Opera House: An Evening with Jewel

Opera House: An Evening with Jewel

Jewel’s concert is largely sold out, however, if you are in generous frame of mind, stop by the Opera House office. And below are her compelling answers to my questions.

Her name held a promise of a glittering career. Success as a singer-songwriter was in her genetic stew, but the broth simmered for years before coming to a boil.

Grandmother Ruth was an aspiring opera singer, who sacrificed her dreams, leaving pre-war Germany to marry a man named Yule she hardly knew so her future offspring would be born free.The couple were among the original pioneers of the then Alaska Territory.


Mom and dad enjoyed making records and performing locally and she and her brothers accompanied their parents on tours through native villages.

When her parents divorced, she spent more than a half-dozen years with her father touring, starting at age eight.

At 15, she went her own way, performing solo for the first time and earning a vocal scholarship to Interlochen, a private arts school in Michigan where she majored in visual art.

At 16, she wrote “Who Will Save Your Soul.”

Just shy of her 19th birthday, fate kicked into to high gear and Jewel – yes, that is her given name – finally hit the the big time.

Hard work and heartfelt songwriting, not to mention an exquisitely expressive voice, paid off. After a year on the road, “Who Will Save Your Soul” became a major hit. And, with the release of two other hit singles, “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games,” album sales went through the roof, as Blender magazine writes:

“With considerably less fuss, [Pieces of You] went on to exceed the sales of Nirvana’s Nevermind, moving a phenomenal 11 million units.”

Pieces of You became the best-selling debut release of all time.

Bob Dylan and Neil Young – she opened for them – became mentors, listening to her songs and discussed lyrics with the burgeoning super nova. The London Times hailed Jewel “the most sparkling female singer-songwriter since Joni Mitchell.” Blender described her as “rock’s sexiest poet.” Jewel went on to  earn major music industry awards. She sang at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. She toured and sang with Merle Haggard and with BB King in England (plus, as mentioned Dylan and Young) . She performed at the White House for President Clinton. To date, over 27 million albums sold.

Today Jewel is a four-time Grammy nominee songwriter, actress, poet, painter, and philanthropist. From the remote ranch of her Alaskan youth to the triumph of international stardom, she was hailed by the New York Times as a “songwriter bursting with talents,” enjoying career longevity rare among her generation of artists.

And grandmother Ruth was alive to see her Jewel triumph.

Jewel’s first concert at Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House in 2012 sold out online in seven minutes. She gave another SRO performance in 2013, which sold out in 15 minutes. Now the Sheridan Arts Foundation and Project Clean Water are proud to announce the acclaimed singer-songwriter’s return to the Opera House to perform Saturday, August 9, 2014. Doors at 7:30 p.m.; concert at 8 p.m. The show is a fundraiser for Jewel’s nonprofit, Project Clean Water and for the Sheridan Arts Foundation/Opera House.


Jewel founded Project Clean Water in 1997. Having experienced homelessness as a teenager just out of high school –  Jewel became ill and couldn’t afford to buy the bottled water she needed for her sick kidneys. She then realized it was difficult to obtain clean water in the United States and discovered it was a huge problem globally. Since then, she has been relentless in her efforts to bring safe water to those in need and create awareness of clean water shortages around the world.

Since the SAF was founded in 1991, entertainers such as Tanya Tucker, Rodney Crowell, Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin and John Prine have donated their time and talent to the community-minded nonprofit, performing benefit concerts similar to Jewel’s shows.

For more information visit sheridanoperahouse.com or jeweljk.com

For more information, read Jewel’s responses to my questions:


 When your parents divorced, you became a duo with your dad, Atz Kilcher. You performed together for six-plus years. What was that time like? Do you still heed your dad’s lesson not to use a set list, just read the crowd? Please sum up his legacy.

I learned so much about being a professional musician from performing with my dad from age 8 to when I went out on my own at 15. He never used a set list, and was great at reading a crowd and tailoring the show to what was happening in the room. Performing in bars also taught me how to handle a crowd- whether they were not paying attention and I had to focus them, or whether they were rowdy and I had to handle them- it was an invaluable experience to have those years under my belt so that when I got signed and began touring in difficult set ups like opening for grunge and goth bands solo acoustic , I knew how to command a crowd. And to this day I don’t do set lists.

Was San Diego’s coffee shop, The Inner Change Cafe your Grand Ol’ Opry? Was that the place where all it began to happen for you?
Yes, the Inner Change is where it began for me. It was a struggling coffee shop, and the only place that would let me keep the door money if I could bring in a crowd… That was a big if… But one that paid off!
 Going back to your student years, reading and words were a passion. And now you are a best-selling poet and author. You name Anais Nin and Charles Bukowski as “heroes.” What about their writing compelled you?

I learned something from everything I read. The Greek Classics had a big effect on my philosophical bent, Neruda and Nobokov lent a lyrical style, and the sharply drawn characters of Flannery O’Conner and Steinbeck gave me a passion for character driven narrative. But I suppose I admired Anaiis and Bukowski most, not for technical ability, but because they had the guts to be honest. They did not use their art for propaganda to promote some edited and glossy version of themselves. They were raw and showed us their works along with their moments of divine inspiration. That meant a lot to a kid who felt deeply flawed and didn’t see how I perceived myself in the magazines or music of my youth.

The story of how Project Clean Water came about is often told well known. But would you talk about the successes of your nonprofit and the lives it has changed? Is the reach of your nonprofit global?
I founded PCW in ’97, and since them we have put wells in 13 countries. We are currently partnering with Voss Water Foundation and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite to form our Give A Drop campaign. We are focusing on a project in Africa. This year we are doing a charity dinner the night before the show here in town, to raise even more money to help villagers have clean water.
When and how did your love affair with Telluride begin? Are you now spending time here with your young family?
Ty and I stumbled upon Telluride while riding our motorcycles through the Rockies. I remember riding into the valley on a sunny spring day and thinking “I need to live here.” I bought my house a few years ago and have enjoyed spending as much time here as I can. It reminds me a lot of my home town of Homer, Alaska- except our mountains rise out of the ocean there… Sea level is a kind of big difference- ha!
Given your rags to riches story, if you were granted 3 wishes, what would they be?
For my son, I wish the self esteem that self-sufficiency provides.
For my loved ones, I wish they continue to know and experience their own worth and goodness.
For myself, I wish many more bends in the long road of life.
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