Breaking onto the music scene in the 1990s seemingly overnight with hit songs such as “Foolish Games” and “You Were Meant for Me,” Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jewel overcame growing up in Alaska with no running water to being a homeless teen in San Diego but never forgot her roots. A passionate advocate for at-risk teens and emotional health, she also keeps family close to her heart. In her Handmade Holiday Tour, which comes to the Ridgefield Playhouse Dec. 4, she will share the stage with her dad and two brothers, who star in the Discovery Channel series “Alaska: The Last Frontier.” Andrea Valluzzo spoke with her about the show.
Andrea Valluzzo: What can audiences expect on this tour?
Jewel: I really wanted this experience to be one that is warm and welcoming like the way I grew up so I brought my family out with me. I brought my dad and my two brothers down and my son is coming out. I do it so my whole family can be together for the holidays. All of my family writes and sings so everybody, including my son, will get up there and sing in different combinations. I’ll sing some hits as well as Christmas songs and in the lobby will be a crafting fair where you can get handmade gifts because handmade gifts were a big part of my childhood. We didn’t have the money to buy gifts and I think handmade gifts that have meaning and symbolize something mean a lot more.
AV: Will you have jewelry in the craft fair?
Jewel: My best friend and I started a jewelry line out of his basement in Colorado. We wanted to really imbue each piece with meaning … staying in touch with someone you loved or living your life with gratitude. You can see the pieces at songlinesbyjewel.com, it’s completely homespun and we make everything by hand.
AV: You started singing with your dad in your teens. Is it fun sharing a stage with your family?
Jewel: I love it, it’s super amazing for me. I always told people I’m not the most talented person in my family. My entire family sings and my aunts and uncles write. For me, it’s been fun to show and give them a stage and to see how far my brothers have progressed as songwriters.
AV: What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?
Jewel: Making each other gifts, and writing a letter for my loved ones is a real tradition for me so for the people I really care about, I write a really long, heartfelt letter.
AV: What’s your writing process?
Jewel: It’s different now that I am a mom, I usually get ideas when I’m driving and I have to put them in my iPhone to dig up the ideas later and set times to write, almost like working out. Before I had a child, I just would write anytime it hit me. Now I have to be a little bit more regimented. Usually, scraps are coming right now, like a piece, a chord, the hook and then I have to sit down and flesh it out later.
AV: You’re working on a new record… where do you find your writing inspiration?
Jewel: I’m very inspired by what I’m seeing people deal with. I’ve been running a youth foundation that deals with emotional wellness with at-risk youth and developed a set of tools actually when I was homeless to help me overcome agoraphobia and panic attacks and really rewire my brain to create better habits. So I posted them on a charitable website at jewellneverbroken.com. If anybody reading this suffers from anxiety or wants to understand emotional health better, there are very simple three-minute exercises to walk people through the basics. You feel a lot of pressure to be someone else instead of discovering who you are. So the record I’m writing is doing hopefully what a singer-songwriter should do, which is just hold up a mirror to society so they can see themselves without distortion, without marketing, without an agenda. That to me is what I care writing about and why I’ve always enjoyed being a songwriter.