In 2005, when Candian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe recorded a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” she couldn’t have predicted that over a decade later, it would prominently feature in one of the most anticipated blockbusters ever.
When Zack Snyder’s Justice League hits HBO Max on March 18, it will close with Crowe’s devastating piano cover of “Hallelujah,” which holds special significance to director Snyder and his wife Debbie, who lost their daughter Autumn to suicide in March 2017.
March 18 will also mark the release of the Zack Snyder’s Justice League (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) via Watertower Music.
Ahead of the release of the “Snyder Cut,” Billboard spoke to Crowe about recording a new take of her “Hallelujah” cover just about overnight, as well as the overall journey it took for her music to land in a project from the beloved director.
You initially covered “Hallelujah” way back in 2005. How did Zack Snyder first hear about you and your cover?
It was the early days of YouTube existing. The cover I did of “Hallelujah” first was part of an album that I made called Tidings, which was for the holidays. We ended up making a video version, with “Hallelujah” and an original song that I wrote called “Whether I’m Wrong.”
We put the two videos up on YouTube [in 2006], and I guess sort of through the jigs and the reels, Zack and [his wife] Debbie saw the video of “Hallelujah.” Then in 2007, they were in the process of making Watchmen and approached me with the possibility of using “Hallelujah” in it. They ended up going with the original Leonard Cohen version, which makes sense.
Zack then wanted to use it in other projects, right?
Over the years, after that, there was a possibility of using my cover of “Me and Bobby McGee” in [something else]. Zack kept trying to come up with ways to get me musically into the films. There was a possibility of another song for Sucker Punch. Again, it didn’t end up working. But that’s okay, too! He just kept trying. Fast-forward to 2011, he decided to physically put me in Man of Steel. So it’s been that long. It’s been since 2007.
In Man of Steel, you make a cameo as a singer in a bar. So Zack called you up and said, “I want you to be in this movie, but not as yourself?”
Yes! Funny, right? I was like, “Yes, I believe I can play a singer in a bar!” [Laughs.] Not a huge stretch. What’s actually really funny about that is that I live in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador now, but I’m originally from Nanaimo, BC, on Vancouver Island. It just actually ended up that where I ended up shooting was Nanaimo, on the Nanaimo Highway at a place called The Cassidy, which I drove by my whole life. It’s awesome.
When did you and the Snyders first meet?
We first actually met in person on set [in 2011]. Before I actually filmed, I got to visit the Vancouver set for Man of Steel one day while they were filming the big studio green screen stuff.
At long last, your music made it into Justice League: “Hallelujah” serves as the end credits song. What was that process like?
I only really found out about it a month ago! So it was a surprise. Zack called and we had a conversation on whether I’d use the original  one or not. I said, it’s obviously up to him, what he wants and needs from it. But to me, as a musician, listening to myself in 2005, I find it physically painful! It had been a long time since I’d actually heard it — I was like, “Oh my god, I sound twelve years old.” It’s crazy how much time [had passed] — I can hear the age. After fifteen years…
It definitely makes sense that you’d want to do a new recording for the movie, which is what ended up happening.
We did make the decision of doing one specifically for Justice League. That led to, “Okay, I have a few days to get this done, it’s Covid times, not a lot of travel right now, so I’ve got to figure out how to do it close to where I live.”
Wow, so you only had a couple of days to record. Where did you end up doing it?
I’m very lucky that when I’m not touring or doing music, I work in theater, and I know a lot of amazing technicians. So I called a buddy in St. John’s, who drove the seven hours to here, and I rented the local theater [Rotary Arts Centre] that I normally play at, because they have a grand piano. I was able to find a piano tuner within like 48 hours. We went in and recorded absolutely live on the floor.
So it was a pretty quick turnover, but it was amazing. It’s been a really exciting couple of weeks!
“Hallelujah” is highly significant to the Snyders. Did you and Zack speak about what the song meant to him and Debbie, and to their late daughter Autumn?
He let me know that it was Autumn’s favorite song. We wanted to do this in tribute to Autumn. This whole project really is a tribute to Autumn, and to the family. It’s so beautiful. I just know that they’ve been through so much — I’m gonna get emotional — and that they are such incredible people. He did let me know how much it means.
Your cover closes the movie, and it’s the last song on the accompanying soundtrack. Can you share anything else about the soundtrack?
I know just from Twitter… I’m finding out things from Twitter! [Composer] Junkie XL, aka Tom Holkenborg, posted the track listing. He also tweeted out the other day that there will be vinyl.
“Hallelujah” is such a highly covered song. What are some of your other favorite takes on it?
The Rufus Wainwright version. I’m a huge fan of Rufus. It’s from the Shrek soundtrack [laughs]. I became obsessed with him. Right around that time, I’m also a big fan of Tori Amos, and I’d seen Rufus open for Tori in Vancouver. It was really cool. It was just Rufus and a keyboard on this great big stage. That’s the version that really stuck with me.
Over the years, were you following along with social media and rooting for the #SnyderCut?
One hundred percent! Because I know them — I’ve gotten to know them pretty well over the years — I know how awesome they [Zack and Debbie] are. I’m so happy that they’re going to be able to see this as they wanted it. I’ve been rooting for it the whole time. When they announced that it was real and happening, I was, like, crying, I was so excited. Safe to say I’ve been rooting for it the whole time.
The fans’ campaign was pretty amazing.
I’ve been watching everybody fight for it. The fans — the movement is incredible. Zack has said that basically because of them, they got this made. That’s just so cool. That’s the power of the internet. I’ve been music-ing since the MySpace days and even before, and it’s really cool to see the power of a positive, awesome group of people, and that they’ve raised funds in Autumn’s name for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s really beautiful, I love it.
If Zack calls you for another project, are you in?
One hundred percent. [Laughs.] In a second. I haven’t left the house in a year, and all of this stuff has happened — I’m honored to be a part of it and it all feels very surreal.