Jenny Lewis on Her Female-Centric Record Label & Waxahatchee's Rilo Kiley Tattoo
"It’s been great to bump into all these wonderful female artists when the first time they saw a woman singing and playing guitar was in Rilo Kiley."
Human sunbeam Jenny Lewis is a Valley girl, an indie icon and -- as of Jan. 2016 -- the freshly minted CEO of Love’s Way Records. She’s coming off of a four-city tour with The Watson Twins, which they embarked upon to honor the 10th anniversary of 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat. The poignant, vulnerable album first established Jenny as a solo artist a decade ago, and its Jan. 29 reissue marked the first official release from her new imprint.
Aside from the reissue of a modern indie folk classic, what’s in store from Love’s Way? Over a crackling phone connection, Billboard and Lewis discussed launching her label, the significance behind its name, and Lewis’ admiration of female artists. We also touched on the ideal epitaph and how to behave when your opening act (ahem, Waxahatchee) has a tattoo of your first band.
Well, first, congrats on launching a record label! That’s so rad.
Thank you! I’m guess I’m a CEO now.
You definitely have the pantsuits for it.
So, is there history behind the name Love’s Way?
Yeah! Love’s Way was the name of my parents’ band. They met auditioning for it. It was their lounge act in Las Vegas, and they did lots of covers.
If I’m not mistaken, it was also floated as a potential name for Rilo Kiley?
It was! It was out there, and -- thankfully -- that didn’t happen. We didn’t end up going with that.
I feel like your complex history with your parents is pretty well-known at this point. How did you make the decision to name your own label after their band?
It was this moment of inception. You know, without that band, I wouldn’t be here! So for me, it was all about refocusing, and going back to love and forgiveness. I initially didn’t intend on relaunching my work, but it seemed appropriate to release such a personal album on a label named after the thing that created me, unintentionally.
What’s your vision for Love’s Way?
The idea is to put out this reissue, and then, ideally, I would like to create a singles club for female artists, female songwriters and bands. I was a subscriber to the Sub Pop Singles Club, back in the day, and I bought everything from K Pop and Kill Rock Stars. I remember waiting for what would come in the mail, and it was so exciting. It was so fun to get new music from an artist you’ve never heard before, and on a 7-inch! Just one little song. It was so great.
Are you planning upcoming releases?
Well, I haven’t really spoken with anyone yet. [Laughs.] But the idea is in my mind, with female songwriters… Over the years, playing music with women is just a different experience, and I’ve been so fortunate to have all of these great female artists come through my band. When the stars align, we get to play together, and I think of the label as an extension of that.
I’ve been so grateful and inspired by these women, and it’s a little weird when it circles back around, and you meet people who have become fully-formed artists in their own right. You know, it’s been great to bump into all these wonderful female artists when the first time they saw a woman singing and playing guitar was in Rilo Kiley.
I can imagine.
I mean, [Waxahatchee frontwoman] Katie Crutchfield has a Rilo Kiley tattoo.
Yeah! What was that like, for you guys, when you finally met?
We were both a little nervous! I had been a fan of hers since her  album Cerulean Salt. We didn’t really know what to do.
Also, I remember reading that for the “Just One Of The Guys” video, you tried to recruit an all-female crew.
Well, it was all about equal opportunity. Give girls a shot! I wasn’t able to have a full female crew, but my DP, my producer -- all women. The girl doing sound was like, 18! I wanted to ask, “Um, miss… are you old enough for this job?”
On a different note, your last two major releases have been accompanied by natural wines. Any chance we’ll be able to find your next wine on the East Coast?
We’ve done the wine exclusively with a shop in L.A. called Domaine LA, and right now we’re only pouring it at one restaurant. It’s natural, which is actually better for you, and it’s inexpensive, which is great! So I’m an inexpensive wino. I think my epitaph should be “One up from cheapest,” which is kind of my stance on wine. And motels, actually. I was also thinking “Even nuns can have fun.”
And you could use the shot of you with Feist as a priest from the “She’s Not Me” video, if you wanted to add a picture.
Oh, yeah! That whole video was about, you know, recreating some of my past work. We were remaking this scene from “Hell Town,” which starred Robert Blake as a priest. Feist really came through for me, there. Bill Murray was my first choice, but it didn’t work out, so she was a great friend about it.
Maybe that’s for the best, because you could have fired up those New York Post rumors again.
[Groans] You can be a creative person making shit your whole life, and your family and extended family who maybe never acknowledge anything you do, will all suddenly call you about this. And it’s like, what am I supposed to say?
While we’re talking about some of your past work, by the way, I wanted to let you know that Troop Beverly Hills is on HBO.
Oh, god. Well, That’s what I’m going to watch tonight.
No! No, I’m not gonna do that.
Okay, I wasn’t sure if it’d be cookie time.
[Laughs] It’s definitely not cookie time.
I can’t believe I brought that up. It was on my list, “Don’t mention the war”-style.