I Didn't Sleep for 2 Years: Jenny Lewis

PHOTO: Jenny Lewis performs at the Boston Calling music festival on May 24, 2014.

“By the time I got your letter, I had lost my mind,” begins the haunting title track of Jenny Lewis’ latest album, "The Voyager," out today. But fans of the trending single may not realize just how true the lyrics ring.

Her first solo album since 2008, "The Voyager" chronicles the dark period during which Lewis grieved the death of her estranged father as well as the breakup of her longtime indie-rock band, Rilo Kiley, a series of events that sent the artist spiraling into a state of chronic insomnia.

“I didn’t sleep for two years,” Lewis told ABC News, adding that she tried everything from acupuncture and hypnosis to healers in an attempt to cure herself.

“In the end," she said, "it was a very gradual process to get back to sleep. I think when something happens like a death or an accident, it’s so sudden and it just takes a really long time to recover. My friends promised me that I would get back to sleep, and eventually I did.”

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But not before channeling her thoughts into recordings during myriad late-night writing sessions, the bulk of which would be used to create "The Voyager." Lewis then brought on three heavyweight producers to help her focus her material: Jonathan Rice, Beck and Ryan Adams.

Working with Adams proved to be most challenging, she said.

“I had never met Ryan before so it was interesting going into the studio with him,” she said. “Most of the songs we ran through once or twice and there was no looking back. He’s not a revisionist. It’s all about the moment in the studio and that was hard for me. But I think it was something that I really needed. I needed someone to help me look forward.”

Album artwork for Jenny Lewis new solo album The Voyager, due out in July.
Autumn de Wilde/Warner Bros. Records
Album artwork for Jenny Lewis' new solo album "The Voyager," due out in July.

Adams also pushed back Lewis’ desire to record with background vocals.

“We had a few arguments,” said Lewis. “In the moment, I didn’t always understand his methods, and probably couldn’t have, but I am really grateful for him. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t even have the title track.”

As the story goes, Lewis had recorded all of her prepared songs and thought that the album was finished. But Adams was unconvinced.

“We literally had one day of recording left and he told me to go home and write my version of ‘Wonderwall,’” she said, referring to the 1995 single by Oasis. “So I went home and sort of wrote down everything I was feeling, and what came out of it was something that sounds nothing like Oasis. But it does sum up the album in a really beautiful way.”

Her fans appear to agree.

“I think that the voyager can be anyone and speaks to the journey that we’re all on,” Lewis said. “It speaks to getting through a really difficult time and coming out the other side of it. Life and love and death and acceptance.”

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