US singer/songwriter Eilen Jewell has wowed Australian festival crowds and new found fans with her calm and collected groove over recent years. Her songs set scenes of mid-western American yesteryear, signified by titles such as Rio Grande, half-broke horse and Sundown are written and produced by her and drummer husband Jason Beek.
Eilen at home in Boise, Idaho in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains spoke with Blank’s Tiffany Mitchell before her October US and Australian November tours.
An Instagram post from your tour in Europe says you have some blues covers and a Loretta Lyn cover. Can you tell us about your appreciation of the great Loretta Lyn, and when and how her song writing influenced you?
Loretta Lyn, she isn’t my earliest influence – my love for classic country came a little later than my love for early folk music, blues and early rock n’ roll, but I love Loretta’s music now – classic country music and I did that whole Butcher Holler album as a tribute to her. As a songwriter she’s so original to me because she’s not afraid to rock the boat at all. She moved country music forward in a really great way for women and I owe her a debt of gratitude just for all of the topics she covered, some of them controversial. I really loved that about her. She had more songs banned from radio than any other country artist ever since, which is a good sign because I think the country music world needs to be ‘shookin up’ every now and then!
We love all the rich instrumentation on your new Sundown Over Ghost Town album; the mariachi style trumpet solo in Rio Grande, the pedal steel, Wurlitzer, harmonica accompaniments – the production from yourself and Jason Beek is really wonderful, will you be bringing the full band to Australia?
Why thank you! I will be bringing my full touring band – that’s my husband Jason on drums and back-up vocals, the guitar player who has been playing with me since Boundary Country days – Jerry Miller on electric guitar, and we have a bass player who has been with us for a year and a half, Shawn Supra – he’s on upright bass. Once in a while I’ll play harmonica …. as best I can.
Tell us about your up and coming performance with the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame honouring Johnny Cash.
I haven’t done anything like this before, I’m very excited about it. I guess I’ll be playing a few Johnny Cash songs and I’ll be joined by a host of other musicians that haven’t really been confirmed yet. I heard through the grapevine that one of them is going to be a big deal classic country artist, so I’m excited to find out who that will be. I’m not really sure what I did to get asked into the inner-circle to play at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but whatever it is I’m really grateful. At the Johnny Cash tribute I’ll be playing with the house band and that will be interesting for me because I hardly ever play with other bands … it’s a little scary. Jerry Miller, my guitar player will be with us so at least I’ll have that familiar sound.
You have produced five studio albums since your debut Boundary County album, what songs do you like to place on your tour set lists?
We liked to play a song from each album. I’d like to play a few from the first album Boundary County, we play a lot from the most recent one Sundown Over Ghost Town of course.
Who is on your own personal playlist at the moment since arriving back from your European tour – did you grab some of the albums from artists you were playing with at those festivals?
Well you know I still don’t have a CD player and I don’t have an iPod or anything, I’m sort of a luddite! I just listen to music on vinyl records and one vinyl record I’ve been spinning lately is Jason Isbell’s latest album, I really love JD Macpherson and I’m a huge fan of CW Stoneking, so I hope our paths can cross at some point.
Eilen Jewell is at Mullum Music Festival which runs 17 – 20 November 2016. Tickets via mullummusicfestival.com.