Jenny Lewis: People assume I'm always writing about myself

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Photo by Autumn de Wilde
Don't try to pigeonhole Jenny Lewis; she'll just push outside of your definition of who she is. The California singer-songwriter is set to release her first solo album since 2008's Acid Tongue with The Voyager, an album that has multiple layers in meaning and sound. With the help of Beck and Ryan Adams, Lewis's new album dabbles in indie-rock and pop.

Gimme Noise caught up with enigmatic Lewis before her show at First Avenue on Sunday night to see what she has been up to since her last album and what it's been like to be the sole female member in a touring group of guys.

Jenny Lewis: I'm very excited to come back to First Avenue. It's one of my favorite venues in the country. I also have family in Hastings, so I'm always happy to come back to the Twin Cities.

Gimme Noise: You've been working on your new record for a long time, and it's set to release at the end of July. How are you feeling about that? Are you excited, or are you ready to be done with it at this point?

This is just the beginning. I'm very excited right now, but ask me again is a year, and I might have another answer for you.

Why do you say that?


Just that the beginning of an album cycle is really exciting, but by the end of playing songs for a year, you're always ready to write the new batch.

You're touring right after the album release; is it scary to play new songs in front of people that might not be as open to them, and they only want to hear the old stuff?

You know that happens every single record, and there's always a period where you forget that people aren't as familiar with the material, and you assume they don't like it. But that's not the case. You have to let people get to know the songs. Obviously they're gonna react strongly to the songs they know very well -- the ones they're connected to.

It's been a while since you put out a solo album, right? I believe that last one was in 2008.

Yeah, it's been a long time. I did put out a Jenny and Johnny record in 2010.

Why did you feel you wanted to write about such personal things that were happening in your life at the time?

Well, I think that's a little presumptuous, honestly. Because how do you know that they're totally personal things? [long pause] If you only wrote from your own experiences, I don't know if that would make for a very exciting listen. People assume I'm always writing about specific things about myself -- and there's an element of that -- but there's always an element of fabrication as well.

Could you give me an instance of when you were thinking, "Should I, or shouldn't I add this in a song?"

Um... [long pause] I mean... [long pause] I think when you write about your relationships, you might suffer the consequences of that. The flipside of that is that I'm in a community of musicians and songwriters, and we've all been writing about each other for forever. There's this rule, this unspoken rule, where, if you write about something or someone, the friend can't ask you about it. They can't ask if the song's about them. There's a certain code.

Let's talk about working with Ryan Adams on this album. What did you enjoy most about working with him?


I enjoyed giving up the control to him. I really trusted him with my songs, and he helped me out of a very difficult creative rut.

Did he change the songs in any way, or did he give suggestions on how to shape something?

Yes, he was very vocal about what he liked and what he didn't like, and we changed the keys of some of the songs. We cut out some of the lyrics; we changed the titles of some songs. He really got into the structures in a way that I'd never experienced before. I had to set my ego aside, and I had to allow that help in.

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First Avenue

701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Music

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