[Interview] Eilen Jewell

The road from Boise to Boston and back is filled with surprises

Eilen Jewell was making some noise with her “Sea of Tears” album before her first visit to town in 2010. Add the fact that two of the songs on that album name-checked Cincinnati, it was time to take notice of Boise native who was living in Boston at the time. She played Molly Malone’s in Covington and there was an enthusiastic delegation from Rabbit Hash in the joint to cheer loudly. After that, the Tristate was a regular tour stop, and I caught up with in 2016 after she had moved to her hometown.

2016 - Interview

Eilen Jewell issues her mission statement in the first line of the first song on “Sundown Over Ghost Town,” her 2015 album.

“Been all around this world just to come back to you” explains that the singer-songwriter from Boise, Idaho, is happy to be home after a journey where she paid rent and dues in New Mexico, California, Massachusetts and, well, the world, as the song says.

“Homesickness was the main factor; I was just really homesick for the West,” says Jewell, who was traveling with a band that included drummer-husband Jason Beek, guitarist Jerry Miller and new bass player Shawn Supra. Other members of the troupe include daughter Mavis, who will be 2 in June, and Beek’s mother, who does double duty as road manager and toddler wrangler.

“I had been in Boston for nine years … but I just never really felt like it was home with a capital H. I always felt that someday I would come back to the West. So we’re the proud owners of a cute, little home on a quarter-acre in my hometown. And we see why people rent houses instead of own them.”

Maybe the people on both sides of the spotlight share more similarities than differences: rambunctious youngsters and home maintenance headaches don’t distinguish between performer and fan.

That ability to relate to folks is one reason that Jewell’s career has been on the rise since her first record, “Boundary County,” in 2005. Her plaintive voice, backed by ace players, make her thoughtful lyrics appealing to an ever-growing number who appreciate honesty in words and music.

She made her Greater Cincinnati debut at Molly Malone’s in Covington in 2010, but has played to larger crowds in bigger venues during each subsequent visit.

“It’s been a slow and steady climb since the beginning and I’m grateful for that,” Jewell says. “I don’t think I could really handle any kind of skyrocketing thing like some people have. I’m just not cut out that way.

“It’s really exciting to know that people are still discovering our music. And that we have a lot of tried and true fans out there who have been with us from the beginning.”

Both of those groups are why Jewell, Beek, Mavis and the band continue to tour – they recently returned from Australia where they opened for Jason Isbell – but life has changed from the days when it was simply four people in a van driving from town to town.

“It doesn’t go back to normal or what used to be normal,” Jewell laughs as she juggles a phone in one hand and a little girl in the other. “It’s total chaos around here, but it’s good chaos. We’re starting to talk about the next album … but we’re not rushing into anything.

“Sometimes I’m just grateful that we can tie our shoes.”

Look for that image in the next album.


2010 - Interview

Eilen Jewell expanded her sound by stripping down her music.

Jewell, whose 2007 album “Letters from Sinners & Strangers” was welcomed with huzzahs by the roots music community for its blend of country, folk and Western swing-sounding tunes that were garnished with touches of jazz, put the fiddle and clarinet in the closet for last year’s “Sea of Tears.”

Why mess with success? To reconnect with her inner rocker, says the singer-songwriter

She might have done it too well, based on the reaction to her cover of “Shakin’ All Over.” The fan of the Animals and the Kinks says she chose the song based on the original version by Johnny Kidd (who write it) and the Pirates. More people, though, are likely familiar with the Guess Who’s 1965 version.

“We’re running into this scenario where a lot of people are asking for that song (at concerts),” Jewell says. “It’s originally a rockabilly song, so I wanted to bring it back to its roots.

“We’ve never covered something that’s really well known before. We tend to do more obscure songs.”

Interestingly, two of those obscurities from “Letters” prominently name check Cincinnati, even though this will be Jewell’s first visit here.

“If You Catch Me Stealing,” is a traditional tune that features the line “I’ve got four (men) in Cincinnati,” while “Dusty Boxcar Wall,” written by Eric Anderson, says “I once loved a boy in Cincinnati.” Both are likely to bring cheers from the crowd.

“I play those two songs every night,” laughs Jewell, who has been performing long enough to know how to push the right buttons for a particular audience. “I’ll make sure to sing those lines loud.”

Jewell’s journey to Cincinnati has been long, like the E in her first name (EE-len). She grew up in Boise, Idaho, went to college in Sante Fe, N.M., where she started to get serious about music, then landed in Boston.

“I moved to Massachusetts after what I call my tumbleweed phase,” she says. “I met Jason Beek, my drummer who is now my husband, and he introduced me to the other guys who are now the band members.”

Jewell, Beek, guitarist Jerry Miller and bass player Johnny Sciascia have been together since her self-released debut album “Boundary County” in 2006. In this case, familiarity has bred contentment.

And with the success of “Sea of Tears,” a bright future.



Each week, Bob Hust and Bill Thompson feature the best songs – old and new – from artists they have loved for many years and others they have just discovered. The best songs transport people to a time and place. That’s the foundation of BS&B.

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