Jewel – Star Light Café Tour
Sweet and Wild
Chicago’s Vic Theatre
Singer/songwriter Jewel is back and ready to go this summer with a new album and tour. Jewel will be coming through Chicago this Friday, June 4th playing the Vic Theatre on her Star Light Café Tour. Jewel is currently promoting her sophomore country album Sweet and Wild, which will be released to the public next Tuesday, June 8th. The Star Light Café Tour finds the three-time GRAMMY® nominee performing acoustically, giving fans an intimate concert experience with the woman who has sold more than 27 million albums worldwide since her mainstream musical debut in 1995. The Dead Hub chatted with the artist this morning, keeping the focus on her songwriting and music, which is just the way Jewel likes her interviews to be conducted.
Read The Dead Hub’s full interview with Jewel after the jump…
When you do co-writes, do you have to work harder to get your point across?
Not necessarily. With every co-writer, you have a different chemistry. With the song “I Love You Forever,” I wrote all of the lyrics and co-wrote the music with someone else. With the song “Ten,” I collaborated with a co-writer for the lyrics and wrote the music myself.
You have consistently written many of your songs with hitmaker Rick Nowels. What goes on behind-the-scenes when the two of you are in a writing session?
Rick is a great writer. He and I wrote “I Love You Forever” together. Rick wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics. When I work with him, he is usually the one writing the music and the lyrics are written exclusively by me. Rick starts with beats and will come up with the mood and tempo, which sets the tone for the song.
Have your publishers ever coerced or pushed you to write with someone that you didn’t particularly want to work with? If so, did the experience turn out well and have you worked with that writer again?
I have only had one bad experience with a co-writer. The writing session is fine in most cases. In reference to this one time, he did something pretty rude and I will never work with him again. The worst that can happen in a co-writing session is that you write a song. It is essentially a win-win situation. Maybe the song you create at the end of the session is not a hit, but at least a song came out of the collaboration.
Your new song “Stay Here Forever” was placed in this past winter’s film Valentine’s Day. How involved are you in the decision-making process of licensing your music to movies, TV shows, and commercials?
All the requests and approvals go by me. Licensing is a great opportunity to get your music heard so that you are not relying just on radio. There are so many different venues through which songs can be exposed.
After attending the Interlochen Arts Academy, why made you decide not to continue your music studies at a conservatory or university, where you could further train in voice, guitar, or songwriting?
I don’t know why. My parents were not supporting me by paying for college. I put myself through school. I had a partial scholarship the first year I attended Interlochen and got a full scholarship for my second year. Nobody at the school talked to me about college. There were other kids graduating with me who were going to Juilliard, but that was not an option for me. I love opera, but classical vocal performance is too rigid and constrictive. For my senior classical voice recital, I performed a George Gershwin song with an alternative ending that I preferred. My choice to veer away from the original ending was frowned upon.
Did any of your classes at Interlochen teach you about the business side of the music industry? How much did you understand about publishing deals (WIGGLY TOOTH MUSIC), recording contracts, licensing, royalties, etc. before signing your first record deal with Atlantic at the age of 18?
I didn’t learn any of that in school. Although, it would have been nice if I had been taught about those things. There is a lot of misconception about what I was attempting to do with my career after Interlochen. I wasn’t trying to get signed by a record label. I read a book called All You Need To Know About The Music Business by Donald S. Passman. There was a huge bidding war over me and I could have taken a $1 million record deal offered to me by one label, but I didn’t. I learned all about mechanical royalties and publishing splits. I made sure to get the highest mechanical royalty rate at the time I was signed so that if I ended up selling albums, I would make enough money in return to recoup all of my expenses. I didn’t want to agree to a $1 million advance because I would then have to earn back all of that money, which is not guaranteed to happen. Especially if I did not end up selling any records.
What is the writing process like for you? Tough/easy?
I love writing. It has never been a stressful thing for me to do. Writing has always been a prolific process, even though there are a lot of silly songs that will never see the light of day. I very rarely ever write on the piano. I most always start with an acoustic guitar. If I am writing a song that sounds like it should be piano-based, I find a friend who plays the piano well that can figure out the melody and chords with me.
How does your original concept of a song evolve into the final product?
I play and sound a lot better live than in the studio. I have a home studio, which is where I wrote and recorded 60 solo and acoustic songs for my new album Sweet and Wild. I arranged and picked the tempo for all 60 songs, recorded them to a click track, and brought them to Nashville where my co-producer and I narrowed down the list to 11 songs. The old way was to cut each track live with a band in the studio. When producing and recording the 11 songs that made it onto Sweet and Wild, I never replayed or had to re-sing the songs I had cut at home. This way, the live band in the studio had to adjust to my solo and acoustic arrangement of each song, helping stay true to the original concept of the song. I am releasing two versions of Sweet and Wild. The deluxe version is a double disc that has the original solo and acoustic recordings of all 11 songs cut in my home studio.
The songs “Fading” and “No More Heartaches” on your new record Sweet and Wild were written a long time ago, but are just now being released as recordings. How often does that happen with tunes in your repertoire and what is the reasoning behind back catalog songs finally getting placed on an album?
Sometimes songs do not always fit the concept of the album and have to be put aside. “Fading” has always been a slightly odd duck. “Summer Home In Your Arms” is also an old song. There are songs on Perfectly Clear (2008) that I wrote when I was 18 and 19 years old.
What were the first songs you learned to play on the guitar?
I learned how to play the guitar while at Interlochen because I wanted to travel through Mexico and earn some cash by performing on street corners. Students were not allowed to stay on campus for spring break. Before I left for spring break one year, I learned four basic chords on the guitar: A minor, C, D, and G (in that order). My dad taught me to improvise when I was younger, coming up with lyrics on the spot while singing in bars and observing what was going on around me. While in Mexico, I would play those four chords on a constant loop, only changing the lyrics each time to make the tune vary. The A minor/C/D/G loop eventually became my first single “Who Will Save Your Soul.”
Do you have a practice regimen to keep your guitar skills up to par? How much do you play offstage, when you are not recording?
I am starting to practice more and have learned a few new chords (minors, diminished 7ths, 9ths). How much I play depends on my workload and writing schedule. I hardly ever pick up my guitar if I am in the middle of writing a book or poetry.
Do you worry that your pop hits on the radio overshadow your playing and writing skills?
I don’t think so. I don’t really have my own perception for my music. I don’t record or write down my songs. Many songs get lost after I write them because I don’t have a copy of them. My fans have bootleg recordings of lyrics and melodies of every song I have played or sung. There is a song called “Everything Breaks” that I wrote awhile ago but had lost the lyrics to. My fans reminded me that I had written those lyrics before when they then heard them in a newer tune. I had no idea I was recycling old lyrics from a previous song.
How do you feel about the whole Guitar Hero / Rock Band game phenomenon?
I honestly don’t know much about it at all. However, I do think that musicians shouldn’t be uptight about the fact that people are “fake” playing the guitar or drums, though.
How much do you rehearse for a tour?
For this tour, I have been practicing a lot. I am including new Sweet and Wild songs like “Satisfied” and “What You Are” in my set, which I have never played live before.
Has technology taken some of the fun out of music? As an artist who can play an instrument, as well as read and write music, how do you feel about songs that are written and produced all on computers?
I am all for it. I’m not really an art snob. The differences are not subtle. You can always tell the difference between a song made in an artificial environment and a song created with live instrumentation and musicians playing those instruments. I love dance music and had a few top ten dance hits in the past.
What’s going on right now in the music industry that concerns you?
Nothing necessarily concerns me. Everything is changing, which is exciting and empowering.
What do you like that is going on right now in the music industry?
If artists are able to give away as little as possible of their rights and control to the labels, then they are empowering themselves. I released my record Lullaby (2009) independently and totally noncommercially. That experience was completely empowering for me.
Who are some “under-the-radar” artists that you have discovered and are listening to now that the public should know about?
I have someone to tell you about, but I cannot remember her name right now! If her name comes to me, I will let you know.
What’s the best lyric you’ve ever written, and what’s the worst?
That is a tough one. I cannot remember or think of any examples right now.
What question about your music has become your pet peeve?
As long as people are asking about my music, I am happy. I think that because I’m a girl, people tend to ask me [stupid] questions like, “What is your favorite nail polish color?” I love questions that have to do with my songwriting and music. You did a great job. Thank you for a very thoughtful interview!