Published Jul 28, 2014Jenny Lewis has been busy being Jenny Lewis over the past six years, but in that time failed to do the most Jenny Lewis thing possible: release a Jenny Lewis album. Last year she spent four months touring as a member of the Postal Service. Before that she was working on two film scores, released an album with boyfriend Jonathan Rice, ended her long-time band Rilo Kiley and mourned the death of her father.
"I never intended to take a long break," explains Lewis. "I just couldn't finish it. So I was trying to finish my record for six years and I finally did. It just took a really long time." After the Postal Service tour commitments were fulfilled, Lewis contacted Ryan Adams on Twitter to see if he could produce a song or two. He ended up doing the majority of The Voyager, Lewis's third solo album (out July 29 on Warner), along with his partner Mike Viola at Pax Am Studios.
"I was a huge fan of Heartbreaker," she says. "I heard he was building an analogue studio in Los Angeles and I just had a feeling about him. And it worked out great. He's an amazing producer. It was a really quick process, but he's really inspired in the studio. And he's a killer guitar player."
The other big name attached to The Voyager is Beck, who produced the lead single, California-sun-soaked "Just One of the Guys." Lewis says the difference between the two star producers was significant. "I spent a lot more time with Ryan, but I knew Beck a little bit more going into it," she explains. "So I felt more comfortable with Beck right away. Working with Beck was very calm and focused. Working with Ryan was the exact opposite of that. It was confusing at times and I went through a range of emotions."
What are you up to?
I am currently enjoying a bowl of gluten-free oatmeal, which is quite delicious. But aside from that, I directed my first video two days ago in New York City, travelled across the country and had a gin martini on the plane. And now I'm back in Cali where I belong.
What are your current fixations?
I've been listening quite a bit to the War On Drugs record, which is great. It's a very special record. And it made me revisit Kurt Vile's record from last year. That new Philly sound is really, really amazing. You can hear the through line between the two bands because Kurt was originally in the War On Drugs. They're both such great songwriters.
Why do you live where you do?
Because I can. I live in Laurel Canyon. I haven't ever lived anywhere else. There are cities I will often be heard saying, "I can actually live here." That is actually what I wanted on my epitaph for quite a while.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art.
There's this Hieronymous Bosch painting that's hanging in a museum I think in Frankfurt. I wish I could remember the name of it. But it is the most psychedelic thing I have ever stood in front of for a very long time without actually being on psychedelics. It kind of took me to a far away universe naturally.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig?
My first proper concert was seeing the Cure and Pixies at Dodger Stadium in 1989. I walked in during the Pixies set, and I'd never heard the Pixies before. And that's when I saw Kim Deal on stage. That was really the first time I considered what it was like to be a woman playing rock'n'roll music.
What have been your career highs and lows?
Selling out our first show in L.A. with Rilo Kiley at Spaceland. I didn't think that would ever be possible. And lows? It really fucking sucks to have the flu when you're touring in a van and have to play anyway. But you're shivering with a fever, and you're in Florida during the middle of winter.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
Oh man, I would say 99 percent of people are nice, but there's always that one sour apple. I was recently called the "c-word" after a show in Orange County. It was a girl. And it was after a very emotional concert. It was weird. Aside from that, a lighter version would be getting heckled for being in [1989 videogame film] The Wizard. Like I'm playing a serious song in a basement in Columbus, Ohio, and someone yells, "He touched my breast!" Which is a quote from the movie. Now it's fine, but when you're trying to establish yourself as a serious artist, having someone yell at you for something that happened when you were 12 can be distracting.
What should everyone shut up about?
People can talk about whatever they want about. I don't care. Just don't talk to me about it.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Like Lou Reed said, drinking sangria in the park.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
When I was a kid I played Lucille Ball's granddaughter on a TV show called Life With Lucy. And she was very tough, a very tough cookie. And she was very firm with me being prepared with my work. I kind of remember shrugging it off at first. But when you're getting advice from Lucille Ball you should probably take it. And I really look back on that moment sometimes and think, "Wow, that was a really valuable nugget of advice."
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Are you seriously going to ask me that? Honestly I think of my neighbour Kelly Oxford, who is one of my best friends. She's got three kids that were all born and raised in Canada, and they're the coolest fucking kids I know. I fucking love her kids. And truly through my friendship with her I've learned a lot about Canada. And I've spent time in Toronto and Montreal, but that's not where she's from. She's from Calgary.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
It was a Musical Youth seven-inch of "Pass the Dutchie." It was a perfect children's reggae song about, well, they said it was about a Dutch oven, but I think it's probably about a doobie.
What was your most memorable day job?
I've never had a day job. I guess maybe you could say acting was my day job?
How do you spoil yourself?
I like an inexpensive mall massage. Always from a mall. Just like a ten-minute chair massage. It's the best way to feel instantly better. I don't know why, it just makes me so happy.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
God only knows. I don't know if I'd be on this planet without music. It really saved my life. That's quite a heavy thing to say for a questionnaire, but without music I don't think I'd be here.
You don't think you would've continued acting?
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
My friend took me on this trip to Paris. She was modelling in all of these fashion shows and I was just her friend who came along. We went to this beautiful dinner for Versace, and there were these beautiful candles in the bathroom. They were just so incredible, so I decided I would just steal one. So I went to blow out the candle and as I was waiting for the wax to dry and putting the candle in my purse, Jennifer Lopez walked into the ladies room and basically caught me stealing this Versace candle. This was about the year 2000. So she kind of let me off the hook and I put then candle in my purse. But then I went to use the toilet and there was no toilet paper in the stall! So I had to say, "Excuse me, could you please spare a square?" Which, of course, is a Seinfeld reference. And she was very generous on both accounts. So she gave me a square and she didn't rat me out.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Hunter S. Thompson and a bison burger. I think he was a hunter, or maybe just a gun enthusiast, so that seems appropriate.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
There's this beautiful song by Bobby Charles called "I Must Be In A Good Place Now." It's the perfect song for either a funeral or a wedding. A beautiful song like that can serve both purposes.
Read our review of Jenny Lewis' The Voyager here.