Sala Acapulco (Gijón, Spain). Friday, 22:00 P.M. The majority of the audience that attended the show that night knew what was going to happen up on stage. They knew Eilen and her band, and they were convinced that the price of the ticket was worthy enough to be paid. Eilen Jewell is a clear representation of the American comtemporary folk sounds. She is labeled into a wide and vast selection: country, rockabilly, folk, blues, gospel…And the blend of all of them give shape to this pleasant web of textures that is her music. We can notice there is a lot of soul and emotion in her compositions. And this is what music is about. No soul, no art. Accompanied by Jerry Miller on electric guitar, Jason Beek on drums, Johnny Sciascia on upright bass and her inseparable guitar and harmonica, she made a tour by her musical career delighting us with songs like “Santa Fe”, “Back to Dallas”, “Queen of the Minor Key”, or “Sea of Tears” among many others. They ended the show much better than they started. “Kalimotxo” and “Shaking all over” closed down one and a half hours of the North-American rooted sounds. I do not know if she is one of the official bearers of this “America” music flag, but whatever it is, there is passion in what she does and creates.
And that is how Eilen and her band sound live.
We had the chance to chat with ther after the gig. Here it is what she told us:
– Tell us about your musical beginnings.
I started out by playing the piano when I was seven. I wanted to play it exactly like Beethoven. That was my first inspiration as a musician. I studied the piano from seven until twenty but when I was fourteen I heard Bob Dylan, his early recordings, and I decided I wanted to play the guitar. So I mostly taught myself. I had a teacher for maybe 8 months or something, but the most of the time I played by myself. That’s the reason I play so strange (laughs). And then for singing, my idol was Billie Holiday. I wanted to sound like her.
– Which are your main musical influences? When you were young, what artists did you listen to?
Well as I mentioned before, Bob Dylan, Beethoven, Billie Holiday and then, The Doors, Janis Joplin, The Kinks. Mostly music from the 50’s and 60’s and the early garage-rock&roll. And Elvis Presley ad Buddy Holly too. It was later when I discovered country music.
– From busking on the streets to recording an E.P. in a studio in 2005. How was this change?
It was only a couple of years but it seemed like a very long time in between because I was just playing the guitar by myself and singing and thinking I will never go on stage, it is too scary for me. It was a slow evolution. The time between busking and recording the E.P. was a sad one because I felt lost. I was working in a job that I didn’t love and I didn’t want that to be my future. I knew the path to follow was music. Music made me enjoy and gave me a a bit of money too, so I decided music was what I wanted to do. As long as I have something to eat and a place to sleep it is ok.
– What differences did you encounter between your first album and the last one “Queen of the Minor Key?” What musical evolution can we find in your career?
I think my first record is very soft. I had not discovered yet how to incoporate rock & roll to my music. It was a slow process. Even if I loved that kind of music before discovering country and folk, I did not know how to capture it on my songs. So my first album has not rock & roll roots, but as time went by, I knew how to include them in my other albums.
– Talk to us about your last album, “Queen of the Minor Key” (2001).
It is hard to describe your own music. For me it sounds like a pretty accurate representation of my musical loves: surf music, rockabilly roots, folk roots, rock & roll and maybe it is safe to say that there is more rock & roll. In my mind it is a dark album. I have always loved the dark albums of other artists.
– Are you planning to come to the studio again?
Sure. I think at the end of this year and the album hopefully will be launched at the beginning of 2014.
– What traces have Santa Fe left in your songs?
Well it is a very unique and hauting place for me. It was the first place where I started to do busking and to play in front of people. Musically it is very important for me and I find it very poetic, so it is one of my inspirations. The traces of Santa Fe are in almost every song I write.
– Is there any place where you would love to play and you have not yet? Do you remember any concert in a special way?
Honestly, I love to play in Spain. Madrid and Melbourne are the places where we had more people in the shows and it was really fun. But everywhere in Spain and Sweeden is cool. My hometown, Boston, Seattle…those are my favourites. And yes, I remember those places in a special way.
– Does Europe give a good response to your music?
Definitely. We always come here twice. We think: oh, it is so far, we have to go in the plane for that long. But after it we feel so satisfied of having done it. We always have a great time in Europe and we meet again the friends we left here. It is really like coming home in a way.
–Being labeled in so many genres (rockabilly, country, folk, blues…), is there any in which you feel more comfortable with or it is precisely this kind of blend which makes you feel at ease with?
Well, I think lately it is a cross between folk and dark rock & roll. For example, we have a song called “When the neighbours say your name” which I always enjoy playing no matter what mood I am in and I think it is because to me it is a mixture of folk and rock & roll but in a very dark way, like a “film-noire”. And I love it.
– What is it like recording a gospel album? How was the experience?
It is really fun. Every one in the band comes from different religious backgrounds and the point it is not to discuss religion. We all love gospel music, we love their harmonies and it is a really inspiring genre for us. So we really focused on that. And we are working on another live gospel album and I hope it is released at the end of this current year.
EILEN JEWELL’S RECORDS SECTION
– A record for a Saturday night.
Anything by Sam Cooke.
– A record for a Sunday morning.
“Love lifted me” by The Swan Silvertones.
– A record for a car trip.
“Harvest” by Neil Young or anything by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
– A record for doing exercise/sports.
(What’s exercise?) “Midnight Maranders” by Tribe Called Quest.
– A record for chilling out.
“Time out of mind” by Bob Dylan.
– A record for making love.
“Big Maybelle’s Greatest Hits”
– Last record you have bought.
“Signs and Signifiers” by J.D. McPherson.
– First record you have bought.
“Stand by me OST”
Photos: Nacho Iglesias