True Blue Poet
"I wanted to focus on the craft of performing and songwriting. I've always been a live musician, and I wanted my voice to shine through. To me, relevance means staying honest about where you are. The most important thing to me is maintaining my authenticity."
Since she started writing songs at the age of 17, Jewel Kilcher's music has been a direct, open expression of her life at the time – a series of intimate portraits of the artist as a composer, performer, and human being. Her debut album, released when she was 20, reflected the heart and mind of a teenaged girl; her second those of a rapidly maturing young woman. Now, THIS WAY, her first collection of new songs in three years, finds Jewel connecting with a deeper sense of self and the world around her, securing her place among the most accomplished artists of her generation.
On her extraordinary new album, Jewel explores the rich musical tapestry of Americana – from pop and folk to blues, country, and rock 'n' roll. It is music firmly rooted in deep musical soil, while at the same time thoroughly contemporary in its outlook. From the boisterous Everybody Needs Someone Sometime to the soaring Break Me, the new album is a work of rare depth and richness. Both musically and lyrically, Jewel displays the many different sides of her talent and her personality.
That depth and diversity is celebrated in Rolling Stone's rave, 3?-star review of THIS WAY. "The apparent simplicity of folk presents wondrously complex and sexy possibilities for Jewel. She's one of the most richly idiomatic female pop singers of her generation," writes critic James Hunter. "With This Way, Jewel continues on – elegant, earthy, engaged." At turns poignant and passionate, mischievous and high-spirited, political and private, the new album is Jewel's most ambitious work to date, a clear metamorphosis in the career of an exceptionally gifted artist and songwriter.
For such growth to take place, Jewel recognized the need to step back from the fray of fame that followed her last release. "I just quit," she says when asked about her post-SPIRIT drop-out. "I wasn't sure if I was going to come back, to tell you the truth. I was so tired and burnt out. I got much more attention than I thought I would and, I'm not complaining, but it just took some adjusting to."
While such a time-out could be harmful to some careers, it proved to be essential to Jewel's creative process. The hiatus allowed her to reconnect with the artist inside. Much of her time was spent seeking out solitude in open spaces – an environment that, from her earliest days in Alaska, has provided sanctuary.
"I have learned to insist on pacing myself better," she explains, "valuing the fact that for my art and writing I need to be able to get outdoors, to be in the open spaces that I relied upon in years past. By doing this, I hope to be able to sustain myse elf and replenish the well, so I can continue to write and work consistently." So Jewel worked at her own pace, and THIS WAY proves that good things come to those who wait. The album was produced by Jewel and Dann Huff, marking her first work as a producer. One of the top guitarists in the business, Huff has become an accomplished producer in recent years, with a diverse list of credits ranging from Megadeth to Faith Hill.
"I think, in this day and age, when there's so much cookie-cutter stuff going on, she's her own deal," Huff says of Jewel. "I think she could be doing this a long, long time. I think the word 'artist' is overused in the entertainment community. There are a lot of entertainers and musicians, but when you say artist, I think she is an artist. And name five artists that are in the pop scene right now. You'd be very hard-pressed. I think that would be my highest compliment – she's an artist."
"My expertise is in how to work a crowd and communicate with an audience," Jewel says, "so making records was really foreign to me at first – you're in the studio, singing to no one, which is really kind of absurd. I'm a lot more comfortable now. The craft of recording music isn't as foreign to me anymore."
Jewel penned all of the songs on the album, taking the opportunity this time around to enjoy a bit of musical collaboration – including a trio of tunes co-written with Rick Nowels (Madonna, Dido, New Radicals, kd lang), among them the moving title track, This Way, and the album's first single, Standing Still.
"She's a real true blue poet," Nowels says, "and the thing that makes her a special artist are her lyrics. She has completely solid point-of-view, and her poetic voice is completely intact. She has a fantastic flow. As soon as I start playing something, she starts singing. And her lyrics are very spontaneous. She didn't have to search for lyrics; they came right to her."
Standing Still received early praise from Billboard's Chuck Taylor, who hailed the track as "jaunty but sophisticated... rich in its evolving textures and guitar-fueled folk-pop base." Taylor goes on to note that the song "feels like a visit from an old friend, as Jewel weaves her voice from girly vulnerability... then soars with conviction as harmonies take the reins and carry her skyward."
Jewel also worked with Itaal Shur (the Grammy Award-winning co-author of Santana's #1 smash, Smooth) and Cesar Lemos on the Eastern-flavored Serve The Ego. And Till We Run Out Of Road sees Jewel sharing songwriting credit with her beau, seven-time world rodeo champion Ty Murray. The anthemic ballad tells of Ty's life on the rodeo trail, but with its depiction of "expensive cabs and shitty food/washed down with cancelled flights," it also stands as a snapshot from Jewel's own road experience.
While Jewel may be best known as a lyricist of introspective gifts, THIS WAY includes the most overtly political songs of her career – in Jesus Loves You and The New Wild West. The latter track is particularly pointed, a scathing yet hopeful critique of modern America and its search for leadership in the New Millennium. Reminiscent of Who Will Save Your Soul and Pieces Of You from her first album, these songs carry the songwriter's strong sentiment and pointed queries even farther.
Jewel's remarkable vocal versatility also marks the collection, with the singer consistently summoning the appropriate voice for each song's message. Perhaps the most surprising moment on THIS WAY comes in the rambunctious rock 'n' roll of Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone, as Jewel unleashes a heretofore unrecorded Joplin-esque dose of gritty blues power.
Having achieved so much success early in her career, Jewel is deeply committed to maintaining the integrity of her art. With its down-to-earth musical approach and evocative lyrical candor, THIS WAY is the sound of a remarkable artist who's grown up in public and is determined to continue making the music she believes in.
"I don't want to look back on my music the way you look back on your photos in high school, when you had poofy hair," Jewel laughs. "I'll always be curious musically and want to try new things, but above all, I want the music to sound honest and good in 20 years."
Gifted and Accomplished
Raised in Alaska, the 27-year-old Jewel has been celebrated as one of the most gifted and accomplished artists in popular music today, with worldwide album sales at this writing of over 23 million albums. Her 1995 debut, PIECES OF YOU, received the RIAA's prestigious Diamond Award for U.S. sales in excess of 10 million units (and is currently certified at 11 million). The album – which includes the hit singles You Were Meant For Me, Who Will Save Your Soul, and Foolish Games – spent a remarkable 114 weeks on the Billboard 200, where it hit the #4 mark.
Jewel's highly anticipated second album, SPIRIT, was released in 1998 to much popular and critical acclaim. The Patrick Leonard-produced collection – featuring the singles Hands, Down So Long, and Jupiter (Swallow The Moon) – made its debut in the #3 position on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum out-of-the-box. It sold 6 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful sophomore albums.
1999 saw the release of JOY: A HOLIDAY COLLECTION, produced by the legendary Arif Mardin. The album includes performances of a number of seasonal favorites and new Jewel originals, including a unique Christmas-themed version of Hands. Two songs featured on the platinum-certified JOY revealed the increasing depth and diversity of the artist's talent and vision: the dynamic expression of faith, Face of Love, as well as the stirring Gloria, a Latin composition.
Jewel was also featured on Merle Haggard's 1999 album, FOR THE RECORD. The album includes two duets by Jewel and the legendary country musician/songwriter – That's The Way Love Goes and Silver Wings.
Whether alone on stage with just her guitar or fronting a band of musicians, Jewel has always been a charismatic live performer. Along the way, she has earned the respect of the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, both of whom invited her to open their shows. Since the release of her first album six years ago, she has forged a powerful, intimate bond with concert-goers around the globe. On top of numerous tours across North America, Jewel has also performed to sell-out crowds in Asia, Australia, and Europe, where she was acclaimed – by the influential Times of London – as "the most sparkling female singer-songwriter since Joni Mitchell."
December 1997 saw Jewel performing as part of the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo, Norway. In January 1998, she was welcomed home to San Diego to sing The Star-Spangled Banner prior to the opening kick-off of Super Bowl XXXII. In December of that same year, Jewel played for Pope John Paul II as part of the 6th Annual Natale in Vaticano concert in Vatican City. The concert – which included a performance of Hands accompanied by a 100-piece orchestra and a 40-member choir – was televised throughout Europe on Christmas Eve.
In addition to her many sold-out headlining performances, Jewel has been part of a number of important concert events, including Woodstock 1999. The festival found Jewel and her band performing before the largest live audience of her career – not to mention millions of TV viewers around the world. Despite a sudden downpour in the middle of Foolish Games, the set was widely considered a highpoint of the weekend.
Later that year, Jewel performed for President and Mrs. Clinton as part of the annual Christmas In Washington charity concert assisting the Children's National Health Center. In August of 2000, she performed at the Nashville rally where Vice President Al Gore announced his running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and she subsequently served as an eloquent spokesperson for their Presidential campaign.
Jewel's considerable accomplishments as a singer, songwriter, and performer represent just one area of her creative life. Her debut poetry collection, A Night Without Armor, was released by HarperCollins in 1998, and quickly became a mainstay of The New York Times' best-seller list, with 29 printings and a remarkable million-plus copies sold. In addition, the unprecedented success of the audiobook release of her poetry collection led to Jewel receiving the 1999 Audie Award from the Audio Publishers Association. The fall of 2000 saw the successful publication of Jewel's second book, the intimate and honest Chasing Down The Dawn (HarperCollins). A striking chronicle of an artist's turbulent life on the road – written primarily during the 1999 SPIRIT World Tour – Chasing Down The Dawn also includes photos taken by Jewel, images and poignant vignettes from her childhood in Alaska, and tales of challenges faced as a daughter, sister, young woman, and creative artist.
In 1999, Jewel made her acclaimed acting debut in Ang Lee's much-admired Civil War drama, Ride With The Devil. "Jewel conveys an orneriness and tough humor beneath a facade of 19th-century decorum," declared the New York Times' Stephen Holden, while Roger Ebert – writing in the Chicago Sun Times – noted that "Jewel deserves praise for, quite simply, performing her character in a convincing and unmannered way. She is an actress here, not a pop star trying out a new hobby."
1999 also saw the release of Jewel's first full-length home video, titled Jewel: A Life Uncommon. The autobiographical documentary features an hour of archival footage of the artist's life, both on and off the road, as well as revealing interviews with those closest to Jewel. In addition, the video includes four exclusive live performances from Jewel's April 25, 1999 concert at the Henry Fonda Theater in L.A. benefiting Higher Ground For Humanity – the humanitarian organization founded in January 1999 by Jewel and her mother and manager, Lenedra J. Carroll as a means to promote global community and individual action to inspire positive change.
HGH's flagship program, the Clearwater Project, was launched in October 1999 in conjunction with Jewel's performance at NetAid, the live global musical event staged as part of a long-term initiative to help eradicate extreme poverty. Clearwater Project is working to create a world where clean, safe water is available to everyone. This includes working with local communities to provide simple approaches and reliable technologies for creating safe drinking water, as well as education awareness programs and other initiatives.
Among Jewel's many accolades are three Grammy Award nominations, an American Music Award, and an MTV Video Music Award. In June 1999, Jewel was presented with the prestigious Governor's Award from the Los Angeles chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). The award acknowledges Academy members "whose creative talents and accomplishments have crossed all musical boundaries and have been recognized as an asset to our music community."
Jewel also received a number of other tributes that year, including the 1999 Founder's Choice Award from the non-profit Time For Peace organization, as well as being named one of Glamour magazine's 10th Anniversary Women Of The Year for her dedication to humanitarian goals.
In addition to her many artistic and charitable endeavors, Jewel has long been active in utilizing new media technology, via her official www.jeweljk.com site. This web page offers frequently updated news, exclusive merchandise, and most importantly, links to a number of humanitarian sites supported by Jewel and HGH.
--- from the official Jewel website