While recently interviewing Anne Hathaway for a feature about her movie “Song One” — she plays an anthropologist who finds salvation in music when her brother falls into a coma — we started talking about that very specific, very universal feeling of hearing a song that changes your entire day.
When I asked her about which singers she turns to when she’s in a bad mood, Hathaway didn’t hesitate.
“Jenny Lewis,” she said, naming one of her closest friends. Lewis, an indie rocker formerly of the band Rilo Kiley, also co-wrote all the music for “Song One” with her writing partner, Johnathan Rice. But years before Hathaway became friends with Lewis, or persuaded her to write the music for her film, Hathaway was a huge fan.
“For the first two years that we knew each other socially, I couldn’t stop staring at my shoes because I was just so awed that I was talking to her, that she was a person,” Hathaway said. “And that this goddess whose lyrics had gotten me through so many rough moments was suddenly standing there next to me. Like, talking about juicing.”
Hathaway laughed. “And I couldn’t really get over it. But we kept hanging out, and eventually I chilled out, and I’m so delighted that my husband and I have two deep and beautiful friends in her and her partner, Johnathan Rice. And when it came time to find musicians for this movie to write the songs, they were the first ones we thought of.”
What followed was a endearing anecdote about how one of Rilo Kiley’s songs (“A Better Son/Daughter,” off the band’s 2002 album “The Execution of All Things”) totally changed her mood when she was going through a rough time back in 2009. And yes, we know her entourage makes a cameo in this story, but that doesn’t make it any less likeable. When you get to the part where Hathaway starts reeling off the lyrics, picture it as an almost rap:
[Her music] just goes bone-deep, you know? And Jenny. . . I just feel like she’s a massively gifted poet with a killer voice and she’s a really talented musician. And she’s documenting her life as a human being, she’s interpreting it and sharing that with us and I just — there are so many truth bombs in her songs where you go, “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”
I remember there was this one day, I had just gone through a rough time and I was working on “Love and Other Drugs.” And the thing about me is, whatever was going on in my life, I could always show up to work and feel like I was being a pro. I could always do that, I could always dig down deep and pull a performance up and nothing was going to rock me off of that. Nothing was going to shake my center. And I had a day on “Love and Other Drugs” where I failed, I failed to do that. And it was personally devastating. [Director] Ed Zwick and Jake [Gyllenhaal] were so great about it, and so loving and compassionate, and exactly who you want to be around when you have a moment like that where you just fail.
And I remember driving to work the next day and I hadn’t slept much and I wasn’t feeling too confident. I just kind of had one of those moments where you put your iPod on shuffle. And you’re just like, “Please send me something. Send me something, universe.” And how long is “A Better Son/Daughter”? I think it’s about five minutes long. So about 10 minutes before I get to work, this song comes on that I heard before, it’s a Rilo Kiley song, and I heard it before but I’d never really taken it in. And suddenly I hear, for the first time, the lyrics:
Sometimes in the morning I’m petrified and can’t move
Awake but cannot open my eyes
And the weight is crushing down on my lungs,
You know I can’t breathe, and hope someone will save me this time
And she goes on and on and on the song, and it’s very quiet – and all of a sudden it flips and the song goes:
And sometimes when you’re on, you’re really [EXPLETIVE] on
And your friends all sing along, and they love you
But the lows are so extreme that the good seems [EXPLETIVE] cheap
And it teases you for weeks in its absence
But you’ll fight
And you’ll make it through
And you’ll fake it if you have to
And you show up to work with a smile
And it just goes on and on and on like that! And it was exactly where I was at! And so I listened to it and was blown away. And then I played it again and a bunch of people came to meet me at the car, you know, that I was working with. The costume designer and some of my hair and makeup people — they knew that I had just had a really, really [expletive] day and wanted me to just be welcomed into the day with a lot of love. And so I just kicked the door open and played the song as loud as it could and it was right at the raucous part. And they just all got down and we danced. And then I went on and I had a great scene, you know? (laughs)
And Jenny got me there. And I hadn’t met her at that point yet. So then you can imagine why for the first two years of knowing her I couldn’t look at her. (laughs) It just felt too personal. I just think she’s a powerful woman, her music is powerful, she finds great strength in her vulnerability. And I’m really grateful to her for having both of those things: Power and vulnerability. Cause I know I feel that way a lot of times.
It’s so good, I’m not even kidding. It’s a life-changing song.