Jenny Lewis lands at Ruth Eckerd Hall tonight

The former Rilo Kiley frontwoman and current indie rock icon warms the stage for Ray LaMontagne.



Prolific doesn’t even begin to describe Jenny Lewis’ breadth of musical work since making the transition from child star (she played Shelley Long’s bratty daughter in Troop Beverly Hills and Fred Savage’s love interest in The Wizard) to indie rock icon.

She's released four full-lengths and an EP in her tenure as frontwoman for Rilo Kiley, two solo records, and an album as one-half of Jenny & Johnny, written and recorded with longtime beau, Irish singer-songwriter Jonathan Rice. And let's not forget her memorable appearances on countless classic indie releases: The Postal Service’s Give Up, Bright Eyes’ Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, and Cursive’s The Ugly Organ among others.

Chronic insomnia hit in 2008 following the break-up of her band — which was together for more than a decade — and the death of her estranged father, and she also experienced a bout of crippling writer’s block, which, she said in a recent interview with CL, "was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before."

She tried everything she could think of: hypnosis, neuro feedback, massage therapy, acupuncture. But in the end it was the music that got her out of her funk. “It always seems to be the thing that saves me in the end,” Lewis said. “When you can’t sleep — and I’ve always been a really great sleeper — the body and mind collapse. I was pretty desperate. In the end, you realize the harder you try to sleep, the less you can, and you really just have to let go.”

Now she’s ready to move forward, and is releasing her third solo album, The Voyager — the result of this intensely difficult period — on July 29. Currently she’s touring with singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne. They’ll take the stage at Ruth Eckerd Hall tonight. [More after the jump...]

Much like her previous material, each song on The Voyager tells a deftly crafted story. "There’s an element of truth, an element of myself in all of the songs, but there’s also a character component,” Lewis said. “I always construct characters to tell a story. All of my songs are personal, but I try to keep the mystery alive.”

Last year, she toured with The Postal Service to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Give Up.

“I’m still kind of shocked that it’s been 10 years since that record came out,” said Lewis, whose backup vocals pepper the album. “I can’t believe it. And I’m a fan of that record. I never say that about any record I’ve been on. I felt goosebumps every time we performed ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.’”

Once she got off tour with The Postal Service, she knew it was time to head back to the studio to record what would ultimately become The Voyager.

The album features collaborations with indie stalwarts Beck and Ryan Adams. Beck produced and recorded several tracks, including the single “Just One of the Guys,” at his Malibu home studio.

But it was Adams, who served as co-producer and recorded much of the album at his Pax-Am Studio in Los Angeles, who truly reinvigorated Lewis’ creative spirit.

Mere acquaintances beforehand — they’d hung out at a few parties and Lewis actually sent Adams a message via Twitter to set up the initial recording sessions — Adams was just what she needed to make her own music again. "I needed somebody to take this on and get me out of my own head,” she said. “I asked for help. I put it out in the universe. Then Ryan Adams appeared, the most unlikely spirit guide.”

The Voyager
  • The Voyager
In between writing sessions, Lewis also contributed original music to the musical/drama Song One starring Anne Hathaway, and made her debut as a film composer and music supervisor for the drama Very Good Girls with Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen. She wrote the music for Olsen’s character, an 18-year-old singer-songwriter, and even made mixtapes for the stars to help them get into character. "Of course for Elizabeth I put on some Rilo Kiley and some Sharon Van Etten," Lewis said.

But writing music for Olsen’s character was difficult. "I had to put myself back in the shoes of a much younger musician, a more innocent place,” she said. “It was definitely a challenge to do that.”

She added, “The job was not something I ever thought I could do or even be offered. But it was a great experience.”

As for Rilo Kiley reuniting: “I don’t ever say never,” she said, adding, “I really don’t know how you can ever really shut the door on such an important relationship in your life. Anything is possible.”

Last year, the band released a compilation of B-sides and rarities, a difficult feat since the group had thousands of pictures and recordings to sift through — easily enough for a second collection of unreleased and rare material. But more importantly, Lewis said, “It was an opportunity for us to come together and be in the same room togethe. Being in that band was so important for all of us. And that will never change.”

Show details: Ray LaMontagne with Jenny Lewis and The Belle Brigade, Thurs., July 10, 7:45 p.m., Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, $53.25 and $63.25.

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