Petra Haden had a problem when she was a child: "I remember watching Looney Tunes cartoons and having the music stuck in my head," the singer and violinist says.
Soon, it wasn't just TV songs but movie scores, too. Haden is the daughter of a famous jazz musician, Charlie Haden; she's also performed with Beck, Foo Fighters, Mike Watt and Bill Frisell, and was a member of the 1990s rock group That Dog. But for her newest album, Haden went back to her old affliction.
Petra Goes to the Movies features versions of 16 of her favorite movie scores. Though her father and Frisell join her at times, the album is performed mostly a cappella.
"The bass line is the anchor for me," Haden says. "I started with the bass, and either doubled that and then added the harmonies, or sometimes added my own harmonies that I've always wanted to sing on the song. And then it just went on from there — singing violin parts and trumpet parts and just trying to emulate the sounds of the instruments."
From Psycho to The Social Network, Haden's layered vocals offer a captivating interpretation of classic — and not-so-classic — theme music. Here, the singer talks with NPR's Scott Simon about her inspiration for the project, the pitfalls of trying to sing instrumental music and why she couldn't choose just one song from Superman.