Jenny Lewis Biography
"There's a need to keep writing even after you finish a record," says Jenny about the downtime that followed the occasionally tumultuous recording of More Adventurous, "but it's taken me some years to feel confident writing alone. Now I realize the privacy behooves my songwriting. I was more relaxed and worked on these songs at my leisure." Still, even with a bevy of "private" songs cluttering up the corners of her brain ("they were slightly more sedate, more word-focused"), Jenny had no plans to release or even record the lot of them. It took a Bright Eye-d friend to convince her otherwise. "I didn't even consider making a solo record until Conor [Oberst] asked me a couple of years ago," she laughs. "He said he was starting a label, Team Love, and heâ€™d love for me to make a record for it."
In keeping with the loose origins of the project, recording was also a catch-as-catch-can affair, done in between press and performance obligations for Rilo Kiley. After laying down a number of songs with old friend and co-conspirator Mike Mogis in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, Jenny flew herself to Portland to work with M.Ward, a collaboration that bore instant fruit. "When I flew to Portland all I had of "Happy" was a verse," she explains. "As soon as I got there Matt came over to my hotel room and I played it for him and it just sort of happened â€“ the chorus just came out. The whole process was quick and casual."
Modeled after the great "white soul" classics of the past - particularly Laura Nyro and Labelle's seminal Gonna Take a Miracle â€“ Rabbit Fur Coat finds Jenny reaching out to her farflung assortment of wildly talented friends (including co-producer M.Ward, Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, Maroon 5's James Valentine and Mickey Madden, and label boss Oberst) while simultaneously coming into her own as an individual performer and storyteller. "That album was always in the back of my mind: if I could just make something that captured the feeling of that record." Enter the Watson Twins, a set of Kentucky-born sisters with an other-wordly gift to harmonize. "I met the girls through Blake in L.A.," she explains. "I'm just so impressed with their instincts as singers and their relationship to my songs. They were very serious about them."
On the galloping "Big Guns" and the smoldering "Rise Up With Fists!" the Watson Twins tease out the soulful corners of Jenny's confessional narratives, steering strong story/songs about religion, forgiveness, and the nature of art into the weedy and dense grounds of a gothic, southern estate. Indeed, this atmosphere of dixie-fried mystery pervades the disc, heightening and haunting Jenny's remarkably nuanced compositions. Few writers today could pull off the melodic and verbal sophistication of the slide-guitar fueled "The Charging Sky" - in which the narrator gambles with her life, only to come face to face with God - and then, of course, doubt: "but what if God's not there? / but his name is on your dollar bill / which just became cab fare." - but Jenny makes it seem remarkably simple. And all listeners will swoon with longing and cringe with recognition upon hearing the devastatingly lovely "Melt Your Heart" ("when you're kissing someone who's too much like you / it's like kissing on a mirror / when you're sleeping with someone who doesn't get you / you're gonna hate yourself in the morning"). Throughout the record wild and woolly characters come and go - lovers, fighters, mothers, fathers, and assorted chancers and charlatans - but all are grounded in Jenny's inimitable worldview, one where the fantastic is possible but reality is sometimes far too real. Whether the subject is drinking beer with friends or unknowable sadness, all of the tracks on Rabbit Fur Coat are at once relatable and familiar; Jenny's honeyed voice like that of an old friend.
The centerpiece of the album - the haunting, rags-to-riches-to-rags again fable "Rabbit Fur Coat" - was also the first song written and it holds a special place in its author's heart. "It means something that it was the first song," Jenny says. "The metaphor of the coat is the through-line of the record."
While "Rabbit Fur Coat" may steal the album's emotional thunder, its rollicking spirit surely lives in the why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-first cover of the Traveling Wilburys' classic "Handle With Care," which recasts the folky, fogey chestnut as a showcase for the indie rock superstars of today. With Jenny taking lead vocals, Ben Gibbard contributes a chiming 12-string guitar and tackles the Roy Orbison bits, while M.Ward does Jeff Lynne, and Oberst - naturally - croaks his way through the Dylan lines.
And that, dear listeners, is how you should approach this album as well. Trust your feelings and trust the songs. Rabbit Fur Coat is a rare album in today's marketplace: a singular collection highlighting a singular voice, and an album equally suited to the darkest parts of midnight and the bright light of day. You've got the disc - and lest you still feel too far away from it all, Jenny is planning a spring headlining tour so youâ€™ll be able to parse her magical mojo for yourself. All thatâ€™s missing from this package is the hiss and crackle of vinyl, a shoulder to cry or lean on, and a tall mug of something strong to sip slowly. In a new year, with the trees bare and the snow piling up, Jenny Lewis's magnificent solo debut is the only winter Coat you need. Wrap yourself up in it.
Jenny Lewis Bio from Discogs
Born on 8 January 1976 in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.