It’s a family thing. Taking the stage at the new Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center on Dec. 19 is the second annual Jewel’s Handmade Holiday Tour, featuring Jewel, the Grammy-nominated and award-winning singer-songwriter, and other members of her musical family.
While Jewel is known by her first name only, her family is the Kilchers, three of whom are joining her on the tour, including her father Atz and two brothers, Atz Lee and Nikos—musicians all.
The Kilcher men and family are best-known for their Discovery channel show “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” now in its seventh season, filmed around the state and on their 770-acre homestead in the city of Homer. That’s where four generations have lived and where Jewel grew up before she left at age 16 to attend what is now known as the Interlochen Center for the Arts in northern Michigan.
Since becoming a superstar in the 1990s, Jewel has also worked as an actor and author. In an effort to help others realize mindfulness and authenticity and work towards achieving emotional fitness, Jewel recently founded an online help site, JewelNeverBroken.com, based on exercises in her New York Times bestselling 2015 memoir “Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story.”
Coming up next for the artist is a celebration of her 25 years in the music industry. She has been writing and recording songs for a studio album to be released in 2019 to mark that silver anniversary, and she says it is “likely” that she will go on tour.
For tickets and more information about Jewel’s Sandy Springs appearance, see citysprings.com. Her “Handmade Holiday Tour” is part of a series of holiday events, from a tree-lighting to a symphony New Year’s Eve performance, at the new City Springs civic center. For more about that series, see the Reporter’s story here.
In an exclusive phone interview, Reporter Newspapers asked Jewel, 44, about the upcoming show as well as her journey as a singer-songwriter, author and advocate.
She is where she wants to be in her life, she says. With life experiences of heartbreak as well as joy, she says, “My greatest accomplishment is to work at living every day. I promised myself that I would, first, be a happy person, and second, be a musician.”
Q: From your sizable songbook, what can audiences expect to hear in your concert?
A: Certainly, they will hear traditional holiday tunes. My favorite is “Ave Maria.” It’s so beautifully arranged and I love singing it. We don’t have a set playlist. We tend to perform what we think the audience for that evening would like, both for holiday classics and some of my well-known songs. Audience members can call out favorites they want to hear, and we are happy to perform those songs. We also like to perform some new music. And, yes, I will be yodeling with my dad in a couple numbers.
Q: What is the “handmade” element of the tour?
A: This year, rather than a workshop of creating items, we are offering a pre-show market of handmade items: bracelets my dad has made; jewelry from my new endeavor, Songlines; and even items my son, Kase [age 7], has made. For me, it is sharing a tradition that I grew up with of creating gifts for each other from what was available to us.
Q: After graduating from Interlochen and moving to San Diego, with some traveling and busking in between, you were living out of your van and had some tough times getting started in the music industry. What was the break that launched your career?
A: I had started writing songs at Interlochen about what was going on in my life, about what I observed and felt, and [I was] always writing in a journal about my inner journey. I was singing in a coffee shop in San Diego and a local radio station played some of my music and a record label heard it. Suddenly there was a bidding war among several labels. I was 19. In 1995, my debut album, “Pieces of You,” was released. It sold more than 12 million copies and stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for two years.
Bob Dylan and Neil Young took an interest in me and were great mentors. They encouraged me to keep going and take risks. Importantly, they encouraged me to write and sing what was meaningful to me, not for the market. They really taught me what it is to be a singer-songwriter rather than a singer of songs. For me, there’s a big gap between the two. As a songwriter, I can answer questions and tap into emotions that people out there face every day. I use my [journal] writing to access my intelligence, observations and life patterns. There are so many shared life experiences I can write about that can touch people.
Q: Two words frequently come up when you talk about who you are: mindfulness and authenticity. Why are these so important to you?
A: Mindfulness is the ability to perceive oneself in real time. If there is something you want to act on, stop and think before you act. That can help you change a habit or even your life.
Authenticity is who we are. It’s what makes each of us unique. It’s understanding who we are and honoring that person, not trying to be someone else.