weather icon Drizzle

Las Vegas native Jenny Lewis talks about her latest album

Her babysitter was a female Elvis impersonator.

Yeah, Jenny Lewis is from here.

But the glamorously bohemian singer-songwriter wasn’t just born in Las Vegas, she was born of Las Vegas.

Her parents met while auditioning for the same lounge band back in the ’70s, her mother a singer, her father a musician.

They’d perform at the Sands, the Sahara and the Tropicana together.

So show business was pretty much Lewis’ birthright, as if she was swaddled in lamé upon departing the womb.

Though she hasn’t lived in these parts since she was a little girl, these parts still live in her — right down to the glam-tastic blue-and-gold gown that Lewis sports on the sleeve of her latest album, “On the Line,” one of 2019’s most acclaimed records.

“When I’m in Las Vegas, I still feel the connection to my earliest memories,” says Lewis, 43. “I’m always sort of referencing that, and I don’t realize it. Like, the outfit I’m wearing on the cover of ‘On the Line’ is something almost identical to what my mother wore onstage.

“She somehow finagled Bob Mackie to make their costumes,” she continues. “I don’t know if Mackie made costumes for just anyone, but my mom convinced him. I pick out this outfit, shoot it, it ends up on the cover, it’s like this magical thing, and I’m thinking back to my mother’s costumes. And she had the same exact birthmark. So it’s a deep homage to my mother.”

The same could be said of “On the Line” itself — at least in places.

Catharsis you can move to

Lewis has described the album as a rebound record for two reasons: First, it was written in the wake of her breakup with her boyfriend of 12 years, fellow musician Johnathan Rice. Then there was the passing of her mother, Linda, who died from liver cancer in October 2017.

Both heavily inform the heavy emotions that power “Line,” the latter addressed poignantly on “Little White Dove,” a starkly funky number partially set in the hospital room where her mother spent the last days of her life.

“I’m your blood, I want more / The water from my eyes fell to the floor,” Lewis sings over drips of reverbed guitar, her voice slinky then sonorous as she works her way to the chorus of a song where sonics and sentiment seem at odds with one another.

“ ‘Little White Dove’ is so interesting, because it’s about this really heavy thing, but Beck, who produced it, brought this groove and feel,” Lewis says. “So it’s the danciest song in the set, and it’s so sad, yet hopeful. I love these juxtapositions where there’s catharsis, but you can also move to it.”

This duality defines much of “On the Line,” from the slo-mo disco of “Do Si Do” to the sprightly piano lines and chiming bells of “Party Clown,” a blown kiss to her wastrel ways of the past.

The tone is set by album opener “Heads Gonna Roll,” a beatific, mildly biting breakup song posited more on what was gained from the relationship as opposed to what was lost when it ended.

“Even though we were just friends, I think of us as bookends,” Lewis sings, dropping her voice into a husky purr. “And I’m gonna love you till I die.”

You will be clearing that lump from your throat shortly thereafter.

On the road, to resolution

Upon splitting with Rice, Lewis played vagabond for a time, traveling the country, staying with friends, figuring things out.

Eventually, these songs came to her, a process that ultimately spanned five years since the release of Lewis’ last album, 2014’s punchy, confident “The Voyager.”

“I’m always writing, and so I don’t always know what an album is until I get four songs in and then it makes sense to me,” Lewis says. “Once I wrote, ‘Heads Gonna Roll,’ which was early in the process, I knew that was the beginning of the story. Then the story unfolded in real life. The music reflected that.”

So Lewis chose to do so much emotional bloodletting in song.

Except that it wasn’t a choice, really.

“I think music pursued me. I didn’t pursue music,” says Lewis, a former child actress. “Music was a constant. My family, this is how we communicate.

“This is the only healthy way we know how to communicate,” she adds. “So I think music was just inevitable.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
Shark Week cupcakes at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas
Brittnee Klinger, a cake decorator at Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas, makes Shark Week cupcakes with ocean-blue buttercream, fondant fins and a blood-red strawberry filling. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fans and friends recall Elvis opening in Las Vegas
Fifty years ago on July 31st 1969, Elvis Presley opened at the International hotel in Las Vegas. He went on to do 837 consecutive sold-out shows at the property.
Hot peach cobbler at Beaumont’s Southern Kitchen at Texas Station
Michael Ross, room chef/pitmaster at Beaumont’s Southern Kitchen at Texas Station in Las Vegas, makes peach cobbler by baking peaches in a cast-iron pan with batter and crumble, then topping with Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and bourbon-caramel sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Water Grill opens at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas
Water Grill, from a 30-year-old California company opening its first Las Vegas location, specializes is fresh seafood including 16 types of oysters. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cat's Meow comes to Las Vegas
New Orleans-based karaoke chain opens new location in Neonopolis. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making the Loco Moco Breakfast Burger at Broken Yolk Cafe in Las Vegas
Manny Menina, line cook at Broken Yolk Cafe in Las Vegas, stacks 8 ounces of beef, 2 strips of bacon, hash browns, caramelized onions and 2 fried eggs on 4 King’s Hawaiian slider buns to make the Loco Moco Breakfast Burger. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
SecretBurger at China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Carlos Cruz, executive chef of Jose Andres’ China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, makes the SecretBurger off-menu, one-night-only ‘All Quacked Up’ with a kimchi pancake, Peking duck, house-made hoisin sauce, a fried duck egg, pickled micro-vegetables, caviar and gold flakes and serves it with a Stillwater Artisanal Ale. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Famous Blue Angel statue commemorated in downtown Las Vegas mural
The 16-foot tall Blue Angel statue that stood above the Blue Angel Motel for six decades is featured in a mural spanning three walls at a downtown Las Vegas building. James Stanford designed the “A Phalanx of Angels Ascending" mural based on his photography, and Cliff Morris painted the mural at 705 Las Vegas Blvd. North, near the Neon Museum. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Making Castle Frites at the new Frites at the Excalibur in Las Vegas
Tom McGrath, district manager/executive chef at Frites at the Excalibur in Las Vegas, tops his beef-tallow fries like a loaded baked potato - with white and yellow cheddar, sour cream, bacon and chives. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hello Kitty Cafe on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
The Hello Kitty Cafe opens Friday, July 12th, 2019, between New York, New York and Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Amano Las Vegas' Fat Baby Sandwich
Chef Jason Weber of Amano Las Vegas has created a sandwich stuffed with pasta, and it's a hit. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A class at Melissa Coppel Chocolate and Pastry School in Las Vegas.
Melissa Coppel, who teaches classes in various countries around the world, attracts students from far and wide to her eponymous school in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Havana Lobster at Boteco in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marcus Fortunato, co-owner of Boteco in Las Vegas, learned to make Havana Lobster from the chef at El Figaro, a favorite of former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Chef Gustav Mauler Is retiring
Las Vegas chef Gustav Mauler announces his retirement on Sunday, June 30, 2019.
Bellagio Conservatory unveils Italian summer exhibit
The Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens have opened the gates to its summer display. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
A.D. Hopkins on his debut novel
Veteran journalist introduces readers to “The Boys Who Woke Up Early.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seven Magic Mountains restoration complete
Artist Ugo Rondinone’s iconic Seven Magic Mountains receives a complete painting restoration in June 2019.
Making off-the-menu bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow in Las Vegas
Senior chef tournant Cesar Laran has created secret bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. To make them, he rolls bean curd sheets around a filling of carrots, celery and shiitake mushrooms, then smokes them with oolong tea and sugar. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Bread Pudding French Toast at Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas
James Trees, chef/owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, slices house-made blueberry bread pudding, coats it in egg yolks and mascarpone, fries it and tops it with spiced walnuts, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and creme fraiche. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Celine Dion closes 1,141-show residency on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Hear from Celine Dion about her 16 years on the Las Vegas Strip and what the future has in store for her. (Caesars Entertainment)
Lobster grilled cheese at Big Sur Oyster Bar
The hugely popular lobster grilled cheese at Big Sur Oyster Bar at the South Point in Las Vegas is made with white cheddar and served on sourdough. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
You can dine out with your dog in Las Vegas
Lazy Dog, among Las Vegas restaurants that allow dogs, is probably the most accommodating, with free bowls of water and a doggy menu. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sparrow + Wolf at Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas
Marc Vetri will launch a new collaborative chef series June 18, with a little help from Sparrow + Wolf’s Brian Howard. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 best things to do at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
10 best things to do at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Disneyland - VIDEO
What it's like to ride the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ada’s opens at Tivoli Village in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Ada’s, from James Trees, owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas’ Arts District, brings Tivoli Village a similar menu of seasonal, artisanal pastas, pizzas — and ice cream. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Nutella French Toast at Cafe Americano in Las Vegas
Harold Norris, executive chef at Cafe Americano at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, coats brioche in cinnamon and chocolate and layers it with Nutella and bananas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Art Neville dies; ‘Poppa Funk’ was member of The Neville Brothers

Art Neville, a member of a storied New Orleans musical family who performed with his siblings in The Neville Brothers band and founded the groundbreaking funk group The Meters, died Monday. The artist nicknamed “Poppa Funk” was 81.