For many fans, Zooey Deschanel is known as an actress, who has starred in movies like Elf and Failure to Launch. But for those in the music set, Deschanel is better known as one-half of She & Him, the folk-pop duo she started with Matthew “M.” Ward in 2007. She’s been in the duo for more than a decade and has released six albums with Ward. But it wasn’t always Deschanel’s plan to be in a band.
About a decade ago, as her film career was taking off, Deschanel decided to pursue a music career as a solo singer. Armed with a record’s worth of demos she recorded herself, she met with producer after producer, but no one stuck. Already a well-known actress, Deschanel found it difficult to make a name for herself in music.
“There were a lot of musicians who had become actors who were sort of successfully make the transition. But not a lot of actors who were able to successfully make a transition to music and be taken seriously,” Deschanel tells StyleCaster as part of Crocs’ “Come As You Are” campaign. “There are stigmas based on people who have come before you and what people traditionally think an actor is and what people traditionally think a musician is.”
Then came 2007’s Go-Getter, a film Deschanel starred in and Ward wrote the music for. The two recorded one song for the film’s soundtrack, “When I Get to the Border”, and after the experience, Deschanel mustered the courage to send Ward her demos, which he offered to producer. There was something special there, and Deschanel asked Ward if he wanted to be in a band. He agreed, and they named it She & Him. “It ended up by accident, but it was the best accident,” Deschanel says.
When it came time for She & Him to send out their music for review, they did so without naming who was in the band, which proved to be a key decision to their success. “All the journalists who first reviewed the record had no idea that I was a part of it,” Deschanel says. “It allowed people to suspend their judgement on an actor making the transition to music and listen to it with fresh ears that weren’t biased in any way.”
There are stigmas based on people who have come before you and what people traditionally think an actor is and what people traditionally think a musician is.
And while Deschanel didn’t always picture herself in a band, she has no plans to go solo in the future. She’s happy in She & Him and can’t imagine a music career any other way. “I don’t really have any any need to. I really like working with Matt,” she says. “It’s been one of the absolute best collaborations and longest collaborations of my career and my life.”
As for whether she considers herself more of a musician or an actor, Deschanel considers herself both. “I was a musician always and an actor always,” she says. And while she has more control over her music than a movie or a TV show she’s starring in, Deschanel would pick one over the other. “I have more agency in music cause I write the music. And when we record it, it’s just Matt and myself in the studio…It’s very much a two-person collaboration,” Deschanel says. “Whereas working on a movie or a show is hundreds of people and everybody has this very small, very specific job. A lot of people need to be involved…They’re both super fun. But it’s different. I have more control over music.”
I’ve always been a unique person who has my own unique style.
It’s no surprise that She & Him has set itself apart in the music industry. Deschanel is known for her eccentric brand, whether it’s She & Him or the quirky roles she plays in TV shows and movies. (She even made fun of her quirks in a 2012 Saturday Night Live skit titled “Bein’ Quriky with Zooey Deschanel.”) For Deschanel, this is what made her collaboration with Crocs’ “Come As You Are” campaign a pretty much perfect fit. “I love the idea of ‘Come as You Are’ because it’s really encouraging people to be their own wonderful, individual selves, and I’ve always been a unique person who has my own unique style,” Deschanel says of the campaign, which hopes to remind customers that “being comfortable and being stylish are not mutually exclusive.”
One way Deschanel stays true to herself is with her hair, which is naturally brown but has been reported by sites like BuzzFeed, Refinery29 and Byrdie to be naturally blonde. Though Deschanel has had highlights in the past, the only time she’s had blonde hair was for 2003’s Elf, which she auditioned for a week after dyeing her hair blonde for another movie, which never made it to theaters.
“I had to dye my hair blonde for a screen test for a movie that never happened before I did Elf. And I went in for the meeting for Elf, and then I asked them, ‘Could I dye my hair back to my natural color?’” Deschanel says. “And they said, ‘No. You have to keep your hair what it was in the meeting.’ So I had to wait until I was done with that movie. But as soon as I was done with that movie, I pretty much dyed it back.”
Deschanel points to her brown-haired family, including sister Emily Deschanel, as proof that she’s a natural brunette. “My hair has been the same color pretty much my whole life,” she says. “My hair is naturally dark brown. If you look at my family, my dad has dark brown hair. My mom has dark brown hair. My sister has brown hair. All signs point to brown hair.”
As for what she thinks of the many articles that claim she has blonde hair, Deschanel responds, “Well, they’re wrong!”