Jewel Kilcher was born on May 23, 1974 in Payson, Utah. Growing up in Alaska, Jewel began her musical career at the age of six, performing with her singer-songwriter parents. She played in San Diego coffeehouses, before signing a deal with Atlantic Records and releasing her first record Pieces of You in 1995. Jewel is also a published poet and actress, starring in Ang Lee's Civil War drama, Ride with the Devil.
Jewel Kilcher was born on May 23, 1974 in Payson, Utah, and grew up in Alaska. She began her musical career at the age of six, joining her parents, singer-songwriters Atz Kilcher and Nedra Carroll, on stage. After her parents divorced, Jewel continued to tour for several years with her father, who taught her how to yodel—a singing technique that Jewel has used in many of her own songs.
At age 15, Jewel made a big career jump; she began performing as a solo act and won a vocal scholarship to Interlochen, a private school in Michigan dedicated to the arts. While there, she began writing songs and took up the guitar. Jewel later moved to San Diego, California, to live with her mother, and eventually branched out on her own, ending up living in a van for a time as she tried to make it as a performer.
With her impressive vocal range and poetic lyrics, Jewel found success playing at coffeehouses in the San Diego area. Her first steady gig was at the Innerchange in Pacific Beach. While performing there, she was discovered by a music manager and record company representatives, who were impressed with her raw talent. Jewel signed a deal with Atlantic Records in 1994.
The following year, Jewel's first album Pieces of You was released, but it wasn't until 1996 that the album really took off. In the meanwhile, she toured constantly to promote her music, serving as the opening act for two musical legends: Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Her persistence began to pay off as her single "Who Will Save Your Soul" became a huge hit, climbing to No. 11 on Billboard's Top 100 chart. Two other songs from Pieces of You, "You Were Meant for Me" and "Foolish Games," were also well-received. With its folk and pop sensibility, the album went on to sell around 11 million copies. Listeners were captivated by the heartfelt emotions Jewel conveyed in her songs.
Jewel's second album, Spirit, released in 1998, showcased her talents as a folk music performer. Filled with ballads and simple instrumentation, the album included popular songs "Hands" and "Standing Still." That same year, a collection of Jewel's poetry, A Night Without Armor, was published, quickly becoming a best-seller.
With 2001's This Way, Jewel returned with a lighter, more pop-based sound. She went on to really reinvent herself with 2003's 0304, making a foray into dance music, much to the surprise of her longtime fans. The album debuted at the No. 2 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart and featured the hit single "Intuition." Not only did Jewel sound different, she looked different too, wearing sexier, edgier clothing in her music videos and on stage.
In 2006, however, Jewel returned to her roots with the personal, folk-influenced album, Goodbye Alice in Wonderland. The album met with mild success.
The following year, in November 2007, Jewel made another musical transformation; she signed to Valory Records, and began working on her first country album. Perfectly Clear hit retail stores in June 2008 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Album Chart. The album included the hit "Stronger Woman," which made it into the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts.
In early 2009, Jewel announced that she was working on new album. Lullaby, a collection of lullabies for listeners of all ages, was released in May of 2009. The album's first single, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," a remake of the Judy Garland classic, was released on iTunes in March.
Jewel has sold more than 25 million albums over her musical career. In addition to her music, Jewel has also taken on several acting roles. She made her debut in Ang Lee's Civil War drama Rides with the Devil in 1999, acting alongside Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich. On television, she has appeared on such shows as The Lyons Den, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Las Vegas.
Jewel has also devoted her time to helping others. She established Higher Ground for Humanity, a charitable foundation that handles projects in many different countries, in 1998. Some of the organization's efforts include helping to provide clear drinking water to communities around the world. In 2008, Jewel auctioned off celebrities' hand-written lyrics to benefit HGH's drinking-water project.
In June 2012, Jewel announced that she would be playing June Carter Cash—the second wife of the late Johnny Cash—in an upcoming Lifetime movie, The June Carter Cash Story. For the role, Jewel dyed her hair brown and had veneers applied to her teeth, straightening her signature crooked smile. Actress Reese Witherspoon also played the part of June Carter Cash, in the 2005 film Walk the Line, and won an Oscar for her performance.