Noir American

24 March 2012 | 9:47 am | Staff Writer

More Eilen Jewell More Eilen Jewell

She may be Boston-based right now, but chasing her music has seen singer/songwriter Eilen Jewell live in a lot of different places. Growing up in Idaho City, Jewell began her musical career busking on the streets of Santa Fe while at college, before lighting out to Los Angeles, then back east to Massachusetts where she recorded her 2005 debut album, Boundary County. All of which is probably why, when it came time to write her latest record, Queen Of The Minor Key, she felt the need to light and set up alone in a tiny cabin in the Idaho Mountains, no running water or electricity, with just her guitar.

“I've been havin' a really hard time writing while I've been on the road,” Jewell admits, on the line from her current home, “so I have to go to great lengths to get rid of the distractions in my life and the only thing I've found that works is go far, far away from everything that I'm used to and find some solitude and I chose the mountains of Idaho 'cause I'm from Idaho originally. I know that I feel very at home there and I think I need a certain amount of familiarity and comfort with a place in order to feel that I can get some writing done.

“Then the songs came quickly. I think that the songs were waiting in the wings at the back of my mind until I had the time and the mental energy to write them down, and each of them come from a slightly different place I think. Some of them are autobiographical – the song Santa Fe is probably the most autobiographical song I've ever written – but songs like I Remember You are kind of based on a true feeling but the events in the song are made up in order to kinda symbolise what I'm feeling. And then, some of them are just totally fictionalised [laughs].”

The new album sounds a little like film noir meets those quaint radio play mysteries of the '30s and '40s – it's very Lynchian in a way.

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“It's funny that you mention David Lynch 'cause his name has come up quite a few times in talking about my music, and I definitely think about Twin Peaks all the time and as you know it has a real film noir atmosphere to it, and also I really love old westerns and I think that there are certain images in old westerns that I've seen… and kind of noirish Pulp Fiction-type films trickle into my writing because they're definitely a big part of what inspires me.”

Ultimately of course, the core of Jewell's music is folk roots Americana.

“I've just always really liked this kind of music,” she admits. “Ever since I can remember I really liked pretty anything with 'early' in front of it – early blues, early rock'n'roll, early jazz and early country – and even as a kid [in the '80s], I remember being seven years old and listening to the oldies radio station, which back then was playing a lot of Buddy Holly and The Kinks and Elvis. So I think, as soon as I figured out how to use a radio, I've been listening to the stuff I'm listening to now – it's a whole life of having the same taste in music, pretty much [laughs]. So I think it was kinda natural that if I ever started writing songs, they would be in that style of music that I always felt at home in.”