Jenny Lewis brings the 'Joy'All Ball' to Eugene
Jenny Lewis's latest album is the Jubilantly titled Joy'All and it’s one that continues her warm and intimate sound referencing classic soul, R&B and country music. Maybe you caught her playing in Bend this past summer or even got to catch the Postal Service anniversary tour or with Thanksgiving around the corner. as it is in mine, maybe A Very Murray Christmas is a family tradition in your household as well.
You can catch her at a headlining show at the McDonald Theatre in Eugene on Friday, December 1 and ahead of that, we've got Jenny Lewis in this conversation.
The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Jason Brown: Jenny Lewis, thanks so much for joining me today.
Jenny Lewis: Oh, it's great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Brown: I wanted to ask you about this virtual songwriting workshop that was held by Beck. What compelled you to do that, and what songs came out of it?
Lewis: Well, Beck has always had a history of being so inclusive of other artists. He used to do this record club thing where he'd get a bunch of artists together and they'd cover an album in its entirety and I was always a little nervous, a little shy to participate. But this one came about early 2021 and I had been home solo-quarantining for the pandemic and it felt like the right time to connect with other artists.
It was a song a day for seven days with different themes and formats; the first one was free form and I wrote “Puppy and a Truck” as the first song I submitted to the group.
And then some of the challenges came in, write a song with 1-4-5 chord progression, write a song with all clichés, and so on.
So I wrote “Love Feel,” which ended up on the record.
Brown: Now, correct me if you disagree, but it seems like a lot of your songwriting is personal and with that said, what's it like workshopping songs like that?
Lewis: It's cool because there's no wrong way to do it if you're a writer and I don't have to look very far, the stories tend to just unfold in front of me.
This is like the blessing of my life, the blessing and the curse of my life.
But to have these assignments really opened up different ways of doing it.
And then of course the songs end up being personal, but to do a song of all clichés, I would never write something like that, but then out of it comes “Love Feel” which really, the chorus is very personal and it kind of ties all back in there.
Brown: I guess that's the whole point of stepping outside your comfort zone. You might come up with something that maybe otherwise you couldn't have.
Lewis: Right. And you can mine from different places. You can write when you're happy. You can be joyful despite all of the worries in your life. So being able to write from a place that isn't like the super bummed out place is a fun muscle to exercise.
Brown: Talk about the theme of happiness on your album.
After all, it's titled Joy’All!
Lewis: I wrote and recorded the record in Nashville, Tennessee where I split my time and it's not about the pursuit of happiness, but rather finding the joy in all of the nuances of life, and we've all had a rough handful of years and it continues to be pretty wild out there.
So, you know, finding those moments, finding your joy, despite it all.
Brown: Speaking of Nashville, would you talk about what it was like working with Dave Cobb on this record?
Lewis: So cool; so awesome to be at RCA studio A. So many amazing records were cut at that studio. It's on Music Row in Nashville, which I grew up in Hollywood, which is, you know, “movie town,” but living in Nashville, which is, you're making a record on Music Row… it’s so wild. And Dave's great, we assembled an amazing band and we cut the record pretty much live on the floor and did very few overdubs.
Brown: I think it sounds like a live record. You know, it's, it's slick, obviously, but there's just that energy there.
Lewis: Yeah, I think it's in the rhythm section and the fact that we were all playing it together, which I've done a lot of records like that. But I think it's more common to lay down the drums then do the bass, and so-on. But there's a feel that's imperfect when you're recording live in the room.
So I cut the record in Nashville and then I came back to LA and my mixer works with John Brion. I spent a couple of days with him in the studio and he added some guitar and some vibraphone and it was just amazing to be in the room with John.
Brown: So tell us about your puppy… and your truck. But, especially let's talk about Bobby Rhubarb.
Lewis: Bobby Rhubarb is my cockapoo, who is 2-and-a-half and she was a gift from my friend Serengeti. He's a rapper from Chicago and we did some music together during the pandemic remotely. And so he brought me my soul mate via Chicago and Bobby's cool.
Brown: Oh, that's so sweet. I'm on the Bobby Rhubarb Lewis Instagram page. This is legit, right?
Lewis: I mean, this is legit. We don't have any treat endorsements yet, but we're not opposed to it.
Brown: Well, I see this denim jacket that just has a spectacular airbrush of Bobby Rhubarb and I’m thinking at least there ought to be merch deals.
Lewis: Well, that airbrush piece was made at the Rivergate Mall in Nashville where I got a lot of my merch ideas from. It's just like a kiosk in the mall where they do this like, ‘90s-style airbrush. So I brought a picture of Bobby and the masterpiece was put on the back of a denim jacket.
Brown: I know the exact sort of kiosk you're talking about; that is spectacular.
So, is it cool to ask you about The Postal Service?
Lewis: Sure, of course.
Brown: For context for our listeners, this year is the 20th anniversary of Give Up, and there was a run of dates where you all played that record in full. Tell me, what was that experience like to put that album back out there and play it in front of crowds.
Lewis: Oh, it was magical, it was like, we were in a spaceship and we were time traveling every night, just reliving 2003 when that record came out. And the era of music, you know, my band [Rilo Kiley] had just put out The Execution of All Things and we were all touring in the van together.
And then 10 years later, we did the big tour and then 10 years beyond that, everything has changed in our personal lives.
So it was really special and nostalgic and the audience I think was having a similar experience, time traveling.
Brown: Oh, so I can speak to experience. This is my chance to let you know that I caught one of those dates. I actually was at Riot Fest in Chicago and I just have to tell you, the vibe was beautiful and celebratory and of course, the crowd knows all the songs and you all definitely looked like you're having a good time.
So you're about to start a run of headlining dates out on the west coast. What can folks expect to see and hear on this tour?
Lewis: Well, we are doing the Joy’All Ball. So come on down and have a ball at the Joy’All Ball!
And it is right after Thanksgiving. So I feel that it's ok to just play Christmas music in between the sets exclusively.
We'll be playing the new record and looking back on all the albums and all the eras and cherry picking some songs from all time.
Brown: Well, I know that a lot of folks around here are excited to see you, Jenny Lewis. Thank you so much for chatting with us today.
Lewis: Thanks so much. It's almost Christmas!