[10 February 2009]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
Departing from trends in favor of experimenting musically is nothing new for singer-songwriter Jewel.
Her debut album, 1995’s “Pieces Of You,” was a folk record that came out at the height of grunge and went 12 times platinum on the strength of such hits as “Foolish Games,” “You Were Meant For Me” and “Who Will Save Your Soul.”
Her third album, 2001’s “This Way,” was a straight-ahead rock record at the height of pop music. That release went platinum and included the Adult Top 40 smash “Standing Still” and the dance hit “Serve The Ego.”
So now, after releasing her No. 1-charting country debut, “Perfectly Clear,” last June and wowing fans as the main support act on Brad Paisley’s summer tour, the 34-year-old artist is gearing up for the release of an album of lullabies. It’s due out later this year and will include all original material, Jewel said in a recent interview before kicking off her solo tour.
“It’s soothing and lilling and dreamy to help put kids to sleep, but it’s for adults to enjoy,” Jewel said.
What do you enjoy most about your solo tours, as opposed to your full-band tours?
I really enjoy solo acoustic tours because it allows me to do something unstructured. Being with a band on tour, like with Brad Paisley, was a lot of fun because it’s fun to play big venues and rock out. But I really enjoy these intimate settings where it’s just me and my fans.
I have a great relationship with my fans. I’m really lucky that they know probably almost all the 500 of my songs. And they request obscure material. I don’t ever write a set list. Every show’s just different and I just make it up as I go, reading the crowd. It’s a lot of fun.
How are you able to read a given crowd and know which songs they want to hear?
Every crowd has a different mood every night. I mean, I’ve been doing this (for years) on stage and it’s a sense you develop over time. Sometimes people are tired and they just want to unwind from work and have you - you know, nothing too heavy, just kind of be funny. And other nights, people are real serious and they want real smart material. It just really changes night to night and that’s what’s fun about it.
So do your fans request songs during the show or do they request them ahead of time through your Web site?
I usually just start asking them. They’ll start to call songs out. There’s a lot of songs I can’t remember because I wrote them so long ago. And for those ones, they’ll write the lyrics out usually and bring them up on stage! Sometimes I make them sing them if I can’t remember!
You mentioned that your forthcoming lullabies CD will be geared toward both children and adults. How does that work?
They’re just very pretty and sung very softly and sort of in my falsetto voice. So it should just be lolling and soothing. But the lyrics are smart interesting for adults. If you don’t have kids, I made it for adults who just want to have a certain mood record to put on - take a bath or drink a cup of tea or have a glass of wine at night and just chill.
You married your longtime boyfriend, rodeo star Ty Murray, on Aug. 7, 2008, in the Bahamas. What can you tell me about the wedding?
It was just private. We eloped. We had about three months to plan it and it was nice to get away. For people who are so busy and are working so hard, it was nice to have something simple that was just he and I and not having to worry about a hundred guests and make it into a job.
Did you ever have a larger ceremony for family and friends?
No, I never did actually. Our families knew that we would elope! We’re pretty private people. I think they were just glad we got married.
The two of you actually met at a rodeo in Denver, Colo., back in 1999. Were either or both of your families on your cases to finally tie the knot?
I don’t know. I mean, we’d been together 10 years, so I think the whole world was wondering what our problem was. But we’re pretty thorough people. We never really felt pressured. And it was just something we wanted to make sure we got right. I don’t think divorce was ever something we considered an option, so we really wanted to take our time and get to know each other. And it takes a long time to get to know people.
On top of that, we didn’t feel ready to start a family and we finally got to the place in our careers that we felt like we’d like to start a family. That was a big consideration for getting married.
Are you and Ty looking to start a family soon?
Yeah, we’d like to. That’s one of the reasons I started writing this lullaby album.
Your fans know you well, but what can you tell me about Ty and what kind of person he is?
Ty is a standup guy in a world of flakes. He (is like) John Wayne. It’s a black and white world in his mind and he does what he means and means what he says. He’s really an honorable guy. He’s kind of heroic.
I really enjoyed the second single from “Perfectly Clear,” which is called “I Do.” What inspired that song?
I wrote that about Ty and I. We were thinking about getting married and neither of us were really talking about it, but I could kind of tell we might be headed that way. I just sort of wrote it about that experience.
When you’re writing songs for a new album, how much do you take into account what music critics have said and potential fan reaction?
I don’t write in a reactionary sense. I think the thing I learned a long time ago with my first record having become so popular was that you really can’t please everybody. No matter what, somebody’s gonna hate what you do! So you’ve really just gotta make yourself happy and make sure that you have the integrity that it takes to sleep good at night. And it’s a very private journey.
An artist’s journey is always pretty solitary because the vision is usually something that you have alone in your mind. And you can only judge yourself according to that. There’s been times where I thought what I did was (crap), but I got a lot of praise for it. But it didn’t really change my opinion of what I did - and vice versa. So I’ve always just tried to follow my own little interests and my own muse.
How are you able to get your music to your fans these days? After all, it’s much harder to sell physical CDs than it was when your first album came out back in ‘95.
Getting music to fans is easy. Getting fans to pay for music is hard. With the Internet, you can get fans songs anytime you want. But you can’t really afford to pay for making the songs. I think in the future you’ll start to have companies maybe want to sponsor artists like they do athletes - where you give the music away for free and companies consider it advertising if it gets on the radio or on a TV commercial.
Artists will make money not from selling their music but for sort of branding their lifestyle and having other people want to fund it. But it’s interesting. The profit center’s really changing.
When you were writing and choosing songs for “Perfectly Clear,” were you inspired by any particular country acts?
Some of these songs I wrote when I was 16, 17 and 18. I grew up listening to Merle Haggard and Crystal Gayle and Loretta Lynn, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris - along with Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan and Neil Young. So the country influences have been in my music for a long time. The songs like ‘You Were Meant For Me’ and ‘Hands’ and even ‘Foolish Games’ could have been taken (for) country really easily. And I followed country very closely. It’s what I listened to when I get in the car my whole life.
It was interesting in the ‘90s, when I broke, country music moved away from singer-songwriters. It got more slick and more pop almost - pretty artists that were being very groomed and given hit songs too and things like that. And pop music went the opposite way. All of the sudden, me and Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow were making a go of it. And we weren’t polished and glossy.
And it’s finally switched over again to where the pop’s gone back to really slick and country’s coming back slowly to the singer-songwriter - like Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert. So I’m glad to see that. There’s Jamey Johnson, who I like a lot, and Ashton Shepherd, who’s great. So there’s a lot of new, young acts I like.
You hosted “Nashville Star” in 2007 and returned as a judge in 2008. Who was your favorite contestant from the show during those two seasons?
I always liked Gabriel (Garcia). I thought he would have made a great winner, but hopefully he’ll go on and get a record deal. I thought he was real sincere and if he could find his voice and what he wanted to talk about in music, I thought he’d be a sincere, believable person to watch - which is hard to fake. I also think the Hispanic community is one of the most supportive groups of western culture and country music that there is. And they haven’t had anybody representing them in music for a really long time.
In addition to the lullabies album, will you be releasing another country album?
Yeah, I’ll definitely put out another country album. What’s fun to me about country music is I feel like what I do naturally as a songwriter, I don’t have to change to get played on the radio. Pop music right now is so urban and so slick that I feel like I wouldn’t even be able to fit on there right now because I want it to be a little bit more organic.
What was the last concert you attended as a fan?
I can’t remember. I don’t go to a ton of shows. I guess I caught a (Rolling) Stones concert not long ago and I saw Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen. I like all of them.