the end of the movie. All the rest of the music is written by Jesse but written over the last 10 years.

Harris: More or less, yeah.

CS: Jesse, what are you working on next?

Harris: I got a new album of my own coming out in July and “The Hottest State” soundtrack in August.

CS: Who’s releasing that?

Harris: Hickory, which is a label that Sony Publishing started and I’ve producing artists and writing with artists. Maybe touring.

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