When other celebrities tire of the limos and the limelight, they escape to health spas for mud baths and massages. No such pampering for Jewel, who at the end of a grueling world tour last year spent the better part of six months performing hard nail-breaking work on the 1,800-acre cattle ranch in Stephenville, Texas, owned by her boyfriend, seven-time world rodeo champion Ty Murray. "I like cowboys and real rural people," says Jewel, who grew up among both on a remote Alaska homestead. "I miss that kind of physical labor."
She endured plenty of it on Murray's ranch, where the glamorous singer swapped her favorite designers Prada and Gucci for Wranglers to herd cattle, rope steer and brand calves. In between chores she found time to nurture her romance with the cowboy in charge. "He has no pretense," says Jewel, 26, of Murray, 31, whom she met at a Colorado rodeo in January 1999. "He is a very authentic person." Those same qualities are what the rancher finds attractive in the singer. "She's really smart," says Murray. "That makes her easy to get along with. And there aren't little games. Jewel is probably as nondiva as you can get. If she was a diva, I'd can her."
Their unlikely romance provides one of the grace notes in Jewel's second book. A lifelong keeper of journals, Jewel, who signed a two-book deal with HarperCollins in 1997, is back in stores with Chasing Down the Dawn, a personal journal that arrives two years after her surprise 1998 bestseller, A Night Without Armor, a volume of her poems that sold nearly 1 million copies. (By contrast, Repair, C.K. Williams's 2000 Pulitzer Prize for poetry winner, sold less than 10,000.) The new title includes drawings and photos from Jewel's family album as well as autobiographical sketches and vignettes from her 1999 world tour promoting Spirit, her 6 million-selling follow-up to Pieces of You, the 1995 debut album that sold 11 million copies in the U.S. alone and made her a lightning rod for some abnormal fan behavior. " 'Oh my God!' " Jewel shrieks in imitation of a fan in Kentucky who chased her into a rest room, an episode recounted in her new book that she read aloud during a bookstore appearance in New York City last month. " 'I can't believe I'm going to hear Jewel urinate.' "
Most fans are happy just to read her inspirational recollections of her impoverished childhood and the hardships she overcame. "There's a lot readers can relate to," says editor Mauro DiPreta, who worked with Jewel on both books. "She touches upon her relationship with her parents and all the big, pivotal moments in her life." Foremost is the once-volatile relationship with her father, Atz Kilcher, now 53 and an elementary school music teacher in Homer, Alaska, and her close bond with her mom, artist Nedra Carroll, 50, who serves as her mentor, manager and housemate. "Our relationship is a really interesting blend of parent and friendship," says Carroll, who often travels with Jewel and recently returned from a mother-daughter canoe trip in Washington State. "There's a richness and a depth to it."
Readers may find Jewel's portrayal of her father more cautionary than inspiring. The son of an abusive Swiss immigrant, Kilcher shared custody of Jewel and her two brothers, Shane, now 28 and a codirector of one of Jewel's charitable foundations in San Diego, and Atz, 23, a musician and writer who lives in Alaska, after the couple divorced in 1982. Jewel describes her father as having meted out "occasional physical and mental abuse." In the book she writes that "he disliked me at my first cry. He was critical and impatient, suspicious and harsh with me." At the same time she strives not to cast him as a villain. "I don't want to bond with people over my pain," she says of her difficult childhood. "I am proud of how my dad and I have handled it; of the understanding and healing." That process began once she moved out of the house, explains Jewel, who now enjoys a warm relationship with her father. "My dad read it all before it came out," she says of the new book. "He was really glad to know that I didn't hold it against him. It's not an angry or 'poor me' piece. It's about resolution."
Jewel has happier memories of singing with her father, then a struggling folksinger, in tiny Eskimo villages and of long days "doing everything from milking cows to making butter to grinding our own wheat" on her grandfather's farm, where the family lived in a converted barn that lacked plumbing and electricity. "Life was going to school, doing chores, cooking and going to bed."
After graduating from high school, Jewel moved to the warmer clime of San Diego, where her mother had relocated in 1991. Working as a waitress and answering phones, she had little time for her music and songwriting. It was her free-spirited mother who suggested that they move out of the apartment they shared and live in their VW vans in order to save rent money while Jewel tried to launch her music career. In 1993 Jewel, whose mom sometimes parked her van next to her daughter's, signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records. "When I first got signed," says Jewel, "I got $100,000. I put it in the bank and did not touch it. My mom was like, 'Jewel, we need groceries.' It was hard for me to get a grip on the fact that this wasn't the only money I would ever make and that I wouldn't have to go back to my van."
Today there is little chance that Jewel, who owns a $1.3 million house she shares with her mom in San Diego's ritzy Rancho Santa Fe suburb, will be bedding down on the backseat of her Jeep Cherokee. But a longing for the simpler days of her youth may be what in part attracts Jewel (she adopted the single-name stage billing in 1994) to Murray. "I love being in Texas, working with cattle, going on brandings," she says. "I like work. It's something I miss from my childhood." Murray, too, relishes the rare occasions when their schedules permit them to spend time together. "Our favorite thing to do is go up in the mountains and ride and camp and fish," he says. For Jewel, the glam life doesn't compare to ranch life. "Where I was raised, you have to earn someone's respect," she says. "Being famous, you skip that. People are instantly your friends. Cowboys make me earn it. I like that."
K.C. Baker in New York City
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