Born and raised just west of the Rio Grande in Corrales, New Mexico, Eileen's roots are firmly planted in musical ground. A constant stream of Americana played on in the background of her early years, as her father fed her a steady diet of George Strait, Led Zeppelin and the Eagles. "Both my parents grew up country," she says. "It must be in my blood, because you can hear it in my music." Country music is one of many diverse influences on Eileen's unique and inventive sound.
Eileen's singing career began at age 5 as part of the Albuquerque Girl Choir. Her five brothers and sisters were also musically driven, often taking piano lessons together after school with a local farmer who taught music on the side. She sang throughout middle and high school, taking choir lessons during zero-hour and even enjoying a short stint in a mariachi band.
At age 12, inspired by her older brothers' skills, Eileen joined a classical guitar class; by her sophomore year, she gained a spot in her high school's advanced guitar quartet. Her music still contains much of the complicated fingerpicking she learned as a classical guitarist. "There's a difference," she says. "The nylon strings feel different under your fingers, so they speak to you in a different way. A certain kind of song comes out of the classical that just wouldn't come from a steel-string guitar."
Her journey with songwriting started at age 16, when she wrote her first single, "Skip the Intro". Feeling stuck and frustrated by life in a small town, she dreamed of making it to the next stage and doing something bigger. Songwriting didn't really sink in, though, until her senior year in high school, when she released her first EP as part of a capstone project. With the help of a hand-me-down 1998 Toshiba laptop and free Audacity recording software, A Leap of Faith was born.
As a college student, Eileen joined the Wildcats, an all-female a capella group formed in the 1980's. "The Wildcats really changed my perspective on everything. I had never seen a group of such diverse, powerful women being themselves that fiercely before. They would sing with their whole bodies... It was in that group that I really learned how to sing. How to channel artists like Stevie and Aretha. How to solo and not be afraid."
Supported by her fellow singers, she wrote a 5-song EP during her senior year that planted the seed for her first release, Honey and Zest. The songs lay in wait, however, for two years, while Eileen moved across the country to San Francisco. "When I landed in the Bay Area I was totally taken by surprise," she recalls. "I was like, what planet is this? People are just dancing and writing and making music all the time. It was like finding gold, this community dedicated to artistry and brilliance in music. There was a lot of love."
The creative atmosphere inspired Eileen to write the remaining 7 songs on Honey and Zest. This time, the rap and hip-hop sounds of the Bay Area made their way into the style of the album, balancing folk songs like "Portland" and "It Ain't You" with R&B-infused tracks like "The Girl Next Door" and "No One Else". The resulting mix wove together the folk heartbeat of Eileen's early years with the soul ballads of her early twenties, fusing genres into a delightful mix. Honey and Zest was released in August 2016.
While she's made a long-term home in San Francisco, Eileen feels a deep connection to her roots in New Mexico. "I still feel it in my veins whenever I create art. No matter how much the hip-hop and R&B of the Bay Area have an influence on me now, I'll always keep that thread of folk and country. It's the blend between the two, the crest of that mountain between two worlds, that inspires me. It keeps me seeking the next moment in music."
Eileen's aim is to create songs that are intimate and life-changing, but that also speak the truths of oppression and have a political impact. She believes that music from the heart, with both calming melodies and lyrics that are genuine and vulnerable, can heal us as individuals and as a society. Whether a song shares her story or someone else's, singing her hope for transformation is key. "Some of my songs are just about the desire to be free, or the joy of being free once you glimpse it. Some of my songs are based in pain but still have that upward moving quality... I can express anger or hurt but still see the growth and power in it. I write a lot about love and I also write about social change, because ultimately the challenge is the same: how can we use this to transform?"
Listen to some beautiful visions for transformation in Eileen's most recent singles, "Freedom Lives" and "Work (Who Says You Gotta Go)." To keep up to date on all of Eileen's most recent work, sign up for her mailing list.
Eileen's influences include the Dixie Chicks, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Nicks, India.Arie, Joni Mitchell and Miranda Lambert.