Jewel is best known for her contemporary folk-influenced pop songs. Her debut album, Pieces of You, made her a star in the indie music circles. The album was released in 1995, and it has sold over 11 million copies in the U.S. alone.
Jewel Kilcher was born May 23, 1974 in Payson, Utah. She grew up in Homer, Alaska with her parents and two brothers, Shane and Atzle. Coming from a musical family, Jewel learned to capture the audience at a very early age. She used to perform with her parents since the age of five, singing in local Eskimo villages and as a tourist attraction.
Jewel's parents divorced in 1982 when she was 8 years old. She continued to live with her father in Alaska for seven years, performing and touring with him. It was during this time that she learned to yodel as a part of the family act.
She went to high school in Interlochen, Michigan on scholarship at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy, where she majored in operatic voice. While there, she learned to play the guitar − her trademark ever since. She also began writing her own songs at the age of 17.
After graduation in 1992, she moved to live with her mother in San Diego. Having no formal education, she was hard-pressed to find a job, and tried her hand in waitressing and other low-wage jobs. Eventually she gave up and focused on her musical career instead. She lived in her Volkswagen van, writing songs.
She soon began to perform at the local coffeehouse in Pacific Beach called the "Inner Change". Her performances were quite popular and she got a regular Thursday night spot. She was also seen performing with the Steve Poltz-led band, The Rugburns. Steve Poltz later collaborated with her on her hit single You Were Meant for Me.
It was during one of these gigs at the "Inner Change" when the then 19-year-old singer/songwriter was spotted by record executives from Atlantic Records. After signing in on the label, she started promoting her first album, Pieces of You, which was finally released on February 28, 1995. The album release party consisted of two live concerts in San Diego. Both were sold out.
The album was a marginal success at first, reaching the Billboard charts not until 14 months after the release. But the three hit singles, Who Will Save Your Soul, You Were Meant for Me and Foolish Games, eventually made the album a best-seller. The album stayed on the Billboard 200 for an amazing two years.
Following the success of the first album, Jewel performed the National Anthem in the 1998 Super Bowl. Her second album, Spirit, was released in November 1998. It reached #3 on the Billboard charts and the two hit singles, Hands and Down So Long, hit the Top 10. Spirit has sold over 4 million copies in the U.S.
The following year she released a holiday album, Joy: A Holiday Collection. Her next album consisting of original material was This Way, released in 2001. The album reached #9 on the Billboard 200, and has sold a more modest 1 million copies. The album song Till We Run Out of Road tells about her long-time boyfriend/life partner, rodeo cowboy Ty Murray. She went on to marry Murray on August 7, 2008.
Deviating from her earlier folk/indie her next album 0304 (released in 2003) consists of more melodic pop songs, with nevertheless the spiky Jewel-esque lyrics. The album hit the #2 spot on the Billboard charts on its first week, but it is still her lowest-selling major release, selling only 500,000 copies in the U.S.
In addition to her mainstream music releases, Jewel has also published both poetry and prose. In 1998, she published a poetry book/CD, A Night Without Armor, and in 2000, an autobiography called Chasing Down The Dawn.
Jewel has also tried her talent in acting, starring as Dorothy in the TV charity performance of The Wizard of Oz In Concert: Dreams Come True in 1995. She also starred in the 1991 movie Ride with the Devil opposite Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich. More recently, she appeared as a special guest star in the short-lived NBC law drama The Lyon's Den.
Jewel is also active in philanthropy, founding the non-profit organization Higher Ground For Humanity together with her mother, Lenedra J. Carroll. She is also a supporter of the ONE Campaign.