B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
Eilen Jewell: I like goats a lot, though I’ve never really identified myself with an animal. Goats are good climbers, and they’re sturdy. They’re also very emotional. We have these things in common.
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Jewell: Music makes me feel, and feeling reminds me that I’m alive. That’s why I seek and why I create it. I suppose that’s why it first came calling too, though that happened so long ago I don’t quite remember. I’ve always loved music.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show?
Jewell: A great show is imperfect, I’m starting to realize, because perfection isn’t really part of the human experience. So I’m learning to embrace all the little snags and bumps in the road, all those things that are out of your control. A lot of artists seek perfection, and they can become very unhappy in the pursuit of it. I think a great show causes audience members and performers to come away realizing they shared something really unique.
B&L: Let’s talk about your latest record, “Sundown Over Ghost Town.” What sort of goals did you have for yourself when you set out to make this record?
Jewell: I wanted to capture my love of Idaho and the West and explore what it means to come home. I wanted to highlight some Idaho musicians too.
B&L: It’s been out for a bit. Anything in the works/hopper?
Jewell: “Down Hearted Blues” comes out Sep. 22nd. It’s a collection of mostly rare blues covers. I’m very excited about it. I’ve always wanted to make a blues album. We’ll be playing a few of these songs on Thursday.
B&L: Is songwriting an easy or arduous process for you? Are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of writer, or do you schedule “office hours”?
Jewell: These days I schedule office hours. Sometimes the process is arduous and sometimes it’s easy. It depends on the song. They are kind of like children. Each song has its own personality and its own origin.
B&L: What led you to pick up a guitar and start singing in the first place? When did you think, ‘yup, this is something I ought to try for a bit…’?
Jewell: I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 15. I wanted to play guitar because it was a portable way to accompany myself while singing, and I knew I really enjoyed singing. I didn’t think I could do it for any kind of living until I performed at the farmers market in Santa Fe, New Mexico when I was 21. Busking is what really caused me to realize I enjoyed public performing. I hated it with a passion before that.
B&L: Along with the solo career, you also float around in the Sacred Shakers. Is it important to the longevity of an artist’s career to have multiple “things” going at different times? How does one influence the other and vice versa?
Jewell: Well, The Sacred Shakers was a precursor to the Eilen Jewell band. It was through the Shakers that we learned that we enjoyed playing with our guitarist Jerry Miller. I wouldn’t necessarily say that every artist needs different things going on. Some people just need to focus on one thing and feel that their art suffers if they get too distracted. Personally, I have always enjoyed having an outlet for gospel music, simply because I like it so much, but it is challenging for me to do more than one thing. I’m a uni-tasker.
B&L: What’s one tune (or, heck, a couple) that exists out there in the ether that blows you away that you kind of wish you had written yourself?
Jewell: “A Satisfied Mind,” written by Red Hays, and everything Bob Dylan has ever done.
B&L: How’d you get hooked up with Signature Sounds? I’m a big fan of the label (and they’re right in this neck of the woods…)
Jewell: A friend gave an early demo of mine to Jim Olsen at Signature Sounds. He came out to see the band in Great Barrington, MA at Club Helsinki. We really hit it off and he liked the music. Jim is such an all around wonderful guy and has been such a big supporter of us and music in general. We’re actually driving right now from the new Club Helsinki location in Hudson, NY, where we performed last night, and in a few days we’ll be performing at the Shea Theater, doing a show that is being promoted by Signature Sounds. A lot of the earliest musical connections that we made are still among the most important for us.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the Word Barn on September 7th?
Jewell: We’re two weeks into a three-week run and the band is sounding great. We’ve been performing some tunes from each record as well as some surprises.
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Jewell: What first comes to mind is twelve lovely houses in twelve different fabulous places. It would make touring much easier and more fun to have a home base in a dozen different strategic spots. On second thought, maybe it would be better to have twelve different advisers, each an expert in their own field: a parenting adviser, a financial adviser, a legal adviser, a spiritual adviser, etc. Then I wouldn’t have to wander through life wondering whose advice I should follow and whether it even applies to me. But that’s not as exciting as beachfront real estate.
Eilen Jewell and her band make their debut performance at the Word Barn in Exeter, New Hampshire on Thursday, September 7th. For more information click here. The show is SOLD OUT, but feel free to grab a spot on the waiting list for a place in line – right behind the chickens and piglets that roam free here at the Barn. Or join the mailing list to be forewarned about future upcoming shows and events.