"The album is called Gypsy. It's my favorite record so far" We chat with Eilen Jewell
Hey Eilen, how the heck are you?
Doing pretty well, all things considered.
What have you been up to today? And where are you right now?
I'm gearing up to drive to Rochester, New York. Currently I'm at a hotel in Bloomington, Indiana. Living the dream.
So, despite your career stretching back about 12 years, can you pretend we don’t know you, and introduce yourself?
Well, my name is Eilen (pronounced EE-lin), and I play music in a band. We tour all over the US, Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Australia...I play a lot of what they call Americana, which I think is a very broad term for music that has its roots in America. That doesn't narrow it down very much, which works for me. I don't like to be limited.
Your record, Down Hearted Blues, has been out for a couple of years now, what’s the best thing that’s happened in that time?
Since then I recorded an album of eleven original songs and one song by a great Idaho artist named Pinto Bennett. The album is called Gypsy, and it'll be released this August. It's my favorite record so far, and I'm not just saying that because it's the latest one. It was also really fun to record it, which isn't always the case with records you know. Sometimes it's a painful process.
You chose to record a selection of covers, how did you go about picking them?
They chose me, really. A lot of them are old friends of mine that I've been loving for a long time. Some of them are new to me. When I hear a song, sometimes it just jumps out at me and says, "Perform me or I'll keep haunting you!" It's a compilation of those types of songs.
You’ve been touring the record for a while now, which is the song you’ve maybe come to love playing the most?
The title song, 'Down Hearted Blues'. Jason (my husband and drummer) plays the washboard on it, which is always fun to hear. The song is important to me because it's gotten me through some bumps in the road over the years. I learned it from listening to old Bessie Smith recordings. I feel like she's someone I've known for years. Maybe it's a past life thing.
What’s the one song you wish you’d covered but didn’t?
I covered 'Don't Leave Poor Me' by Big Maybelle, but I wish I had also done 'One Monkey Don't Stop the Show' as well. Or 'Send for Me'. I love Big Maybelle.
I’m really conscious of the fact it’s hard to make a living out of music these days, so what’s the best thing that people can do to support you and your music?
Come to our shows! Then come see us at the merch table and tell us nice things. It keeps us going both financially and emotionally.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
I've mostly felt pretty welcome in the music world. It's a little weird being so incredibly outnumbered. Once I was in a music store looking at cables for my guitar, trying to decide which one to buy, and a store clerk told me where to find the apparel, which was nowhere near where I was in the store. I suppose he thought I was shopping for clothes for some reason. He didn't tell my male bandmates where the clothes were. That was icky.
I’m fascinated in American towns. What can you tell us about your hometown of Boise? Why should I visit?
Boise is beautiful. It's in a desert but surrounded by mountains and there's a lot of forest to the north. There's a lovely river that runs right through town. I adore it.
What have you been listening to that’s worked its way into your new music?
Chuck Prophet works his way in there sometimes. I'm always listening to old blues tunes. They find their way into my songwriting more often than not. And I'm really inspired by C.W. Stoneking.
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
'Powder Blue' by the Cactus Blossoms. Or anything by the Cactus Blossoms. Those guys are the real deal!
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
What is the meaning of life? I think my answer would have to be, "Enjoy!"
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
I'm more of a tea gal. I'm a sucker for the combination of milk and honey.