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Jenny Lewis Sees Your Pain

Music
Photograph by Autumn DeWilde.

The musician talks about her new album, why she doesn't dream very much, and getting romantic revenge in her songs

Anyone who thinks it's boring to listen to people talk about their dreams hasn't listened to Jenny Lewis talk about hers.

"I had a dream two weeks ago that my basement flooded, and guess what happened a week ago?" Lewis said to me, leaning in closer, and nodding her head. "Yeah. And I didn't remember the dream until my basement flooded, so I was ignoring my intuition." She paused, then said, "This happens to me all the time, and then I always remember, Oh my gosh. I had a dream about that. Or, I felt something. I knew."

Lewis doesn't dream often. When I asked her if she keeps a dream journal, some place to record all the things that escape her subconscious in the middle of the night, she said, "No. I smoke a lot of weed, so I don't dream a lot—this is a phenomenon with people who smoke weed. So, when I stop smoking, that's when the dreams come back, or at least I can remember them and then I'll write them down. But I should write them down every day, because it would just be a road map."

But then, Lewis doesn't need a dream journal to use as a road map, a book to bind all her unfettered thoughts and wild emotions—she has her music. And whether or not she sees her songs as a road map for her life—a way of tracking where she's been, where she is, and where she's going—there is no doubt that her fans see her music that way. Only, they see her songs as maps of their own lives, as ways to track their own mountains and valleys, their detours and the many, many places they've stopped along the way.

***

Lewis and I were talking about dreams and intuition and all things uncanny at a nail salon in a strip mall in Studio City, California, not far from Lewis' house; it's a part of the Valley that Lewis called the "Shallow Val." We were getting mani-pedis, and Lewis arrived in coveralls the same blue as the L.A. sky, plus a neon pink baseball cap with the words "Best Friends" scrawled across the front. She brought her own nail polish—an iridescent blue that matched her high-tops—and told me that she was "living in this color scheme right now... Color-blocking is very important to me, and having a palette to define an era."

That Lewis has chosen blue and pink to define this new era seems like indication that she sees herself as going through a rebirth ("Today I realized, I was like… blue and pink… it's a boy, it's a girl, it's both!"), and that the release of her new album, On the Line, is a deliverance of sorts. Certainly the last few years have been a time of great transformation in her life: Since releasing her last solo album, The Voyager, in 2014, Lewis broke up with her partner of more than a decade, the musician Johnathan Rice; spent time living in New York and Nashville, leaning on close friends to get through that transitional period; and reconnected with her estranged mother, who died of liver cancer late last year.

"The whole thing tells a story," Lewis said about On the Line. "It's like a play, where it opens in a relationship and kind of begins with a breakup, and then it cycles through: breakup, rebound, death, rebirth, a reminder at the end about the rabbit hole."

A lot of lighthearted stuff.

She flashed a grin at me: "As per usual. That's kind of what I do... Macarena vibes."

There are no '90s earworm vibes in On the Line, but there is a subversive sunniness that highlights the pain, casting it in relief, as there always is in Lewis' music. In "Wasted Youth," Lewis inhabits the voice of her mother, whose decades-long heroin addiction led to the distance between them, and sings about how she "wasted my youth on a poppy... just for fun." Punctuating the chorus is a string of deadpan doo-doo-doos, Lewis' way of sending up the seriousness of her lyrics, making clear she knows the weight of her words, but that she's working to rise above them, to get out of the darkness by going through it. She employed a similar chorus on the song "Just One of the Guys" on The Voyager, letting loose with a knowing "dah-dah-de-dah-dah" after she sang about being "another lady without a baby."

"I write to the big stuff," Lewis told me, "and the big feelings. I have to in order to survive them, and I've learned to rely on that to help walk through it. I can't really help myself while it's happening. So, the writing process is often very emotional—and private."

***

What do you know about Jenny Lewis? Probably a lot. Privacy is a tricky thing when you've lived most of your life in public. But the things you know about Lewis—that she was born to parents who had a Las Vegas lounge act called Love's Way, that she was a child actress (yes, that's her on The Golden Girls, and in cult classic movies The Wizard and Troop Beverly Hills), that she transitioned into music in the late '90s, first as the frontwoman for Rilo Kiley, and then embarked on her own solo career—are the kind of biographical facts that fade in importance compared to the things that you feel about Lewis. Because for people who love Jenny Lewis—who would recognize that suede-soft voice anywhere, understanding that its clarity is sharpest right before it breaks—the mere act of knowing things is not really the point. The point is how Lewis makes you feel: like you've been seen.

There are a lot of songs, a lot of lyrics, in which a listener can see themselves, but what makes Lewis' work feel singular is the way in which she makes it feel like she sees a very specific version of you, the version that only you've seen before. She sees the version of you that stares back at your reflection in a dirty bathroom mirror at four in the morning; the you with smudged eyeliner and smeared lipstick; the you that lies in bed all day, pulling the covers up over your head when the sun gets too bright; the you that ignores the 19 missed calls and 47 texts on your phone; the you that plays Candy Crush so you don't have to think about the crush of the world.

Feeling seen this way is a powerful thing, and it's what makes Lewis' fans so ardent, so ready to approach her and tell her about all the ways she means so much to them. Lewis told me what happens when she encounters women who listen—really listen—to her music: "When I talk to them, it feels like we've been on the journey together, because we have been. And that kind of feedback makes me feel a little shy because I don't think of myself in that way. I'm just living my life, I'm trying to get through it the best way I can. But then I meet someone who's like, 'Oh my gosh, "A Better Son/Daughter" really helped me out. I really needed that song!'" Lewis laughed, then, and said she tells these women, "Me too, me too."

***

Having so much projected upon you by so many people is an almost impossible burden to bear—many have fallen under that weight. And Lewis told me that she is, by nature, "extremely sensitive. I'm a redhead." She laughed, "I'm allergic to everything... I break out into a heat rash, just hives before every show. Born a redhead, inflamed. I just came out like, Ahhh!"

Music is a difficult industry for a sensitive person—especially a sensitive woman—and Lewis' experience navigating its treacheries has not always been easy. Lewis and I were talking a couple of weeks after her longtime collaborator, including on this album, Ryan Adams was accused of sexual misconduct and emotional abuse. Lewis responded to the allegations in a tweet, saying that she was "deeply troubled" and that she "stands with the women who have come forward."

When we spoke of the reckoning happening in the industry, Lewis said to me, "It's very important to believe women, and I think that's where we begin, and then we do our due diligence and we try to figure out the truth and define it and correct it moving forward and redefine what is okay and what isn't."

But she acknowledged that things were very different for her when she came up in the industry:

What I'm interested in, is the dialogue moving forward and defining what it is that we will not accept any more. And there are so many layers to this conversation. And there are generational gaps. There's my generation. We didn't even talk to our parents or our girlfriends about what happened to us. That was not something we shared. My friends who are in their late 30s and early 40s only now are we opening up to one another. That is a process that everyone comes to; you have to let people come to that reckoning in their own time. I know I didn't engage in any of those behaviors. And I've done the best that I could do to feel safe, and also keep doing my work.

Maintaining the primacy of her work is what's important to Lewis; it's how she defines herself, telling me, "I'm an artist. I'm a poet... Sex and power are so, oh man, it's just such a dynamic that has been in place for so long. It's hard to know, I guess until you know." And she doesn't, she made clear, "love talking about my politics or feeling like I have to comment on things that have nothing to do with my music":

At the same time, as a woman—I'm in my 40s, I've been playing music for over 20 years, and I'm engaging in this dialogue with my friends. Sometimes I feel a little bit of pressure to speak up about things that I don't feel necessarily qualified to speak to. However, I do have the unique perspective of being a woman in the music industry for 20 years surrounded by men. I have a lot to say about it.

***

If you want to know what Lewis has to say, you just need to listen to her lyrics. It's where, she joked to me, she gets her "revenge... romantic revenge." She continued, "I'm writing for myself, but I really am writing for other women... I don't write to get someone's attention. I don't do that, but I write sort of an addendum: And furthermore, fuck you!"

While it might be cathartic to tell someone to fuck off in a song, Lewis takes seriously the loss of her loved ones. She told me:

I had a conversation with Johnathan, my ex-boyfriend of 12 years. I got off the phone with him, and I was just crying, almost in gratitude. Just having spent that much time with someone and then suddenly they're not a part of your daily life, when that's the person who knew everything about you and you shared every little detail about everything. How life is just… you never really know what's going to happen. There are so many surprises. There's so much beauty and pain and suffering, and life is suffering, so, therefore, is love.

She laughed, "That sounds so hippy-dippy."

Maybe, but it's sincere. Among the many things Lewis is allergic to is pretense; she said, "I can't stand ironic art or fashion. I don't have any place for that. Being around people who are too cynical, it's fucking toxic."

This doesn't mean that she does everything in earnest, or that she isn't always ready to offer a knowing wink or joke about how she is both "not a furry, but also not not a furry," when we find ourselves talking about the allure of a man in a Daffy Duck costume (it's easy to cover a lot of conversational ground in a nail salon; she also told me this about her favorite conspiracy theory: "I like the reptilian connection. I like the idea that all of the wealthy families are related and of a reptile master race and they've infiltrated and are in charge. I don't know if I believe that fully, but I think that I've met a couple of reptiles").

But what this disdain for cynicism does mean, is that Lewis attaches to things and to people with her full self, her full heart. She said, "I believe in soul connections, and the past life, whatever that means. I believe that the lessons that you need to learn, you meet the people that will teach you the lesson. Sometimes, we don't want to let go of the person, but you've learned the lesson, and it's time to move on. I get so attached to everyone. It's so hard to let go." She smiled and almost sang, "Letting go, here we go again."

***

There's a lot that Lewis has let go of in the last few years, but there are also a lot of connections she's made, and ones she's made stronger. She told me about the song circles she does in Nashville, with other female musicians, and what happens to her when she's playing live shows: "It's an opportunity to trance out—best-case scenario. When you are calm and free, you can channel the music. When you're not in your head and you're telling your story and singing your heart out, it's like floating. It feels so good, and it feels so good to connect with people." She looked down at her nails, and said, "I really like to look at the audience and connect with them. I didn't always do that, I looked down at my guitar for many, many years. Now, I look up. I really want to feel that connection."

What do you see when you look up?

Lewis looked up, then, tears coming out of her eyes: "I see people that are in a lot of pain. I can see all their suffering." She dabbed at her face with the corner of a towel slung over the arm of the pedicure chair, and said, "Then, I can feel the joy. It's really amazing."

***

The risk of being a fan, of having all that one-sided adoration for someone who might never know you exist, is the same risk that comes with any kind of love: heartbreak. Maybe the person whose work you adore will turn out to be a disappointment, a liar, a fraud; or maybe they will leave you, leave everything, and retreat into themselves.

Loving Jenny Lewis, listening to her songs over and over again until it feels like their words linger on your skin, a musky perfume that sinks into your cells, doesn't guarantee you won't experience heartbreak, it doesn't guarantee you won't feel pain. It's almost a promise that you will. But then, it's also a promise that you'll feel everything else that goes along with heartbreak and pain; you'll feel happiness and ecstasy, you'll feel pangs of longing and you'll explore deep wells of regret, you'll be lonely and you'll be listened to, you'll feel alive, and you'll feel seen.

And it will be by someone who knows what it is to listen to other people, and listen to herself—her dreams, her intuition, her sense of adventure and wanting to see what comes next, and caring about it all, caring so much that it hurts, but accepting that as the price of being alive.

Before leaving the nail salon, driving away from the strip mall, and deeper into the Valley, Lewis said to me, "Life is too real to pretend like you don't give a fuck." She stretched out her fingers, each tipped with a cerulean, holographic sheen, and said, "You don't want to be that person at the end of the road, at the end of the world, that's like, 'I told you so.' I get that it's hard, but it's hard for all of us."

Photograph by Autumn DeWilde.

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Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes www.youtube.com

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Photo by Rich Polk/ Getty

Her hypocrisy would be mind-blowing if it weren't so predictable

It's been just over two years since Tomi Lahren appeared on ABC's The View to assert that, despite her ultra-conservative bona fides, she holds one position more normally associated with the left wing: She's pro-choice. In that talk show appearance, Lahren made clear then that her pro-choice views were consonant with her self-identification as a "constitutionalist," further explaining:

I am someone that's for limited government. So I can't sit here and be a hypocrite and say I'm for limited government but I think the government should decide what women should do with their bodies." I can sit here and say that as a Republican, and I can say, "You know what? I'm for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well."

Back then, we noted the hypocrisy inherent to that position, since Lahren was an ardent supporter of President Trump—who made no secret of his desire to appoint anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court and other judicial benches—and Vice-President Pence, whose anti-abortion views are even more ardent.

Since Lahren's appearance on The View, she has appeared in the anti-abortion film Roe v. WadeRoe v. Wade, which co-starred fellow execrable conservative troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, and, um, Joey Lawrence. Though the film has not yet been released, it is alleged to contain "several graphic scenes depicting aborted fetuses," and also the acting styles of Jamie Kennedy, so we're not sure for whom it will really be appropriate.

But while Lahren's role in that film would be enough to make anyone question just how committed she is to her alleged pro-choice stance, the recent news about de facto abortion bans in Alabama and Georgia has incited Lahren to speak out about her views once again.

On Twitter, Lahren opened herself up to "attack[s] by [her] fellow conservatives" and spoke out against the Alabama abortion ban as being "too restrictive." And, indeed, her "fellow conservatives" did quickly attack Lahren for not actually caring about human life, and for having too liberal a position on whether or not a woman should be forced to continue a pregnancy that resulted from rape. But then also, as Lahren must have known would happen, other people supported her for... not having one irredeemably monstrous position amongst her arsenal of irredeemably monstrous positions.

But, let's be clear: Tomi Lahren is not—no matter what she tweets—pro-choice, and neither is any supporter of the Republican Party. There is no doubt that there are Republicans who are in favor of safe access to abortion—particularly when it comes to themselves and their family members having said access. But by supporting the Republican Party, they are showing how little it actually matters to them, and showing what it is that they really prioritize over women's safety and freedom: namely, access to guns, bigoted immigration policies, the continued disenfranchisement of voters across the country. I could go on, but there's no need.

Lahren's tweet doesn't reveal in any way that she's an advocate for women's rights, all it reveals is her hypocrisy and that of anyone (Meghan McCain, hi), who would love to have a world created specifically for their needs, and who is willing to sacrifice the rights of the less privileged in order to secure their own. It is despicable and dangerous and incredibly predictable. But, at least, it might give Lahren something to talk about on the red carpet with her fellow anti-abortion movie costars, if that film ever gets more than a straight-to-video release.

If you want to find out how to help women have access to abortion, please visit here for information about donating and volunteering.

Diplo, Vince Staples, and Rico Nasty also appear

Lil Nas X went all out with the visuals for his hit "Old Town Road," tapping all of his newfound collaborators and friends, like Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo, Vince Staples, and Rico Nasty, to star. The movie travels from 1889 Wild Wild West to the modern-day city outskirts, so saddle up and come along for the ride.

As the visuals start, Nas and Cyrus gallop away with a bag of loot, obviously having pulled off a heist. The trio of men on horseback that were in pursuit of them come to a halt, unable to catch up, and Chris Rock—the leader of the group—states, "When you see a Black man on a horse going that fast, you just gotta let him fly." Just as Nas and Cyrus think they're able to relax in stranger's home, it turns out the homeowner isn't so friendly. Nas jumps into a hole to escape, only to end up hundreds of years in the future on the other side.

Forget trying to figure out the logistics of time travel, and just embrace the hilarity of Nas' horse also having wound up there, and in peak racing condition. He impresses the locals not only in the race (with Vince Staples losing money in a bet against him) but with his sweet square dancing skills. Once he and Cyrus (yes, he time traveled too) trade out their old-timey duds for some fresh, rhinestone-adorned outfits, they enter a room playing bingo with Rico Nasty in it. Diplo is playing the washboard, I feel like I'm losing my mind, and this is probably the best music video I've watched this year.

Watch the movie for "Old Town Road" again and again, below.

Lil Nas X - Old Town Road (Official Movie) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus www.youtube.com

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Screenshot via YouTube

They really "don't care" about how this was edited, do they?

Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber used the name of their song as inspiration for the "I Don't Care" music video, and have presented what is essentially a long blooper reel of the pair messing around with a green screen.

The visuals show how dedicated the two are to proving just how much they don't care, because I'm pretty sure they did the editing on this video as well. They dance around in costumes, as an ice cream cone, a panda, a teddy bear, and more. I have a clear vision of Bieber and Sheeran raiding a costume shop just an hour before setting up a tripod and going to town on this one. They also juxtapose their faces on top of a ballerina, a skydiver, and a corn inside the husk.

Blink, and you'll miss the funniest moment of all in the video: Ed Sheeran gets married to a cardboard cutout of a young Bieber with swoopy hair.

Watch the visuals for "I Don't Care" below.

Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber - I Don't Care [Official Video] youtu.be

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Photo by Jena Cumbo

Her new LP, 'Take Me to the Disco,' is her most personal work yet

Meg Myers isn't afraid to admit she's still figuring out who she wants to be. Originally from Tennessee, Myers moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to dedicate her life to her music career. In 2012, she released her first EP, Daughter in the Choir, which set the groundwork for the releases of Sorry (2015) and Take Me to the Disco (2018). Well-known for her poetic lyrics, crude vocals, and cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," the honest singer-songwriter makes a point to tell me that self-acceptance is a process. After listening to her deeply personal LP, Take Me to the Disco, I know she's not wrong.

In the middle of producing her new forthcoming music, the star opens up to NYLON: "I've always been able to channel [more painful moments in life] into my art. Music always stood out to me as the easiest way to capture all the emotions at once in one piece. Music for me is wild and free." It's clear that it is this fearlessness to self-reflect that not only makes her body of work so authentic but also what motivates her to continue to grow.

Below, we speak with Myers about her new music, self-love, and her ever-evolving relationship with creativity.

The Great Eros Pants, Chae New York top, Schutz shoes, and Via Saviene rings. Photos by Jena Cumbo

How did moving to Los Angeles influence the artist you are today?
I feel more safe here. I've been tapping more into my truth and expressing myself on a deeper level here. Growing up, my family was very chaotic, and I never knew what was about to happen. I have four brothers and a sister, and we grew up basically as best friends, making fun out of the chaos and always creating some type of art from it. I've always been able to channel [more painful moments in life] into my art.

Music always stood out to me as the easiest way to capture all the emotions at once in one piece. Music for me is wild and free.

What are some of your biggest influences?
I think all the barbecue and shrimp and grits [in Tennessee] really adds a smokiness to my music.

My queerness gives me a lot of material to create with. It's allowing me to be more playful and not take every little thing so seriously.

Silk Laundry jumpsuit, Wild Vertigga T-shirt, and Nakamol earring.Photo by Jena Cumbo

Tell me about your new music. Why is it different than anything you've ever created?
This EP is going to have a lot of similar vibes to my last album, because I wrote it at the same time with the same producer about a lot of the same struggles and self-discoveries as my past music. I'll share more with you on my third album.

I'm such a fan of your cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill." Why did you gravitate toward that song to cover?
It's such a powerful song! Kate Bush is magic. It's almost like I've been being guided to cover that song for a long time. I don't know how to explain it in words, as they can feel so limiting, and this song is beyond words to me. It's just a deep inner knowing, and it makes my heart flutter.


Chae NewYork blazer; Saku top, The Great Eros bottoms, and Inch2 boots.Photo by Jena Cumbo

Are there any other songs you feel really connected to?
I would love to collaborate with Active Child. The songs "Hanging On" and "Johnny Belinda" are also otherworldly to me. I've been listening to this band called Walk the Moon a lot. I also love Phoebe Bridgers. I have a crush on her. I generally listen to instrumental music and classical. If you look up 432hz music, it's incredibly healing, and solfeggio frequencies have helped me with a lot.

What does self-love mean to you?
It's been a process for me. It's been quite the journey. Right now, I would say [self-love for me] is about accepting myself, and having love for all the experiences that have led me to where I am. It also means being grateful for growth. It's also been about learning to be in the present moment. It's been learning to trust myself and not listening to what others think I need to be doing. As I learn to do this, I also learn how to love others deeper. All this being said, it's a process.

Chae New York blazer and Saku top.Photo by Jena Cumbo

What advice do you have for someone struggling to find happiness right now?
Spend some time in solitude if you can, or with a really safe person who you feel you can express yourself freely with. Find someone who has no expectations of you and is supportive. In that present moment, ask yourself, What feels good to you? What do you feel like doing? Use your imagination. Daydream. Find what it is you enjoy doing. I promise you can unlock magic inside yourself. It just takes patience.

*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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