A contemporary folkie renowned for her expressive, crystalline voice, singer/songwriter Jewel was among the most successful of the many new female performers who dominated the pop charts throughout the 1990s. Born Jewel Kilcher on May 23, 1974, in Payson, UT, she was raised in remote Homer, AK, and began her music career at the age of six, regularly performing alongside her singer/songwriter parents in local Eskimo villages and tourist attractions. After her parents’ divorce, she remained with her father, touring with him for the next seven years.
While attending Michigan’s Interlochen Fine Arts Academy, Jewel began writing her first songs; upon graduating, she joined her mother in San Diego, suffering through a series of short-lived day jobs before deciding to flee the nine-to-five world for good, at which time she moved into her van and began focusing on a career in music. Her first regular gig was at the Innerchange, a coffeehouse in Pacific Beach; word quickly spread, and by 1993 she was the subject of a rabid local cult following.
After signing to Atlantic, in early 1995 Jewel issued her debut LP, Pieces of You; the record was a slow starter, not even breaking into the Billboard pop charts until some 14 months after its release, but eventually the single “Who Will Save Your Soul” became a major hit, and soon the album was a best-seller as well. Two other hits, “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games,” followed. In 1998 Jewel returned with Night Without Armor, a collection of her spoken word poetry; her hotly anticipated second album, Spirit, followed later that year, as did the seasonal collection Joy: A Holiday Collection. Chasing Down the Dawn — a spoken word album featuring unabridged selections from the book of the same name — was issued in fall 2000.
This Way appeared a year later as a more lighthearted follow-up to Spirit. Fans and critics were shocked in 2003 when the slick dance-pop album 0304 appeared and were just as shocked when the singer allowed the Schick company to use the album’s hit single, “Intuition,” for a advertising campaign introducing their new razor. Goodbye Alice in Wonderland, released in May 2006, was a return to the warm sound of her earlier work. Led by the single “Again and Again,” it reached the Top Ten. Working with producer John Rich of Big & Rich, Jewel released the country-tinged Perfectly Clear in 2008. – Jason Ankeny