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How Reese Witherspoon trained her voice for ‘Walk the Line’

Larry King NowDec 09 '16

Famed vocal coach Roger Love explains how he trained Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix to sound like Johnny and June Cash in ‘Walk the Line.’

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Shawn King: You had Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix…

Larry King: Yeah, explain that. They’re not singers.

Shawn King: None of them were trained singers.

Roger Love: Right.

Shawn King: And they sounded amazing.

Roger Love: Reese called me and she said that she was doing a picture called “Walk the Line” and that they had tried – she had tried to learn how to sing but it wasn’t working. And she had three weeks before she and Joaquin had to go into the studio and he had to sound like Johnny Cash and he didn’t, and she had to… She didn’t have to sound exactly like June Carter Cash cause the director said that most people didn’t remember June Carter Cash’s voice, so she just had to sound great.

Shawn King: Right.

Roger Love: But they wanted him to sound exactly. Now, he’s a fantastic actor as you know, but he’s really not the go to guy that you want to even lead “Happy Birthday” at parties. So he had never sung. She at least sang in school but all up here. I’m an angel, in the south. She just sang in what we call head voice. So they had three weeks, we literally started from scratch and we worked every single day but in the end, after three weeks was done, we recorded about 30 different parts of songs for the film, and I just taught him my techniques, and we worked it out.

Larry King: Do you know why they didn’t just use Johnny Cash records and have him mouth it?

Roger Love: Well the truth is that both of them were told, so the story goes, that they weren’t going to sing.

Shawn King: They were tricked.

Roger Love: And that they weren’t going to be responsible for singing. When Reese found out -

Larry King: They lied in the movies?

Roger Love: When Reese found out that she was singing she says, ‘okay I’m out’

Shawn King: Oh really? Oh my gosh.

Roger Love: I consider one of the greatest things I did for “Walk the Line” was keep Reese in, and keep Joaquin in, because I promised them that I would see it through the end, and they would love the way they sounded. And I tell you, this is an interesting story, when I was done with all of the singing I listened to it and I said, ‘it’s just not good enough. It’s just not good enough.’ But then when I saw it with the picture I said, ‘this might just be the best good enough I’ve ever done in my life.’

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