Jenny Lewis is just so relatable. At 47, she spends most of her free time learning how to do stuff around the house. Home renovation, Lewis tells Eugene Weekly in a phone call from Los Angeles, “that’s really my oeuvre.”
When she spoke with EW, Lewis was about to embark on a string of West Coast dates supporting Joy’All, her fourth solo album, which was released in June. The tour stops in Eugene Dec. 1 at McDonald Theatre.
Those who’ve followed Lewis for a while know a certain kind of accessibility is what she’s all about.
On “Psychos,” Joy’All’s lead single, Lewis sings, “I’m not a psycho, I’m just trying to get laid” — aren’t we all Jenny, aren’t we all? And on “Puppy and a Truck,” she drops the symmetrical couplet, “So, 44 in 2020, and thank god I saved up some money,” followed by: “Time to ruminate like, ‘What the fuck was that?’”
With Lewis, a few words say a lot.
Recorded in Lewis’ second home, Nashville, and her first on Blue Note Records, Joy’All otherwise shows Lewis exploring her country side, showcasing — as always — her exceptional, drowsy alto.
Lewis has long worked in the tropes of classic rock, soft pop a-la Linda Ronstadt, and the glory days of FM radio, like a sad Los Angeles stoner drifter, sifting through crates of old LPs and racks of vintage clothing. For Lewis, though, it’s not about nostalgia, as she infuses these pop culture touchstones of the past with a thoroughly modern and sardonic sense of humor, punctuated by the sweet frown you can hear in her vocal phrasing.
For the most part, however, Joy’All features the charming singer-songwriter informed indie rock Lewis is known for.
Lewis was a child star in the late 1980s and ’90s, acting in films like Troop Beverly Hills and other TV shows and commercials. She came up in music singing with rambunctious indie rockers Rilo Kiley, and went solo in 2006. She also sang on The Postal Service’s album Give Up, a millennial quarter-life crisis masterpiece celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Last summer, she toured with the electro-pop group featuring Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, and in 2021, she opened for British pop megastar Harry Styles. When that billing was announced, Styles’ mainstream fans asked online, “Who the fuck is Jenny Lewis?” Lewis released a playlist with that title.
It begs the question, though: As a show business lifer, is there an alternate timeline Lewis out there doing something different?
“No,” Lewis says, “this is it for me. I’ve had to learn how to be a human being outside of my work. But I’m driven to tell a story in whatever form that takes — poetry, rap, short story. That’s what gets me up in the morning.”
She also reports feeling much more comfortable in her skin at the tail end of her 40s.
“I think this has been my most self-reflective era,” Lewis says. “I have learned a lot about myself. And I have learned to accept a lot about myself, my relationships and other people. Your goals change in your 40s. It’s really about being present in the moment, and appreciating things that are happening now.”