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Jenny Lewis

Also known as leader of charting indie outfit Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis makes searching, twang-inflected indie pop/rock of her own as a soloist. Having had her first taste of stardom when she was a child, appearing in a series of television shows and in films, she grew disenchanted with acting and turned to music as she came of age, forming Rilo Kiley with Blake Sennett in 1998. Their work drew upon the seediness of her native San Fernando Valley and nearby Hollywood, but she began to expand her horizons in 2006 when she released a country-tinged solo debut called Rabbit Fur Coat. Rilo Kiley stuck around for another album, but Rabbit Fur Coat established Lewis as a formidable singer/songwriter in her own right, and her reputation only grew after the group split, thanks to the rustic Americana of 2008's Acid Tongue and the slicker, retro-styled pop sheen apparent on 2014's The Voyager. Following the hazier On the Line in 2019, part of 2023's Joy'All consisted of songs written during a songwriting workshop led by Beck. Born to a pair of entertainers in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 8, 1977, Lewis relocated to the San Fernando Valley as a child. Before she was ten years old she had appeared in a number of major commercials, and she wound up cast in Lucille Ball's 1986 sitcom Life with Lucy. Guest spots in a variety of sitcoms followed in the next few years, culminating with prominent roles in two 1989 films: The Wizard and Troop Beverly Hills. Lewis acted into the mid-'90s -- she wound up with recurring roles on the 1990 television show Shannon's Deal and 1991's Brooklyn Bridge -- but after appearing in the 1998 feature film Pleasantville, she turned away from acting. That year, Lewis formed Rilo Kiley with Sennett -- the two were dating at the time -- Pierre de Reeder, and Dave Rock. After releasing an eponymous EP in 1999, the group replaced Rock with Jason Boesel and released Take Offs and Landings in 2001 on Barsuk. Another indie record -- The Execution of All Things, released on Saddle Creek -- appeared in 2002 before the group inked a deal with Warner to distribute More Adventurous in 2004. Just as Rilo Kiley was receiving a push from a major label, Lewis fielded an offer from Conor Oberst for his imprint Team Love. Lewis hired the Watson Twins as support for Rabbit Fur Coat, her 2006 solo debut. Greeted by positive reviews and a major media push, Rabbit Fur Coat overshadowed all previous Rilo Kiley albums, but it also wound up giving a boost to the band's 2007 album, Under the Blacklight. Released on Warner proper, Under the Blacklight was Rilo Kiley's most successful record -- it wound up peaking at 22 on Billboard's Top 200 -- but the band splintered soon after its release. Although the official disbandment wasn't announced until 2014, a year after the odds-and-ends collection Rkives appeared, Rilo Kiley never recorded together again. Lewis quickly turned her attention to her solo career, recording the rousing Americana record Acid Tongue. Written in part with her new partner Johnathan Rice, Acid Tongue debuted at 24 upon its September 2008 release. Lewis next teamed with Rice for I'm Having Fun Now, a collaborative album released under the name Jenny and Johnny in 2010. Lewis hired Ryan Adams to produce The Voyager, an album that evoked the heyday of classic AOR. The Voyager debuted at number nine upon its July 2014 release. In 2016, Lewis, Erika Forster, and Tennessee Thomas formed the trio Nice as Fuck, releasing an eponymous album in June. Lewis returned to her solo career in 2019 with the March release of On the Line, which featured co-productions by Adams, Beck, and Shawn Everett. It stalled at number 34 in the U.S. while becoming her first album to crack the Top 30 in the U.K. She next entered the studio with producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile) to record a group of songs written partly on the road, pre-pandemic, and partly at home in Nashville during a week-long virtual songwriting workshop hosted by Beck in early 2021. (The latter included prompts such as "write a song with only clichés" and "write in free-form style.") With appearances from Jon Brion (Chamberlin), Greg Leisz (pedal steel, B-Bender guitar), and Lucius' Jess Wolfe (backing vocals) in addition to a core backing band and headed by Cobb, Joy'All marked her debut on Blue Note/Capitol in June 2023.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo


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