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Jewel’s COVID-19 message, in a word, is ‘Grateful’

Updated May 15, 2020 - 6:29 pm

Jewel has remained grateful, even through stay-at-home orders.

Early in her life, she didn’t have a home in which to stay.

“When I was living in my car when I was 18,” she recalled during Monday’s episode of PodKats! “I was homeless because I wouldn’t have sex with my boss, and I couldn’t pay rent. I tried living in my car, and my car got stolen.”

It’s no coincidence she has released a new single, “Grateful,” about that time. It’s the lead single on her upcoming album, title and release date to be announced.

“My songwriting has always been an extension of my own life, obviously, it’s how singer-songwriters work,” says the recording star and passionate advocate for mental-health awareness. “I’ve often needed my music to help me through difficult times.”

Jewel looks back on those comparatively dire times to instill gratitude even during COVID-19. In a watershed moment, she was about to shoplift a dress when she glanced at herself in the shop’s fitting-room mirror.

“I caught my reflection, and saw what I looked like and that I was a statistic,” she says. “I moved out at 16. I knew kids like me end up becoming statistics and I tried very hard not to be one. I was very thoughtful about it. I was mindful.”

Jewel was a bar and coffee-house singer in those days, living in and around San Diego. Today she is an internationally famous and acclaimed singer-songwriter working on an album entirely from scratch.

Jewel says she is currently staying “in the Rockies, southwest of Colorado,” but she maintains ties to Las Vegas with property in Lake Las Vegas.

The artist’s biography was the focus of Cirque du Soleil’s 2018 “One Night For One Drop” water-charity show. She still appreciates the fact that she spoke English onstage in a Cirque show, rather than the company’s invented gibberish.

“A real language!” she says with a laugh.

Marty Hennessy’s Inspiring Children Foundation, named for the Vegas tennis pro and longtime philanthropist, is also based in Las Vegas. The charity, founded by Jewel and Vegas philanthropist Ryan Wolfington, has catapulted about 100 Las Vegas students to Ivy League-caliber colleges through its tennis and wellness-based academy.

Inspiring Children Foundation had staged its annual fundraising shows at Palazzo Theater, but this year’s event was canceled in March because of the COVID-19 shutdown. In its place, Jewel hosted an online performance from her Rocky Mountains locale, dubbed “Live from San Quarantine,” a powerful performance playing off of Johnny Cash’s classic “At San Quentin” live album.

The show raised $550,000 for Jewel’s charity. The series, which features the performer in conversations with mental-health experts and musicians, continues on her Twitch.tv/inspirehouse platform. And, she and Deepak Chopra have co-produced the documentary “The Mindfulness Movement,” which was targeted for theatrical release but is now available online.

Jewel’s charity and commercial endeavors reflect her passion for mental wellness, which she has found is self-propelled. Her message is particularly powerful as lives of all variety have been disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The foundation started because of my interested in mindfulness, and helping people that didn’t have other resources or didn’t have access to therapy or traditional places to go when they were unhappy,” she says. “There’s no school to learn an emotional language.”

Jewel certainly had no access to such schooling. As a teenager, she combated her own anxiety. She learned the tools through experiences.

“I started to make a lot of discoveries, one of which was that there are only two basic states of being. I either felt calm and open, or I felt tight and contracted,” she says. “I began to realize that every thought, feeling, or action led me to one of those two states, so I began to look at my anxiety as an ally instead of an enemy.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Jewel’s breakthrough, “Pieces of You.” The album reached No. 4 on the Billboard charts, went double-platinum and catapulted Jewel’s career — even as there was no template for its success.

“The fact that that album was able to be commercially successful was the aggregate,” she says. “It’s just the culmination of so much hard work on my part, and on an entire fan base’s part that fought to help a folk singer break through the really male-dominated, grunge-oriented business.”

Jewel looks back at that success and says the record was the result of “me doing a thousand shows a year, five and six shows a day, for years on end trying to make that record break through. The fact that it was so successful was really against so many odds … I got to be validated for being who I was.

“I never had to change, or compromise, or be somebody I wasn’t. It was incredibly touching.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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