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Jenny Lewis sprinkles some joy into her latest album and tour

Holly Alvarado, The Orange County Register on

Published in Entertainment News

ANAHEIM, Calif. — In the minutes leading up to our scheduled call, singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis was hurriedly writing down song titles in her Los Angeles home, grappling with the decision of what to include in the set list for her Joy'All Ball Tour.

"There's so many different records and tracks at this point, so I was trying to get it all down," Lewis said during a recent phone chat, revealing she'd already penned about 30 titles. "It's the little things, like jotting what songs I'm thinking of playing that make me feel most at ease. But you know, at this point of where I'm at, I have to play what feels most comfortable."

This belief echoes a running theme that's enveloped her life: finding joy in the mundane, "even if it's as simple as learning how to make dinner for yourself, cleaning the house or learning how to use a power drill. It's the simple things," she notes.

Being fluent in the language of simplicity is something she's tackled quite well, allowing it to permeate her latest record, "Joy'All." The artist, whose indie-twang and soulful sound have evolved from the early days of her charming early '00s indie-rock project Rilo Kiley or as a member of the Postal Service, no longer weaves tales of being young, dumb and finding love in all the wrong or right places.

Her narrative has shifted to one of growth, a poignant journey that pays homage to the past, while refusing to go back.

It mirrors the wisdom also gained in navigating middle age, introduced in Lewis' lyrics "My forties are kicking my ass, and handing 'em to me in a margarita glass," from the standout track "Puppy and a Truck." Despite Lewis' notion that time is only an illusion, she candidly acknowledges the challenges in a post-COVID world, coming to grips with the profound losses she's experienced with her mother in 2019, her godfather Gary Burden, and a separation from her partner of 12 years.

"When I look back, there's been a lot of loss, a lot of loneliness and fear, but I am a survivor like so many of us and I think in order to persevere, one has to embrace joy," Lewis said. "And there's never a guarantee of happiness, because joy is a different feeling, I believe. I certainly had a spiritual shift during the pandemic and my priorities changed. I changed. Some people ran from it, which I think was a missed opportunity to take personal inventory. The world outside was crazy, but it was about discovering the crazy stuff inside and the way you live with yourself and the things you do outside of work. I've been on the road for 25 years and I had to ask myself 'Who am I outside of my work?' And that wasn't always pretty. I had a lot of work to do, but the payoff was better and I'm still on it now."

Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, with the help of producer and friend Dave Cobb — who is known for his work with Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile and John Prine — the record came at a time when Lewis was looking to depart from her Angeleno roots for a fresh beginning, coinciding with her acquisition of a second home in Nashville in 2019. There's also a few tracks that came from an impromptu writing session held by rock artist Beck, who gathered a few artists to sit down, relax and write without expectations, providing the creative juice that Lewis needed in order to create another full-length project.

Drawing from a diverse pocket of influences, including artists like Tracy Chapman, Frank Ocean and Sade, Lewis used their sounds as guides.

 

"It may not be obvious but in my mind, it's all there," she said. "I'm just excited to give fans a taste of that on tour as well."

With the Joy'All Ball Tour heading to Southern California in December, Lewis is looking forward to playing places she considers home. Her choices were deliberate and selective when it came to the cities, venues, merchandise, openers and band members accompanying her onstage. For Lewis, this is extremely personal.

"Usually I go everywhere, but for this record, I was picky with it all," she adds. "With Orange County, that's where Rilo Kiley took flight and Los Angeles is where I started it all with music. These are my people, these cities get me and we're cut from the same cloth. I recognize fans in the crowd while being back in Southern California who have been coming to shows for the past 20 years. And every time, without fail, it gets me emotional."

She made sure to recruit an all-female band she formed while living out in Nashville, too.

"Touring with women has felt so different for me," she said. "There's a sense of comfort, love and understanding. I've been longing for that."

Lewis was on the road extensively the past few years, catching a big break while opening for Harry Styles' "Love On" tour in 2021, arena shows with Phoenix and Beck, festival gigs, and of course, being a part of the 20th anniversary of the Postal Service album that made its way to the Hollywood Bowl for two-sold out nights. Yet, for Lewis, this is different, new and exciting.

And hopefully, she can bring that energy, along with a little joy, to fans.

"Right now, I'm just trying to appreciate where I'm at while being present," she said. "All of our lives have changed dramatically, and if the tour can bring joy, then I'm all in."


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