Jenny Lewis' New Soul

Rilo Kiley singer to release solo debut after tour

Jenny Lewis, singer-songwriter for indie rockers Rilo Kiley and backing vocalist for atmospheric electronic act the Postal Service, is expanding her sonic palette with a soul-influenced solo debut. Tentatively titled Rabbit Fur Coat, the album is due out by January on Bright Eyes' leader Conor Oberst's label, Team Love.

"Laura Nyro was my mother's favorite songwriter," Lewis says. "And I grew up with this great white soul record, Gonna Take a Miracle [Nyro's 1971 collaboration with vocal trio LaBelle]. And so I wanted to make a record paying homage to my relationship with my mom."

For Rabbit, the redheaded crooner recruited her own backing vocalists, the Watson twins. "They're from Kentucky, and they're badass," she explains. Recording in Nebraska and Oregon, Lewis played most of the instruments herself, with fellow indie rocker M. Ward making a guest appearance. "It's pretty stripped-down, kind of rootsy at times," she says. "In the end, it shaped up to be this weird, loose gospel-y record."

For the near future, Lewis will concentrate on Rilo Kiley, as the band tours the U.S., enjoying an expanded audience thanks to its 2004 critical (and O.C.) favorite, More Adventurous. And she maintains that the band members' other pursuits (guitarist Blake Sennet and drummer Jason Rock play with the Elected and Bright Eyes, respectively) are key to the band's success.

"We make space for all the other stuff that keeps us happy," she says, "and I think that really makes us appreciate Rilo Kiley even more. When we come back, we have a renewed sense of commitment and friendship."