Jenny Lewis: After Rilo Kiley
By Brandon Ferguson
Following last fall's cancellation of her Bridge School tour, Jenny Lewis -- the distinguished stateswoman of indie rock -- is once again gearing up to strike out across the West Coast. Her forthcoming I Heart Cali tour will feature a slew of surprise guests as well as her boyfriend and songwriting partner Johnathan Rice. Making a pit stop at Largo at the Coronet tomorrow, June 20, her set will follow an acoustic template. Lewis promises to bring the rock.
Speaking to us by phone, the former child star (who's every bit as charming as you'd imagine) talked on a jumble of subjects including the things that inspire her and what fans can expect from her in the future. Despite the recent loss of her father and the implosion of her band Rilo Kiley, the resilient, guitar-strumming chanteuse intends to make sure the show goes on.
Word has it you're a fan of vintage treasures. Any unusual musical instruments in your collection?
I [recently got a] Millioniser, which is a harmonica-synthesizer. There are maybe four or six in the world, and when [my dad] passed away, I inherited two of them. So I have this incredible harmonica-synthesizer which I want to learn how to play.
So are the rumors true about you being a devout flea market shopper?
I tour six months out of the year, and I'm constantly going to antique malls and garage sales and estate sales. We actually went to an estate sale last weekend, and we found this weird plastic Tiffany lamp that's really cool and this weird platter that's for serving lox and bagels.
As someone who tours constantly, what advice would you give to young girls looking to hit the road?
I would say pack light and don't be afraid to go toe to toe with the boys. That's what I always did -- was live with a group of boys on a tour bus -- I guess I fared all right.
What is it about life on the road that keeps you satisfied?
I think it's this family environment. I come from such a weird upbringing. My dad wasn't around when I was a kid. And my mom wasn't around for a while. I sleep better knowing that there are other people on the bus. That's the best sleep I've gotten in my life just knowing that you've got this gang, this crew of people that [have] your back.
What's going on as far as your future musical projects?
I have been writing. I guess I've been home for almost a year since the Jenny and Johnny tour. I've been finishing some songs; I started recording a handful of them. I've also been working on a score. My friend is making her first movie, and she asked me to score it.
Can you talk about how your lyrics have changed from the unlucky-in-love-emo-girl of Rilo Kiley to the young solo artist in her 30s?
I tend to write about what I know. Even if I'm writing about a character, I'm still writing about things that I observe and how they relate back to me. Rilo Kiley is putting together this B-sides collection. We've been listening and sorting through all these songs from 1998 and just the tone of what I was writing back then was so sad, so dark. And I don't necessarily feel like that all the time anymore. I'm trying to write about all of the emotions. I've gotten my heart broken, and fallen in love, and moved out of my shitty rent-controlled apartment, and lost my father, and tried to rebuild my relationship with my mother. All of these things have definitely popped up in my songs, and I want to write something that's real that people can feel.
If I asked you to describe in two or three sentences the evolution of Jenny Lewis from child star, to frontwoman to solo artist could you do that?
Oh man. I don't know if I could do that. But let me just say that there's a really embarrassing video on the Internet of me for some teeny bopper magazine called Teen Set, and I'm bouncing around on a trampoline and trying on a hundred different hats. Can you believe that I somehow got a pass in music after having that? How the fuck did a band of two former child actors get out there and how did people accept us? People made fun of us along the way. But I guess we had a story to tell. [Laughs.]
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