Eilen Jewell: “I’ve had people say they think it’s my strongest record so far, and I think they might be right.” (7/6 at WCL)

Surely most of our readers are well aware that today has far greater significance than simply being the fourth day in the seventh month of our year… It’s Alice...

Surely most of our readers are well aware that today has far greater significance than simply being the fourth day in the seventh month of our year… It’s Alice in Wonderland Day!  July 4th was the day that Lewis Carroll first told Alice Liddell his most famous story!  Fittingly, just yesterday I was chatting with Americana singer/songwriter Eilen Jewell, whose recent music video for rockabilly-tinged “Lethal Love” – released this May 5th, the same day as her 9th studio album, Get Behind the Wheel – was inspired, in part, by Carroll’s tale, and features The White Rabbit as a psychedelic-tea-serving tattoo artist, who brands Jewell with a Queen of Hearts design.

During our recent phone chat, Jewell tells me that the Alice in Wonderland imagery was inspired by the idea of, “This feeling of love having an underbelly, a dark world that’s circus-like and carnival-like.”  But she also says that the video was equally inspired by an equally druggy literary classic: “This addictive aspect of love made me think of Hunter S. Thompson and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which is one of my favorite movies, so I wanted to blend Hunter S. Thompson with Alice In Wonderland!”  However, she admits that the video wasn’t initially something she was excited about: “I was told that I needed to make a music video and I was instantly filled with dread [laughs], because I’m really camera shy, and have avoided appearing in my own videos… but once I came up with this concept, I knew I had to be part of it!”

Get Behind the Wheel is the follow-up to 2019’s Gypsy, but the album’s writing and recording had Jewell in a much different state than her previous album, or any of her other works, for that matter.  The singer/songwriter had recently experienced the collapse of her marriage to her drummer, manager, and father of her daughter, Jason Beek, and had the artist pondering whether or not this might signify the end of her career…  However, Jewell managed to harness that heartache in order to produce something she’s quite proud of: “I’ve had people say they think it’s my strongest record so far, and I think they might be right.”  But she does acknowledge that the experience changed a lot for her: “It did a lot to influence everything I was thinking, feeling, and doing at the time…  I think it’s safe to say I’m a completely different person now.”  Her recent story is documented throughout the album’s 11 tracks, including most recent single, “Winnemucca,” whose namesake is a town in Northern Nevada, a four-hour drive from Jewell’s home in Boise, Idaho.  “My divorce had just been finalized, and I was on a solo road trip, trying to figure out what’s next for my life,” she tells me of the song’s origins, going on to say, “I was experiencing a lot of grief, but also a lot of longing, and even an odd kind of joy.  The song embodies this feeling of hardships, but also defiance.”

Eilen Jewell is currently about halfway through a run of dates in support of Get Behind the Wheel, which will have her returning to The Music Hall at World Café Live this Thursday, July 6th.  The last time she appeared in the city’s biggest listening room was October of 2021, just after the end of lockdown, which she tells me made for quite a different vibe than she’s been feeling on this current batch of dates: “I am noticing, at our lives shows, a lot of a levity that wasn’t there the last time we came through, when there was still a lot of fear in the air, and people were still masked…  Every city we’ve gone to feels like there’s a gratitude and a feeling of love in the air, and I expect the same thing of Philly [laughs].”  According to Jewell, the show will feature her old band (including Beek on drums), with whom she’s figured out a way to work, and a bunch of songs from the new album, of which Beek is actually a big fan.  Our show will also feature Americana rocker Angela Perley handling support duties, who Jewell tells me she and her band are quite fond of: “I think she’s a good fit, and we’re fans of her music!”

There are currently short runs of live dates for Eilen Jewell and her band throughout the year’s end, which she tells me is something practical she’s planned for the sake of her daughter: “We’re going into this short burst model of touring because our little girl is nine now, and schooling is really important.”  These dates include a gig this September at Americanafest in Nashville (alongside PHILTHY phriends Mipso, Parker Millsap, Shovels & Rope, Susto, Bella White, Jess Williamson, Maggie Rose, Caitlin Canty, and Emily Nenni), which she says she’s especially excited about.  However, she also tells me she’s excited to work on some new material, whatever form it may take: “I’m looking forward to doing some more writing.  I mean, I’m always writing, but not necessarily always looking to write songs.  I write because I love it, and I’m excited to see what comes of it, which could maybe even be a book of poems, or a play…”

The last time we spoke with Eilen Jewell, in October of 2021, I was surprised to hear her admit that, “The grief and stress of the pandemic have caused [her] to gravitate towards some heavier stuff,” most notably gangster rap (in addition to Lizzo and Nicki Minaj), so I’m inclined to ask what she’s been listening to a lot of recently, and she tells me that she’s actually been listening to a lot of garage rockers The Schizophonics (whom we covered in November of last year).  “I’ve seen them live twice, and both times they blew my mind.  It was like a cross between James Brown, Mick Jagger, and Jimi Hendrix,” she says of the San Diego trio.  However, she does confess that there’s still  a special place in her heart for that golden age of rap: “I still really enjoy some gangster rap every now and then.  It scratches an itch [laughs].”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.