The world fell in love with Jewel when she released her debut album, Pieces of You, in 1995. Since then, the singer, songwriter, poet and uniquely powerful performer has toyed at the heartstrings of her fans with poetic musical language and a down-to-earth demeanor.
Still standing strong in the music scene more than 17 years later, Jewel continues to surprise audiences with her genre crossovers, from pop and folk to bluegrass and country. She even released her latest album for kids, The Merry Goes ‘Round in the summer of last year.
Jewel will be back in the Mile High City March 31, spreading the love at the biggest women’s sporting event in the nation: the NCAA Women’s Final IV Championship at the Colorado Convention Center. In this exclusive interview with OFC, Jewel spoke sweetly and eloquently about her new role on the hit television series The Voice, her roots in Alaska and why the LGBT community has made a difference in her life.
What made you interested in teaming up with Christina Aguilera to be a part of NBC’s The Voice?
I’m a big fan of the show. Being mentored is such an important part of the process. I also really love to support talent-helping-talent, because this is a difficult business; there are very few people looking out for you. I was mentored by my heroes Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and they took me under their wing and showed me the ropes and told me what they think I should stick up for, and ya know, I think that’s something that we each owe the next generation of talent that comes up.
Christina is an amazing singer. You can say what you want about her but you can’t say she’s not a good singer, she knows her stuff and she really cares about those contestants.
Talk to me a little bit about your most recent album, Sweet and Wild. Is this a move to more contemporary country music?
Yeah! It’s funny, it’s kinda the same music I’ve always been writing, except radio formats have changed a lot. I’ve always had a real country leaning, and folk leaning and pop leaning, so it’s a combination. But it does target country radio. I also just released a children’s album that I wrote for my son [The Merry Goes ‘Round]. I wanted to have a smart – hopefully, [laughs] – smart record that parents would enjoy as much as kids, where they get to share different types of music, different genres. So I have blues, country, pop, bluegrass, Dixieland, all kinds of genres that you can use to help teach your kids about music and hopefully share some clever stories with them.
So, you’ve always been a country girl.
Some of these things on the album I actually wrote 15 years ago. I grew up on a ranch in Alaska, and my dad’s a cowboy, so I grew up breaking horses and all that. But more importantly, I grew up listening to Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash as much as I listened to Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and I just love good lyrics and I have always loved good storytelling. So, I’ve always had a real fusion.
As a gay icon, what would you like to say to the LGBT community in regards to their progress as individuals?
My gay, lesbian, transgender friends are the bravest people that I know. They inspire me every day. To be courageous, to dig inside themselves and claim publicly ‘I am who I am, and I’m proud of who I am,’ is an amazing process and my life’s been enriched in countless ways by all of them.
My husband’s uncle, who lives in Colorado actually, was gay in the ’50s, and that was a difficult, difficult time. His whole family was a rodeo family. His struggle to come out and deal with it was a lifetime journey. We owe such a debt to every generation that’s gone before, to make it easier and easier for kids to come out and be proud of who they are and to stand up for who they are. I’m proud of my husband too, for his little campaigns he does on the internet to let people know that it gets better and to let people know that not all cowboys are stereotypically afraid of gay people.
What did you love about living in Colorado?
Colorado is gorgeous. For somebody from Alaska, I love the mountains and it’s so gloomy there that living in Colorado was like the best of both worlds. You have the mountains and beautiful air, but you also have so many sunshine days.
I also met my husband in Colorado. We met at the Denver Rodeo and Stock Show. So, it’s a fond place in my heart.
What about Colorado audience’s and fans?
Gosh, my take on [people in] Colorado is they are happy, full-of-life people. They love to get outside, they are thankful for what they have and where they live and there’s lots of positive energy every time I come.
Do you miss Alaska?
I still get really homesick. The land [in Alaska] is infectious, it just really gets in your blood and I’ve stayed homesick for life, I’m pretty sure.
What made you want to be a part of performing the Women’s Final IV Championships?
I love supporting women and sports. It’s funny, ya know, I don’t think I started off young as a feminist. I read a lot of books in Alaska, I was pretty isolated where I grew up, and I think that I never thought I was any different than a man; I was raised in a place where pioneer women were very strong still. They’d shoe horses and build their own homes and were very self-sufficient. It wasn’t really until I’ve gotten older that I really became a fan of women. And a fan of what women are capable of balancing and achieving, by just being them. I’m proud to support it in any and every avenue.