Jewel Kilcher, better known by just her first name, has led quite an interesting life. From growing up in rural Alaska, to attending a prestigious Arts Academy high school in Michigan, to living in her car and playing clubs in San Diego, to finally hitting the big time and selling over 30 million records, the lady has done it all.
Jewel and some of her family members, including her father Atz, and brothers Atz Lee and Nikos, will be performing at The Hard Rock Rocksino on December 2nd as a part of her Handmade Holiday Tour.
We had the opportunity to have a brief chat with Jewel to discuss her upcoming appearance in Northfield.
Greg Drugan: Hi Jewel, how are you today?
Jewel: Good, how are you?
GD: I'm fine, thank you. So, I'm calling you from Cleveland today. It's been a while since you last played here, I think it's been twelve years. Do you have any memories of Cleveland from earlier in your career?
Jewel: My gosh, yes! I have a song called "Cleveland." What record is that on? I think it's This Way. I've been in Cleveland a bunch! I have so many memories of Cleveland. I actually started a wellness festival in Cincinnati and I started an English curriculum and my first test pilot was in Ohio. It's to help public school kids with anxiety and to bring mindfulness into the English school curriculum. So yeah, me and Ohio! Big fan!
GD: Great! We're glad you're coming back. So, you are hitting the road right after Thanksgiving but you are making it a family tour. What made you decide to bring your dad and brothers out on this tour?
Jewel: This is my excuse to get my family together and to get my son, who's seven, to be around my family and see who my family is. Music is part of my entire family's tradition; it's not just something his mom does. Also, it's a way for me to get together with my family for the holidays and offer an audience a really sincere experience of a lifestyle that I'm really proud of. I was raised on a homestead; we were too poor to buy presents for each other, but we made presents for each other. There's a lot of heart. I think in times where anxiety and depression are at an all-time high, connections cure.
So, (at the concert) there's a little Christmas village when you walk in. My dad made handmade gifts, my son made things from scratch, I made jewelry. That's all in the lobby. Then you can come see me and my family sing. My family's on a hit TV show called Alaska: The Wild Frontier. They get up and sing, like songwriters in the round. They tell stories, and they are all really funny. Then I come out and we all sing together in different configurations.
GD: I'm looking forward to that! Looking back on your career, who were some of the bands or musicians that you listened to growing up?
Jewel: You know, because I was raised without electricity and the radio, I was never in the habit of listening to music. My music influence was my dad. We sang five-hour sets in bars and we sang a lot of covers. I heard my dad sing these great classic songs, but I never heard Elvis sing "Heartbreak Hotel." (laughs) For me, I grew up with great song writing, I just never heard the (original) artist. That was never my thing, pop culture was never my thing. I read a lot! A lot of poetry, a lot of philosophy and great fiction. I think that sort of shaped me into the type of writer I am. And great singers! I was totally blown away by Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald. I can name vocalist after vocalist.
GD: Sure, all of them are great. You went to a performing arts high school in Michigan; what was that experience like?
Jewel: It was amazing! I moved out when I was 15 and got a partial scholarship to this school and my town actually raised the money for me to go. I actually played classical music, and I was a bar singer! To go there on a classical music scholarship was kinda bizarre. I learned visual art and it was really an amazing experience.
This Christmas show really allows me to show an aspect of my singing that I've never written before. I'm singing "Ava Maria," I get to do gospel versions like Aretha Franklin's "Silent Night," and American Standard songbook style songs. You know, Christmas songs are so enduring because they are so beautifully written. They really are part of the American Songbook. They are some of my favorite songs to sing and for me, it's a chance to sing in a way that may surprise some people because I don't write that way for my voice.
GD: You've released two Christmas albums in your career. Are they the main inspiration behind this tour?
Jewel: For me, it's about being with my family. It's also my love of Christmas songs. I evolve constantly and change constantly. I think a lot of songs are the same from both of those records. But you will see how I evolved. I think I'm better at singing "Ave Maria" than I was when I recorded the song in my early twenties.
GD: So, what can fans expect from this show? Will it be just holiday music or will you throw in a few of the hits as well? Maybe even “Cleveland?”
Jewel: (laughs) Maybe we need to learn "Cleveland" again. It's a lot of holiday songs, it's my family's originals, I'll do both originals and hits. It depends on what the audience wants. It varies on the audiences' appetite and what they are up for. It keeps things fresh for me and it serves the audience, which I like.
GD: Very good! Well, I had a ton of other questions to ask you but I didn't realize I only had ten minutes. I do appreciate the time that you gave me and I'm looking forward to seeing you in Cleveland next week.
Jewel: Thanks! I look forward to it and I hope to see you at the show.
Be sure to catch Jewel's Handmade Holiday Tour on December 2nd at The Hard Rock Rocksino. Tickets start at $49.50 and can be purchased by clicking here.