Music News: Jenny Lewis gets 'On the Line' to talk about new album

Jenny Lewis and The Current Music News co-host Jay Gabler.
Jenny Lewis and The Current Music News co-host Jay Gabler. (Left photo courtesy the artist, right photo by Cecilia Johnson/MPR)
Jenny Lewis gets 'On the Line' to talk about new album
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Jenny Lewis is sounding the call for her latest album, On the Line. The singer-songwriter rose to fame as the frontwoman of indie rock band Rilo Kiley in the early 2000s, and has since released a number of solo albums including the acclaimed 2006 LP Rabbit Fur Coat (with the Watson Twins) and 2014's The Voyager. Now, Lewis is back with her fourth full-length record, which comes out on Mar. 22 via Warner Bros. Records.

Talking to Jay Gabler for The Current Music News podcast, Lewis said that choosing collaborators for this album felt like creating a fantasy football team — and when you look at the lineup, it's easy to see why. The album's contributors include studio legends like producer Don Was, as well as rock stars Beck and Ringo Starr.

Before reaching out to anyone else, Lewis knew that she wanted to work with drummer Jim Keltner. Keltner is known as one of the country's best session drummers, and has provided beats for iconic songs by artists ranging from Barbra Streisand to Bob Dylan. "I knew I wanted to play with Jim," said Lewis. "He is one of my favorite drummers of all time, and he has played on so many songs that are a part of us all."

Lewis recorded the album in her hometown of Los Angeles, but wrote the record's songs in various locations around the U.S., including Minnesota. She said that having family in Wisconsin and Minnesota has given her roots in the upper Midwest. Lewis's father lived in Hastings and passed away in Minnesota.

"I have a lot of friends and a community of musicians that I've been so lucky to meet and play with over the years," said Lewis about Minnesota. "I've just fallen in love with the Twin Cities, and the little towns surrounding the Twin Cities."

Lewis wrote a couple of songs on On the Line while staying in an Airbnb in Minneapolis, where she would visit her father while he was ill. "We didn't have the closest relationship, but when he got sick, that's where I would go to hang out with him," said Lewis. "It's a really heavy connection that I have with Minnesota."

Just days after the album's release, Lewis is embarking on an eight-month tour to support On the Line. What can fans expect from the live performances? "It should be representative of my whole career, but focused on the new record," says Lewis. She's excited to introduce a number of new features onstage — including customized lighting and rotary phones.

While a long tour cycle can serve as a way for a musician to bring their music to their fans, it can also provide an opportunity for a musician to reflect on their own songs, performing them night after night.

"The thing about songs is that they morph with you," said Lewis. "I've found that some of the songs that I wrote 20 years ago, that I thought I would never play again, are strangely relevant now. They really are this amorphous thing.

"That's the funny thing about songs; they're like little clairvoyant tips from the universe. I don't even know what they mean when I write them, but I understand a little more about them later."

On Sunday, March 3, Lewis is hosting On the Line Online, a three-hour livestream to give fans a preview of her upcoming record. The event, which lasts from 8-11 p.m. CST, is described as a "listening party, variety show, and charity fundraiser featuring music, magic and call-in hotline." During the event, Lewis and "surprise guests" will be picking up the phone to chat with fans and collect donations for the Los Angeles Downtown Women's Center. Lewis's tour kicks off on March 26 and stops at St. Paul's Palace Theatre on March 29.

Audio sampled in podcast
Jenny Lewis: "Heads Gonna Roll"
Jenny Lewis: "Red Bull & Hennessy"

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