America’s Indie Darling Returns to Pomona
By Lynn Lieu
Jenny Lewis tells her life story and pays homage to Rilo Kiley
In 2005, a group of surgeons or rather interns lit up the small screen paving way for a hit that is now going on eight years. As the camera panes the skyline of the Emerald City a familiar tune begins to play. It wasn’t the first time Jenny Lewis’ voice graced television—far from it having built a short career as an actress—but it was 2005, a year after Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous release and the first time the band teamed up with a major label.
At the time, Lewis and Rilo Kiley were pretty much synonymous. Aside from a few guest appearances, Lewis wouldn’t record a solo album until a year later. Teaming up with a slew of musician friends including Conor Oberst and M. Ward, Rabbit Fur Coat dropped in January 2006 billed as Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins. Now six years later, America’s indie darling has in many ways said, ‘good bye’ to the band of her early 20s and moved on to telling her life story in a whole new respect.
“My perspective has changed as a human being. I don’t feel the same way that I felt in my early 20s and I’m writing about what is relevant to me in my life,” Lewis says over the phone as she gears up to team with Conor Oberst for the Wednesday Fox Pomona show. “. . . I just hope that I’m just growing as a song writer. It may not appeal the same way that it did when we were all in our late teens or early 20s but I really think a bunch of those people have kind of come with me and they want to hear the story.”
Currently, Lewis is composing the score for new flick Very Good Girls (2013). The movie is the directorial debut of Lewis’ friend Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, who wrote screen plays for Losing Isaiah (1995) and Bee Season (2005). For Lewis, this isn’t her first foray writing music for film. In 2008, she worked on Disney’s Bolt (2008) calling it “one of the coolest experiences.”
“I think it’s great because it keeps you on your toes and it opens up different pathways that you wouldn’t have explored if it was just your own film,” says Lewis. “I was just reading something about Randy Newman, who said that it’s so much more difficult to write for himself rather than for film or Disney films because I think you’re holding yourself these standards.”
While her return to film is still musical, Lewis did make a recent television appearance. “. . . I was on Gossip Girl last year. But I played myself,” she says. “And they gave me a weird line like a real mouthful. You know, I haven’t done that in over 10 years and my line was ‘We’ve just finished the key theme,’ [laughs] which was just a weird, weird thing to say. But yeah that was my big return to acting and I had one line.”
Lewis is also in the works of paying homage to Riley Kiley, teaming up with former band mates to compile a B-sides collection and dispelling old break-up rumors.
“We’re all friends and we all see each other often actually,” says Lewis. “We’ve all been talking about [a B-sides collection] for years, and we finally have the art work—[former Rilo Kily bassist] Pierre [de Reeder] did the art work—and we’re sifting through like a hundred old school songs and it’s been really sentimental and great and I’m really excited to put it out.”
When asked about Rilo Kiley’s first hit “Glendora,” Lewis explains why the track never gets live play. “Every time I’m on the 210 and I drive through Glendora I wince,” says Lewis. “There’s this particularly offensive line in that song that I refuse to sing. And so yeah, it was always kind of fun to have at least one person every show yells, ‘Glendora’ and I would totally refuse them.”
In the early days of Rilo Kiley, Lewis’ music grappled with sex, relationships and of course her mother. “It’s funny I listen back to some of those songs and it’s pretty telling, it’s really detailed and dark at times and I can’t believe that I got up there and sang those songs in front of so many people,” she says. “I wasn’t even considering that. I was just this free flowing thing and the music just kind of came through me. I never thought about what people thought about me and I kind of just let it hang.”
But Lewis is of a different mindset now in her 30s. She’s working on new solo material as well as compiling some old ones “. . . It’s just kind of a—not a retrospective—but a selection from time,” Lewis explains. “Hey I just named it ‘Selections from time.’” Not as dark, but still as intimate, Lewis’ more recent work exhibits a range of emotions from love and heartache to relationships with her mother and late father. “I think songs are these like living evolving thing and they come with you on this journey. I just hope that I’m just growing as a song writer . . . You know it’s just a story of my life basically, so yeah we’ll see how that turns out.”
Jenny Lewis and Conor Oberst at Fox Pomona, 301 S. Garey Ave., Pomona, (877) 283-6976; www.foxpomona.com. Wed, Oct. 3. 7pm. $32.50-$42.50.