The Jewelia Owens Band
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The Jewelia Owens Band

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"Something in the Air"

Something in the air

Contributed by Bethany Cunningham

The Jewelia Owens Band takes center stage A crackle of anticipation whips through the cold Salem Saturday night.
 The difficulty finding a parking spot near the Blue Pepper is the first sign that something is going on. That something is
The Jewelia Owens Band. Free coffeehouse music in Salem is often hit-or-miss. Very hit-or-miss, in fact, with good
groups drawing single-digit crowds and off-key soloists drawing rowdy throngs. But sometimes everything coalesces:
singer, venue, and crowd. With that jolt of synchronicity, the crowd at the Blue Pepper seems acutely aware that they are
watching something big.
Then Jewelia Owens starts warbling a hypnotic love song, drawing out long, low notes until they weep and all the crowd
can do is close their eyes and nod. The Blue Pepper is overflowing with people, and yet when this sprite of a girl-woman
picks up her violin and begins to sing, there is silence, absolute silence. Belying her huge singing voice, Jewelia seems
unsure how to greet such reverence, laughing with the nervousness that conveys that something is still very new here.

In her wispy honesty, she seduces the crowd better than any veteran of between-song-small-talk. Her band seems to
recognize too that they are a part of something, gathering momentum from the growing crowd. They turn folk ballads into
jazz improv into swing refrains back into folk ballads with effortless ingenuity. This is something worthy of a Norah Jones
album or a Diana Krall concert, and the crowd seems to implicitly recognize that this could be one of those I-knew-themwhen
moments. 

The foursome has been together for three short months with limited practice space and time, but an abundance of talent
getting them this close to something. The elusive something will get closer for the group in January when they cut a
demo and begin plans for a west coast tour beginning in February.

Sounding more like an MBA than a songbird, Jewelia explains that each step the group takes is designed to lead to
another. The demo to the tour to a possible CD to something big. Backed by her uber-supportive family, the girl who took
up violin 11 years ago to get out of math class has a clear vision for her future.

The South Salem High graduate has convinced fellow South graduates Erich Von Trapp and Chad Hammer to buy into
the vision. Von Trapp plays drums, has already heard all of the "Sound of Music" jokes, and has been
through several bands with Owens already in her quest for something. Hammer, the friend-of-a-friend who plays upright
bass provides a loose, relaxed vibe for the group with his mellow strumming and easy improv.

Guitarist Michael Dongug is the fourth piece of the puzzle, his boyish looks melding easily into this group of 20somethings,
despite the fact that he has a teenage daughter. He sought Owens and Von Trapp out after seeing her
perform at the Dragonfly Coffee Co. a few times. 

Finding space and time to practice has been their biggest challenge to date. With so many work schedules to balance,
the group hasn't had a chance to find adequate studio space to rent. The coming west coast tour
will also have to work around work schedules, with members exchanging vacation days for tour dates.

While the group plans to stay true to what Hammer calls their neo-folk roots the group is also clearly a
work in progress. Currently, they play a set of songs which Owens wrote as guitar/violin pieces for herself, with the band
layering their parts in. Asking one's backup musicians to create their own parts with very little practice seems like
a huge leap of faith, but the gamble pays off for Owens who benefits from the group's improvs and riffs. Owens
continues to write new material as she achieves more confidence both as a performer and a songwriter.

The next evolution of the group will take place after their tour, as Hammer leaves for Germany in March. The group
seems confident that they will replace Hammer and continue moving forward.

Moving forward seems to be the only alternative for the train that is the Jewelia Owens express. She could be in L.A.
right now, pounding the pavement, or in Seattle, or Portland seeking greater exposure, more chances of something
happening. But instead, she is here in Salem, sending crackles of anticipation and knew-you-when wherever she goes.
Because something is happening, of that there can be no doubt.

Salem's next chance to catch the Jewelia Owens Band is January 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Blue Pepper.

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- Salem Monthly


Discography

Jewelia Owens - Self Titled 2004
The Jewelia Owens Band - Shame ep 2006

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

My music has been influenced by everything I have experienced in life musically or otherwise....wouldn't even know where to start summarizing it.

Here is what others have said in the past few months about me, the band and the music: "you hit this lil town like a hurricane", "your music is amazing", "your music makes me smile", "You're fantastic. Thank you for sharing yourself with the world", "The show was great! I can't wait to go to the next one!", "You were AMAZING last night! I can't wait to see you again", "I was really impressed with the show tonight.
I hope you were happy, because you guys sounded awesome."

That's all I'm really about....turning myself inside out for a while and hoping everyone enjoys the ride!