Musician Jenny Lewis on “Sipping the Kool-Aid” of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos

For the former Rilo Kiley singer, voyaging through space and through womanhood aren’t that different.

Warner Bros/Jenny Lewis

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Jenny Lewis, the musician best-known for fronting Rilo Kiley and singing in the Postal Service, has a packed schedule at the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City, but she never gives off the impression that she’s in a rush. She homes in on every person she’s introduced to with genuine enthusiasm. Lewis is tiny, with long red hair, a mega-watt smile, and a tie-dyed blazer inspired by, “Cosmos, man!”—the television show beloved by geeks that helped inspire her new solo album, The Voyager, out on July 29 (stream it here.)

The Voyager is a frank examination of womanhood, buried under a layer of sugary alt-pop. Lewis is largely known for her songwriting, often about relationships, and this record is no different: She covers topics like late bloomers, “When I turned 16, I was furious and restless,” troubled romances, “I told you I cheated and you punched through the drywall,” and marriage, “I could love you forever. I could love you until all the Polaroids fade.”

Lewis’s music video for the album’s first single, “Just One of the Guys,” is a star-studded affair, featuring her friends Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart all dolled up—but as men. The song is a partly a meditation on ticking clocks (“When I look at myself, all I can see/I’m just another lady without a baby.”) Lewis tells me her lyrics speak for themselves and there is, “that lady pressure, as you called it, that is just biological in some ways.” She adds that, “Despite hanging out with dudes for my entire life and trying to fit in, ultimately, I’m a woman, and I’m becoming more comfortable with that the older I get.” She adds, “I’ve fought to be where I am today, and I’m absolutely a feminist.”

Lewis wrote the album, her first solo record since 2008, while struggling with a two-year bout of insomnia that she says almost took her out of the game. “I became an asshole,” she jokes. While sleepless nights didn’t really help her creativity, they did prompt her to watch a lot of late-night boxing and Cosmos, the television series by Carl Sagan, which became inspiration for her album. “I would watch that over and over and some that imagery really made it into the songs,” she says. Which isn’t to say that the title track is “a science fiction song.” Instead, it’s more about personal voyages. As she sings, “Nothing lasts forever when you travel time/ I’ve been sipping that Kool-Aid of the cosmos.”

 

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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