"Who Will Save Your Soul." "You Were Meant for Me." "Foolish Games." Twenty years ago struggling singer-songwriter Jewel Kilcher, who had spent time living out of her van in Southern California, began recording tracks for what would become her debut album.
Within a year, she'd be known simply as Jewel and that album, "Pieces of You," featuring a mixture of folksy confessionals, emotive ballads and pop ditties, some of which were surprisingly political, was a smash hit, on its way to 12-times-platinum status.
Now, after a detour to dance music (2003's "0304") and country (2008's "Perfectly Clear"), Jewel is returning to her roots, with a project she decribes as a "companion album" to "Pieces of You."
"What I've been making myself do is forget everything I know and not think about genres," Jewel told Billboard of the new album. "I don't want to think about singles and don't want to do anything that's smart business. I want to forget it all and make a record that is really pure and is me."
Recording at Neil Young's Northern California ranch and at a studio in Nashville, Jewel is using an approach similar to the one she used on "Pieces of You," which mixed live and studio recordings. She's even planning to lay down some tracks in front of a live audience.
"I've just always sung better live," Jewel says. "There's certain songs that, when I do them in front of an audience it brings out an emotion in me that I don't get just sitting in a studio."
She also likened the new and old album's relationship to one another to Young's famous companion albums "Harvest" and "Harvest Moon."
Jewel has come a long way from the naïve girl she was two decades ago when recording her debut — she has openly admitted that she knew nothing about the music business at the time. Since then she's become older and wiser, honed her singing chops, and exudes mature confidence as a performer. She's currently "sifting through" nearly 40 tracks for the album, some of which she has already performed live, like "My Father's Daughter," an emotive acoustic ballad she wrote for her father and grandmother.
Now approaching her 40th birthday, Jewel has the experience, wisdom, connections and likely the finances to make the album she really wants to make. She has turned down record label offers and plans to release the record herself, and even launched a crowdfunding campaign to support it.
I'm just going to make what's in my soul," she said. "I'm in a position to do that, so I'd be an idiot not to do that."