Having much on her mind is what led Eilen Jewell to Gypsy, her eighth album and first of original material since 2015 — including “These Blues,” premiering exclusively on Billboard today (July 30).
“It was a joy to create this album, which I can’t say is true of all my albums,” Jewell tells Billboard of Gypsy, due out Aug. 16 on Signature Sounds. “This is one of my favorites from start to finish. Writing the song was enjoyable, recording them, it was really a painless process. It was a joy and honor to make it. I think I was just ready for it. There were a lot of things I wanted to say.”
Turning 40 and being a new mother were part of the things she wanted to sing about. So was the political climate, the latter heard particularly on tracks such as “79 Cents (The Meow Song)” and “Beat the Drum.”
“Our country being in the state of turmoil that it’s in and the general populace being so divided, a lot of these things are weighing heavily on me,” Jewell says. “I was happy to have a platform to address them.”
Given all that, however, “These Blues” had a comparatively peaceful and even blissful birth. The song came to Jewell mostly subconsciously during a tour in England.
“I have this really vivid memory of waking up in this quaint little English inn with my little girl [now five years old] sleeping next to me,” the Idaho-based Jewell says.” My husband [fellow musician Jason Beek] had just gotten up to start his day. I was on that edge of sleeping and waking and this whole melody, with words and everything, appeared in my head. I had to whisper it really quietly into my phone so I wouldn’t forget it.”
Jewell laughs as she adds that she did forget she’d done the song until months later, when she was working on Gypsy in earnest. “I rediscovered it months later,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘What is this on my phone? Oh yeah, that song!’ It feels like this funny little ghost that creeps into my brain and sneaks up again on me months later.”
The melody and arrangement, she adds, was inspired by Pinto Bennett, an Idaho singer-songwriter whose “You Cared Enough to Lie” is Gypsy’s only cover song. “I really like his writing style, and I think it worked its way into what I was doing with (‘These Blues’),” Jewell says.
The overall feel of Gypsy, in fact, is more country and honky-tonk flavored that Jewell has allowed herself to be recently, which she says felt right for the songs. “I always let the songs dictate where they go. Some don’t want to fit neatly into a genre. Some just want to be classic country songs and some just want to be undefinable, or more rock ‘n’ roll,” she says. “So I let them decide.”
Listen to Jewell’s “These Blues” below.