Arts and Entertainment

The eerie sound of Eilen Jewell

Eilen Jewell brings her sound to the Treehouse Cafe on Saturday, Sept. 1. - Signature Sounds photo
Eilen Jewell brings her sound to the Treehouse Cafe on Saturday, Sept. 1.
— image credit: Signature Sounds photo

Eilen Jewell has busked on the streets of Santa Fe and played guitar on bandstands in Boston.

She’s royalty now.

Today, Jewell headlines her own band and is affectionately known as the “Queen of the Minor Key.”

It’s a title attributed to her aptness to the realm of nostalgic and perhaps wistful music.

“It speaks to my preference for kind of spooky and eerie songs,” Jewell said.

“I think it comes from something kind of mysterious inside me, but I really understand spooky songs.”

It’s an understanding she has held all her life.

Originally trained on the piano, Jewell was drawn to Chopin’s romantic nocturnes. She turned her attention to the guitar after a fateful Montana road trip with her father when she was 14 years old. They listened to Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series and she was hooked.

The minor key moniker was bestowed upon her years ago in Boston. She played in a variety of bands and at open mic shows. One night a friend of Jewell’s introduced her on stage as the “Queen of the Minor Key.”

“At first I was kind of embarrassed by it,” Jewell said. “I thought it was kind of his way of teasing me.”

“And I thought I should branch out and have more sunny and rosy material,” she added. “I thought about it and realized that it’s what I do.

“I guess by accepting that moniker for myself and running with it, it is my way of saying, ‘I am who I am and this is what I do. This is what comes naturally to me.’”

The tag is also the title of her band’s most recent album release.

Jewell’s music is an eclectic mix of folk, blues, rock and roll and more.

“A blend of a lot of different American roots style, pretty much anything with ‘early’ in front of it is what we are influenced by,” Jewell said.

“Early blues, early rock and roll, early folk,” she listed as examples.

The blend works well for Jewell, who often doesn’t tour with a set list for each show. She prefers to read the crowd instead and give them what they came for.

“Every show is a little bit different,” she said. “We play such a wide variety of music that it really depends on the message we are getting from the audience of what they want to hear the most.”

If an audience wants to dance, then Jewell and her band will kick things up a notch. If people are more laid back, they can adapt to the atmosphere.

Her band — consisting of husband Jason Beek on drums, Jerry Miller on guitar and Johnny Sciascia on the upright bass — have six albums under their belt, and a few previous tours through the Northwest. The Sept. 1 performance at the Treehouse Cafe will the be band’s first appearance on Bainbridge Island. They usually get booked across the Puget Sound in Seattle, but have been eager to make their way here.

“We are really looking forward to seeing Bainbridge Island for the first time,” Jewell said. “I’ve heard great things about it.”

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