Count on singer Jewel not to miss a beat. Walking down the red carpet at the Academy of Country Music Awards last year in a tight-fitting mermaid gown, it seemed nothing could ruffle her feathers. After all, she’s a four-time Grammy Award nominee whose debut album — at age 20 — sold more copies than Nirvana’s Nevermind. But success doesn’t always equal courage, and that moment proved to be a new milestone for Jewel. “It was probably the first time at an awards show that I felt relaxed!” she says. “I used to have severe panic attacks. I remember one time arriving at the MTV Video Music Awards and not being able to get out of the limo. The driver kept unlocking the door and I’d just lock it again. I did it over and over! I’ve always been shy and introverted. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life.”
The reason for her new-found confidence? Jewel’s son Kase, 2 years old, whom she credits for making her feel “more comfortable in my own skin.” That’s why this time, instead of being anxious, she spent the ride to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas perusing photos of her son, who was at home in Texas with his dad, rodeo star Ty Murray. “It puts everything in perspective,” she says about being a mom. “I feel more at peace.”
That peaceful existence is a lifestyle Jewel covets. Despite selling more than 27 million records, the singer and her husband, a nine-time World Champion rodeo cowboy, live quietly on a secluded 2,200-acre working ranch in Stephenville, Texas. Here, surrounded by about 200 cows, 20 horses and rolling hills, Jewel feels at home. She’s not the first artist to shun the celebrity sideshow and overt consumerism that often goes hand-in-hand with Hollywood success. But the singer, who was raised on a ranch in Alaska without running water or electricity, is one of the few who has managed to stay on top while being true to herself.
Jewel is grounded and soft-spoken, yet has the kind of drive and burning passion for life that’s the mark of a real artist. She doesn’t let things happen to her. She goes out and makes them happen. When her first album, Pieces of You, sold a mere 3,000 copies, she hit the road playing a grueling four shows a day in 40 cities. Seeing her perform live, captivating an audience of thousands with merely her guitar and exquisite voice, is a revelation. Last year, she released a Greatest Hits album featuring duets with Kelly Clarkson and the Pistol Annies, took on the lead role as June Carter Cash in the Lifetime movie Ring of Fire, released a holiday album and a children’s book.
In an exclusive interview with Sweden With Love, Jewel opens up about raising her son, why she loves her secluded life on a ranch and her thoughts on adding another baby to the family. At the end of the interview, she started talking in beautiful Swedish — a language she picked up from a Swedish boyfriend when she was 18. It was a lovely surprise!
Ulrica: You were raised in Alaska by parents who didn’t have a lot of material wealth. What’s it like to for you to be able to give your son such a different upbringing?
Jewel: It’s something Ty and I talk about all the time. We were both raised poor, so it’s a little weird to be in such a different situation. I don’t know of a lot of spoiled, wealthy kids who turned out well-equipped for life, so we’re very conscious of not spoiling him with material wealth. We rather spoil him with love. I look at our son as a little gift we get to take care of until he’s 18 years old and starts life on his own. We have to do our best to make sure he can stand on his own legs by then.
Ulrica: What traits do you want him to have when he grows up?
Jewel: Ty and I want to raise him to be self sufficient. I want him to be able to take care of himself and live a happy and rewarding life. We try to teach him that he can earn things by helping out. We’re very conscious about it. I’m so glad we’re able to raise him on our ranch. There’s stuff to do here on a daily basis. It never ends! So he gets to learn how to take care of the animals and to love animals. It teaches him about love, and how much joy you can get from helping others. Including animals! It teaches him to take care of something other than himself, and that way he’ll learn not to be selfish.
Ulrica: I know he’s only two, but what does he do around the ranch to help out?
Jewel: Yes, he’s still very little, but he loves sitting on the tractor with his dad. He help us feed the cows. He’s a wonderful little boy, and so eager to be a part of everything that goes on here. He helps out around the farm and he loves it. He has a great, positive attitude and loves being outdoors. And I’m so happy he can grow up in such a beautiful place. I think it teaches him so much, both about himself and about the world around him.
Ulrica: Kase must have one of the best lullaby singers in the world as his mom. What’s your bedtime routine like?
Jewel: He’s a wonderful sleeper! We start with bath time, then we put on his pajamas and I’ll read him a little book. I do sing for him, but what he really loves is when I tell him stories. That puts him right to sleep.
Ulrica: Is there anything you miss about living in such a remote place?
Jewel: Sure, I miss having a Whole Foods Market and a yoga studio! But I love the world I live in. I feel very happy here. It’s wonderful to be able to get away from the stress of living in a big city. I love to go to L.A. and New York for work and to be there for short periods of time. There’s so much energy and creativity surrounding you. But I really love that I can come back here for my “real” life. I feel grounded and safe. And I like being so close to nature. I like that it’s quiet. It allows me to be in the moment.
Ulrica: Do you think you’ll have another child?
Jewel: I was getting acupuncture recently and the acupuncturist said, ‘You need one more!’ You always hear the first child is for you and the second child is for your first child. I’m very happy with one, but we’ll see! I can’t promise you anything. I feel so blessed to have my son, so if that ends up being it, then I’m still very grateful.
Please follow Jewel on Twitter at @jeweljk.
Photographs courtesy of Jewel ©2013.