Jewel Reviews, Interviews and Articles
Review from Joel Siegfried
Interview from Launch, Issue Number Nine
Jewel on Access Hollywood
Article from React
Taken from the Jewel-News Mailing
List, transcribed by Katherine Davis from React.
Date: Sat, 19 Oct 1996 12:08:07 -0700
by Joan Tarshis
Singer-Songwriter-Guitarist Jewel talks about her not-so-ordinary life
She grew up in places as diverse as a farm in Alaska with no
indoor plumbing and in a van parked "wherever the surf was good" in San
Diego. She says the soul is stifled and suffocated when unable to follow
She is Jewel(Kilcher), 21, thesinger-songwriter-poet-philosopher
whose folky, acoustic music--showcased in her first album, Pieces of
You--combines 1960s introspection with 1990s style. And that's a good
description of Jewel, too.
Today, she arrives late, breathless and flushed from the midday
Los Angeles heat. She has in tow her boyfriend, Michel, a male model she
met at a fashion show. She looks more like a down-home gal ready for
chores than a rock star at an interview. But Jewel is, first and
foremost, an artist.
"One of my favorite things to do is sit and watch people," she
says. "I make up their lives to be trabic or boring or brilliant."
Jewel's own life has been a combination of these things. She and
her two brothers grew up on a 800-acre homestead in rural Homer, Alaska,
raised by singer-songwriter parents. Jewel began singing--yodeling,
actually--when she was 6, joining her parents onstage at gigs. After her
parents split and her mother moved away two years later, Jewel began
writing, too, to help herself get in touch with feelings she could not
"It got to the point where if I had a problem with my father, I
could never speak it," she says, gently touching her friend's arm as if
to make sure of his presence. "I would write four pages and give it to
But it took Jewel a long time to be able to, as she puts it,
"speak from the heart." At 14, she was befriended by a Native American
family, who, she says, "took me out to a meadow and said, 'Your life in
the future will call for you to speak honestly to people. You don't know
how to speak from your heart, and you need to learn how.' I remember
going on top of a mountain and trying to say anything honest--just to the
wind. I was crying because I couldn't say anything sincere."
Meanwhile, Jewel spent summers and holidays with her mother,
Nedra, who had moved to San Diego and was working part time teaching
nutrition and self-improvement at a spa. It was Nedra who helped develop
Jewel's thoughtful side.
"She's always urged me to know myself and to be brave and listen
to myself," Jewel explains. "She'd urge me to spend 5 days alone in a
cabin without anyone coming by, without any TV. I thought I'd go insane.
And she'd have me do juice fasts and things like that."
All these experiences came together during Jewel's last two years
of high school, when she was offered a vocal scholarship to Michigan's
Interlochen Fine Arts Academy. There, she began learning guitar, keeping
a journal and writing songs. "My two years there were like a turning
point," she says.
But the biggest turning point came after graduation. Loving the
warm weather and the surf, Jewel moved in with her mother in California
but had no idea what to do with her life. She took a waitressing job but
couldn't stand being chained to a regular schedule.
"I was scared. I was 18, and I thought I would have to give up
everything I believed in and everything I wanted to do. I just hated
life. I cried every day. I was so frustrating.
"I finally got fired, and my mom said, 'This is ridiculous.
We're going to live in our cars, and we're going to do what we love or
They did just that. Jewel slept in her van, survived on carrots
and peanut butter, and played in local coffeehouses. Word of her talent
reached Los Angeles, and it wasn'tt long before Jewel signed a record
deal. It's a very lucky ending, especially for someone who, as she says,
basically "dropped out of the world."
"Everything I've ever learned--good and bad--has given
immeasurably to what I'm doing now," she says. "I believe I've been
guided and helped, and it's very humbling. I think if you demand, 'This
is how I want my life to become,' it will. Miracles do happen."
Sorry for any typos, I had limited time to get this done.
Taken from the Jewel-News Mailing
List, transcribed by Sinjin.
Date: Fri, 27 Sep 96 15:34:48 EDT
Here's the transcript of Jewel's segment on "Access Hollywood" aired Thursday night on NBC.
- ***BEGINNING MISSING***
- "She has a hit single and a hit debut album, _Pieces of You_,
which has sold more than a million coppies."
- "That's something that's still hard to comprehend, that they
like it. Hehehe, it's still hard to believe...it really is."
- "If Jewel seems surprised by her success, maybe it's because
just four years ago this sweet sounding folk singer was living in her
van while playing coffee houses in San Diego."
- "I had one favorite spot I parked every night, it was next to a
little tree with blooming flowers. So I could pull right up next to it
and open my window and there'd be flowers in my window, and nobody could
see in so I felt like I pretended I was in Alaska or something."
- "This rags to riches story has an unusual beginning, on this
800 acre farm in Alaska where Jewel grew up with no running water or
electricity and where she learned to yodel. Life is certainly different
now, these days she's posing for pictures for _Sassy_ magazine and
shooting a music video for her new single "You Were Meant for Me". No
doubt, Jewel has come a long way. And with critics calling her the next
Joanie Mitchel, there's no turning back."
- "I have a new car, I don't worry about eating, I don't worry
about getting sick and being able to afford a doctor. Um, all those
things...mainly, the biggest thing to me is I do feel I like I have a
purpose. And I think everybody wants that and I feel I'm so glad to
They showed clips from both Jewel's videos (not the original WYMFM,
though) as well as the picture of Jewel in the blue van. They also
showed the filming of the new "YWMFM" video as well as Jewel in concert
and...JEWEL'S OLD HOUSE IN HOMER, ALASKA!!
Taken from the Jewel-News Mailing List.
"Overnight Success" is one of those terms that often is misused in describing the apparently meteoric rise of some new talent. And while it is understandable that casual music industry observers may have slapped this tag on Alaskan singer-songwriter Jewel, it is an egregious error nonetheless. At age 22, this artist can claim a debut album, Pieces of You, which cracked Billboard's Top 200 Album Chart and quickly ascended into the Top 30, while her hit song "Who Will Save Your Soul" reached No. 11 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart. But make no mistake: Jewel began traveling on this path to success when most of us were still on the playground. This hardworking chanteuse was only eight years old when she and her father embarked on an open-ended tour of clubs and roadhouses, which eventually led Jewel to coffee shops and amphitheaters.
Jewel is the cover artist featured on Issue No. 9 of the LAUNCH CD-ROM. Visit the Hang, where you can engage her in an interactive interview and hear a live, acoustic and exclusive recording of her hit "Who Will Save Your Soul." The following interview was conducted by LAUNCH executive editor Dave DiMartino:
- You've had remarkable success with your debut album. Looking
back on the process, can you think of anything that led you to
the place where you are today?
- It took a lot of touring. In the beginning, a lot of radio stations
said [my music] was unplayable, and video shows and TV
stations said it was unlistenable. Which was fine, because I
never expected to sell a lot of albums with this one; it was just
supposed to be a time capsule of where I was. I was 19 and just
learning to write songs and play guitar. And I know that hard
wood grows slowly, and if I wanted to have a longterm career
like Neil Young, it would just take touring. I grew up doing live
tours and playing in bars, so it was what I love to do. I was just
glad to not be living in my car anymore, so I just toured. I would
do 40 cities every 30 days, four shows a day; I worked a lot. I
had a really good time, and got enough of a groundswell
following to just keep playing. And my label kept me out long
enough that people couldn't ignore me anymore. Radio had to
start playing the songs.
- Have you always wanted to be a singer, a songwriter?
- When I was 18, I went through a premature mid-life crisis. So
many of us are asked to compromise our pride and health in
order to have these roofs over our heads. And I didn't know
how to face consciousness everyday just passing time. I didn't
feel like I had any purpose in my life. My hands and my
creativity was going to waste. But I never even thought I could
sing and make a living because that was a hobby. A lot of us
just aren't taught that something you love can make you
money. It wasn't until I got fired from my last job that I decided:
That's it. I don't care. I'd rather die and drop out of the world
rather than wake up everyday and be so unhappy. I never
thought I'd get a record deal; I just wanted to eat and do
something I liked. It turned into this. And it's been a real
- I've never been to Alaska. What is it like there? Did you enjoy
growing up there?
- I loved being raised there. There was a lot of silence and open
space. In some ways we're sculpted by our environments. Our
flesh is sculpted by what is around us, as well as our psyches. .
By silence. In silence you hear who you're going to become.
You create yourself in silence.When you're surrounded by
beauty and open space, it inspires you and it makes you feel
that there's some sort of divine presence out there. Unlabeled.
Having that as a youth--going through hard times--it kept me
sane. As well as the discipline of being raised on a large
homestead. That taught me a lot about doing what I'm doing
- Did living on a homestead impact your life, the way you look at
- Probably only in a good way. I like people a lot, I wasn't raised
to mistrust them. I was raised to be awake--to not kid yourself
about people. I believe people are basically good; we all come
from the same place, we all have fear. We want to be loved. We
all want passion in our lives. It doesn't matter if you're rich or
homeless, it's all the same.
- You mentioned going through hard times. Is your life better
now than it was before? Do you feel like you've had tougher
times than the average person?
- It's hard to compare lives because everybody's bottom is their
own bottom. Everybody experiences abuse in their own ways. It
was a hard time, but I never felt I was given something I didn't
have the tools to get over. Ultimately, my life forced me to
figure out what I wanted to do. Which I think happens when
you don't recognize the signs early enough. You get hints:
"Hint, hint, hint, Jewel." Until I hit a wall. But that's nothing
compared to what people spend their whole lives doing.
- Coffee shops have really taken off as a big social thing in the
past few years, and it seems the coffee shop looms large in your
legend. In fact, you recorded much, if not all, of Pieces of You in
the coffee shop that became your home base, right?
- It's the only place I really played. I was raised as a professional
singer: Since I was eight, my dad and I made our living doing
barroom tours. I lived in my car; a lot of the businesses there
wanted you to play for $25 and food. But I couldn't afford that.
This was my living, not just a hobby. So I found this coffee
shop that just opened, was looking for business. They said I
could keep the door money, and they would keep the coffee
sales. And so I stuck with them and we both struggled together
to get more people to come in.
- And were you discovered there? Is that how you got your
- I just got a good word of mouth going. It was never a goal to
make demos for records labels. Word spread somehow to A&R
in L.A. and then one night someone from Virgin came down,
and this was before I knew about the beauty of expense
accounts. I bought him a burrito; he told me I could make a
record. Then another label came and another label came. It
happened like that.
- You obviously are no stranger to live gigs. You must travel a
lot. Do you like being on the road?
- I'm learning to like it. It's very discombobulating for me. I'm
definitely not a Willie Nelson who loves being on the road.
There's not enough quiet; I can't be alone ever. I'm talking
about myself all the time, and that becomes absurd. But I'm
learning ways to keep myself quiet in my head, and remind
myself of beauty. To keep inspired. But my spirit isn't really
happy. I'd rather not be doing this, I don't care enough
anymore. I would rather be in Alsaska. I'm not doing this for
fame or money. I'm doing it because it serves my spirit and it
reminds people to live their dreams. That's needed in the world
now. I love it for that reason. I am made for it. I can sing four
shows a day and not ruin my voice. I'm learning how to be good
- It must have been a real eye opener for you to go out on tour.
You've played now with Neil Young and Bob Dylan. That must
have been amazing! Tell me about it.
- It didn't start out that way! At first nobody would take me out
on the road, so I had to do my own coffee shop tour. The only
band the label could get to go out with me was another Atlantic
band. They pawned me off on a goth band, Peter Murphy. So I
toured acoustically--never with a band--for a goth band. It was
hilarious. I'm now sensitive to people who've had their fangs
filed. But they bought the album, so that's good. If anything, I
got to appreciate such diverse people. Going on between punk
bands in front of 20,000 people, between the Ramones and
Everclear. It taught me to be diverse and never judge people,
and to know that my crowd is anyone with a heart and has ears.
It taught me to be very diverse. And it really paid off. Touring
with Bob Dylan was a huge dream. Neil is incredible.
- Who inspires you?
- There's certain people who have never lost the creative
integrity of what they're doing. Neil [Young] is like that. It's
very rare. The world has become very immediate. It's hard to
stay in touch with one's creative drive. Neil Young, Bob Dylan,
Paul Simon. I find people like that very inspiring.
- What's the coolest thing to ever happen to you in your career?
- The coolest thing ever? Singing with Bob Dylan. He invited me
up on stage. I was blown away. I got to share a mic with him. I
sang "I Shall Be Released." And just talking to him is hilarious,
- Yodeling is another factor that looms large in your legend.
What's the story there? Are people always asking you to yodel
- I've been doing it since I was six and it's always been a very big
deal to people. I enjoy doing it but when I become a slave to it,
it's frustrating and it shows. Like if I'm doing a love song and
someone yells: "YODEL!!!" I find that annoying. But generally,
I like to entertain a crowd and give them what they want.
- Both of your parents are artists and performers in their own
right. You mentioned touring barrooms with your dad as a child.
Do you ever feel pressured by your folks to live out their
dreams? Is it hard for you that you've become so successful
and yet they haven't?
- I think that happens often in people lives. . .a child living some
dream you put on them vicariously. Fathers do it to their sons.
Mothers are jealous of beautiful daughters. It's the same with
fans living their dreams through a hero. As a kid, these women
with Marlboros and voices straight from the bowling alley
would come up to me and say: "I could have been an opera
singer, but I married old Hank here and now I have to cook him
hashed browns. So you have to do it for us." And as a little girl,
I was really burdened by that because I realized how tragic
people's lives were for not following their dreams. You see that
a lot in my parents' generation and my grandfather's generation.
Then it was a much more sacrificial time. My generation gets to
benefit for the first time figuring out, okay, we know money isn't
the answer. So what am I here to do? I feel blessed. My parents
aren't particularly like that. My mom was always very
encourageing. My dad, was like "don't live in your car, go to
school." My dad always wanted to be a songwriter, he still
does. I think he's proud. But they're human. There are
jealousies; it's all human.
- You just finished your second album. But you didn't do this
one live, did you? Why not?
- The reason I did the first one live was that I didn't know how to
sing in a studio. I sing better in front of people. I get a better
vocal performance. Being a studio artist is a different beast, a
different animal. I've gotten more comfortable with it over the
years; it's the same with my guitar playing. I just want an album
to show where I am creatively. I've grown. My hands have
gotten better at articulating how I would like them to represent
me and my thoughts. So I feel like it's a more accurate reading of
what I am. I'm better able to express myself both lyrically and
musically. It's a fun process instead of a scary one this time.
- I've heard you like to surf. Can you describe for me one of your
greatest surf memories?
- I like every wave, they're all really exciting to me. There's
always your first wave. . .I was kind of stupid, actually, I didn't know
enough to be afraid. I went down with some guys after one of
my shows. They looked like surfers. We went down to Mexico.
I'd never caught a wave before. It was a pretty big day, five foot
overhead, rocky place, beautiful point. A big wave came, I
caught it, made it, got inside, and looked at how big the waves
were, got horrified, and I thought what am I doing? But it was a
- How computer-literate are you?
- I'm not computer literate, I never have been. I was reading
Charles Bukowski last night and he has a poem called "My First
Computer Poem." And how old was he when he wrote it? 60? I
feel like that's how I'll be. Maybe when I'm 60. . . I love the
Internet because it takes out the middleman: the record label,
radio station, record store. It's the fans who allow me to live my
dream, they buy my albums. I find that very humbling. It keeps
me going, even when I think the business is suffocating
everything beautiful and pure.
I have a large Internet fan club, and I was recording in
Woodstock, NY. Someone wrote in and asked: Would Jewel do
this free concert for us if we all went out to Woodstock? So I
put on this free show and 500 kids migrated out from
everywhere, camped out. It was so great, they made T-shirts for
themselves. All these kids who knew each other from the
Internet got to meet for the first time. It was really great.
- Do you have a favorite album, or an artist?
- I think the Replacements' Let It Be is one of the coolest records.
k.d. lang, Ella Fitzgerald--they're very cool.
- It must be weird for you; so many people have bought your
record and probably think they know who Jewel is. How do you
think people perceive of you?
- I don't know. I'm always portrayed in the media as a naive
22-year-old trying to impress adults. What can I say?
Wearing a velour mini-dress a shade between lavender and maroon, and projecting a seductive, but clean-scrubbed, playful sexuality, Jewel entranced the mostly college-age audience Friday night at San Diego State University's Montezuma Hall with her pure, bell-toned voice, subtle intonations, and brilliant lyrics. Appearing with no backup, she stood loose as a goose at center stage and played an acoustic guitar as if it were an extension of her own body. Two small feathers dangled from the frets.
To cap off her two hour performance, she even yodeled, to the delight of many in the 300 or so crowd, who were so attentive and transfixed by her music, that the artist made a point of complementing them for being a "perfect" audience to play before.
But it was the lack of perfection in her performance that made it so remarkable. At least three of her songs were written in a spiral-bound notebook within minutes of taking the stage, causing the singer to stop to remember her own lyrics, and then repeat and connect them to the melody. She has been writing songs since the age of 6. Her live music is much more emotive and dynamic intone and color than her 1994 Pieces of You debut album. Not every artist sounds better in concert. Jewel is one who does. So many of her songs, played in coffee houses and small clubs, are elusive for her to recall. She depends on bootleg tapes to recapture them, a comment on her incredible productivity. By now, she has material for at least a dozen albums, with her next recording studio session scheduled for February of next year. She was trying some of the newer works out here, to test sentiment -- both the audience and her own.
For someone so young in life experience - she looks hardly out of her teens - Jewel sings about suicide, child abuse, bigotry, abandonment, the rage that a child feels towards her father ("poetic license", she called it, referring to her own paternal affections), sibling rivalry, and other weighty subjects. (That's why the title of her promotional album, "Save the Linoleum", is so funny.) But she does so with such sarcasm and candor, that the angst seems even more devastating by the juxtapositions in her words, facial expressions, and shrill grittiness that can literally make your teeth hurt, interspersed with a smile so sweet that you almost believe it could charm an Alaskan grizzly bear. She knows how to keep you off balance.
What is so refreshing about Jewel is her openness and unaffected chatter with those in the hall. She hears all the suggestions for songs, makes little comments about each one, talks to you like an old friend about her excitement over going to be on the Conan O'Brien Show (November 28th), "I'm going to play around with his hair, I promise you.", and lets you in on intimate secrets you may not want to hear -- about a childhood friend with a big butt who would swing naked in the sauna, and made everyone smile, but died recently, shot himself out in a field Oh, my. She is so good at deceiving you. You can't trust her. But you'll always love her. Always.
The only disappointment, and it would have been a great coup if it had come about, was that Joan Osborne had promised Jewel that she would come by after her gig at Soma and do a duet with her. It never happened. Around midnight, Jewel asked plaintively if Joan were somewhere in the darkened house. The crowd thought that she was just clowning around. You never know with Jewel. Then she explained. Earlier, at Tower Records, I had talked with Osborne, expressed my admiration for "Relish", her debut album, and commiserated about missing her live performance at Street Fair, Luna Park on Melrose in L.A., and again later that night because of "other commitments". I promised her that I would eventually catch her live. She seemed genuinely sorry that I hadn't seen her perform. It would have completed the circle for me, if she had shown up as the "mystery guest". But it wasn't meant to be.
After her performance, I hung around the venue, not wanting the night to be over. A woman told me about growing up in Skagway, an Alaskan town of 700 residents. She spoke of the darkness of the long winter, of drunkenness, family abuse, depression and suicide. "It wasn't like Northern Exposure, the TV show", she said. Jewel's childhood had also been in that state. She said that she knew Jewel from Alaska, but I had my doubts. As if to balance the scales, a man came over and asked me when I had been in Kauai. For a moment I was puzzled by his prescience, until I realized that I was wearing my favorite T-shirt. We talked about hiking the Na' Pali cliffs, the best snorkeling beaches, and other shared experiences. Music connects people together. It also heals them.
Just as I was getting ready to leave, Jewel came into the lobby with her personal assistant. Usually I don't want a performer's autograph. It tends to trivialize my appreciation of their artistry, but Jewel had begun to sign, so I offered her the two albums I had with me. On Save The Linoleum, she drew a little picture of what looked like E.T. directly on the label of the CD, and wrote her name underneath it. Was she telling me cryptically that she longed to go home, just like the space alien? Maybe. But with Jewel you never know.
Opening for Jewel and doing yeoman service in that spot was Shree, a young man with dreadlocks and a confident stage presence which belied the butterflies he confessed to feeling. Well known to habitues of Mekka Java, the Living Room, and Moose McGillycuddy's, it was my delight to discover his music for the very first time. In a stong, soulful, mellow voice he belted out cuts from his new album Something He Said, about family love, despair, and justice. Describing himself as a "neo-folk singer and songwriter", his debut CD is available at all 9 Music Trader locations throughout the County. It might have been gracious for Jewel to provide a showcase for such an unknown performer to a sold out house, but his talent will be his passport to wider exposure in the future.
This page maintained by Aaron
Comments are welcome.
Last updated October 20, 1996.