The album has been finished for a year, but Merge Records is finally preparing to release "Volume 1" by She & Him, a collaboration between musician/producer M. Ward and actress/songwriter Zooey De

The album has been finished for a year, but Merge Records is finally preparing to release "Volume 1" by She & Him, a collaboration between musician/producer M. Ward and actress/songwriter Zooey Deschanel. The 10-track set is due March 18 and includes covers of the Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better" and Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold on Me."

"Her voice doesn't sound like anything else that's out there. All I really had to do is press record," says Ward, who began working with Deschanel after she sent him some of her "stripped-down" demos of vocals and keyboards. "I feel like she secretly had been working on a first record for years but kept it under her hat and focused on acting."

Ward produced the record, as well as crafted the arrangements and contributed guitar and backing vocals. As for the project's name, "we wanted people to listen to the music first and foremost, before really making a fuss about who is making the music," he says. Many of Ward's regular collaborators, including Mike Coykendall and Rachel Blumberg, also played on "Volume 1."

Deschanel and Ward first performed together live last year at the Sundance Film Festival and only have a pair of shows lined up this year as She & Him. "It's just going to be various special appearances, no real tours," Ward says of playing live.

Meanwhile, Ward is finishing an album of his own, due later this year via Merge. "It's too early to say how [the new record] going to be different from my other ones," he says. "It will involve a lot of the same folks playing on it. I'd say the songs are somewhere in the same ballpark as my other songs."

"Post-War," Ward's last album, earned the songwriter his first Billboard 200 chart ink when it debuted at No. 146 in 2006; the set has gone on to sell 65,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

No solo tour plans are in the mix yet, but Ward recently lent backup vocals to an upcoming set from friend and frequent collaborator Howe Gelb.

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