A very She & Him holiday interview

Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward embrace the holiday spirit on a new Christmas album.

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Photograph: Autumn de Wilde

She & Him

She & Him, the Holiday guide, December 2011

By forgoing the lush orchestration you hear in a lot of Christmas songs, the album has a certain melancholy to it. Do you agree?
Him:
Well, if you think of a song like "Blue Christmas," that song has melancholy built into it. Zooey's very good at finding emotions that are in the lyrics and bringing them out.

Zooey, how do you do that? Do you develop a character?
She: No, I have to be emotionally connected to a song to be able to sing it. To me, [singing is] telling stories, so the emotional through-line is really important. I feel that way in all of my creative work. You have to make a choice when you're recording between technical perfection and emotional truth, and we always go for the emotion. We almost always use the first or second take all the way through; it's very old-school. You feel the performance of someone singing, and there may be a few little mistakes, but it's more important than hearing everything perfectly.

Have you written any Christmas songs?
She:
I wanted to, but I didn't really get time before we started and then we recorded so fast. There were so many that we wanted to cover, I thought that we would do this and if it does well maybe we'll do another one and I can write a few songs for it.

Do you have any plans for the next She & Him album?
She:
I've written a bunch of songs. I think we might start recording soon.

Has filming New Girl been dramatically different from acting in movies?
She:
No, because there isn't a live audience, it's like we're shooting a little movie every week. It's different in that you work with the same character all the time and you know the character arc lasts a lot longer. In a lot of ways, you'll be pulling out parts of yourself that are like the character, so you're able to let go week after week.

In a LiveCast on HelloGiggles (hellogiggles.com), the website you cofounded, you said your New Girl character, Jess, is like a 13-year-old version of yourself. Would you have enjoyed playing someone more sardonic, like Kat Dennings's character on 2 Broke Girls?
She: Um, no, that's not really like me. One thing I really love about [Jess is that she's] very much in my wheelhouse. I had never gotten to do this much physical comedy and madcap zany stuff, but with an emotional weight to it. I've played so many characters that are shy and sarcastic, but it's so not my personality at all. I think it's because I had brown hair and a low voice. It took a lot of leaps for me to play those kind of characters, and I felt like I burned out on them a little bit.

What are your plans for Christmas this year?
Him:
Christmas will be spent just like every year: getting together with my friends and family in Portland, Oregon.
She: My sister just had a baby, so I'm going to hang with my family.

Do you two have any holiday traditions?
Him: We don't do anything out of the ordinary. I come from a pretty big family, so just getting everyone together is enough of a production.
She:
I love singing Christmas carols. I know every harmony to every music-hall Christmas song.

What do you want for the holidays this year?
She: I haven't really thought about it. I have everything I need—literally. I just want to have a nice Christmas.
Him: A good, solid week off.

A Very She & Him Christmas is out now.

See also: A very She & Him guide to New York and Los Angeles

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