See a Jewell at Iota

See a Jewell at Iota

Eilen Jewell will perform on Sept. 12.


Eilen Jewell with her bandmates.

Eilen Jewell has been playing an instrument since she was seven, but didn’t start performing for crowds until about seven years ago. She found her bandmates in Boston, and they can be heard on her first album. She doesn’t define her music in one category, it fits into a multitude of categories. For information on her performance, visit <a href=></a>.

<b>Introduce yourself or the band.</b>

Well, my name's Eilen (rhymes with "Feelin") Jewell. I hail from Boise, Idaho, and currently call Boston my home. My band is also based out of Boston. We're a four-piece, consisting of upright bass, drums, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar.

<b>How did you get your start in music and how long have you been performing?</b>

I started performing at farmers markets in Santa Fe, N.M. when I was going to college there, about seven years ago. I had been playing the piano since I was seven but was terrified of playing in front of people in any capacity, until a friend of mine asked me to sit in with him while he busked. We had just been playing music together for the fun of it, without performing anywhere, until we tried out the markets. I ended up getting over my performance fears enough to really enjoy it, so when he graduated and moved out of town I continued performing there by myself. One thing led to another and now here I am...a musician full time, with a band, touring all over.

<b>How were your musicians chosen?</b>

After I wandered around busking for a couple of years I ended up in Boston in 2003, where I first met Jason Beek, who is now the drummer in my band. He introduced me to the other two—bassist Johnny Sciascia and guitarist Jerry Miller. Jason had been a fan of theirs for years and often went to see them in various bands in the Boston area. The Spurs and the Coachmen are two of a long list of great bands that Jerry and Johnny have been a part of. When I heard them live I knew I wanted to play music with them. Then Jason suggested that we ask them to record my first album, "Boundary County," with us. They agreed, and it all just clicked together so well we quickly evolved into a touring band. We went on our first tour together about two years ago, and it seems like we've just been on the road nonstop ever since.

<b>What do you love about performing?</b>

This might sound sort of pseudo-spiritual, but there is something transcendent about performing—I think for the performers as well as the audience. A good performance has the ability to carry us off somewhere else. Sometimes in the middle of a song I'll realize that I've been thinking about nothing at all but the song-—no self-consciousness or worries, just the song. That's what I love most about what I do, that moment when I know this is happening, and I look out in the audience and I can see people's faces and they look so happy I feel pretty certain they're far away from their troubles for a little while too.

<b>What is your best memory when it comes to music?</b>

One of my earliest memories is also one of my favorite musical memories. When I was about three, my family lived in the mountains about 30 miles from Boise, in a log cabin in the woods. We would travel probably once a week into Boise to get things we needed and visit the grandparents. I had this little ritual in the car, during these drives. I made my parents run through a repertoire of songs that we knew, always the same list of songs, and the three of us would have to sing them together. I can't remember all of them, but I know they included "Away in a Manger" (no matter what time of year) and "I've Been Working on the Railroad." My parents were never particularly musical, but I insisted on being their band leader during these drives, and they were cooperative enough to go along with it. My dad always swore he couldn't sing, so he'd drag his heels sometimes, but when he did sing he had this great voice that could hit all the lowest notes. I just was so in awe of that phenomenon of people singing together, and knowing the same songs was like being able to share in a secret language.

<b>Where is your favorite place to play?</b>

Honestly, any place where the crowd genuinely wants to hear us, and the venue at least acts like they want us there.

<b>Best compliment about a performance?</b>

We played at a club in Madrid, Spain for the first time in April. We had no idea what to expect and were kind of bracing ourselves. Spain isn't well known for its love of Americana music, but we were overwhelmed by our reception there. The club was packed, and in spite of the language barrier people were singing along to our songs. Everyone was having a blast felt like we had come home to old friends after having been away for a long time. And I just couldn't believe they knew our music well enough to sing along, all the way across the ocean in a country where we'd never performed. I took that as the best compliment anyone could give.

<b>Favorite piece of music and why?</b>

I think Bob Dylan's "Bootleg Series" might be my favorite piece of music. I hold it responsible for getting me into this whole business, because when I first heard it, when I was about 15, it made me want to learn the guitar, and it made me wonder who Woody Guthrie was, who in turn led me to everyone else.

<b>Who would you love to play with and why?</b>

Well, if I could have one musical wish come true, I would put together something akin to Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. I'd tour the world doing shows with C.W. Stoneking, Holly Golightly, The Spurs, Dylan, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Loretta Lynn...and everyone else who I'm inspired and influenced by. It would be like a traveling music festival.

<b>Describe your sound.</b>

Someone once described me as "a modern Bessie Smith and an urban Gillian Welch." I think that's fitting. My music is a mix of styles—blues, honky-tonk, classic country, folk, rockabilly, jazz, and western swing. To some it might seem like I just can't decide what genre I want to belong to, but the truth is that I don't feel the need to choose one. I think all good music comes from the same place. My heart has always been in the early days of American recorded music. Anything with the word "early" in front of it, that's what I love, and that's what's reflected in my songs.

<b>Biggest musical influences?</b>

Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Hank Williams and Billie Holiday

<b>Where have you toured?</b>

All over the continental US, parts of Canada, England, Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands.

<b>Anything special about the upcoming show?</b>

This will be our last tour before we hit the studio to make our third record, so we'll be trying out some brand new songs that very few people have heard so far.

<b>Future plans?</b>

I plan to keep doing what I'm doing. Every year that goes by I feel like I'm another league beyond where I was before. To keep improving as a musician and as a performer, to keep moving forward and exploring new terrain, meeting more new fans, writing more songs, learning more about my art—that's all I hope for, because to me it doesn't get any better than that.

<b>What would you recommend to someone starting out in the business?</b>

Well, frankly, my band and I always say that this is a life we would never wish on anyone. You never fully realize how difficult it is until you try it. Touring is amazingly stressful. It's hard on your body and your mind, it doesn't pay very well at first, if at all. Getting on stage means subjecting yourself to the harshest judgment. But, that being said, I know there are folks out there like me and the guys in my band who can't imagine life without touring and performing. And to those who are really sure they want to go ahead with it, in spite of the difficulties, I would say that the best thing you can do is to take yourself seriously but don't take yourself too seriously. Take good reviews and bad reviews equally with a grain of salt. Maintain an inner equilibrium and the nonsense out there, of which there is never a shortage, will ultimately fail to reach you.