Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels
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Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels

Newport, Oregon, United States

Newport, Oregon, United States
Band Americana Acoustic


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"In music, Unkle Nancy found salvation As part of the Floater nation"

In music, Unkle Nancy found salvation As part of the Floater nation,
he found himself; now he's on the same bill

By Serena Markstrom
The Register-Guard
Published: Jan 29, 2009 11:28PM

Entertainment: Ticket: Story
Floater did not save Joey Stewart's life directly. But the Portland
band that formed in Eugene and probably has sold out the WOW Hall more
times than anyone else had a key role in helping a young man find his

At the age of 14, Stewart, who now performs as Unkle Nancy, was a
chubby, awkward outcast with bad posture living in Newport. Peers
called him "Penguin" and "Twinkle Toes" because he walked with his
toes pointed away from his body.

"I remember asking for a chiropractor when I was 10," Unkle Nancy said
during a recent interview. "Who does that?"

After a suicide attempt, Stewart was sent to a facility for mentally
troubled boys, a place he said was one step above juvenile detention.
The kids he met there led him into drinking, smoking and other drug

At 16, he dropped out of high school. By 17, he was following Floater
with single-minded devotion.

"I used to follow them around like Deadheads," he said, estimating he
has attended 100 Floater shows.

Today, almost 10 years to the day from when Joey became Unkle Nancy,
he is opening solo for his favorite band.

For Floater, it's the first of two acoustic nights — Ehren Ebbage
opens Saturday — that mark the completion of a project to give the
WOW's downstairs beer garden a makeover. During two acoustic shows
last February, Floater raised $3,414 for the remodel.

In the tradition of Floater, members of Grynch pitched in to help
paint the basement. Other project volunteers included Sean Ponder from
Reeble Jar and SuperTrout.

WOW Hall offered community

In some ways, Unkle Nancy's is a story that has repeated itself
throughout the WOW Hall's history. It's always been an all-ages venue
where young people can volunteer, see shows and become part of a

"All the bad kids, everybody, was into Floater," Unkle Nancy said.
"Those shows, it was like a religious experience.

"We went to shows, that's what we did. That started my complete
obsession with music from this area."

By the time he was 20, Unkle Nancy had moved to Eugene, been married
and divorced and earned his high school equivalency degree.

His mom used to joke that he was getting his "rockanomics" degree.
While he never enrolled in college, he lived near the University of
Oregon campus, hung out with students, played music and attended

"My mom was really supportive, but she never understood me," Unkle
Nancy said. "She accepted me."

Now 27, the musician in Unkle Nancy seems to be on the verge of
meaningful regional success. Since he left his job as an activity
leader and therapist for people with dementia two years ago, it seems
there is no bottom to his creative fountain.

He followed the advice of a delusional elderly woman to pursue music
full time. She brought him a cookie every day for a year after he left
the job, he said.

Although he cultivates an aura of mystery, Unkle Nancy has made
friends with people from every level of the local music scene, from
the jug band folks to the hip-hop heads. He's part of the cadre of
artists defining Northwest music, and it has everything to do with not
heeding genre boundaries.

One of the keys to his rise has been his predilection to surround
himself with Oregon talent and not spend much time or resources
following national acts — although he was spotted at a recent Gogol
Bordello concert.

A bit awkward and soft spoken in person, Unkle Nancy has won admirers
for an in-your-face, frenetic live show. His songwriting is bold and
original, usually backed by a full eight-piece band.

Stature as a musician is growing

He's only gotten serious about music and formed a band these past two
years, but Unkle Nancy has been making songs since he got his first
keyboard at age 8. His band's signature sound right now is what they
call "Gypsy pirate blues," which would appeal to fans of Gogol
Bordello and Jason Webley, although no accordion is involved.

Early on, he was a one-man-band with a portable digital beat machine.
He favored hip-hop production values but employed a screaming vocal

As he met more music people, he got a reputation as a talented sound
mixer. But more importantly, his stature as a musician bordering on
genius is spreading.

Right now, he's working on a new project for Unkle Nancy and the
Family Jewels. There's also a collaboration with his 19-year-old
sister and a handful of other projects, including remixing Marv.Ellis'
"Dreamcatcher Juice" album

Unkle Nancy had a significant role in recording "Keegan Smith's
HYbrid," including the cathartic singalong "Not My Baby."

The artist recently learned he has hip dysplasia, a condition more
commonly found in dogs. It explains his uncomfortable gait and bad

"I'm a lot less miserable than I was last year," he said. His doctor
recommends turning his abs into a "six-pack," and Unkle Nancy said
he's going to work on that.

But before all these positive changes came Unkle Nancy's way, there
was Floater. Now, his favorite band is helping his music find a larger

"They are definitely giving me a leg up," he said.

The show also will be a reunion for many of the people Unkle Nancy
attended shows with his youthful days.

"A lot of those guys haven't seen Floater since high school," he said.

Call Serena Markstrom at 338-2371 or e-mail her at serena
.markstrom@registerguard.com - The Register-Gaurd

"In the Key of Sea"

Unkle Nancy, from “Everywhere� Oregon, has dabbled in a host of musical genres: hip hop, indie, backwoods country and now pirate folk rock. While immediate comparisons come to mind — Jason Webley and Tom Waits — the band truly has a sound all its own.
The eight-piece group differentiates itself by the use of transitions and variation within the CD, as well as in individual songs. The album raises spirits with drunken singalongs like “Hey Hey,� a song that challenges and entertains listeners with its mean-spirited lyrics about despising someone. Despite its use of abrasive expletives, it still gets my feet tapping.
The song “Gypsy Pirate Blues� is a perfect example of the band’s excellent use of variation. It begins with a Spanish-style tone that is almost sexy in a weird way. About five minutes in to the eight-minute song, the mood switches gears. It becomes raw and gritty as the song tells the story of a murder.
While Unkle Nancy’s ragtime songs will get you dancing, it’s the band’s sea chanteys that provide a playfully dark mood. “I Wish I Were a Sailor� is an intentionally sloppy, almost drunk-sounding ditty. Think Tom Waits fronting The Decemberists. — Deanna Uutela - Eugene Weekly

"Sweet Dope"

Some of my favorite songs are covers: Save Ferris' version of "Come on Eileen," Cake's take on "I Will Survive," Guns N' Roses' rendition of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." Who would have thought that "Sweet Dreams" would sound better as a freaky slow alternarock song? Better yet, who would have thought that a band could take a song like "The Dope Show" and turn it into a knee slapping, good ol' time?

Unkle Nancy, lead singer of The Dope Show (and Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels), has always been a huge fan of Marilyn Manson. "The band was created from my like of Manson, vaudeville and jug band music. One day I combined all three and it just worked," he says.

Nancy's version of "Dope Show" is fun and catchy as hell. What makes the band's songs great is the musicians' ability to mold the original song into their own style, thus making it more current and completely separate from the original. Whether or not you understand Marilyn Manson's choice of style or antics on stage, the band has written some amazing songs. The Dope Show gives new life and a new arena to songs that are often scoffed at simply because of the listener's dislike of Manson.

Throw in a banjo, saw, washboard, kazoo and vocals similar to that of Everlast, and the once creepy environment created by Manson becomes a barnyard vaudeville act. Don't expect to see any colored contacts, clown makeup or screwing of chickens at The Dope Show's performance. The members of The Dope Show are pretty normal looking twentysomething guys and gals with nothing to prove. You can expect a good time, though.
— Deanna Uutela

- Eugene Weekly

"Spring 08"

Local favorite Unkle Nancy performs boot stompin,' gritty blues and soulful music straight from the heart today (Friday) at Cafe Mundo in Newport. Self-described as the genre of "urban Americana," Unkle Nancy incorporates vocals and skill on a range of instruments, including banjo, kazoo, mandolin, ukulele, bass, accordion, harmonica, guitar, drums and piano into energetic, inspiring performances.

Cafe Mundo presents the tribute jug band "The Dope Show" today (Friday), featuring an eclectic mix of sound on jugs, musical saw, banjo, kazoo, washboard, drums, and washtub and upright bass. Self-described as generating a sound akin to "Marilyn Manson and Tom Waits' love child," The Dope Show - a Marilyn Manson tribute jug band - combines staccato rhythms with the sincerity of gravely, folksy vocals to poke fun at the human condition through melodies that move the audience to clap along. The band is a side project of several regional musical groups and includes members of Unkle Nancy, The Juice To Make It Happen, and The Bad Mitten Orchestra.
- Newport News Times

"From many voices comes one 'HYbrid'"

From many voices comes one 'HYbrid'

By Serena Markstrom

The Register-Guard

Published: June 27, 2008 12:00AM
Story Tools

Lucky people have been to those shows where strangers look at each other as if to say "I know!" to indicate they are witnessing something special.

Keegan Smith had a show like that in early May at the Mission Theater in Portland. The stage was alight with a cast of Northwest all-stars who kept live music going for hours at a sold-out CD release party for "HYbrid," a project he's calling "urban Americana."

See former Eugene resident Unkle Nancy, dripping sweat, ripping it up left-handed in his wild, percussive guitar style and belting out "you're not my baby" as audience members sing back at the top of their lungs.

See Eugene's young hip-hop wonders Lafa Taylor and Marv+Ellis, dressed in a loose-fitting formal jacket, singing and rapping their parts and those of producer and songwriter Big PZ.

See, stage left, the twins from Acoustic Minds, Jenni and Amanda Price, performing passionate backup vocals and solos, joined by soul singer Kristina Rae.

See the audience clear the way for guest tango dancers, who burn up the dance floor during what many involved in "HYbrid" consider its most "epic" song: "The Gathering."

What a gathering it was. When it was all over, the man who had brought everyone together was visibly excited — and maybe a little relieved.

During a brief conversation, Smith would hint that this triumph could just as easily not have happened.

"I just wanted to make sure every voice was heard," he said after the final song of the night, white button down shirt damp with perspiration.

Project almost didn't happen

The idea came to Smith more than a year ago, but as late as last August he was unsure if he would "pull the trigger" on it.

"A year ago March, I got this great idea to basically create one touring band out of my band, the Acoustic Minds' band and Marv+Ellis' band," Smith said during a recent phone interview. "With this intermixed band, we could maximize our contacts and really keep a crowd super-entertained for a long time."

But to be a band, the group would need material. With so many moving parts, Smith figured the only way to create original music together would be to invite all his favorite people to his family's cabin.

It can take a long time to make music solo, and even longer when there's collaboration, but enough people were intrigued by or available for the project that Smith started planning. The isolation provided by the Mount Hood forest, 45 minutes from Portland's bustle, would provide the focus.

The cabin is where he spent his last days of bachelorhood before marrying his wife, Angela, in 2002. He could invite what he thought of as the "Northwest Fresh All-Stars" — artists from blues, bluegrass, reggae, funk, soul and hip-hop backgrounds.

Smith's almost decadelong relationship with Eugene-based Paul Bustrin, aka Big PZ, known primarily as a hip-hop producer, provided an obvious choice for his right-hand man on the project. Bustrin had introduced Smith to Garrick Bushek, who performs as Marv+Ellis. Smith enjoyed Marv+Ellis' "Underwater Not Underground," which mixed hip-hop vocals with live acoustic music and hip-hop production techniques.

But as the time approached for the retreat, Smith was still unsure if it was the right move. Angela was pregnant with their first child and he faced funding the project on his own while losing income from gigs to be up on the mountain.

Finally, he decided it could be the chance of a lifetime. Most everyone he talked to about the project wanted to participate — and it would be the last time in his life when he was not a father.

Smith offered Bustrin and Bushek a paid opportunity to live in the cabin for the duration of the project. Smith, Bustrin and Bushek each brought his own studio equipment.

They set up computers, instruments and work stations in the 2,000 square-foot cabin that can sleep up to 14. They hung microphones from the ceiling with yarn.

"The first month was rough," Smith said. "It was so rough."

Clashing egos, competitive natures and a need for each musician to figure out his role meant a slow start.

After the first couple of weeks, the only finished tracks were Bustrin's "Saturday Night" and Unkle Nancy's "Not My Baby." Then something happened.

No one can fully explain what took place. Call it a fight or call it a disagreement, "The Gathering" was causing some friction.

Unkle Nancy thought it should be more dark and scary, Smith said. He told Bushek his lyrics weren't about anything. Some of the guys thought Unkle Nancy's parts should be shorter.

" 'The Gathering' was mysteriously deleted," Smith said. "I think it was because of the fight."

The file from the recording session was gone, but they had an mp3. Attempts to rerecord imploded, so the version that ended up on "HYbrid" is derived from that mp3.

A very careful listener might hear a connection between "The Gathering" and "Road Trippin'," a backstory that only contributes to "The Gathering" becoming a microcosm for what went down at the cabin.

The first night Unkle Nancy arrived at the cabin he and Smith, perhaps delirious at the hour, were making Bobby McFerrin-style mouth pops, hand slaps and jamming on guitars.

Bustrin started recording and laid down tracks for each guitar and captured the whimsical a cappella sounds.

The next day, Bustrin and Bushek slapped on their headphones and got to work at their respective stations.

Bushek threw out the guitar and produced drum lines, reusing sounds that worked in the beat he was creating.

"The Gathering" is a story. Unkle Nancy's Spanish-style guitar parts add to the drama.

On the flip side, Bustrin kept both percussive sounds and guitar parts and came up with a hook-oriented and lighthearted driving song, "Road Trippin.'"

"There were so many little pieces," Bushek said. "It was just a collaboration with everyone."

All told, the all-stars occupied the cabin for two months. They laid down 50 songs pretty much from scratch. Most of them will forever be B sides. Others could show up on projects involved artists put out in the future.

When some of the artists heard "HYbrid," they were upset. Naturally, the people who were at the cabin most were featured on the most tracks, but some felt left out.

In the six months between the time they pulled the microphones from the ceiling at the cabin, those hard feelings had softened. Smith noted that everyone but Paul Creighton from Intervision and Bustrin (who both had scheduling conflicts) performed at the CD release show.

"There were times where all those artists up there really created something special," Bustrin said. "The songs that sound very alive and fresh, those are the ones you can tell there was a lot of camaraderie going on.

"It's kind of cool to see the level of this album. It was such a creative fiesta going on. ...

"When you get a bunch of starters trying to be teammates, you get a bunch of tension. But I think we turned that tension into a positive force."

Style has its roots in Eugene

That force is "Keegan Smith's HYbrid," 15 songs from about that many musicians. As a general rule, the person singing the lines is the person who wrote the lines.

Before Smith started tapping the roots of hip-hop, he worked reggae rhythms, guitars and vocal stylings into his songs. During the CD release show in May, his most prominent performances were on songs from his solo days.

But when people tell him that he doesn't seem to be the focus of "HYbrid," he explains his intention never was for it to be about his music. The idea was for a group of people he respected and admired to do something new.

"Basically, it is me taking genres of all these different people and putting it in my bowl and mixing it up," Smith said.

Bustrin pointed out that what Smith is calling "urban Americana" has been brewing in the Northwest for years. He cited the Eugene scene 10 years ago, when such performers as singer-songwriter Shawn McDonald and Paul Wright were experimenting with it.

Acoustic singer-songwriter Mat Kearney was performing with those guys during that era.

Kearney is at his best when he eschews the rapping, but his efforts as an MC were documented on recordings, witnessed at shows here and even captured a little on his major label debut, "Nothing Left to Lose."

"When it comes down to it, we basically did something no one in Portland or Eugene probably has ever done," Bustrin said. "Indie artists roll up in the middle of nowhere in Mount Hood and create something.

"Of course it's not going to be perfect, but it's great - The Register-Gaurd


The Urban Americana band Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels will perform their album “Lovely� for valentines and singles at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 14, at the Newport Performing Arts Center.

Front man Unkle Nancy is the homegrown Joey Stewart, a 2000 Toledo High School graduate, who is accompanied by Ethan Zirin Brown, Bunny, Yoko Silk, and Tiffany Nickles.

Stewart explained that Urban Americana refers to country backwoods music that infuses city blues and hip-hop that he phrased as “molding all things American.�

About “Lovely�

“Two years ago I started writing the album. It's a love story about two characters, Lonesome and Lovely, and it actually happened,� Steward said. “I wrote those 10 songs in nine months about a girl.�

He said “Lovely� is an album that is the ideal soundtrack for a romantic Valentine's Day.

While writing “Lovely� he was employed at the Alzheimer's Association in Eugene as an activities director. “My testing audience was a bunch of ladies with Alzheimer's disease,� said Stewart. He noted that they enjoyed it, as do other audiences. He has already sold 500 copies of the album.

About Stewart

Stewart, 26, started playing music when he was 10 years old, and by 12, he was writing his own songs.

Prior to becoming Unkle Nancy, Stewart was in a band called 4:20, which sold approximately 1,000 records in the city. In 2002, he moved to Eugene, where he collaborated with hip-hop musician Marv Ellis and the band Juice to Make it Happen.

Later, he took the plunge and quit his job at the Alzheimer's Association to pursue his music, with which he is able to support himself through his gigs.

“Performing is all I know how to do - I've been doing it since I was a kid,� he said.

Stewart attributed some of his success to growing up in Lincoln County, where he had the help of Bill Stiffler, Deborah Zirin, Brad Capshaw, and Rick Bartow for inspiration in the arts and mentorship.

Among the various instruments he plays are guitar, banjo, ukulele, piano, bass, accordion, harmonica, kazoo, mandolin, and drums.

He practices music for more than five hours daily and estimates that he has written over 3,000 songs, many of which are recorded or written down to catalogue them.

“I studied this guy whose philosophy is to open yourself and become a channel for art to flow through, and that's when the numbers started to increase. Now I write about 10 songs a week. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write songs,� Stewart said. He explained that he is dyslexic so he had to learn quickly how to improvise in life and music, which translates to new ideas for songs.

Valentine's Day show
- Newport News Times

"Mysterious Process-Unkle Nancy leaves some Lovely clues"


I've been trying to track down the artist known as Unkle Nancy since hearing his debut album, Lovely. To be honest, I'm not always terribly motivated to talk to songwriters about their "process," but something about this collection of songs — a folk-rock opera of sorts chronicling the love story of a poet named Lonesome and the object of his affections, Lovely — has piqued my curiosity. Is Unkle Nancy really Lonesome? Who is the mysterious Lovely? Why does everyone in his band only have a first name? I do some mild stalking via Google. I find an outdated blog that Unkle Nancy kept until 2005, but then nothing after that … a clue perhaps? OK, this is getting a little creepy.

Of course, this being Eugene, the mystery is really more an indulgence than a reality, but regardless of the backstory, Lovely is a melodically enjoyable and lyrically interesting album with a few notably catchy and moving tracks. "Play it Cool" is a jaunty little ditty about biding time, waiting for heartbreak. "Beautiful You" and "She Said" are the album's official bookends, the first sad in a hopeful, naïve, poetic way and the second more introspective and painfully wizened. The "hidden" 10th track gives you some insight into the fate of Lonesome and Lovely, but I won't spoil the story.

For an album composed entirely around one side of a relationship, there's a commendable amount of musical variety on Lovely. "Perfect" experiments with some trippy, new-agey distortion, several tracks feature haunting cello courtesy of artist Yoko Silk and there's a good old-fashioned hippie jam-out (but just a little one!) ..r to You." Nancy's vocal range is also remarkably broad, and he takes some breathy, gravelly risks that pay off by marking each track as a unique and personal experience. My favorite was the audible drunken wounded bitterness in the vocals on "Stay Away."

Indulge your audio voyeur at Unkle Nancy's CD release party, which is also a benefit for the Alzheimer's Association (with brochures, staff on hand and a brief presentation on Alzheimer's). - Eugene Weekly


Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels - Gypsy Pirate Blues (Nancyboy Records 2008)

Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels - Lovely (Nancyboy Records 2007)



With strong musical talent and captivating stage presence, Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels demand attention and active crowd participation. Merging a 1920’s style with 21st century themes, their high energy shows will inspire audiences to boot-stomping rowdiness, leaving the crowd begging for more and singing their tunes for weeks following a show. The Family Jewels sound has been compared to Gogo Bordello, Jason Webley, Mike Patton, and even to the Decemberists fronted by Tom Waits. Their shows can be an emotional thrill ride, including sweet love songs, heavy metal covers gone gypsy, and pirate syle sing-a-longs. They can play over 2 hours of 90’s covers done gypsy ragtime style, a set of Tin Pan Alley tunes, many American traditionals….and over 4 hours of original compositions.