- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 15, 2002

Fans should feel lucky to catch Jewel at her Wolf Trap performance Wednesday night because the country-folk singer-songwriter was once close to giving up on the music business.

"By the end of my last record I didn't feel useful anymore," says Jewel (born Jewel Kilcher) during a phone interview after her European tour. "I wasn't writing as much and was promoting so much. I'm thankful for promotion because it makes me a living, but it isn't what openly inspires me."

Jewel took time to rethink her career in the three years after her sophomore record, 1998's "Spirit." She released 1999's "Joy: A Holiday Collection"; wrote the book "Chasing Down the Dawn," based on her journals; and even tried acting, in Ang Lee's "Ride With the Devil."

She also started dating professional rodeo champ Ty Murray.

"There is an honor code among men in the rodeo world," Jewel says, her voice soft with a slight twang. "Morals that I find very attractive."

Jewell grew up in Alaska and toured Eskimo villages with her folk-singer parents. She says the Alaskan open spaces inspired her songwriting.

Her reasons for coming back to the music industry are not too concrete "I just wanted to" but her return was worth the wait. Last fall she released "This Way," a grittier record than "Spirit," that finds her more confident in her material and in her status as an entertainer.

The record already boasts one hit, the slick pop number "Standing Still." Now 28, Jewel appears to be embracing the country-folk that has always influenced her music, though she points out that critics have long had a hard time pinning down her sound.

"I write less, but I think I write better. I think I'm a little less experimental," she says.

Jewel also takes her first credit as a co-producer, working alongside noted guitarist-producer Dann Huff.

"The record sounds more like me than the rest of the records do," she says. "It's able to reflect more of what I do in a live show."

One of the better tracks is "Jesus Loves You." In it she reflects her politics and social consciousness (she works with charitable organizations and causes): "They say that if I donate/even I can buy a lot in heaven before I die."

"It's been a personal joke for me that people talk about how the songs show that I've matured, when those songs are things I wrote when I was 19," she says.

To combat stress, she has scheduled fewer tour dates and limits the number of interviews she gives.

Future film roles could be in the cards. "It took me about four years to find that Ang Lee script," Jewel says. "It's hard to find a role that's not completely vapid in the film industry."

She also may release another book of poetry, though she is conflicted about some of the material.

"I left a lot of poetry out of my first book because it was too explicit and erotic," she says. "I'm aware that 8-year-olds read my book."

A horseback riding accident in April forced her to cancel some of her European dates and to stop playing guitar onstage, though she has recovered for her current summer tour. As part of that program, Jewel recently debuted the "Soul City Cafe," an opportunity for emerging artists to gain exposure.

"I think the beauty of music is that it moves people," she says. "As long as you're honest, you're going to move a section of society."

WHAT: Jewel with opening act M2M

WHERE: Wolf Trap's Filene Center, 1624 Trap Road, Vienna

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday

TICKETS: $20 to $36

PHONE: 703/218-6500

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