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Eddie Vedder
For the first time ever, Eddie Vedder takes on the responsibilities of creating the soundtrack to a film directed by one of his best friends, Academy Award winning actor Sean Penn.

Eddie Vedder will forever be known as the enigmatic lead singer of one of the biggest bands to be borne of the grunge movement. As the frontman of Pearl Jam, he has been regarded as the face of social activism, even though it is something the band involves itself in as a whole, with Vedder as the spokesman. Because of the fan following and recognition he’s received over the years, Vedder’s probably been the member most questioned on solo efforts, but he’s always kept his solo work as side projects, mostly for movies, like the songs done for Tim Robbins’s 1995 film Dead Man Walking.

Getting Vedder
Born Edward Louis Severson III, Vedder was raised in Illinois, believing his stepfather, Peter Mueller, was his biological father. Mueller’s eventual estrangement from his wife, Vedder’s mother, Karen Lee Vedder, led to the discovery of who his real father was. Constant turmoil with his stepfather took him back to his mother, to San Diego, where he began working odd jobs. He turned to music as a source of comfort from his turmoil, playing in a number of bands including Bad Radio, which got him a favourable following.

Jack Irons, a close friend and ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, handed him a tape by a Seattle-based garage band, that was looking for a lead singer. After recording vocals to the music, he sent it back to the band, who invited him to come down and join them. Pearl Jam’s debut album onwards, Vedder has never had to look back and, considering their success, there has never been any reason for him to look back.

Vedder’s friendship with Sean Penn dates back to when he worked on the soundtrack for Dead Man Walking, a role that Penn was lauded for. He got to work on a Penn motion picture later, on I Am Sam, lending his rendition of the Beatles’s classic, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away. In hindsight, Vedder was the perfect choice for this movie. For someone who’s gone through a rough teenage life, and struggled to rid himself of those demons, Vedder knew perhaps more than anyone what the protagonist of the movie was going through.

The Movie
Directed by Sean Penn, Into The Wild is the story of Christopher McCandless, a young graduate who decided to leave behind all his social ties and go live in the wild. His love for nature, and the great outdoors was overwhelming, inasmuch for his belief in the raw brutality of life out there, as well as the kind of self-fulfilling nirvana attained when in such a position.
The movie is characteristic of Penn’s previous films, delving into more than just the basic story. While McCandless’s story is amazing in itself, in what he went through to achieve his dream, the nuances of his life are what make the two years he spent in the wild more than just the story of a hitchhiker or a hippie. He was neither during those two years, neither shunning work, nor merely living off the generosity of others.

Eddie Speaks
On how he became involved with the project
“I got a call from Sean and he just said have you read this book and I want to show you this movie. And then when I got home he showed it to me and it was great, and I didn’t see why he needed any help with it (smiles), there didn’t seem to be anything missing; there was some good music in it already. But he said, ‘if you have [something in mind] if you hear or see anything,’ because [my] question was, ‘What do you need, what do you want?’ [And then he said,] ‘Just go with it, go see what happens.’”

On how he approached writing music for the film
“This was really different because it was streamlined. You were writing to the film, you were writing to the story, this story. It took away so many choices, and instead of feeling like you were working within boundaries, they were actually a set of parameters that were really helpful ~ you knew the song had to be two minutes long, you knew it was at this point of his journey, and that there had to be an instrumental halfway through so that a voiceover could come in. It was really great to work with.”

On Sean Penn, the director
“If you read the book, one of the things that comes screaming through is that this young man was probably the last guy that would want a movie written, made, about him, maybe. Or certainly not a commercial feature that was blown out of proportion, super-romanticised, something completely out of his control. So he’s very fortunate that somebody like Sean is the one who picked it up, because he took such great care with it, and really came at it with a dignified and galvanised approach.”

On the music helping to tell the story
“I think that was the biggest contribution, just having a linear sound, even if that was just the singing voice leading you comfortably from one bit to the next. It almost becomes what’s inside the kid’s head. And I’m sure that telling this story becomes a collage for Sean because he’s got this incredible story to tell and yet most of it is this kid on his own out there and getting from one place to the next. And so he’s using voiceovers and stuff from the kid’s notebooks and passages from books he was reading, so I think he saw the music as being useful in telling the story, [like] some interior voice of the character, and that’s the bit that I felt responsible for.”

You can read the rest of our feature on Eddie Vedder in the November 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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