Our Newsletter to your inbox every week!

Cowgirl Hotlist

She stepped off of the boat to see flowers in his hands The man she would marry was as hard as the mountains She had his children in a log cabin Soon I’d be another star in this family’s constellation In the land of the midnight sun Searching for gold I am my father’s daughter He has his mother’s eyes I am the product of her sacrifice I am the accumulation of the dreams of generations And their stories live in me like holy water I am my father’s daughter

My father raised me in an old log cabin And he sang for me the songs his mother sang to him In honky-tonks, and empty bars, just me and him And that old guitar He passed on a legacy wrapped up in a melody And I carry on Searching for gold

I am my father’s daughter I have his eyes I am the product of his sacrifice I am the accumulation of the dreams of generations And their stories live in me like holy water I am my father’s daughter

Lyrics to My Father’s Daughter by Jewel

Article and Interview by Ken Amorosano

Jewel in studio. Photo by Philip Macias.

In her own words from her memoir Never Broken – Songs Are Only Half the Story,  Jewel Kilcher “was raised on a homestead in the middle of the woods in Alaska. I had an outhouse and lived in a log cabin.  We grew up living off the land.”

This is how it all started for the fair-haired songbird whose rags-to-riches story is reminiscent of her musical idols, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn.

Jewel’s early days were surrounded by life on a farm, caring for animals that the family used for its daily sustenance.  Her parents, both musically inclined, encouraged young Jewel to appreciate the written word that would serve her well in the years to come.

Leaving the wilds of the Alaskan frontier, Jewel ended up kicking around the ocean side community of Pacific Beach in San Diego, California. She lived in her Volkswagen van for a while, eventually winding up homeless after her van was stolen.

If not for a cozy little gig every Thursday night at a hole-in-the-wall coffee house, the future of the young singer-songwriter might have been much different.  It was the sanctity of the InnerChange where Jewel honed her songwriting skills, attracting a loyal following eager to listen to the young talent making waves in a crowd of surfers, beachcombers, and bohemians.

Jewel’s “buzz” caught the ears of Atlantic Record executives, who discovered and quickly signed her to a recording contract, launching the career of this highly recognized singer-songwriter who Rolling Stone called “one of the most richly idiomatic pop singers of her generation.”

Although her 1995 debut album, Pieces of You, featuring her signature songs, “You Were Meant For Me,” “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “Foolish Games” did not exactly get off to a roaring start, it was the release of the single version of “You Were Meant For Me” in 1996 that eventually became the monstrous hit that broke chart longevity records—and launched Jewel’s career into the stratosphere. Pieces of You became one of the best-selling debut albums of all time, going 12 times platinum.

And it was not just her music early on. In 1995 Jewel was asked to play Dorothy in the stage production of the Wizard of Oz in Concert with Joel Grey, Jackson Browne and Roger Daltrey.  In 1998, she starred in the critically acclaimed Western, Ride with the Devil.

Jewel in studio. Photo by Philip Macias.

The release of her Spirit album in 1998 spurred her blockbuster hit “Hands” and her 2001 release of the album This Way produced the hit “Standing Still.”

It was in the “Standing Still” video that fans were exposed to her future husband, World Champion rodeo cowboy Ty Murray, who Jewel first met at a Denver rodeo in 1999.

The couple lived together on their 2200 acre ranch in Stephenville, Texas, where Jewel was back in her childhood element of livestock and ranching.  The pair eventually eloped and were married in 2008. In the summer of 2011, they welcomed the birth of a son they named Kase.

Over the years, the Grammy-nominated songwriter has enjoyed a stellar career exalted by a string of hit songs spanning 12 studio albums.  She has appeared in film and on stage, and is a New York Times best-selling author and poet.

Jewel in studio. Photo by Philip Macias.

In 2014, Jewel and Ty Murray divorced. Both parents specified in a statement that the well-being of their son is the most important thing in their lives.  They made it clear that their 4-year-old son Kase will be brought up by both parents, also remarking that sharing a child was one of the biggest and most rewarding accomplishments they ever had.

In 2015, Jewel launched her latest album, Picking Up the Pieces.  At the same time she released her personal memoir, Never Broken — Songs Are Only Half the Story.

COWGIRL caught up with the busy artist—who is about to embark on a more intimate music tour—and asked about life in Stephenville and her latest album, book and musical tour.

CG: From the start, your artistic career growth seemed to follow a mainstream consciousness, yet you end up living in a predominant cowboy culture,  in the heart of the most “cowboy” of cowboy towns, Stephenville, Texas.  What connection did your upbringing in Alaska have to this cowboy lifestyle?   

JK: I was fortunate enough to have been raised on a large homestead in Alaska.  My family came from Europe during the breakout of the Second World War and became pioneers.  The government gave my grandmother and grandfather about 300 acres in exchange for their willingness to settle that part of the country, before there were roads or grids of any kind.  They had 8 children and they lived off the land, surviving with hunting and fishing and clearing the land to create hay meadows and gardens.  My mom left us when I was 8, so my dad took us back to the Homestead, and I was raised in the saddle barn along with my two brothers, which we converted into a living space. I have fond memories of good hard work—gathering food, mending fences and working our cattle.  My dad trained horses and though I was the only girl, I was the one that took a liking to outdoor work, and so I learned to ride and work cattle and do about anything that needed doing.  My dad had no cowboy mentors in Alaska—so he had to teach himself how to ride and rope, and I’ve always been very proud of him and his knowledge of horses and the land.  There is actually a show about my dad and a few other members of my family called Alaska the Last Frontier on the Discovery Network—and it shows how I was raised and how much of my family still live.   

CG: Life on a 2,200 acre ranch in Stephenville, the ruggedness of hauling equipment, trucks, trailers—horses, livestock—what role did all this play in your day-to-day, off-the-road life?

Jewel’s new album image photographed by Matthew Rolston.

JK: When I lived on the ranch with my ex-husband, I was, of course, used to riding and working cattle, but being a 5th generation cowboy, Ty knew a lot that I did not.  It was fun to learn to team rope and to heal calves in a branding pen. Often coming home from the road was fun—a total change of pace, and I enjoyed that immensely.

CG: How did the surrounding culture of competition horses and livestock influence your continued artistic growth?

JK: Working with horses and cattle teaches a person a lot of skills that can’t be taught anywhere else. You must feed and care for the animals before yourself.  It teaches you tenacity, and the value of staying busy.  It also keeps you grounded, and that along with a good work ethic were great assets in my career as a musician.  I knew I may not be the most talented person in the world, but that if I put my time in and worked hard I could get an edge.

CG: At what period in your artistic growth, and why, did your music turn country?  Or did it?

JK: I’ve always had country influences.  I listened to Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle as much as I did to Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.  Country has been in my blood and my life and in my music since the beginning.   The only thing that changed for me was an effort to go to country radio, as the label I had prior could not work me at country radio since they had no relationships there.

CG: Where does Jewel physically go next? Will you continue to live this rural lifestyle?

JK: Ty kept the ranch and I decided to move to Nashville for now.  This definitely wasn’t part of my life plan, but Nashville seemed like a natural choice, as it still has a small town feel and is a nice grounded community to raise my son in.  In the future, I definitely hope to raise my son on some land and I hope to get a small spread here in Tennessee. But for now he is lucky because he has a beautiful ranch in Texas that he gets to go to every month with his dad.

CG: Your latest album, Picking Up The Pieces, is this a return to a folksier Jewel?

Cover image on Jewel’s memoir, Never Broken – Songs Are Only Half the Story

JK: It has a strong folk and country leaning.  It’s definitely a return to a more raw and emotional style of recording, with a strong emphasis on the style of confessional poetry that is my comfort zone.

CG: One of the songs is “My Father’s Daughter” with Dolly Parton. Why Dolly?

JK: Dolly has always been a hero of mine, and was my first choice for a duet.  She is an amazing songwriter and story teller- and she was raised in a similar fashion to myself, so she was a natural fit!

CG: You also recently released your memoir, Never Broken — Songs Are Only Half the Story.  What is one thing your fans will learn from the book that they didn’t already know about you?

JK: This book definitely shares a lot of trials I have overcome—the message of the book for me was to let people know that we don’t need to be defined by our pain or our losses, except in the way we choose.

CG: What can fans expect from your upcoming tour?

JK: I will be on stage solo acoustic. I don’t do set lists, instead opting for the chance to take requests and tailor a show for each individual crowd.  I also share stories, and people are always surprised that I’m funny… Ha… I like playing solo acoustic so I can really let my lyrics and voice shine, and so I can connect with the audience. It’s a lot of fun.

Learn more @ jeweljk.com