:: Jenny Lewis :: :: Fox Theatre :: September 16 :: :: Ogden Theatre :: September 17 ::
By Garin Pirnia
Jenny Lewis is a rad chick. It’s not just because she was a child actor or because she fronts the charming group Rilo Kiley, or because she looks good in hot pants, or because she loves beer, or because she’s recorded with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service, or because she has weathered the spotlight for two decades — it’s because she’s a genuine singer/songwriter who’s not afraid to unveil her vulnerabilities.
The Marquee spoke with Lewis from her abode in the San Fernando Valley before she set off on her most recent solo tour. “I think L.A is a very specific place in that you can truly be invisible if you choose,” remarked Lewis about her hometown. “You can fall asleep by the pool and wake up five years later.”
But there will be no slumbering for Lewis anytime soon as her sophomore solo album, Acid Tongue, drops this month. It’s the follow-up to 2006’s gospel/folk-tinged Rabbit Fur Coat, which featured backing vocals from the Watson Twins. After hitting puberty, Lewis traded acting for a music career. Rilo Kiley formed in 1998 and it’s been sweet success for both the band and Lewis ever since.
Lewis grew up on a healthy diet of country music attributed to her parents’ touring lounge act, and was especially inspired by their sparkly ’70s costumes. She was instantly drawn towards the strong female presence in country music lacking in other genres. Lewis mentioned she was “born to tour.” Unlike a lot of touring acts, she finds time to write on the road whether she’s alone or in front of a group of people. Her love of touring is another thing she inherited from her upbringing. “I enjoy the new start of waking up in a new city everyday,” said Lewis. “You don’t have to worry about all the mistakes you made the night before.”
Acid Tongue sounds more like a soul record than her previous endeavor, and features a pedigree of guest performers including Elvis Costello, Zooey Deschanel and her sister and father. “It’s always more fun to rock out on tour than put people to sleep with your weepy ballads,” said Lewis. “I think we also just wanted to have a live feeling to the record, where it felt energetic and passionate and in the moment. Vibe is king.” “The Next Messiah” and “Jack Kills Mom” totally rock out. The album’s closer, “Sing a Song,” fills the ballad slot on the record.
“I’m a nervous wreck in my personal life. I’m a huge doubter and worrier, and all those things that go along with it. I think this record wasn’t about my total freakouts. But because the vibe was so right and I was surrounded by my friends, I was able to express myself freely,” she said. Going it alone for the first time can be daunting, but Lewis has eased into her new skin. To her, it was a natural progression. “I’d written a bunch of songs for Rilo Kiley on my own. Due to the subject matter within the songs that I put on that record, they just seemed more personal and it seemed appropriate for me to be the sole storyteller … I think songs take on a new life in a live context. I think they always get better when you play them on the road,” said Lewis.
But while the songs get better, Lewis said she’s still a frustrated songwriter who has yet to learn what she’s trying to get across in her music. “The more I write, the less I know about myself,” she said. “It’s supposed to be the opposite, but it just confuses me. I’m not any closer to understanding.”
:: Jenny Lewis ::
:: Fox Theatre :: September 16 ::
:: Ogden Theatre :: September 17 ::
Recommended if you like:
• Rilo Kiley
• Postal Service