To hear singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis tell of it, her debut solo album, “Rabbit Fur Coat,” may have never happened.
“[Team Love label founder and singer/songwriter] Conor Oberst, about 11 years ago, started talking about starting a label and he approached me about putting out a solo record. And at this time I was in a rock band and thought, ‘are you crazy?’”
A decade later, Lewis has almost as many solo efforts as there were Rilo Kiley albums, along with a duo record with Johnathan Rice. But with her tour supporting 2014’s “The Voyager” wrapped up, she’s taking a breath to assess where she’s come from, playing her solo debut “Rabbit Fur Coat” from front to back in Los Angeles, Nashville and New York.
amNewYork chatted with Lewis about looking back in advance of her performances with the beautiful harmonies of the Watson Twins at the Beacon Theatre and the re-release of her solo debut.
Is there a particular aspect of “Rabbit Fur Coat” that draws you back to the record?
I think it’s celebrating for me, personally, finding my voice as an artist and as a songwriter. And my collaboration with the Watson Twins, which was immediate and very special. The first time we sat down to sing together it was just this beautiful blend. It felt like I was back in the San Fernando Valley with my mother and sister, singing in the kitchen. The songs are very personal, so to have that familial element, it just all coalesced in a very natural way.
It sometimes seems like fans are more enticed by nostalgia than artists are. How do you walk the line between looking forward and looking back?
I always tend to be most excited about new material. But in the in-between period between records, it’s always important to reflect. And this comes at a really good time for that — wrapping up “The Voyager.” It’s good to check in with who you were and then look forward. Playing these songs in rehearsal over the last few days, they are really informing my new material in a way. And I’m not really interested in “re-inventing” the songs, or the arraignments. I want to present a little slice, a little moment in time, frozen in amber.
If you could tell the Jenny Lewis that was making her first foray into a solo career any piece of advice, what would it be?
I couldn’t have possibly imagined all of the things that have taken place over the last ten years. Putting together the album art, I’ve been going over these pictures that Autumn de Wilde took, and the Watson Twins came over to my place the other day, and we were just marveling at how young we look. We were 29, and we felt so old! So much has happened in 10 years, there’s so much growth between 30 and 40. I guess I would say, “Relax, Lewis. It’s all good. Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
One band, one album, one night, anyone in history, and you get a ticket. You are you seeing?
The record that inspired “Rabbit Fur Coat” is a record by Laura Nyro and Labelle called “Gonna Take a Miracle.” So to be able to see that record live, I would love it.
If you go
Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins perform at the Beacon Theatre on Feb. 3 and 4 at 7 p.m., 2124 Broadway, 212-465-6500, sold out.