A Conversation with Folk Powerhouse, Jewel
Since her rise to stardom in the '90s with the hit "Who Will Save Your Soul," singer-songwriter Jewel has become a folk tour de force. Beyond her accomplishments in the music industry, which includes releasing 12 studio albums, selling more than 27 million records, and four Grammy nominations, she's also dabbled in acting, producing, and writing. Ahead of her concert in Park City, Park City Magazine spoke to the acclaimed artist.
Park City Magazine: Do you remember a specific moment when you decided you wanted to be a musician?
Jewel: Music is something I've done my whole life, starting with my parents. It was just part of our family life. There was nothing glamorous about it, it's just what we did. I started singing with my dad in bars when I was eight. I ended up being accepted into a fine arts high school to do music when I was 15 and began songwriting when I was 16. I only started using it as a means to earn money as a necessity because I was homeless in San Diego after my boss fired me for refusing to have sex with him. After a year of living in my car and playing gigs with my own material, that's when I was "discovered."
PCM: Where does your inspiration come from and what is the song-writing process usually like for you?
J: I felt really isolated by pop culture when I was younger when all you could see was perfect, beautiful people and I didn't feel like one of them. When I encountered artists or writers who were really honest about things, like Loretta Lynn, Joni Mitchell, and other singer-songwriters, I was attracted to that. The one thing I don't want is to use music as propaganda to make myself seem like something I'm not.
PCM: Out of all your work, do you have a favorite song?
J: I don't really have a favorite, but I guess "Who Will Save Your Soul" will always be special to me because it became my first single and really changed my life.
PCM: Are there any particular challenges you feel you've had to overcome, especially as a woman, working in the music industry?
J: When I was singing in bars with my dad, and was just eight, guys started hitting on me. Those experiences really taught me to trade with wit rather than sexuality. In an industry that is so heavily dominated by men, I'm grateful for not having become a victim. I'd rather be sleeping in my car than have to use sex to get a deal. In the end, I think practicing hard and using talent as leverage will always be better.
PCM: You've been making and playing music basically your whole life. How do you feel your work has evolved over time?
J: My heroes were Bob Dylan and Neil Young and I was lucky enough to have them take me under their wing. They really taught me that a singer-songwriter should take risks and push into new territories in order to grow. Doing the same thing over and over because it's expected isn't good and the success of my initial album allowed me to take new risks. To me, it's a little bit like going into my closet--sometimes I wear sweatpants, sometimes a dress, or whatever. I'm always the same soul, singing about society, the world, and myself, but I'm dressing it in different ways.
PCM: Any music in the works or projects you're looking to take on that you haven't explored before?
J: I'm not working on any new music right now, just promoting the most recent album Picking Up The Pieces and writing my memoir. The memoir was my first attempt at long-form writing and it proving to be quite difficult so I'm hoping to get back to publishing poetry. I'm also launching a website on Sept. 20th about ways to overcome bitterness and break unhealthy cycles. So many women end up victims in a ditch or a statistic and the website is really about how we can rewire the brain to create new habits and how I've personally overcome life's hardships. Other than that, I've got some acting things lined up.
You can catch Jewel on stage on Sept. 3rd as part of the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series at Deer Valley.