Interview: Jenny Lewis on her New Song “Psychos” and Creative Inspiration

Photo by Bobbi Rich
Photo by Bobbi Rich

After independently working her last single “Puppy and a Truck,” singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis signed to Blue Note Records. Her new album, Joy’all, will be out this Summer. The first single from the release, “Psychos,” is out Wednesday, March 29th. 

Lewis has a busy schedule ahead of her: She’ll be supporting Beck and Phoenix in August, followed by the Postal Service’s 20th-anniversary tour. Additionally, she will be headlining a string of shows starting in July. Lewis will perform in Boston on July 15th at Roadrunner. 

Lewis sat down with Breanna Nesbeth, our Music Coordinator, for an interview ahead of her upcoming release.


Hi! How are you? 

JL: I’m good! Are you in your room? It looks awesome.


Yeah! Thank you. Thank you. I get that every time I do one of these interviews in my dorm and I'm always like, “I should go somewhere where there's a blank background, but I like the compliments.”

JL: Well, and you don't always get to just tape stuff up on your wall. Occasionally I'll tape something up, but then I’m like, “Oh, the wallpaper!”


Yeah, it's fine, because at the end of each semester, they'll just throw a bunch of paint on the wall and nobody will know! Well, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Breanna, I’m the current Music Coordinator for WERS 88.9! Thank you so much for speaking with us.

JL: Yeah, of course.

How are you?

JL: Good. I’m pretty good.


That's awesome. Well, I see you’re coming to Boston on July 15th, you’ll be performing at Roadrunner, so I’m excited to talk to you ahead of the show and ask you a few questions.

JL: Sure. No problem. 


Sounds good! So you have a busy schedule touring this year. You’re supporting Beck and Phoenix in August, followed by the Postal Service’s 20th-anniversary tour. You also have a string of shows beginning in July. What are some venues you’re looking forward to hitting?

JL: Well, hearing it all like that, I'm like, How am I going to remember all these songs? That's a lot of songs to learn. Which like Postal Service, we only made one record, which I think it's ten songs, so that's not too hard. But when I go on tour, you know, I've made like eight records as a solo artist or five with my band. So there's hundreds of songs to pick from that. It's almost a little overwhelming.


How do you pick which songs to perform?

JL: I think the ones that feel relevant now. Sometimes the older stuff doesn't totally resonate like 15 years later. But then I also want to play stuff that people want to hear and not be a total jerk and just play all the obscure new stuff. So I try to balance it with stuff that's like, you know, like, oh, we know this one is awesome.


Totally, yeah. What are some cities you're looking forward to touring in again? 

JL: Well, I love touring in this country. It's my favorite thing to do and I've toured in Europe and pretty much all over the world. But there's nothing like being on a tour bus. And just, you know, you wake up in Boston, then you wake up in Pittsburgh, and then you get to go down to Florida and go on the beach on your day off. And then you get to, you know, go to Texas and the California coast and Big Sur. I mean, it's just amazing. So it's pretty hard to pick one. Although the Postal Service, we are doing the Hollywood Bowl, which will be pretty, pretty impressive.


Yeah, that's exciting. Wow. Sounds like you like, just do so much! How do you take care of yourself when you're on tour and you're just on the road for these long periods of time?

JL: I try to remember to floss. My teeth. I exercise, even if it's just like walking around when I bring my dog on tour with me, so she gets me out, you know, because I have to go and walk her. So getting some exercise, being flossy, going to every vintage store in every town.


What towns do you think have the best vintage stores from your experience?

JL: I love Columbus, Ohio, really.


I would not expect their vintage market to be awesome. Wow.

JL: Well, some of the big city stuff is sort of picked over or expensive. Like it's really fun to go to the flea market in New York City, but you're kind of like “This is pretty darn expensive.”


True, I didn’t think about it like that. And you just mentioned your dog, Bobby Rhubarb. Is she going to be making any guest appearances at any shows?

JL: Well, unfortunately, she doesn't like the drums, so we'll have to get her some doggie headphones. But I think she's going to travel for part of it. I don't know if I'm going to bring her on the whole Postal Service tour. Yeah, but yes, she is like, she's awesome.


Speaking of, your 2021 single, “Puppy and a Truck” is about the love and support of only a dog… and a truck can provide. Specifically, to you in your 40s. What other items help you navigate your 40s? 

JL: Orange wine. 


That sounds so good.

JL: Negroni. What was that new Negroni thing that just happened?



JL: Yeah, that. Yoga is awesome.


And with your new single, “Psychos,” what parts of your life are you drawing from for inspiration for that?

JL: Mostly just, like, getting ghosted. And do you know this new term “getting zombied?”


No, what's that? 

JL: It's terrible. It's like when someone strings you along. You text and it never really goes anywhere. But you're still texting and you're like, “What is going on here?” But also you’re asking yourself “Is it really worth it?” when you know something is a little off. I feel like we know when it's on, when it's not on, and when we don’t know what's happening.


Wow, I've been there so I'm excited to hear that. Well, you’re extremely well-versed in the music world. You’ve been in three separate bands and have a handful of solo projects under your belt. You started out as a child actor, but by your twenties you’d quit acting and become the musician you are today.

Would you say spending early years surrounded by scripts, and the structure of film and television narratives influenced your lyrical storytelling style? What I love about your lyricism is it’s like overflowing with specificity, and you do a wonderful job of creating scenes. 

JL: You know, I was listening to an interview with Lana Del Rey the other day, and she was just talking about the details in her poetry and like pulling up to a stop sign and noticing the flowers and the stop sign. And I feel like the interesting stuff is in the details. In any writing, you know, it's like you want to get in, you want to be able to visualize it. But yeah, growing up as a kid, working among all of these writers and creators and ultimately telling these stories. Yeah, it totally informed me because if you're reading a script and it's boring, you're like, “Next! I'm not going to read it. I'm just going to read my part.”


Yeah, I go to film school right now, so we do a lot of that in script coverage. Just separating those scripts that aren’t interesting from the ones that have a compelling story to them.

JL: That's really cool, and I kind of use that a little bit in my songwriting where there's a beginning, a middle, and an end. Like, there’s a first act. Yeah, you know, you want to tell the complete story if you can.


Yeah. Following that narrative structure. It's really cool and it's so awesome to listen to because just in like a three-minute song, you get a full, complete story.

I've noticed that you like, love to go, or at least like you just have to go under like change so many times. I’ve also noticed you love change or at least you undergo drastic changes quite often. The switch from acting to music. Going from being a part of a band, then focusing on a solo career. And, even within a solo career, you’re always trying new things. Do you welcome this spontaneity with open arms, or is it just the way things happen and you just adapt?

JL: I guess that's a big Zen question. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I've always just kind of followed the lead of my heart and the universe in my songs. And my crushes on people. You know, I feel like I'm always like, “Oh, why am I in this town? Oh, I have a crush on someone.” So it's kind of crazy. And there's something sad about it sometimes because then you don't have your thing to fall back on. You're like, “Oh my gosh, here I am again. It's just me. And these new people.” 


Totally. And I have a random question for you: What are you creating outside of music? Do you have any hobbies you use to rejuvenate your creativity?

JL: I am an avid antique-picker, so I collect weird stuff and go antiquing to calm my mind. During the pandemic, I grew up like two huge weed plants. It's legal in California. You can grow two or three plants at home. And I did the whole process, which was amazing to learn how to do that. And oh, I like to edit on my phone! This is sort of pre-TikTok. Like now everyone can edit. I was big into video collages and like little art films. I, too, went to film school, but only at Los Angeles Community College.


Oh, well, hello from one film school student to another! What's the most recent thing you picked up antiquing?

JL: I love this furniture that's from the 1930s called Monterrey. And there are these beautiful, handcrafted pieces that were hand-painted on by this artisan painter. And there are little floral themes or little vignettes like horses and cowboy stuff. It's really beautiful stuff. 


And then going back to what you were saying about going to film school, that's so cool. And I think it's really cool now that you keep up by doing these edits on your phone. Is that like how you keep yourself tied to that interest that you had back then?

JL: Well, I'm a deep film nerd. And so that's just part of, you know, I just consume art constantly, all the time. I'm constantly looking at art, films, and music from all over the world. But yeah, I learned how to cut on Super 8 in school and then 16. So my first films were like fully, you know, spliced and that whole process. Which is so cool. The parameters. Yeah, that analog world because you cut differently when you don't have the internet. So when I use digital technology, even when I'm recording on my phone, I'm using it like it's analog, like, you know, doing full takes on GarageBand or cutting it in a way kind of like it's film, but the digital world is so cool.


Wow. And you say that you're a film nerd? What are your thoughts on this most recent award season? Were there any films that stuck out to you?

JL: Well, Tar, obviously.


I love that movie! Cate Blanchett. She just did such a great job portraying Lydia Tar. Oh, my gosh. I talk about that movie all the time.

JL: So I just found this out. Lydia Tar is not a real person.


Yeah. She's not a real person! And people online are upset because they can't, like, search up her life story to see what happens!

JL: Yeah. And so there's a whole Twitter discourse over, like, Lydia, as if she's a real person. She's amazing. It's like a fully inclusive film. Where the film is incredible, the performances too, but then afterwards, you're like, “Okay, wait a minute. This is so interesting to see happening to a female character.”


Yeah, I think the discourse is so interesting because people obviously see Lydia Tar as such a villainous character. So people are like, “Oh, making it a woman isn't progressive for female composers,” but I think it's just such a beautiful movie that tells such a great story with having a female lead and does a great job of creating such a complex character.

JL: Well, these are complex issues during complex times. You know, there's a gray area and there is room for all sorts of bad behavior from everyone. And good behavior. There are angels among us.


Well, we just got sidetracked by that. Okay, so when you supported Harry Styles during Love on Tour, you greeted fans with the question, “Who The F Is Jenny Lewis?” But who is she? You've done so much, especially in collaboration with other artists and bands. How would you describe your individual voice right now?

JL: I think I'm just writing at the moment, and I've just been doing it for a minute now. So I just follow the news, and I don't know. I mean, I feel like I know I can feel myself in my body. And with those Harry's fans who hadn't heard my music before. Truly, every time I would bump into Harry in the hall I was like “Harry, why’d you want me?” And he’d say “It’s because you’re great!” And I’m like “No, but really, why?” Like it was so wild. And yeah, that just seemed like the perfect intro.


Well, that is so exciting. And the last question I want to ask before I let you go is when you're working in these groups and you're working and collaborating and supporting other artists, what strategies do you use to make sure that your individual voice is heard?

JL: Well, I think you have to remember, if you're collaborating, you're there for a reason. And it's not just your show. So there's no point in collaborating. You can be a solo vocalist, but if you're going to have people in the room, listen to their ideas. Hear them out and try it out and it might actually work. And then you can always go back to the way you had it all planned out in your head, or go in with a really good attitude of just openness. Also, whenever you try to resist that, it just doesn't work. Like the best collaborations on film sets too is where like, the leader is like an open, loving genius. And there's, like, room for everyone to be amazing.


That is awesome. Yeah. Well, thank you so much. That's all for me. Thank you for speaking with us! Pleasure. 

JL: Great convo. I love your room. 


Thank you! I love the color contrast that you have going on! That green and the pink that you have with the brick. Beautiful. Beautiful. 

JL: Thanks! Alright, bye now.

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