Finding similarities between Jenny Lewis and the Academy of Country Music stars is like comparing the Coal Miner’s Daughter to CMT’s Trick My Truck. Lewis stands little more than five feet tall, while the ladies at Sunday’s ACM Awards were leggy and runway-ready. Lewis sings about life’s harsh reality, while the big ACM winner was a “reality” star (Carrie Underwood). Miley Cyrus was a performer, while Lewis’ music remains on the other side of the tracks.
“I grew up with my mother’s record collection, and country was the first music that I really identified with,” says Lewis of her vintage tastes. “The sorrow in the songs definitely struck a chord when I was a young girl. The strong, tragic female characters really appealed to me.”
The ACMs seem to have gone Hollywood, which is ironic since Lewis is Tinseltown gone country. A child actor with staring roles in Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard, Lewis continued acting through 2001, but she focused mainly on her band Rilo Kiley since the late ’90s. Back then, the alt-country rockers faced a music world enamored with blink-182 and Limp Bizkit, but they still found a way to make country cool with the indie rock cabal.
In recent years, Lewis released a pair of solo albums that delved deeper into her classic country roots. Her most recent album, Acid Tongue, shines the spotlight squarely on colorful narratives that include the suggestion she dropped acid as a young teen. Let’s see her drop that lyric on the ACM crowd! It just shows that country music can’t always be defined by what’s on TV.
“Country music is in all of us,” says Lewis, “and being an American songwriter, it’s about as American as you can get.”
Jenny Lewis, Dawes at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.jennylewis.com. Mon., April 13, 7PM; $22.