ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - In anticipation for the upcoming Salmonfest music festival in Ninilchik, KTUU spoke with Alaska grown artist Jewel, who will be headlining the festival and performing on Sunday.
Below, find a full transcript of the interview:
Leroy Polk: Before we get started, can I have you say and spell your first and last name please.
Jewel Kilcher: I'm so contrary. My name is Kibbodty Boggit. It's spelled K-i-b-b-o-d-t-y B-o-g-g-i-t [laughs]. Is this for a sound check? Jewel. Yeah sorry, my name's Jewel, Jewel Kilcher. That was much more useful [laughs].
LP: So, Salmonfest. How do you feel about coming up and playing in Alaska again?
JK: I'm very excited to come home and play. Usually when I come home to Alaska, I tend to wanna just rest, and be with my family, and go camping and be outdoors. And so I don't tend to sing a lot, when I come home. So this time, I'm very excited. I have an entire month to be in Alaska and to bring my son to Alaska, and it overlaps with Salmonfest, so I'm very excited.
LP: When was the last time you performed in Alaska?
JK: It's been a while, I don't know. I'm sure it's Google-able. I'm bad at knowing. I don't keep track of time. But, before my son was born, for sure. And he's six now, so.
LP: And when was the last time you were up here?
JK: I was there last year.
LP: Was that for the reality television series?
JK: No, I just came to bring my son home. They happened to be filming, so I went ahead and did an episode while I was there, but it's not why I went home. I went home to show it to my son, and I wanted to make sure he was old enough to remember it. And the reason I made a point of coming home for a month this year is so my son could start learning the skills that I think Alaska uniquely has to offer, which is self-reliance, learning intrinsic self-esteem, from – [audio cut]. Sorry about that, I got cut off. But yeah, I wanted to bring my son home, so that he could learn to do things that were intrinsic to Alaska. The hard work, learning to be self-motivated, the work ethic. It's just an incredible resource as a mom, raising a boy I really wanted him to learn a lot of the values that I learned growing up in Alaska.
LP: So you guys are living full time down in the Lower 48?
JK: Yeah, we live in the states. And solving for what my lifestyle is, you know my son gets presents often just at a hotel room or a venue. He thinks he gets presents just for being alive, which I think is horrible [laughs], so again I really try to protect him. I'm not a diva. I don't have a group of people around me or entourages, but my lifestyle is still odd. You know, I was raised in Alaska, and I'm very grounded. I've never thought fame was real or made me special. I always thought being a good person was still up to me and my job. But my son, you know, was raised in my environment, which has got to be strange. So that's why I try to keep him in Alaska as much as I can, and around people who are connected to the earth, so that he can still learn a good work ethic. And we all earn what we get in life.
LP: How has your son been doing? Is he in school yet?
JK: Yeah, he hasn't been in strict school yet, because of his age. I've been working very hard entrepreneurially, so that I could set up businesses for myself that can allow me to work at home. So that I don't have to be a touring mom, just because, I – [audio cut]. Sorry, I keep getting calls and they keep interrupting for some reason the phone call, I apologize.
LP: No worries. You were talking about avoiding touring to be more of a full-time mom.
JK: I've been working really hard to find a way to make a living as a mom that allows me to stay home and be a little more stable, especially because the music industry is so disruptive. It's very hard to make money making records, unless you're touring, which as a single mom is not the most exciting prospect. And plus I love looking at culture, and seeing where culture is, and seeing where I am, and seeing where there's a relevant intersection. When I got discovered, you know, I was in a lot of pain, and I was living in San Diego, and I lost my job and I was homeless. And I had to go, 'I'm in pain, now what?' And that happened to be where society was. You know, grunge was talking about how much pain we were in, and I was sort of talking about, 'Now what?' And that happened to be a relevant intersection. I was able to enter spaces of pop culture that felt very authentic to me, and that helped me solve problems in my life and helped other people in their lives. And it worked out great. I feel that way again now. Society, anxiety, depression have just been noted at an all time high in history, since they've been tracking those things. And a lot of the mindfulness exercises I did to help me re-wire my brain, I'm now developing into curriculum to go into public schools, as well as businesses to help humans connect to themselves basically, and get some education on what it takes to be a human beyond what it takes to have mathematics and English skills.
LP: Have you dealt with those issues yourself? Depression?
JK: Not depression as much, but I started having panic attacks when I was 15. I just wrote a book called 'Never Broken' that sort of documents a lot my life and some of my challenges, and so how I overcame my challenges has some relevancy. When I was homeless, I had extreme agoraphobia – extreme panic attacks. My life really came to a grinding halt. That's when I kind of started to developing a lot of exercises for myself to help rewire my brain and re-pattern my emotional language. And now, a really famous neuroscientist, named Dr. Joseph Brewer, is actually proving one of my exercises works. They're up on a website called Jewelneverbroken.com. They're free to the public. So anybody interested in learning how to calm their own anxiety or learning how to rewire their brain or the neural patterns... so they can actually learn how to make a habit out of happiness, that's up for anybody. And so I'm basically using that to create this curriculum for grade schools, as well as businesses. I'm starting a company with backers that will be helping me scale that.
LP: Have you ever been to Salmonstock before?
JK: I have not. My friend, Zack, played it. Zack Brown played it last year. And I'm doing it this year.
LP: Will you be performing any new songs at the festival?
JK: Yeah, I'll probably do new music. I don't have a band. It's literally just me and my guitar on stage. I don't tend to do set lists, so I like to talk to the audience, see what kind of mood they're in. Sometimes they're really wild rocking shows. Sometimes they're really emotional. Sometimes they're really funny. It just depends on where the crowd's at.
LP: Do you have any plans for a new album? What was your most recent album?
JK: My last album, the last one I did was called 'Picking Up The Pieces.' I've been working really hard. I've been working really hard, as an entrepreneur, trying to set up a business that has some kind of equity and return revenue, because as a musician you're actually just at the mercy of, you know, pop culture and record sales and touring. And I'm trying to get myself out of. I'll still make music my entire life, but I don't want it to be where I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, I have to do this to make a living.' I want it to be more just how I interface creatively with the world. But more importantly than that, I honestly... just this is what I want to contribute to the world right now. This is what I hope to be able to help with, because I think people need help right now, especially learning how to connect – connect with themselves and get education areas that are going to make their quality of life better.
LP: I noticed in some of the literature the concert organizer sent over that you listed Bob Dylan as a mentor. I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan, so I'd love to know a little bit about how that happened and what that was like.
JK: It was wild going from Alaska. I remember when I was in San Diego, when I was still homeless, I started singing. And I got a local following. And a promoter started asking me to open for acts, when they came in town, because I was able to bring some local audiences. And Bob Dylan was one of the acts that I opened for. I didn't think he... typically the headliner doesn't listen to the opening act, especially if they're just some local kid. So I never met him that night. I didn't think anything of it, and my record wasn't out yet. I launched my record, and it was a tremendous failure the first year. And I was about to go quit and make a second record, when Bob Dylan asked me to tour with him. And so of course, I quit my second record and went back to touring with Bob Dylan with my first record. And he really believed in me. He listened to my sets. He talked to me about my lyrics every night. He asked me what my lyrics meant. He'd ask me what books I was reading. He really believed in me, and it was at a time when I was really doubting. You know, grunge was king and I couldn't get any traction anywhere with the type of music I was playing. And I was thinking of changing my style, because I was so scared I was going to get dropped and live on the street again. So having him believe in me meant a lot, and it was at a very pivotal time. And he'd send me books to read and music to listen to. He loved that I played solo acoustic, and he was like, 'Just keep doing it. Don't give up. Don't change for radio, make radio change for you. Or just tour live the rest of your life.' And that was what I needed to hear, you know. It was like... even if Bob Dylan was the only person who ever liked my music, and nobody else did, I was good [laughs]. Yeah.
LP: As far as artists, do you know or listen to any Alaskan musicians? Do you have a favorite?
JK: I'm really out of touch. I'm oddly, because I was raised without a television or radio. I never really have paid attention to pop culture. I grew up seeing covers with my dad in bars. So I grew up singing Eagle songs or Jim Crocce songs. So I kind of got an education in songs, but I never really watched TV or kept track of music. I don't listen to music during the day, which is terrible, but I just wasn't raised in that habit, so I'm about the most pop culture ignorant person you're going to meet. And it's phenomenal I'm in pop culture. I don't know how it happened [laughs]. But I'm open to recommendations, I'd like to hear any acts that you really love or I should check out. I love discovering people.
LP: I'd be happy to. And I'm sure you'll get to see a lot of acts at Salmonfest. They're supposed to have something like 40 or 50 local acts at the festival.
JK: Awesome. Great.
LP: Aside from Alaskan artists, what are you listening to right now? Do you have any modern favorites?
JK: Hmm, let's see. I always have to go through my phone. I like Lorde's new record a lot. I'm a little worried about her constant talk of drugs and sex – hopefully she's fine [laughs], but I think she's incredibly talented and very original. I've always been a fan of Ed Sheeran, and I think that he's an actual singer songwriter who writes more than about just love. He's talking about social topics. He's an incredibly catchy songwriter, and a really good guitar player, and a very good vocalist; altogether, a great package. But I love Macklemore. I think his... I love his flow. I love how he writes. I love what he's writing about. And again, you take some political issues, as well as things that are just cheaper or easier to write about that might be more commercial, and I appreciate differences of his.
LP: Again, when did you leave Alaska for good?
JK: Probably 18. No it's fine, I just wish I were more accurate.
LP: Sure, and if you have anything to add just let me know. Aside from Salmonfest and showing Alaska to your son, are there any things you're really interested in doing, while you're up here?
JK: No that's it. I really appreciate it. I'm really excited to come home. I haven't been to Anchorage in so long. I'll have to make it there. I'm sure it's changed a lot, since the last time I was there.
LP: Well we would love to have you come play at the KTUU studio sometime or come in for a sit down interview.
JK: You know, at some point I would really love to do that. I think on this trip, I think I'm just going to keep up in the mountains with my son and go to the head of the bay, and just camp out in a wine shack and detach. So I doubt I'll make it up to Anchorage.
LP: What are you hoping your son will take away from the trip? Now that he's older.
JK: Really, it's just been about letting my son and my dad spend a lot of time together. Making sure that my son sees, you know, that nobody's entitled to food, or water, or shelter, That we all work for it, and whatever capacity that we do in Alaska is just much more visceral. You know, it's a much more first-hand experience. If I have to catch my dinner tonight, or I have to drink out of river water, I love that I just think it provided me with a tremendous amount of resilience. It's served me in my life and my career, and it's something I hope for my son as well. So keeping him out in nature, and, you know, learning from my dad. Learning how to track, and learning that he's capable of doing things.
LP: Do you think you could ever see yourself living up here, again?
JK: I guess I'm at the point where I'm trying to get, where I could be more remote. I gotta say, the gloomy winters on the homestead are not like, you know, it's not I'm dying right now to do it [laughs]. The summers, however, keep calling me.
LP: The summers are definitely great for sure. Thanks again for talking with us Jewel.
JK: Well thanks. I really enjoyed talking to you, a fellow Alaskan.