Jenny and Johnny
Jenny and Johnny’s debut album I’m Having Fun Now is a rollicking good time. With its melting duo harmonies, it sounds like a band having a ball; carefree and confident. Which makes the story of Jenny And Johnny a sickening story of talent and love. Jenny is Jenny Lewis, of alt-indie stars Rilo Kiley fame, as well as some outstanding solo albums… and you may also know her from The Wizard , the Fred Savage Nintendo movie. Yup, she went from cheesy child actress to rock seductress (and if you take nothing else from this article, please take the advice to have a listen to the Rilo Kiley album More Adventurous , because once you get into that, you will really want to hear her new stuff). Johnny is Johnny Rice, he has a few albums in more of the folk-country troubadour style, and together as both a couple and a band, they are Jenny And Johnny.
Even their first meeting is a story of fame and talent. “I met Jenny through Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) in New York City in like 2003, just at a party drinking wine,” Johnny recalls with a chuckle. “When we met and became close, I don’t think we ever had any intention of playing music together… but it just kinda developed into that; I can’t even pinpoint the moment it did.
“I remember playing guitar on the Rabbit Fur Coat (Jenny Lewis’s first solo album) sessions and her singing on my first album, but it just became more involved from there.”
Indeed it did, it evolved into touring and playing on each other’s records, being a couple, and even laying down a record with Elvis Costello. “Sometimes life gives you wonderful gifts and that’s what that was,” Johnny confesses of working with the music legend.
“He is a colossal talent and it’s riveting to be around him because he is always, always, always creating. We had known Elvis as he had been a pretty vocal fan of Jenny’s in the press and I had this song, Carpetbagger that I wrote as a duet between Jenny and myself, but I always thought that the way that I sung was too country, a little too Johnny Cash style or something.
“So we thought maybe we could get another male singer to do it, and we though of Elvis and figured ‘there is no way he will say yes, but let’s just ask him’, and he said yes immediately,” Johnny grins. “He flew straight out to L.A. and enjoyed it so much he said ‘I’ve done one of your songs, now you have to do one of mine,’ so we backed him up on a song and he like the way it turned out…so he give us another one, and he liked how that turned out so we ended up making an album with him, Momofuku.”
And from this sprung the band Jenny And Johnny, then the album I’m Having Fun Now and lead single Scissor Runner. “Jenny and I have written many songs together over the years and the songs always seem to have a home,” Johnny says of the leap into finally, officially working with Jenny. “I think Jenny brings out the best in me and we do have a good working dynamic in the studio.
“So, because we know each other so well, we are able to push each other. Because for me writing music, writing songs and albums, that is one of the most intimate things you can do with somebody. And it is such a private and personal thing that sometimes you’re not willing to let a stranger in to that process… but because we know each other so well I think we allowed each other in. Because,” he adds, “I’ve never let somebody into my song writing before.
“So we had this batch of songs that vocally and lyrically collaborative, much more so than anything we had done in the past, and they didn’t really fit into either one of our solo ventures, so we decided to create a new outlet for them.”
The album really plays out as an even collaboration, the pair sing so well together that no song sounds like it should be on either one of their solo records; Jenny And Johnny truly are their own beast. From the swagger of Committed through the quirk of New Yorker Cartoon, it plays through as a complete album, which is something all too rare these days. “We didn’t collaborate on the lyrics to every song,” Johnny explains. “A song like Animal is pretty much my lyrics, and a song like Big Wave is pretty much Jenny all the way, but then there is a song like My Pet Snake which was a true lyrical collaboration, where I’m writing one line and she is writing the next one back to back.”
And you can hear the smiles in their voice as they do it too, a spirit that carries over to their live shows. “It’s really fun, we feel like a little gang rolling into town,” Johnny concedes. “I really like the feeling I get from singing with Jenny on-stage. I know what it sounds like to just sing by myself but there is something about singing with Jenny that gives me a confidence and, I don’t know, a feeling of happiness.”
JENNY & JONNY are bringing their love-in to the sold-out LANEWAY FESTIVAL along with !!!, Les Savy Fav, Deerhuner, Cut Copy, Holy Fuck and heaps more. They have thankfully booked in a sideshow at The East Brunswick Club on Thursday February 10 with support from Sydney psych-rockers The Laurels. Tickets from The Corner Hotel box office, The East Brunswick Club, 9388 9794 or eastbrunswickclub.com. I’m Having Fun Now is out now through Warner.