Eileen Howard has experienced music in every shape and form and she's bringing it all to her favorite neighborhood
Upper West Side Jazz and blues singer Eileen Howard's eccentric background no doubt played a role in who she is today, and she'll be the first to tell you so.
When Howard was in the fourth grade, her parents got involved with a group of ecumenical Christians in an all-black community on the west side of Chicago..
Howard says what started as a community development project eventually became an international organization.
"Like many organizations in the 60s," Howard said, "it was very communal-we shared resources, ate together, and all lived in a building where we worked."
The group was highly involved in the civil rights movement; Howard's family even marched with Martin Luther King Jr.
Howard's time in Chicago was not only formative on a social level; it also furthered her childhood love for music.
"I fell in love with soul and R&B, and I learned to dance," she said.
When she was growing up, Howard's father was a concert pianist and her mother a classical singer. To Howard's enjoyment, a new sort of music was always wafting through their house. Not only was Howard exposed to music on a regular basis, her parents were also involved with a musical theater company. Eventually, she could sing all of "Oklahoma" by heart. Howard listened to everything and loved it all, though jazz would be a later discovery for her.
The Bluesy Brunch
When a man named John Forslund purchased the former Underground Lounge (107th and Broadway), he fixed the place up in his own image. Howard, alongside a duo act, performed a very successful concert at the new joint, renamed the West Side Lounge, and Forslund and Howard struck up a friendship. From there, the Bluesy Brunch was born.
What can one expect from the monthly Bluesy Brunch, which will officially launch on March 23rd?
Howard gives us a taste: "The blues is upbeat-we tell stories and people sing along. I do empowering and fun blues. One of my favorite songs, 'Wild Women Don't Sing the Blues' is about not being a victim, but getting out there and being empowered, being wild."
Howard is now a resident as well as a local fixture in the neighborhood in which she performs.
"[My husband and I] love the Upper West Side," she said, "I mean, we really love it."
Howard is also, naturally, overjoyed by the music scene in the area. In some senses, however, the Ohio transplant is still settling in.
"New York is a raging river that sweeps you along," said Howard, adding you must focus on what it is you truly want to do. For awhile she got wrapped up in her acting career, but knew she had to take a step back.
"I missed blues and jazz," Howard said. "I really want to focus on that right now and just give it my all and see what happens and this partnership has been so encouraging."
The Bluesy Brunch will have no cover charge for the first four months. More info can be found at www.singouteileen.com.