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Understanding why Jewel is such a rare gem


Story: Jack Foley

SINCE she recorded her first album nearly a decade ago, Jewel has continually attemped to explore fresh avenues, branching out from her folk roots to incorporate rock, pop, country, blues, jazz, and classical influences into her work.

Each successive album has found her experimenting with new sounds and widening her artistic scope, with her latest, 0304, promising to move her close to the mainstream than ever before.

Her four albums to date have sold 25 million copies worldwide, while her latest long-player, 0304, finds the multi-platinum singer/songwriter inspired by her burgeoning interest in modern dance beats and textures.

The debut single to emerge from it, Intuition, was written and produced by Jewel and Cuban-American producer, Lester Mendez, who has worked with the likes of Shakira, Santana, and Enrique Iglesias, and who also collaborated with her throughout the new album.

Joining Jewel on the song are Rusty Anderson (electric guitars), Mark Oakley (acoustic guitars), Paul Bushnell (bass), Michael Bolger (accordion), and Mendez on keyboards.

Commenting on her latest direction, Jewel explains: "I've always been really interested in all kinds of music. I loved hip-hop and rap when I was first exposed to it in the ‘80s, and I loved the beats, and I loved the artists who had the ability to be very lyrical with those beats.

"I also like the hypnotic nature of dance music; there is something very primordial about it. And, of course, I love folk music… I love story-telling and socially driven music.

"The tone of some of the new songs also leans towards jazz. So you are going to hear my love of all these types of music on the new album, and I tried to combine them in a way that makes sense.

"You have folk melodies against hip-hop beats against a French accordion against hand-clapping and whistling solos. But it still really sounds like me."

Jewel’s previous album, the platinum-certified This Way, was released by Atlantic Records in November 2001 and debuted at #9 in the US album charts.

To date, it has sold in excess 1.5 million copies in the US alone.

Produced by Jewel and Dann Huff, it marked her first work as a producer.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Jewel then launched Soul City Café in the Summer of ’02, a multi-faceted programme designed to expose, encourage, and develop new talent in a variety of artistic media.

The project was launched with Soul City Café ArtBeat, a showcase for emerging musical and spoken word artists who have been performing with Jewel on her current tour.

This was followed by a Soul City Café video director search, to find an aspiring filmmaker to direct the video for the title track of her album, This Way.

Currently, Soul City Café is conducting a search for exceptional up-and-coming talent via Music Quest, a competition for bands and solo artists. Winners in each category will land opening slots on Jewel's next tour.

In other recent Jewel news, her version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama was used as the title song to the film starring Reese Witherspoon, and she has also established her own film production company, Magic Lantern Entertainment, which has acquired its first feature film script, Wave, written by David Rothmiller.

Jewel will star in the film along with an ensemble cast, having made her acclaimed movie debut in Ang Lee’s American Civil War masterpiece, Ride With The Devil, alongside Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich.

She is working on her second book of poetry (to be love poems), following the success of her two previous books.

Raised in Alaska, the 28-year-old Jewel has been celebrated as one of the most gifted and accomplished artists in popular music today.

Her 1995 debut, Pieces of You, received the Diamond Award for US sales in excess of 10 million (and is currently certified at 11 million). The album spent a remarkable 114 weeks on the Billboard chart, where it hit #4.

With ‘0304’ Jewel is set to add a bold new chapter to an already unique and extraordinary career.

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