One of the great regrets of singer-songwriter Eilen Jewell’s life is having misplaced one of her earliest recordings.
“When I was a little kid back in Boise, Idaho, in the ’80s, I was writing songs about my dog and the Easter Bunny – stuff that was relevant to me,” the Boston (via Santa Fe, N.M.)-based artist told The Beat.
“There was a tape with those songs on it, but I haven’t been able to find it,” Jewell said.
“It’s a shame. There are some real treasures on there.”
After having a bit of fun at her young self’s expense, Jewell explained that, although she started writing songs early, it wasn’t until she was in her 20s that she “wrote something I would share with others.”
She happily passed time as a teenager hanging out with friends, sharing songs and singing together, but it wasn’t until her college days in Santa Fe that one of her song-sharing friends convinced her to go public.
Prior to then, Jewell’s only public performing experience came in the piano recitals of her childhood, before which she often got so nervous she would blank out on her piece, which was supposed to be performed from memory.
“I never thought, after that, I would willingly perform for anybody,” she said.
But her friend, who was already playing gigs in Santa Fe, was persistent, suggesting Jewell sit in and play some of the songs they had worked on together.
“I reluctantly agreed, but I both enjoyed it and was terrified,” she confessed.
“We also did a lot of busking (street performing), and I’ll admit that’s where I really got the bug.”
More gigs meant more opportunities to play her songs, of which she now has a full six recordings, including her latest, Queen of the Minor Key.
The title indeed refers to Jewell herself, taken from a nickname bestowed by a friend that the singer at first didn’t like.
“The more I thought about it, I supposed he was right, so I took it and ran with it,” she said.
Jewell’s throwback, country-torch-singer style also has a long history.
“Even when I was 6 or 7, I listened to oldies on the radio – Buddy Holly, The Kinks,” she said.
“And my dad especially encouraged me to listen to the old blues stuff he loved. I definitely feel like I was born in the wrong era.”
If she should manage to invent a time machine, perhaps she could go back and find out what she did with that tape of her first songs.