WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Singer-songwriter Jewel discusses and signs her new book "Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half The Story" at Book Soup on September 26, 2015 in West Hollywood, California.
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Jewel Reached Stardom After Humble Beginnings in Alaska

Jewel's lived a true rags to riches story.

Fans of '90s folk-rock remember Jewel's breakout debut album Pieces of You. The singer has been topping the Billboard charts from time to time since she first hit the scene in the '90s, though these days she's focused on slowing down for herself and her family.

Still, she's kept her piece of the celebrity spotlight in different ways: as a published poet, as one of the stars of Ang Lee's 1999 Western film "Ride With the Devil," as the Queen of Hearts on Season 6 (2021) of "The Masked Singer," and as Alaska's representative in 2022 on the reality series "American Song Contest." She also still gets called to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at major events, filling that role in 2023 at the NBA All-Star Game and the Indy 500.

And through it all, her new music has wowed both fans and critics.

Read on to learn more about Jewel: a gifted singer-songwriter and producer whose star never fully faded after her initial run of pop acclaim and amid numerous changes to the music business. Her story begins with a very humble childhood in rural Alaska and culminates with her rise as a respected multi-time Grammy Award nominee. Along the way, she's balanced fame with taking care of herself and steering her own career.

Humble Beginnings

Singer Jewel performs with her Father Atz Kilcher at Swiss National Day on Ellis Island in New York City.

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Jewel Kilcher grew up with humble beginnings outside of Homer, Alaska. Though she was born in Payson, Utah, her family moved to Alaska when she was just a baby. Following her parents' divorce when she was 8, she moved with her brother to a rural house with their father that had no indoor plumbing or heating. They had an outhouse and lived off the land.

The Kilcher family currently stars on the Discovery Channel reality show "Alaska: The Last Frontier," providing an inside look at what her dad's daily life is like. Its 11th and most recent season wrapped up in 2022.

As a young child, Jewel formed a singing duo with her father, Atz Kilcher, and they would perform yodeling in town at hotels and restaurants.

Although she grew up in a home of musicians which instilled in her an early appreciation for music — Jewel's father was difficult (and an alcoholic), so she went out on her own at age 15. She won herself a partial scholarship to attend Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, raising the additional money herself by hosting a benefit concert at the local high school in Homer. After school, she set out for San Diego, Calif., to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer. But the road to fame was not easy.

A Rags-to-Riches Career

Jewel at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park, Illinois, August 15, 1999.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

To say she pounded the pavement is an understatement. After being laid off from a day job, Jewel lived out of a van and performed music around local coffee shops and bars. She barely made ends meet and was even having health issues as a result of experiencing homelessness. But she kept going and developed a local fan base that eventually led to a record deal with Atlantic Records when she was 21 years old. The singer told The Washington Post that she was blown away but resolved not to let herself get carried away by her new opportunities.

"I was like, oh my gosh, you just can't take somebody with my background and put fame in the mix. That's just massive self-destruction," she said. "That's when I was like, I really have to make being a happy, whole person my priority. And if that's my priority in music, and my career is second, then I would be willing to do it."

As a result of the successful albums Pieces of You and Spirit, Jewel had hit superstardom. She couldn't go to the grocery store without being stared at by other shoppers or asked for autographs. She sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl, toured around the United States and performed for troops overseas. She was  a household name known only as "Jewel" — she had made it. But after it began to take an emotional toll on her, she decided to take a couple of years off.

"Fame doesn't always happen at a human pace," she explained. "Fame happens sometimes at a pace that causes a lot of psychological problems. So my mission, number one, was to be a happy, whole human and number two was to be a musician. And that's what I've been doing my whole career, and that's where I am today."

Jewel stayed true to herself as a passionate songwriter with hits that topped the Billboard charts but are still known for playing on the radio even today —  "Who Will Save Your Soul," "Foolish Games" and "You Were Meant For Me," to name a few. She's released 14 studio albums including Goodbye Alice in Wonderland, Picking Up the Pieces, Perfectly Clear and two holiday albums. Her most recent album, Freewheelin' Woman, was released in 2022 and featured the Darius Rucker collaboration "No More Tears."

She's performed duets with Bob Dylan, Kelly Clarkson and the Pistol Annies, and has four Grammy Award nominations. But despite all of the incredible feats she's accomplished in folk and country music, Jewel prefers a more-low-key lifestyle, most likely inspired by her Alaskan upbringing.

Her Personal Life

CINCINNATI, OHIO - OCTOBER 11: Singer-songwriter Jewel performing during Mindful & Music event on the Inspire Stage presented by Johnson & Johnson during the first day of Wellness Your Way Festival at the Duke Energy Convention Center on October 11, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Duane Prokop/Getty Images for Wellness Your Way Festival

Jewel was married to professional rodeo cowboy Ty Murray for 10 years. The couple had a son together, Kase Townes Murray. These days, she lives a quiet life with her son in Nashville but still keeps busy. The singer-songwriter dipped her toe into the world of acting and even starred in her own Hallmark mystery series, "A Fixer Upper Mystery." Jewel is proof that you can actively choose happiness and not be overwhelmed by fame.

She told the Washington Post that her father, now a reality star of his own right, is now sober and they have been able to mend their once-complicated relationship.

"My dad's a miracle. He changed in his 60s. And for anybody out there struggling with shame or addiction or the fear that so much of their life has gone in a certain direction and it's too late to change it, my dad is proof that that isn't the case," she said. "We are able to have a really honest and authentic relationship that I never thought we'd have."

In December of this year, rumors tied Jewel romantically to Kevin Costner, who finalized his divorce from Christine Baumgartner in September. The "Yellowstone" star was reportedly spotted laughing and chatting with Jewel while on a star-studded getaway to billionaire Richard Branson's private island in November.

"He really hit it off with Jewel," a source told In Touch on Dec. 6. "At one dinner, they were seated next to each other, laughing and chatting. They looked like they were having a lot of fun."

The outlet reported that Costner, 68, and Jewel, 49, were among the celebrity guests at this year's Necker Cup on Nov. 13-18. The week-long tennis event is held annually at Branson's Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. In addition to charity tennis matches between celebrity amateurs and professional players, Necker Cup participants can enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving and parties during their stay, according to the organization's website.

"He's enjoying being single again after 18 years of marriage, but [Jewel] definitely caught his eye. He's ready to move on with his life," the source said, adding that Costner "has a thing for blondes."

Jewel was linked to now-former NFL quarterback Charlie Whitehurst as recently as 2016.

Editor's Note: This story previously ran on Jan. 6, 2021. It was updated on Dec. 11, 2023. 

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