From the remote tundra of her Alaskan youth to the triumph of international stardom, Jewel has traveled a singular road as an acclaimed singer, songwriter, poet, actress and painter. The three-time Grammy nominee, hailed by The Times of London as the most sparkling female singer-songwriter since Joni Mitchell, nevertheless remains a unique and authentic artist, exploring fresh musical avenues for more than a decade that have taken her from the simplicity of acoustic-driven folk to the embrace of rock, pop, country, blues, jazz and classical influences. To date, Jewel has sold over 25 million albums worldwide, enjoying a career longevity rare among her generation of artists. Whether alone with her guitar or fronting a band of ace musicians, Jewel has always been a charismatic live performer, earning the respect of other singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who have invited her to open their shows. Her singular style and beauty continuously land her on the covers of such diverse magazines as Time, People, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, InStyle, Glamour and Seventeen. Stuff listed her among its ‘102 Sexiest Women in the World while Blender went further, crowning her ‘rocks sexiest poet.
Jewels personal odyssey, partly chronicled on her eleven-time platinum debut album, Pieces of You, comes to full flower in her new release, Goodbye Alice in Wonderland (Atlantic), slated for release on May 2. Marking her first album in three years, her sixth all told, Alice is her most autobiographical work in more than a decade, tracing her path from the extreme solitude of Alaska to the extreme joys and pitfalls of fame. Its title also alludes to other fantasies: the fairy tales we are told in youth about life, love and friendship versus the more complex, and often disheartening, truth. With some songs freshly written, others drawn from her astounding catalog of nearly 500 original works, she explains, gI spent a lot of time sequencing this album so each song sets up the next, like a novel with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Alice leads with the mid-tempo Again and Again, a paean to the challenges and compromises of romantic love, which serves as the albums first single, set to hit the airwaves February 27. From the achingly poignant Long Slow Slide, listeners are led further down a universal rabbit hole with the title track, Goodbye Alice in Wonderland (for which Jewel shot an impromptu, highly personal video that premiered and had a limited run on her website.)
Accelerating into third gear, Jewel makes the most of her lyrical skills and malleable voice on Alice’s middle group of songs: optimism trumping late-night worry on Good Day, the satiric machinations of Satellite (written at age 18 when she first visited Hollywood), the hook-driven pop anthem Only One Too, the equally danceable Words Get in the Way (with its subversive plea Tell your boss you’re dead / Lets get back in bed), and, taking her foot off the gas a bit, the plaintive on-the-road rumination, Drive to You.
Jewel recollects her youth singing in seedy Alaskan bars, and the free-flowing style of her early, short story/poet years in Last Dance Rodeo, segueing into Fragile Heart, a more up-tempo version of a song from her recent album, 0304. Stephenville, TX, like Alice’s title track, is at once an ode to hindsight reality and a Dylanesque diatribe on modern culture. In denouement, Jewel offers the quiet angst of Where You Are (Im a princess and Im locked inside a stone tower of song / Im tryin’ to write messages on the window / How I just want to be long) and the live-show favorite 1,000 Miles Away.
Helping to make the recording process transparent, letting the emotion of each song shine purely, Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls) shared a producers role with Jewel, who credited him with giving her what she needed to carve Goodbye Alice in Wonderland like a master sculptor. We both saw the same figure inside the stone and Im grateful that he knew how to get it out, she says.
A native of Payson, Utah, raised in Homer and Anchorage, Alaska, Jewel (born Jewel Kilcher) was the descendent of homesteaders: her mothers family old-guard Mormon, her fathers side Swiss futurists who immigrated before World War II. Both of her parents, Atz and Nedra, enjoyed making local records and performing and, along with her brothers, Jewel (a moniker taken from her mothers family name) accompanied her parents on tours through native villages. At six I remember singing for Eskimos and Aleuts in remote places, taking dog sled rides through frozen tundra, she says.
When her parents divorced, she spent more than a half-dozen years with her father touring as a duet act, starting at the age of eight. We sang in biker bars and lumberjack joints. If the cops were ever called, Id hide in the bathroom till they were gone, she says. At fifteen she went her own way, performing solo for the first time and earning a vocal scholarship to Interlochen, a private arts school in Michigan, where she also majored in visual art. It was here she learned guitar and began writing songs, inspired by a love of reading at a young age. Reading made me feel connected to the world, she explains. The writers I returned to again and again were the ones that were brutally honest, willing to show themselves as heroic at times, grotesque at others. Anais Nin, Charles Bukowski, these were heroes to me.
Heartfelt songwriting became not only an emotional outlet, but a means of survival. During Spring Break one year she took a train and hitchhiked in Mexico, earning money as a street-corner minstrel. I made up lyrics everywhere I went and eventually it turned into a very long song about what I saw around me, she recalls. I made it back to school two weeks later with an unformed song called Who Will Save Your Soul. She was sixteen at the time and had no idea that that song would, a mere three years later, become the first single from her first album, offering not just a days meal ticket, but meteoric success.
Moving to San Diego, a series of unfortunate events led to living in her car and, after it was stolen, borrowing $1,000 from a friend to buy a van to live in. She got her first regular gig at a coffeehouse in Pacific Beach, where fans soon multiplied like rabbits, building a local cult following. Label A&R guys started coming as well, and Jewel was signed to Atlantic Records close to her 19th birthday. Her first record, a deeply introspective, live, voice-and-acoustic-guitar, modern folk collection called Pieces of You, sold about 3000 copies, nearly all in San Diego, in the nine months after its February 1995 debut. So Jewel hit the road with a vengeance, playing four shows a day in 40 cities. A folk singer at the height of grunge, she was encouraged by two acts she opened for: Bob Dylan, who actively listened to her songs and discussed lyrics with her, and Neil Young, who gave the nervous solo artist a piece of advice at Madison Square Garden: Its just another hash-house on the road to success. Show em no respect!
Hard work and heartfelt songwriting not to mention an exquisitely expressive voice paid off. After a year on the road, Who Will Save Your Soul became a major hit. And with the release of two other hit singles, You Were Meant for Me and Foolish Games, album sales went through the roof, as Blender magazine writes: With considerably less fuss, [Pieces of You] went on to exceed the sales of Nirvanas Nevermind, moving a phenomenal 11 million units.
Jewels subsequent albums steadily built her reputation and fan base. In November 1998 came Spirit, a collection of inspirational ballads aided by sparse, supportive instrumentation. The next November she offered up Joy: A Holiday Collection, blending well-loved Christmas carols with traditional spirituals and other songs, followed in Fall 2001 by the best-selling album This Way. In June 2003, her fifth work, 0304, premiered at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart, marking both the highest-debuting and highest-charting album of her career to date. Describing it as a modern take on 40s dance hall music, Jewel brought dance beats, synthesizer flavors and layered vocal overdubs to the album, which included the Top Five hit single Intuition.
Touring remains part of Jewels essence and, through her U.S. and world tours, she has forged a powerful, intimate bond with audiences around the globe. Her extraordinary voice and engaging stage presence have earned her acclaim throughout North America, Asia, Australia and Europe.
Among her many accolades are three Grammy Award nominations, an American Music Award and an MTV Video Music Award. In 1999 she was presented the prestigious Governors Award from the Los Angeles chapter of the Recording Academy (NARAS). The award recognizes those whose creative talents and accomplishments have crossed all musical boundaries and have been recognized as an asset to our music community.
Her debut poetry collection in 1998, A Night Without Armor, quickly became a mainstay of The New York Times bestseller list, with 29 printings and a remarkable million-plus copies sold. The audiobook version received the 1999 Audie Award from the Audio Publishers Association. The following year saw the publication of her second book, the intimate journal Chasing Down The Dawn, a revealing chronicle of an artists life on the road.
Jewels full-length home video, Jewel: A Life Uncommon, offered an autobiographical documentary rife with live performances, archival footage of her upbringing and interviews with the people closest to her. In 2004 came her first live DVD, Live At Humphreys, shot three years previously in San Diego, showcasing her boundary-crossing style in an intimate concert setting.
Her songs and ethereal voice have also accompanied several motion pictures including Clueless, Batman & Robin, Phenomenon, Life or Something Like It, Sweet Home Alabama (theme song) and Ang Lees independent civil war drama Ride With the Devil, where she earned critical praise for her acting debut alongside stars Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich. Becoming a staple on television, from talk shows to Saturday Night Live and Mad TV, Jewel also guest starred on the NBC drama The Lyons Den, playing a lawyer opposite series star Rob Lowe.
In 1999, with the wisdom that deeds mean as much as words, Jewel showed her desire to help those less fortunate through the establishment of a charitable foundation, Higher Ground for Humanity, to which she donates a portion of her income. Managed by her brother Shane, Higher Ground has assisted thousands of people in a dozen countries. Its main focus is the ClearWater Project, which organizes teams of scientists and engineers to bring safe, clean drinking water to impoverished communities worldwide: from Mexico to Africa, India to Tibet. Jewel also created Soul City Cafe, a multi-faceted program to expose and develop new talent in a variety of artistic media. The project included Soul City Cafe ArtBeat, a showcase for emerging musical and spoken word artists who performed with Jewel on her 02 tour.
Ruminating on an Alice in Wonderland theme, Jewel explains, The record business has been the little bottle of elixir that said Drink me! and it has taken me on one hell of a wild ride. But thats a whole other story and maybe one left best for the record to tell.