With the release of her fourth full length album (Queen Of The Minor Key) Eilen Jewell has reinforced her status as a country/roots artist of the highest calibre. Since she came to notice with her official debut Boundry Country in 2006 - there had been a live demo album Nowhere In Time prior to that - she subsequently released Letters From Sinners and Saints. and Sea Of Tears. These three albums featured Jewell's emotive songwriting and her distinctive vocal performance. She also has released a tribute album Butcher Holler featuring the songs of Loretta Lynn and was a part of the team that released a gospel album under the name of the Sacred Shakers. All of these album feature members of her excellent band which includes guitarist Jerry Miller, Johnny Sciascia on upright bass and drummer Jason Beek. With these musicians Jewell is as inventive and rewarding live as she is on recorded album and should not be missed when she plays at the Sugar Club for her Dublin debut on Thursday November 3rd. Lonesome Highway has a chance for a brief chat with Jewell from her East Coast home.
At what point when you started out did you decide what your musical direction would be?
I've always just wanted to play music that I like and the music I like is pretty limited to 60s music and earlier. Classic country music and rock 'n' roll, rockabilly. So I just go with mu gut and make the kind of music that I would want to listen to.
You have mention influences like Creedence Clearwater Revival how do they relate to you?
The influences I have are artists that have gone before me that I really love when I was growing up in Idaho in the 80s I listened to the oldies station on the radio. At that time the oldies was 50s and 60s music, that's since I was 7 years old. Of course now all these stations just play 80s music.
Would you have come across the Idaho Cowboy, Pinto Bennett growing up?
That's a good question. I knew him as a local legend. I think he quit playing for awhile at time when I was in Boise. I also heard that he was reclusive. But I heard that he's been playing out agin lately. They say he's all reformed and everything.
When you're writing you have said that location, especially of the west, plays its part. Is that from your local experience or from the culture of the area?
It's on my mind all the time as I have a lot of love of the American west and I really miss it. I grew up there and went to college in New Mexico. I pretty much consider it to be home out there and when I moved to the East Coast I got very home sick and one way I got to deal with that was by writing about the places that I missed. I've been on the East Coast now for 8 years and I still get very homesick. So, as I say one way to eleviate that is to write about home.
What other parts of your life are you able to draw from fro your songwriting?
Traveling does to some extent. But I really like sad songs. I like to write about lonliness and trying to find a sense of place in the world. I suppose homesickness and heartbreak. That's just my personal preferences. Those are the topics that I like to hear.
Yes, and it seems that heartbreak is a topic that we hear less and less on country radio.
I can't stand those happy country songs. Most of the stuff coming out of Nashville is about "I'm driving around in my car and I got my girl by my side". I really can't stand that stuff. It's very superficial.
You play with a great band, How did you come together?
We got together to record Boundry County and we've been together ever since. It's been the same guys and they keep getting in the van with me for some reason (laughs).
When I first saw the list of band members I at first thought that it might have been the same Jerry Miller from Moby Grape, but it isn't.
No it's not. We tend to get that a lot. Sometimes people assume that it is the same Jerry Miller and they print that it is in newspapers and everything. So it just goes to show you can't believe everything you read. We've seen pictures of him (Moby Grape's Jerry Miller) and he wears a cowboy hat like Jerry does and under the hat they look similar.
You guys do a great version of Shakin' All Over. I'd imagine that it cones from Johnny Kidd rather than The Who or some other source.
From Johnny Kidd. As soon as I heard that version I though that that was a song we need to do. I never realizied that it was originally a rockabilly song. Maybe three or four years ago when I heard it I felt that we should do it. We wanted to being it back to its rockabilly roots.
On this album you recorded with some other vocalists. Zoe Muth on Over Again and Big Sandy on Long Road is that an experience that you would like to repeat some stage down the line?
Yeah, I really would. I enjoyed it a lot. I think it's really good for musicians to colloberate as much as they can. I gets easy to live in your own bubble on the road, existing in your own van space. You coincide with other artists sometimes by chance and after the show's over your gone and you go your separate ways. So I really got a lot out of working with them and it kind of united us in a way. I'd like to do something like that again. It was my first time collaberating with another artist, at least on my own material,and it was very scary at first but it was well worth it.
Would you think of doing a duets album?
Oh, that's a good idea. Yeah, I never though of that before but it could be fun.
Do you see your music developing beyond its currently wide boundries in the future or is this where you want to stay music wise?
It's hard to say. I know were pretty comfortable doing what were doing now. But I never want to put limitations on anything that we're doing. If something comes up that seems like it makes sense for me and the band then we should feel free to do it. I don't want to feel that I've made any promises and that we will just play rockabilly, country or rock 'n' roll. It has hard to say and we take each album as it comes. I try to just follow my gut and go with that instinct. But I don't see myself doing a hip-hop album or anything but I guess you never really know.
Well I look out for a hip-hop duets album.
(Laughs) I find that unlikely.
Finally, if your the Queen of the Minor Key, who's the King?
Oh, um... you know maybe Johnny Kidd. Because Shakin All Over is a minor key thing and he's got this great song called Restless and maybe on the merit of that alone he deserves the title. I love his minor key stuff. He was never part of the British Invasion, he was before that. But maybe Roy Orbison too.