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Jewel talks about new album ahead of her Tampa concert

The singer plays as the special guest for Train on June 25 at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre.
Singer-songwriter Jewel has a new album, "Freewheelin' Woman," and is playing at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on June 25, 2022.
Singer-songwriter Jewel has a new album, "Freewheelin' Woman," and is playing at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on June 25, 2022. [ DANA TRIPPE | Courtesy of Shore Fire Media ]
Published Jun. 21

Jewel wants people to know that life can offer tremendous beauty and happiness if you don’t give up.

A mindfulness practice has been at the forefront of a long career for the singer-songwriter, who dominated the 1990s with her debut album “Pieces of You.”

For more than 18 years, Jewel’s nonprofit Inspiring Children Foundation has given at-risk youth and families mindfulness tools to help them cope with anxiety and depression. In reaction to the pandemic, she has provided free mental health tools on her website jewelneverbroken.com.

She also has a new album, “Freewheelin’ Woman,” and is currently on tour with Train on their AM Gold tour. Jewel has collaborated with Train in the past, and on her new album, with the song “Dancing Slow.” Along with special guests Blues Traveler and Will Anderson, the tour stops at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on June 25.

Jewel’s longtime mindfulness practice comes through on “Freewheelin’ Woman.” The album features a wide variety of sounds, from folk and Americana to upbeat pop.

The Tampa Bay Times talked to Jewel by phone ahead of the tour. She was calling from her home in Colorado. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What have you been listening to that inspired the sounds on the album?

I’ve always listened to a wide variety of music. I think a lot of people do. I always found it kind of funny that the music industry was so siloed as a country station or a pop station. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone and Bill Withers, so that’s why my musical style has always showed all those influences. This album, it’s pretty diverse. I pushed myself. I really just value growth and creativity, and not repeating myself. I hadn’t had a chance to really pay homage in my writing style or even in my singing to a lot of the writers that inspired me to write like Marvin Gaye, so I really set out to incorporate that influence into this album. But it’s a pretty diverse record. So there’s folk music and Americana and kind of hopefully I got it all to live together in one album.

You call the process behind the album “spiritual rewilding.” Can you describe what that is?

I know a lot of middle-aged artists do a lot of drugs to develop a new sound that’s fresh and vital to them. Much harder to do sober. You’re up against old versions of yourself by middle age, you know? I had a lot of information in my head that wasn’t incredibly helpful to authentic expression. And so working through that was actually an interesting psychological challenge. ... I heard self-consciousness in my writing. ... And so getting myself to push past that. Again, drugs would have been easier for sure. Because it removes that part of your brain. It’s also the first album I’ve written from scratch. I’ve never had to write an album from scratch. I have a lot of songs in my back catalog, but ... I just wanted this to be all from who I was now, as the woman I am now at the age I am now.

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In the song “Half Life,” you describe people trying to balance work and pleasure. What inspired you to write that song?

I’ve always had an exercise since I was pretty young ... where I’m looking back. And looking back from that perspective: “Is what I’m doing now worthwhile in this larger scheme? Is it something that I feel like will matter? Am I becoming the kind of person that I want to be? Am I doing the things that I think are meaningful?”... So this song is a cautionary tale against the myth that we can do it all. And are we fully committing to the things that make us feel alive?

Many of the songs have messages of being grateful and recognizing life’s obstacles. Can you talk about that?

It’s very tempting to participate in spiritual or religious or self-betterment practice because secretly we want to control bad things from ever happening. ... The most vulnerable thing of all is that sometimes bad things happen. That’s just life. ... For me, it’s just been ... being comfortable with the idea that I don’t get to choose how life changes, I only get to choose how it changes me. So a lot of these songs are sort of stemming from that. Taking a breath, having a larger perspective, like “Long Way Round.” Your journey is your journey. And, you know, mine’s definitely been a long bumpy road. But I’m really happy and I wanted that sense of empowerment to come through on the record.

I imagine you’re excited to get back on the road, especially with new material.

Yeah! I haven’t gotten to tour with a band in so long, I’m really looking forward to it.

If you go

Jewel with Train, Blues Traveler and Will Anderson. 6:30 p.m. June 25. Tickets start at $35.50. MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301, Tampa. livenation.com.

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