'Nothin’ But a Lonely Rambler Girl'
Boston-based Eilen Jewell is quickly making a name for herself among the roots music underworld. Jewell’s twangy rockabilly melodies coupled with her graceful, smokey voice easily transport listeners to a vintage and nostalgic era.
Her third full-length release, Sea of Tears, is a refreshing portmanteau of rock ‘n roll tunes carried by heartbreaking blues-inspired lyrics and wholesome country ditties.
Sea of Tears could easily have been produced in another decade. It’s not difficult to envision Jewell’s Appalachia-laced voice reverberating through the speakers of a tricked out ’57 Chevy. Despite the ultra-cool classic influence, Sea of Tears is unabashedly modern, ushering in the obvious notion that Eilen Jewell is a pioneer, forging into uncharted musical territory.
Exclusive Magazine recently spoke with Jewell and she gave us a glimpse into her interesting musical journey and where she’s headed from here.
Your music has it’s roots in jazz, blues and country. Who were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? [Eilen] "All of the influences I had growing up still factor in to my life and my music today. Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Bessie Smith, and Carl Perkins are probably the main ones. My musical taste has pretty much been the same since I first started listening to music, when I was about six. Of course, there are some artists that I love now that I hadn't heard of back then, but the ones I loved then I still love now."
As an up-and-coming artist, how would you describe the sound and style of your new album 'Sea of Tears'? "It has a vintage rock n' roll feel, with some strands of country and folk noir woven in. It's hard to describe it, because all of us in the band draw on a lot of influences, but I think that approximates it."
You’ve been with some variation of your touring band for several years now. How much impact did they have on the sound of the new album? "They have a lot of impact on my sound. They're constantly suggesting new music for me to check out. What else are you going to do with all those hours in the van? And they have full artistic license in the studio. I never tell them what or how to play, so they often take songs in a direction I hadn't anticipated."
You were born in Idaho but moved to Los Angeles after college to pursue your music career. Tell us a little bit about your journey going from Venice Beach street performer to Boston’s rockabilly sweetheart "Well, there were a lot of detours and delays along the way. I really didn't know for sure what I was supposed to do with my life. I drifted, I lived out of my car in Santa Fe and Topanga Canyon. I tried getting a "real" job, I planned on going back to school, I tried working whatever job I could find to pay the rent, I couch-surfed and scrounged. Eventually, I moved to rural Massachusetts to live with some friends from college--after the street-performace thing got tricky during the rainier months--and I tried to just work and pay the bills and be content with that."
"But all of the time, in the back of my mind, I was nagged by the need to perform music. I was ultimately motivated by the fear of never really fully trying to do what I knew deep down was the thing I really loved to do. So I moved to Boston to get a band together and to start getting serious about performing. Boston can be somewhat unforgiving, and I really needed that. I needed boot camp for beginning performers, and I got it, along with my great band. It took a couple of years but it came together."
You’ve now produced three full-length albums; 'Boundary County,' 'Letters From Sinners & Strangers' and the most recent release, 'Sea of Tears.' Which album do you feel says the most about you as an artist? "I tend to live in the moment, and right now my life is all about Sea of Tears. It's what we're doing now, it's what we're touring behind, and it reflects the music I've been listening to the most lately. But I'm not sure if any one album says more about me than another. I think you have to take all three of them together to have a pretty accurate snapshot."
Critics have compared your vocals to such great performers as Billie Holiday and Madeleine Peyroux, how does this make you feel and where do you think these comparisons stem from? "I like being compared to them and to other performers I respect and admire, though I hope that someday people will be able to use my name to describe other artists. I think there are a couple of qualities that I share with some of the musicians I get compared to: a blue note in the voice, a little bit vulnerable-sounding, and not particularly polished. I'm only guessing here, because it's not something I aim for, it's just what happens when I sing."
How easy or hard is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderments and accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "I'm not sure. I just do what I love and I don't worry about what's come before me or what's going on around me. I swear I'm not trying to dodge the question. That's just the truth. I just follow my gut and pay attention to my band."
HBO’s True Blood will be featuring the single 'Shakin’ All Over' from your new release in an upcoming episode. Do you believe that 'Sea of Tears' is your breakthrough album? "I don't think it is my breakthrough album. I think it's too weird for the mainstream. Believe me, I wish that the world at large could stomach my murder ballads and my obsession with boxcars and all things of the past. But I think most people would hear my music and think, "Why doesn't she sing a happy song about the modern world?" I hope I'm wrong."
In 2008 you released a gospel album from your side project, The Sacred Shakers. Can we expect anything new from The Sacred Shakers or are you strictly concentrating on your solo career? "Something new will definitely come from the Sacred Shakers in the relatively near future. We haven't set any dates, but maybe sometime next year? We have a lot of material recorded already, so be on the lookout."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today...and why? "Anything by Cyndi Lauper, because I have a soft spot in my heart for her. 'She's So Unusual' was the first record I ever owned. My friend bought it for me for my 6th birthday, and I still remember all the lyrics from that album. It wouldn't qualify as cheesy in my book, but 'Money Changes Everything' would be a great one to cover someday."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins...do you? "I've never met a penguin, so I can't say for sure, but my cat looks a lot like one, and I adore him!"
Interview: Erin M. Stranyak
To get your fill of rock ‘n roll pin-up charm, check out Eilen Jewell’s new album, 'Sea of Tears,' available on iTunes.
So, if you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Eilen's new CD, just answer this easy question: On this new CD is a swaggering, blues-informed “My Final Hour,” where Jewell introduces a new instrument to the fore - one which she had never played before. But, what was it?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful AUTOGRAPHED CDs by Eilen Jewell! Just send us an e:mail here before October 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: SIGNED EILEN JEWELL CDs to: email@example.com
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