|The Family Jewel|
Musician talks being an outsider, queer cowboys and her unusual encounter with gay bestie
Jewel’s life is the best kind of It Gets Better story. Even though the famed music-maker recorded a video to offer hope to struggling teens, she didn’t need to; to be inspired, one only has to look at how she went from living out of her car – and almost dying – to being a Grammy-nominated, chart-topping singer-songwriter. Jewel became so unbelievably successful, in fact, that she recently released a Greatest Hits, a collection of songs going back to her first mega 1996 single “Who Will Save Your Soul” and spanning her entire multi-genre career.
We caught up with Jewel to chat about the queer-cowboy reality show she wants to make, how she threatened to kill the man who became her gay “manny” and the time she performed a not-so-conservative song for a group of Republicans.
Pieces of You was released 18 years ago. Do you relate to that album anymore, or does it feel like a stranger to you?
I never go back and listen to any of my albums ever. Once they were mixed and mastered, I’ve never gone back. But it feels like yesterday. I remember it so vividly. It’s such a big part of my heart.
And a big part of your career.
A huge part of my career. Having moved out at 15, and being homeless at 18, I should’ve been a statistic. The fame should’ve just fueled every insecurity I had. Thankfully I was aware of that, and I worked really hard at trying to manage my neuroses and my insecurities so that fame didn’t completely act like fuel to the flame.
That (album) really is just an honest portrayal of who I am and was at that time. I was accepted for who I was for the first time, and it was on a mass level. What a strange thing to go from being an outsider your whole life to suddenly having the whole world say, “We value your thoughts.” It wasn’t that people thought I was pretty, it wasn’t that people thought I was clever or cool; people actually valued what I was thinking and they valued my emotions and they valued my earnestness, and that was pretty remarkable. It was actually very healing and it changed my life. I can’t even tell you in how many ways: not just psychologically and emotionally, but financially. It changed everything for me.
Your entire life really is an It Gets Better story.
Aww. Yeah, it’s really true. You can’t live without hope. You can live without money, you can live without so many things, but you really can’t live without hope. It’s so hard to be able to look down the road and see that there are possibilities. As long as you feel like there’s a possibility, there is hope. It’s important for people to feel that.
I know what it’s like to get stuck in those moments, but sometimes it’s the littlest things. For me, sometimes it was somebody smiling at me kindly for no reason when people usually just looked at me like I was a leper because I was homeless. You never know what will touch somebody and give them that little something to keep going and keep fighting for what’s unique about them.