Jewel is one of the most talented and respected artists in music and entertainment. She is also beautiful, successful, and famous. Yet in spite of all this, Jewel is humble, authentic, and committed to enriching the lives of others. With an unwavering respect for nature, a passion for community, unrivaled independence, and a firm grasp on her homesteading roots, the artist has channeled her reputation for hard work into a thriving, multi-faceted entrepreneurial career.
In addition to writing and performing music from the 12 studio albums she has recorded since 1995, Jewel is also an extremely talented actress, a producer, a philanthropist, a conservationist, and an author of five books — including two children’s books — and a book of poetry.
The morning I was scheduled to speak with Jewel, my son woke up uncharacteristically cranky. When her manager called to confirm, I voiced concern that my son would interrupt our conversation. Her manager assured me, “Jewel is a mom. She will understand.”
And so, an hour later, with a baby on my hip and a pacifier at the ready I talked to Jewel about her WHOLE HUMAN entrepreneurial platform, The Sixth Annual One Night For One Drop event with Cirque De Soleil, the Handmade Holiday Tour, Project Clean Water, Jewel’s Never Broken Foundation, and her mission to promote self-agency in an increasingly technology driven world.
I’m excited to talk about all of your projects! Please bear with my babbling baby!
How old is your little one?
Six months. He is cutting two teeth and found his voice this week.
That’s what happens. They are like, “This hurts. I want to talk about it!”
I considered rescheduling but your manager promised you would roll with it!
I am all for it. I’m friends with Sara Blakely and I saw a beautiful post she did where she pulled over on the side of the road to do a conference call. She couldn’t find anything to write with in her purse so she used lipstick liner and her kids were in the background and she was like, “This is why businesses should hire moms because we get it done.” We figure it out and we get it done.
Right?! This is my reality.
That’s life. Don’t apologize. Heck no!
I am eager to talk about the charities and causes you are involved with. You were quoted as saying, “You have a social obligation.” What sparked your desire to transition success in music and entertainment into all encompassing entrepreneurial mission of health, wellness, and equality?
It has always been the core message of who and what I am. I founded Project Clean Water in 1996 or 1997. When I was homeless, I couldn’t afford enough bottled water. I knew water was going to be a major issue, if in America, we’re not able to drink our tap water and can’t afford bottled water at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale. My essence, my nature, who I am tends to be very community minded and very entrepreneurial because I was raised by homesteaders. We had nothing and had to rely on ourselves in the middle of nowhere to be innovative and to find solutions. I had a very entrepreneurial approach to my music. I knew I had an obligation to help people in need and give people opportunities the same way I needed. I needed help as somebody who was homeless.
I wasn’t homeless because I wasn’t willing to work. I was homeless because I wouldn’t have sex with a boss. He fired me for not sleeping with him and then the car I was living in was stolen. The poverty cycle is really difficult to get out of. Luckily, I had an opportunity to get out. I worked my hiney off to get that opportunity, but since the beginning, I knew I had an obligation to help others have opportunities. The core mission of my business is around creating connections, fostering community, and self-agency. The fields I am branching out into besides music are all around my nature, which is community, connection, and self-agency. Music has always been the soundtrack to my journey of finding those things. Now it’s about finding actual business strategies that accomplish those goals.
Your WHOLE HUMAN philosophy led to the creation of Jewel Inc. The relentless work you do for varied organizations, like Project Clean Water, Jewel’s Never Broken Foundation, Home for the Pawlidayz, and the homeless youth is completely inspiring. How do you determine where to channel Jewel Inc. resources?
Anxiety and depression rates are at the highest they have ever been. As a mother I needed to figure out how to create revenue that wasn’t based on traveling and touring all the time. I said, “How do I intersect with culture in a meaningful way that’s authentic to me, that adds a value to culture, and that also solves problems for me in my own life? How do I make money without just touring?” I started spending a lot of my time in the entrepreneurial space based on mindfulness curriculums.
The pedagogy that I developed while I was homeless literally just for survival and then, “How do you thrive and not self implode in this music business once you are given the chance to do it,” ended up getting proven by a neuroscientist, a scientist named Dr. Judson Brewer. I post those exercises for free on the website. I base my mindfulness curriculums for toddlers, middle school students, and businesses on things I started creating when I was homeless.
You will be marrying philanthropic efforts with your passion for music as you host The Sixth Annual One Night For One Drop event with Cirque Du Soleil this March. What do you have in store for fans attending this year’s unparalleled production?
I am incredibly honored Cirque Du Soleil decided to partner with me to tell my life story imagined by them. If you have ever seen a Cirque show you know how visually stunning it is. The show will have strong Alaskan and nature themes. It will be my story, but really it’s the story of everyone. Everyone has experienced love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness, and understanding. We are the architects of our own lives. We can look at nature verses nurture and understand how to connect to our real nature no matter how bad our nurture was. I’m very excited. The event also aligns charities. My charity, Project Clean Water, and their water charity are partnering up to do this. I am donating my life story, my music, and my time. I apparently will be flying and doing things like that. It will be exciting one way or the other! You can say that!
One thing I am doing to support my desire to foster the community and philanthropy is creating a craft fair before shows on the Handmade Holiday Tour. People can come and have an experience, make gifts for one another, and create self-agency or a sense of self-agency and community. I am making sure at-risk families or disadvantaged families can come and not just be part of a toy drive and be given a toy but instead be given the self respect of saying, “I am capable of making a gift for my mom,” and “I am capable of making a gift for my child.” I am very very excited about that portion of the tour.
The moment I became a mother I felt a powerful urge to get back to basics, embrace homemade, handcrafted, and local grown. How do you incorporate aspects of the rural simplicity of your childhood into your son’s world despite the fact that it is not at all like the one in which you grew up?
I was raised on a homestead by homesteaders. I didn’t realize that was a great setup or that I was being raised to be an entrepreneur. I was trained to be comfortable with the unknown, with adversity. My background allowed me to have neural wiring that was comfortable with the idea of, “Alright. Let me sit down. Let me figure this out. I will find a solution.”
It’s strange to raise a child not on a homestead where nature doesn’t teach him. I actually have to solve for it. Not only am I a mother in a modern culture that relies on technology proven to stunt neurological development for our children of learning how to do creative problem solving, but I am also famous and rich which are another two strikes against me I feel like. I’m in a city, I’m famous, and I’m rich, so I have to compensate by figuring out opportunities to allow my son to struggle, to know that I can’t do everything for him. I have to create opportunities where he learns with his own two hands that he is capable in age appropriate ways. Open-ended toys, staying away from technology, and letting his creativity turn a stick into a boat or an airplane or a bridge has been scientifically proven to create neural pathways that nothing else does.
As parents we really have to educate ourselves. That’s why I am creating a mindfulness cartoon about some of the hallmarks of my implements of curiosity and observation so that kids learn self-agency in a culture that isn’t helping them do that, where toys and learning tools do everything for our children.
I applaud you for taking on that platform. Every toy lights up, makes noise, and requires batteries. I am thrilled to see you stand up and say there is another way.
It has been predicted that the geek economy is going to increase. By the time our children are grown the workforce will be sixty to seventy percent freelance. They have to have skillsets, which allow them to be comfortable with uncertainty, with pivoting in real time, with creative problem solving. We have to come up with real practical solutions as parents.
On Nov. 24 you are kicking off your first annual Handmade Holiday Tour, where you will be performing both classic and original songs alongside your family. When was the last time you performed on a large scale with your family?
My family has toured with me off and on separately. My brother would open for me on tours or my dad would come out and sing with me, but this is the first time we have done it all together as a family on the road. I’m very excited. It’s going to be a first as far as that is concerned.
That’s really fun. My girlfriend would kill me if I didn’t tell you we read your poetry book, A Night Without Armor, cover to cover countless times. I also want to thank you for everything you do, but specifically for being a woman, an artist, and a mother we can all admire.
That is so sweet. I really appreciate that. My art is just about fighting for my own humanity and I am honored anybody cares to fight along with me and encourage me.
Catch Jewel performing at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ on Dec. 19, and at the Theatre at Westbury in Westbury, NY on Dec. 20.