Jewel sparkles

Andrew Hampp

Folk-Pop singer to play exclusive, one-night show with Cleveland Pops

Credit: Beth Rankin

When Jewel digs from her extensive musical repertoire to sing with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra at Cain Park on Saturday, it’s anyone’s guess as to which songs she’ll play.

“I gave the poor conductor 100 songs,” laughed Jewel in a phone interview. “I’ll do a lot of songs, like ‘Hands’ and more hits, but I thought I’d try something a little more ambitious.”

The concert is part of the Argent Mortgage Orchestrated series, in which pop musicians as diverse as Jewel, Seal and LeAnn Rimes give exclusive, one-night-only performances backed by a major pops orchestra in venues across the country. Jewel, who played an all-acoustic set at Cain Park just last summer, was still uncertain as to how things would progress at the time of this interview in early June.

“I’m sort of working with the conductor, picking the set list,” she said. “We’re pretty much gonna do the arrangements together. I’ll sort of hear them and see how it goes from there.”

In addition to her previous five albums of folk-pop, Jewel will also have a forthcoming new album’s worth of material to draw from at the concert. After trying out straight-up pop music on 2003’s 0304, which yielded the hit single “Intuition,” Jewel said the new disc will feature a more “emotionally raw” sound.

“It won’t be a very big production,” Jewel said humbly. “I’ve recorded six songs already and they all have bands on them. It’s all played live. It’s going to be more singer-songwriter-driven, more lyric-driven.”

Although she’s shunning the glossy production of her last album, Jewel said that doesn’t mean she isn’t still proud of 0304.

“I felt like I really accomplished what I was going for,” Jewel said. “I wanted to make a record that was really challenging and talked about hard social and political topics and used satire and humor and beat and rhythm to try and tell a story. I feel I accomplished that to the best of my ability.”

Jewel also had plenty to say to those who were quick to use the “r” word to describe her new music.

“There was no ‘reinvention’ in my mind to me,” she said. “It’s music, whether it’s blues, country, rock or pop. If you’re a painter, it’s like saying, ‘You can’t use the color yellow.’

“How many women have you seen in our industry change for musical reasons? You haven’t seen it a lot. Pretty much all you see is Madonna. Joni Mitchell even did an electronic record, but when somebody like me changes or perceives to do something really different, there’s an attitude of, ‘What is she trying to do here?’ ”

In addition to her music, Jewel has also kept busy by being involved in a number of humanitarian efforts, including the campaign, whose black-and-white ads currently feature her alongside a host of other celebrities, such as Brad Pitt and U2’s Bono.

But the organization closest to Jewel’s heart is the The ClearWater Project, which provides clean drinking water for areas who are most in need. ClearWater hit especially close to home for Jewel, who experienced similarly harsh conditions growing up in Homer, Alaska.

“I had rainwater growing up,” she said. “We just drank out of streams. It’s definitely sad to see where (drinking water) is today, even in America. We buy bottled water and a lot of countries can’t even afford it. India even has a naturally occurring arsenic problem in their water.”

Jewel was most astonished by the relative simplicity it took for her to get involved with ClearWater.

“It’s an easy thing to do, it really doesn’t take a lot of money,” she said. “My brother ran (a local chapter) and still does. It’s amazing what it does.”

Her efforts as a humanitarian, musician and even an actress intact (appearing in 1999’s Ride With the Devil alongside Tobey Maguire), Jewel said she isn’t sure where she wants to go from here.

“I don’t really have a goal. I mean, my life is a luxury. I don’t fight to survive anymore. Everything is a luxury and fun, pretty much. I can work when I want … And I definitely keep writing. Not a lot of people can sustain a career where they write relevantly their whole life.

“I wanna be happy, live every day having fun and not having to work all the time. I’m not into working a lot. If I’m in the public eye and I have something to promote, I’ll promote it, but otherwise I’d rather be at home.”

Contact Pop Arts editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].