Press Archive

NPR’s Weekend Edition
“The Hottest State Gets an All-Star Soundtrack”
When Ethan Hawke was in the process of adapting his novel The Hottest State into a film, the writer/actor/director turned to longtime friend Jesse Harris to assemble its all-important soundtrack. Rather than merely write an orchestral score and compile an assortment of other artists’ songs, Harris wrote the soundtrack in its entirety and enlisted a star-packed roster to perform it.

New York Daily News
State of the art: Ethan Hawke’s movie debut has the ‘Hottest’ soundtrack

Most pop soundtracks rally around a few reliable cliches. They’ll recycle known hits, round up available songs that conform to a given genre, or act as a clearinghouse for B-material from beloved artists whose name value they can milk. Either that, or they’ll just toss together a haphazard salad of songs they can get cheap. Songwriter Jesse Harris and actor Ethan Hawke wanted to avoid every one of those pitfalls with their forthcoming film, “The Hottest State.”

New Feist – “Somewhere Down The Road” – Songwriter Jesse Harris is carving out a place in the pantheon of notably covered artists with his latest record of tunes, the soundtrack to the upcoming Ethan Hawke written/directed film The Hottest State. Known well as the man who penned much of Norah’s Come Away With Me (grabbing the Grammy for “Don’t Know Why”), Jesse was asked by good friend Ethan to provide songs for the flick, and the resulting crop of tunes inspired Ethan to get all conceptual:

From our first conversation, I was overwhelmed by the quality of Jesse’s songwriting and how perfectly matched it was to my aspirations for the tone and mood of the film. An idea began to develop: What if we scored the film entirely with original songs written by Jesse and performed by contemporary artists hand-picked to match certain scenes? To my mind this would give the entire film a continuity of authorship while still providing massive shifts in energy.

Sounds like a cool idea, and it got a lot cooler once Willie, Bright Eyes. M. Ward, Cat Power, Brad Mehldau, et al signed on. Now Ethan’s got a buzzy soundtrack and Jesse’s looking even more like a songwriting treasure. And of course, no collection of indie rootsy-ness is complete without reigning queen of sultry acoustic meanderings, lovely Leslie.

Stream M. Ward & Bright Eyes’ Contributions To The Hottest State
Earlier this week we got a listen of Feist’s take on the Jesse Harris-penned “Somewhere Down The Road,” part of the Harris-in-covers project hatched by Ethan Hawke for his upcoming big screen novel adaptation The Hottest State. Now you can head to for more listens, including M. Ward and Conor Oberst’s takes on Jesse tunes “Crooked Lines” and “Big Old House,” respectively. Really feeling the Bright Eyes cut, one of the soundtrack’s absolute highlights — no small feat considering the artist list (Willie, Emmylou, Mehldau, and Chan). Plus, you can hear Harris’s interpretation of his own tune (“One Day”), how quaint. They guy’s looking better by the second. Haven’t given his new one Feel a spin yet, but that’ll change soon. (Ethan, Jesse … your plan is working.)

New York Post
United State: Songwriter Jesse Harris enlists top artists for Ethan Hawke’s soundtrack. As Ethan Hawke prepared to direct “The Hottest State,” the new film based on his novel, he sought to meld the soundtrack with the lives of his characters. So he asked Grammy-winning New York singer-songwriter Jesse Harris – who penned Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” – to lay open the riches of his song bag. “I gave Ethan all of my albums, and he started sifting through as many as 70 or 80 songs,” says Harris. “He picked out the ones that best fit the film.”

Variety – Hotel Café, Los Angeles
Sunday night is the perfect time to hear Jesse Harris. The New Yorker, best known for his work with Norah Jones, writes songs that feel like endings — of an affair, a journey, a night out. “While the Music Lasts,” his recent Verve Forecast release, surrounds Harris’ reedy tenor with sharp, sophisticated arrangements, at times sounding like a supper club Freedy Johnston. Backed at the Hotel Cafe by Van Dyke Parks (who provided the album’s string arrangements) on accordion, Larry Goldings on piano and bassist Tim Luntzel (from Harris’ band, the Ferdinandos), the music had a loose, homespun jazziness, something you could comfortably fall into, like an easy chair or feather bed.While Harris confessed the show was the first time the musicians had performed together (Parks and Goldings played off charts), they meshed wonderfully; Parks leaned over his music stand a few times to shake Goldings’ hand and Harris was so pleased he called for a song not on their original set list.They gave the spacey waltz “Mirror Ball” a slightly ominous edge, while on wistful, restrained songs such as “Burn,” “I Never Changed My Mind” and “Gone, Gone, Gone” Goldings’ easy, jazzy runs flitted around Harris’ vocals as the breathy harmonies of Parks’ accordion added Cajun and Latin American touches.It was the kind of intimate meeting among musicians you wish could have lasted longer than the 45-minute set, but the evening provided a lovely, gentle punctuation to the weekend.

People Magazine, 3.5 out of 4 stars
“The Grammy-winning writer makes a most lasting impression with these warm, wistful tunes.”

Rolling Stone
“Jesse Harris has learned how to keep an audience interested – and wanting more.”

Elle Magazine
“Best of the Month” –

Washington Post
“’While The Music Lasts’ marks a big step forward for [Harris] and his resourceful band, The Ferdinandos. Contributions by guitarist Bill Frisell and accordionist-arranger Van Dyke Parks colorfully accent the impressive songcraft [Harris] displays. –

Billboard, July 24, 2004
“Harris’ superlative songwriting skills are marked not only by his laid-back melodies and intuitive arrangements, but also by a keen sense of economy … [Norah] Jones contributes some backing vocals, and Van Dyke Parks provides string arrangements … but the tunes themselves are the stars of this show.” –

NY Press
“Jesse Harris writes songs that feel like endings – of an affair, a journey, a night out. ‘While The Music Lasts,’ his recent Verve Forecast release, surrounds Harris’ reedy tenor with sharp, sophisticated arrangements.” – Variety, August 22, 2004

Time Out NY
“[Harris’] gift lies in his deft rendering of fleeting moods and passing moments. Afforded a broader palette on ‘While The Music Lasts,’ he responds with a collection of altogether richer canvases.”

“Harris’ hardy sunbursts of day-tripping song – the stringy swirl of “Gone, Gone, Gone,” the cornet-guided “More” – feels like an Astral Week.”

Boston Herald
“Harris’ [has a] remarkable ability to craft simple sweet melodies that grab hold of the listener.”

Jesse Fox Mayshark
“[‘While The Music Lasts’] is a cocktail of of swinging cafe blues and folkish rock, with Harris’ restrained voice calling to mind forebearers Paul Simon and Jackson Browne.”

Performing Songwriter, 4 out of 5 stars!
“Harris’ great skill is that his music sounds unforced, but is actually carefully constructed to allow instruments to flow in and out naturally. The methodology results in songs as wide-open and warm as “More” and “Forever Nowhere,” which collectively define the word “wonderful.” –