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(Soundbite of guitar music)

SCOTT SIMON, host:

In the 1990s, Jewel helped usher in a new wave of female singer-songwriters with her hit songs like "Foolish Games," "Who Will Save Your Soul," and "You Were Meant for Me."

(Soundbite of song, "You Were Meant for Me)

JEWEL (Singer-Songwriter): (Singing) Dreams last so long. Even after you're gone, I know you that love me. And soon you will see you were meant for me, and I was meant for you.

SIMON: That's just where she started. Over the next decade, Jewel would take up folk, pop and country music. Thats where we find her new CD, "Sweet and Wild."

(Soundbite of song)

JEWEL: (Singing) If you want to go, baby, let's go. If you want to rock, I'm ready to roll. And if you want to slow-oh-oh down, we can get down together.

SIMON: Jewel joins us from the studios of NPR West. Thanks so much for being with us.

JEWEL: Thank you.

SIMON: It's two CDs actually, isnt it? "Sweet and Wild" and "Sweet and Mild."

JEWEL: Yeah, I did a deluxe version of this, where it's the entire album with a band, and then the entire album in the same order but solo acoustic.

SIMON: So you just couldnt figure out what you like best: the band or acoustic?

(Soundbite of laughter)

JEWEL: I like both but I really wanted a chance to give people the opportunity to listen to these songs as they were written. And I think when you hear the songs just as I wrote them, you can hear them as they are meant to be heard, in my opinion. It's very emotional.

SIMON: Well, let's - an example, if we could. Let's listen to the first track on the album, "No Good and Goodbye."

(Soundbite of song, "No Good and Goodbye")

JEWEL: (Singing) Once upon time used to feel so fine. I really mean to shine. We'd laugh like we were drunk on wine. But not anymore. No, not anymore. No, not anymore. No, not anymore. Used to feel so good, used to laugh like we should. We did what we could. Come on, baby. I'm sorry it would...

SIMON: Okay, thats the ramped up studio version. Now the quiet, contemplative, acoustic version.

(Soundbite of song, "No Good and Goodbye")

JEWEL: (Singing) Baby, don't say the stars are falling from your eyes. Baby, just say, say you need me one more time. For you and I, there is no good in goodbye.

SIMON: Changes the nature of the song, doesnt it?

JEWEL: Yeah, it does. Yeah, I love songwriting. It's really been whats kept me in this job. I really am passionate about it. And there's something special about when you're alone with your guitar. I feel that way about myself, at least. And I think my fans tend to really connect with me that way as well.

But it's really fun to be able to dress them up and push them and take the songs somewhere different as well. So for me it was fun to be able to experiment and do both.

SIMON: When you talk about the singer-songwriter alone with his or her guitar, were you writing songs as a - everything I've read about you, and growing up in the Alaska homestead, were you alone a lot with your guitar?

JEWEL: I didnt learn to play guitar until I was about 16. My parents were musicians. They sang in hotels for tourists. When my parents were divorced - my mom left when I was eight, my dad raised my brothers and I back at the family ranch, and we sang in bars and honky-tonks and thats sort of how we made our living.

And actually I learned guitar so I could hitchhike through Mexico, like all parents hope their children do one day.

SIMON: Oh, perfect at the age of 16.

JEWEL: Yeah.

SIMON: It's possible to hitchhike without a guitar, Im told. But...

JEWEL: I had no money and I was going to sort of street-sing my way down to San Diego, and then cross the border there and hitchhike. Which I did end up doing and thats when I wrote my first song, "Who Will Save Your Soul," on that trip.

SIMON: Let's listen to a song you have here called "Fading."

JEWEL: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: About a person being dragged starkers from a Wal-Mart bathroom.

(Soundbite of song, "Fading")

JEWEL: (Singing) It's Wal-Mart, the bathroom. I'm staring in the mirror. Fluorescent lights are bright, it makes the lines clearer. Where did the angel go? Cigarette smoke's all that's left. Traded my wings in for a string of pearls and the string is all I've left.

(Speaking) I wrote this song quite a while ago. I wrote it when I was, I'd say 19 or 20. I think I was kind of, I dont know, I guess having a little bit of a breakdown. I was in a car with a radio rep from my label and I felt like I was about to cry. And I asked him to pull over, I need to use the restroom.

And we happened to be at Wal-Mart and we pulled in. And I went in there and I looked in the mirror and there were those fluorescent lights above me, and I could feel every line in my skin. And the lights were buzzing and there was someone in the stall.

And I just sort of had a very surreal moment of thinking: What am I doing here? You know, I'm an Alaskan ranch girl. I used to be so healthy and here I am so pale and anemic. And, you know, what am I trading in? What am I trying to do here? Am I letting go whats best about me to try and get famous? Or - it was like really a questioning-myself moment and I wrote that song. I just never got a chance to record it until now.

(Soundbite of song, "Fading")

JEWEL: (Singing) And I am naked in the mirror with a feather in my hand. The lady comes out of the bathroom screaming, oh, Jesus. She couldnt understand. But I ask her, hey, what happens to us when we get old and in the way? I guess she answered me, cause they, they took me away, and I am fading. I am fading...

SIMON: We're speaking to Jewel about here new CD, "Sweet and Wild," which is also accompanied by "Sweet and Mild" - one a studio session, the other acoustic.

There are some people that weren't pleased when you did a pop record.

JEWEL: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: What do you say to that?

JEWEL: Im very proud of the record. I think it's a very well-written, well-crafted, smart record. And I love pop music. It doesnt have to be dumb and illiterate.

(Soundbite of song, "Intuition")

JEWEL: (Singing) Follow your heart, your intuition. It will lead you in the right direction. Let go of your mind...

(Speaking) I think that it's really important to, you know, if you get pigeonholed, it's your own fault as an artist. My first album was so successful. I remember it sort of being this crossroads for me where I was wondering if this meant, gosh, now there's more pressure, cause how am I going to follow this up?

SIMON: Yeah, "Pieces of You."

JEWEL: Mm-hmm, with "Pieces of You." But I also realized it was a great opportunity to take all the pressure off. Because if I was conservative with money and saved it - I had in one album earned more money than I would probably ever need in my entire life.

The worst thing you can do for your art is be broke and be in a position where you're compromised, where now you have a lifestyle you're trying to support and you have to sell yourself out to have a hit. And my goal was to try and avoid being in that position ever. So I've always been very conservative with my money, simply for the fact that I wanted to try and be a good parent to my music.

SIMON: Let's listen, if we could, to "Satisfy."

(Soundbite of song, "Satisfy")

JEWEL: (Singing) If you love somebody, you better let it out. Don't hold it back while you're trying to figure it out. Don't be timid. Don't be afraid to hurt. Run toward the flame. Run toward the fire and hold on for all your worth. 'Cause the only real pain a heart can ever know is the sorrow of regret when you don't let your feelings show...

SIMON: Would I be wrong to think that this is kind of your song?

JEWEL: Yeah, it's a pretty personal lyric. You know, it's funny. As a kid, I always I knew what would make me happy and I always struggled to work toward it. And I realized in my early 30's that I didnt actually even know what made me happy. It's a lot simpler, things, than I thought.

I dont know. You know, a lot of heroes were artists and a lot of them did great work. But they often died unhappy or estranged from their family. But -Steinbeck had written "The Grapes of Wrath," but at what cost? And I started looking at that, especially - I got to do a movie with Ang Lee, and I looked at doing a full-time acting career and a music career.

But when I looked at the cost of that, and I had just met my husband at that point, I thought, you know, I want my whole life to be a great work of art, not just my art. And that means paying attention to my entire life and trying to make sure my whole life is balanced.

And so I really stepped away from acting. I turned down work. I quit touring a lot of the world, in Asia and Europe and Australia, because I wanted to make sure I had a balanced life and I wasnt just going to become some drug-addled, unhappy person that had a great career but had a miserable home life.

And all those thoughts and everything that I put into that is sort of what I put into writing the lyrics for "Satisfied," that it really is the simplest things - making sure you're spending time with the people you love.

SIMON: Boy, youve really thought about this, haven't you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

JEWEL: I over-think everything, I guess.

SIMON: Well, Jewel, it's been wonderful talking to you. Thanks so much.

JEWEL: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

SIMON: Jewel's new CD, "Sweet and Wild." Its in stores now. She joined us from NPR West.

Thank you, Jewel.

JEWEL: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

SIMON: Oh, my pleasure.

JEWEL: Im such a fan. Thanks for having me on the show.

SIMON: Well, our pleasure. You're welcome any time.

JEWEL: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "Satisfied")

JEWEL: (Singing) Did you say it? Did you mean it? Did you lay it on the line? Did you make it count? Did you look them in the eye and did they feel it? Did you say it in time? Did you say it out loud...

SIMON: To hear full songs from Jewel's new album, you can visit NPRMusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.

JEWEL: (Singing) And that feeling inside, that's called satisfied.

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