Fans of '90s folk music definitely 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.
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 which had no indoor plumbing or heating. They had an outhouse, lived off the land, and essentially took care of themselves away from normal society.
The Kilcher family currently stars on the Discovery Channel reality show Alaska: The Last Frontier if you want an inside look at what their daily lives are like. As a young child, Jewel formed a little singing duo with her father, Atz Kilcher, and they would perform yodeling in town at hotels and restaurants.
Despite growing up in a home of musicians which instilled in her an early appreciation for music, Jewel's father was difficult (and an alcoholic) and she decided to go 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, California to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer. But it was not an easy road to fame.
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 her homelessness. But she kept going and ended up developing 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 says. "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."
After two hit records -- Pieces of You and Spirit, Jewel had officially 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 even performed for troops overseas. She was officially a household name known only as "Jewel." She had made it...but it was a bit much for her, so she took 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," she continues. "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 12 studio albums including Goodbye Alice in Wonderland, Picking Up the Pieces, Perfectly Clear, and two holiday albums. 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.
Outside of writing songs, Jewel was married to professional rodeo cowboy Ty Murray for 10 years. The couple even had a son together, Kase Townes Murray. These days she lives a quiet life with her son in Nashville, Tennessee but she still keeps busy. The singer-songwriter dipped her toe in 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 even told 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 says. "We are able to have a really honest and authentic relationship that I never thought we'd have."