Heroes: Jewel

Heroes: Jewel

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Heroes: Jewel

The folk-rock icon gets back to her roots

The folk-rock icon gets back to her roots

Text: Kala Herh

Just as her name suggests, singer-songwriter Jewel is a gem. Not just any stone, but one that radiates with an undeniable beauty that can only stem from within, and gets more precious over time. For almost three decades, she’s blessed the world with comforting songs, distilling the most complex human emotions into relatable lyrics and expressions.

The folk music phenom first emerged onto the scene at age 20 with her first studio album, Pieces of You. “It was definitely a trip to realize that a thousand words changed the trajectory of my life,” she shares from her home in Colorado, where she’s been spending time with her 10-year-old son, Kase Townes. That debut album has since gone 12x platinum. And with all the success that has come it’s weird to think it might have never happened for Jewel. As we pass the 25th anniversary of her breakthrough, Jewel shares that she was initially hesitant to sign with the label and create an album: “I almost didn’t sign my record deal because I didn’t want to kill myself,” she says candidly. “I didn’t want to put myself in a bad position or just chase fame only to want to die.”

Born Jewel Kilcher, the now 47-year-old grew up in Homer, Alaska. At the age of five, she began developing her musical craft performing with her parents at a local hotel. But her childhood wasn’t always easy, Jewel shares that her dad was often abusive to her and her brothers. And at the age of 15, she found herself alone and living out of her car. Through navigating the challenges she faced simply trying to survive, Jewel discovered the power in prioritizing her happiness. “I had to realize that my anxiety was an ally, and not an enemy,” she shares. Utilizing journaling and meditation, Jewel began to take control of her destiny and focus on what she wanted to do with her life. That year, she was discovered performing at a San Diego coffee shop and later signed to a label. But she never thought she would get to the level of stardom she’s at right now–sharing, she didn’t pursue singing for fame, rather for the financial security it provided. And it is this core ethos that stays with her to this day: her happiness is number one and everything else is secondary.

If you ask Jewel the secret to her success, specifically how she’s been able to hold on in an unpredictable music industry, you might be surprised by her response. The four-time Grammy Award-nominated artist shares that the secret lies in “prioritizing her mental health.” And with box breathing, body scanning and other techniques she’s practiced over the years, she’s aiming to inspire the next generation of creatives to priortize their mental health. Nearly 20 years ago, Jewel partnered with the Inspiring Children Foundation to create a program that helps young adults take control of their lives through mindfulness, or as Jewel defines it, “the act of being consciously present.”

Yet, despite all the accolades that she’s witnessed over the years, Jewel isn’t slowing down. “I want to be one of the best singer-songwriters of all time,” she explained. And her latest album, Freewheelin’ Woman, is a step closer to that goal. Jewel regards the project as yet another milestone in her lifelong devotion to living her truth. Freewheelin’ Woman shares her experience of “overcoming obstacles and then celebrating that triumph.” Encompassing folk, pop and R&B, Jewel weaves in themes of womanhood, independence, but most of all, hope. The somber soliloquies disguised as songs flow over like a soothing salve, comforting your deepest anxieties and worries. In “No More Tears” and “Half Life” Jewel bears her own hardships and heartache. While “Alibis” radiates the joy in conquering those tribulations. With breathtaking vocals and meticulously crafted lyrics, the album serves as her most unbridled body of work to date.

Freewheelin’ Woman is out on April 15, 2022. You can pre-order it here.

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