Jewel on Dolly, Divorce and New Album ‘Picking Up the Pieces’
When Jewel suggested to Dolly Parton that the two of them get together for a glass of wine sometime, the response was pure Parton. “She said, ‘No, honey…moonshine!'” recalls Jewel, beaming. The fellow songwriters were together in the studio to duet on the standout track “My Father’s Daughter” on Jewel’s new album, Picking Up the Pieces, a record that, like many of Parton’s, was inspired by hardship, loss and a healthy dose of self-reflection.
“[Dolly] is such a pioneer, and who she was as a woman the time she came out was just revolutionary,” Jewel continues. “I love how unapologetic and how willing she was to not use artist propaganda, and instead say, ‘This is exactly who I am.'”
On Picking Up the Pieces, Jewel follows in those same footsteps. The record, her first since 2010’s country effort Sweet and Wild, returns the Nineties’ queen of introspection to her more folky roots, allowing her poetry-like lyrics to come to the fore. No emotion or feeling is masked, whether it’s the awkward doubt of the cocktail-party exposé “Plain Jane” (in which she somehow manages to work “cynicism” into the chorus), the courage in the breakup story-song “His Pleasure Is My Pain” or the love-lost regret that imbues fan favorite “Carnivore.”
Many of the songs were written when the Alaska-raised Jewel, who famously lived in her car during a period of lean times, was still in her late teens and early twenties. “Some have been underground hits and have been requested at every show. Fans will ask for ‘Carnivore’ before they’ll ask for ‘You Were Meant for Me,'” she tells Rolling Stone Country, referencing her 1996 Number One hit. “I’ve been wanting to [record them], because I know there is an appetite in my fan base for them at least. But there just wasn’t the right record. ‘Carnivore’ on my country record would have sounded weird, as well as on my rock record or my pop record. [These songs] weren’t right for what I was interested in musically at the time.”
Unlike other artists who gingerly wade into other genres, Jewel has never been shy about adapting her grand pipes to pop, rock or even dance music. It’s the most malleable of voices, sounding at home on a hard-rock stage (she recently joined Foo Fighters in Phoenix to cover Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”) or in an intimate club — Jewel’s pin-drop performance was a highlight of this year’s Americana Music Festival in Nashville. It’s in that genre, an amalgamation of country, rock, folk and other American sounds, where she admits she currently belongs.
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