Jenny Lewis Talks Insomnia, Being Force-Fed Creed for New Album 'Voyager'

Jenny Lewis KCRW 2014 P
Jeremiah Garcia

Jenny Lewis played an intimate show at KCRW’s Apogee Sessions in Santa Monica on Oct. 24, performing songs from The Voyager, her third solo album released in July, then participated in a Q&A moderated by by KCRW DJ Gary Calamar. “This is my first time using a wireless mic, Gary,” she told him. “It’s like a Madonna ‘90s vibe with this suit and this mic. What’s happened to me?”

Calamar led Lewis through a short interview around her new album, first asking what she’d been up to since the release of her last solo effort Acid Tongue, which came out back in 2008. “It’s been a while,” Lewis said hesitantly. “I took a little time off. I did some acupuncture in the Valley. Tarzana — great spot.”

This, of course, references the struggle Lewis went through to create The Voyager. The singer has been very forthcoming about her several year battle with insomnia, which paused her ability to write and record music. The final album, which features songs produced by Ryan Adams and Beck, grapples with what it means to never be able to fall asleep.

For Lewis, Adams was the main person who helped her find her way. “I prayed for a spirit guide in my nondenominational way,” Lewis told Calamar. “It appeared in the form of Ryan, which isn’t what I expected. But he really helped me and he really got me out of my own head.” She added, “He was a really important figure in my life and I learned a lot from him.”

Lewis also recounted the time that Adams forced her to listen to Creed as some sort of creativity exercise. “He sat me down midday and he said, ‘Lewis, I have something I want you to hear,’” she said. “And he just started blasting Creed. After one song and my kind of started bleeding and I was like, ‘What is this method?’ And I’m still not sure I totally get it.”

During the interview Lewis revealed that Song One, the Anne Hathaway film she scored with boyfriend Johnathan Rice, will be finally released in January. “Writing a song — I think I understand how to do that at this point,” Lewis noted. “Scoring a movie, not so much.” The trick, she added, is “less is more.”

The second set of the performance drew on Lewis’s bigger, heavier tracks, like epic rocker “Next Messiah” and rollicking stomper “Moneymaker.” If the first half revealed the singer’s evocative, honeyed croon, the second unleashed her powerhouse rock ‘n’ roll wail, the one that has urged comparisons between her solo work and Fleetwood Mac. (In response to that, Lewis said only, “I’m a fan of the Mac attack.”)

For her encore, Lewis played “She’s Not Me,” a buoyant indie pop number off her new album, and then took up an acoustic guitar for “Acid Tongue,” an “oldie from 2008.” Her band members gathered behind a lone microphone to provide choral backing vocals for the song, giving it a more emotional urgency. “It’s so nice to be here on the West side,” Lewis said as she bid the audience farewell. “It’s a rare occasion.”

The full broadcast of Lewis’s performance and interview will air on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic on November 3.