Genre-jumping isn’t a business decision for Jewel Following the muse
By John Benson
Jewel recently had to relive a nightmare vicariously through Beyonce, who was lambasted in the media for lip-syncing the national anthem at the Super Bowl.
Some readers may remember when in 1998 the folk-singing Jewel found herself in a similar storm after the track started playing before she was ready and, well, her lips weren’t moving.
“Beyonce can sing, that’s what people forget,” said Jewel, calling from her tour bus somewhere in New York. “That’s a scandal only if you can’t sing and get discovered as a phony. For me, I didn’t have a choice. I was super-uncomfortable.”
Aside from that global faux pas and her early years spent yodeling, Jewel has for the most part in her nearly 20-year-career been super-comfortable. She arrived on the music scene just as grunge was petering out. Her folk-style, acoustic-guitar driven self-titled debut, “Pieces of You,” sold more than 9 million copies based on the success of hit singles “Who Will Save Your Soul,” “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games.”
Over the next 15 years, she digressed into pop, adult contemporary, country and even children’s music. Recently, the 38-year-old released her first greatest-hits album, which has new recordings of two classic hits with guest vocalists: “Foolish Games” with Kelly Clarkson and “You Were Meant For Me” with the Pistol Annies. The compilation also includes brand new ballad “Two Hearts Breaking.”
When talking about her iPod-playlistlike catalog, which bounces around from genre to genre with impunity, Jewel spoke directly about her approach.
“I think Madonna kind of ruined it for some of us in a way because she had very marketing-driven makeovers,” Jewel said. “I think that consumers or the press certainly got used to makeovers being a very business-driven decision. For me, it never was. It’s actually just a genuine following of the muse. I think the fans can tell the difference, which is why my fans always stuck with me. And to the casual fan, the change seemed abrupt, but to my fans who were following, it wasn’t abrupt at all.”
Today Jewel’s life is getting a bit complicated. She admits that being married to world champion bull-rider Ty Murray and taking care of their baby Kase Townes Murray is making her reconsider her music going forward.
“I don’t want to go chase fame and money at the sake of my child having a great life,” Jewel said. “I’m not sure you can do the balance. This job is usually all or nothing, but musically I have a ton more to make.”
Invariably Jewel is a bucking bronco of sorts when it comes to the music industry. Naturally, she has no qualms about eschewing trends for the unbeaten path. She said it’s not necessarily being rebellious as much as not wanting to feel controlled. Possessing the freedom to go her own way was important and vital to her career.
“Luckily, I had been mentored by Neil Young and Bob Dylan,” Jewel said. “What they told me the whole time was, ‘Screw everybody else and do whatever you think is right.’ If you watch your money, you can do it. My first record was so successful, I knew if I just watched my money and didn’t blow it, I never had to have another hit in my life. I have a complete license and freedom, and if I didn’t take advantage of that, I was a total wuss. Otherwise, I would have just remade ‘You Remember Me’ over and over and over. That would have been a really boring existence.”
Not only is there nothing boring about Jewel but she’s survived a lip-synching scandal and a yodeling past. “If you can survive yodeling, you can survive anything,” she said, laughing.