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Jewel Shines Anew as the Host of ‘Nashville Star’

She’s a little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll, but now Jewel is getting a lot country, hosting the new season of Nashville Star. Following in the footsteps of former hosts Leann Rimes and Wynona Judd, Jewel joins Cowboy Troy to welcome 10 new contestants in the country music talent search. Hollywood.com caught up with the singer-songwriter to find out about her latest musical endeavor. The show’s fifth season premieres Jan. 11.

Hollywood.com: How did you become involved and how familiar with the show were you?
Jewel: I’d actually been a fan of Nashville Star. I’ve watched about every episode. Last year I asked halfway through the season if I could be a guest judge but I think everything was already set. And this year, we talked about what we might be able to do together. I think we talked about me being a judge initially. Once I realized the judges only have about 15 to 20 seconds to give any input to the contestants, we started talking about me being a host and being able to mentor them. I’ll actually be able to have two mentoring sessions where they’re going to come down to my ranch in Texas and I can spend some time with them because I really identify with these kids. I was an 18-year-old struggling to try and make it in the music scene. If it was me on the show ,I really would want more than a 15 second chance to try and get everything straight and put my best foot forward, so I was really excited to be able to be a host and do the mentoring sessions.

HW: Who was the pivotal person who helped you in your career?
Jewel:
It’s interesting, in today’s music industry, it’s really hard as a singer-songwriter and all around artist to really come up. For me, I didn’t have a chance like Nashville Star as a vehicle to help me, so it took about 300 million people. My label, Atlantic, was a great label for me. They really helped me to be a songwriter even though I was in a really hardcore pop and grunge industry. And other than that, I think it really took the faith of an entire industry and entire fan base to help me shine through.

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HW: Are you going to help the new kids with the harsh realities of the music business, or stick to the art?
Jewel: You know, for me, one of the things that makes me such a fan of country music is I really think the genre’s about authenticity and staying true to who you are. I most often get asked by other kids, how do I make it in the business? And I think there’s two ways to go about it. One is to be schmoozy and network and go to all the right parties. The other is to be the best you can be and trust the fact that the cream will rise to the top. I sort of try to take the latter route. I’ve never really networked or gone to parties. I’ve tried to, for lack of a better term, kick ass every time I walked out on stage. That’s pretty much what I would [say]. I bet all these kids pretty much have managers already and certainly learning how to protect yourself and learning as much as you can about the business really protects your art. But I think there’s very few people sticking up for artists being authentic, trying to figure out what their unique voice is instead of what the trend is and that’s something I like to stick up for.

HW: Had an opportunity like Nashville Star been around when you were coming up, would you have done it?
Jewel: I’m not sure. Real World was just starting when I was coming up and they asked me to be on that and I was afraid because I didn’t want to be known as the girl from Real World. But I think with the way these shows like Nashville Star have gotten sophisticated and legitimate enough that I think an artist can be legitimate. I think Nashville Star is doing a job that labels aren’t quite able to do right now. I think labels have gotten a little bit trapped in following breakouts, so if an artist breaks out, say Gretchen Wilson, then they’re going to make a million more Gretchen Wilsons. I think something that Nashville Star is helping with is they’re helping an artist who’s authentic and different who may not have a trend, have a voice because America actually gets to speak and say this is something that we like that the labels may actually be oblivious to.

HW: When was that Real World offer?
Jewel:
I want to say, I could be corrected though, I want to say it was The Real World‘s first year. They were just coming up with the idea for the show. I bet I was 18 or 19.

HW: How did they find you? Had you already had an album out?
Jewel:
No, I hadn’t actually. I think they were putting word out to the industry saying, “This is a show we’re doing” and because I’d been living in a car and I’d just got signed to a record label, I hadn’t made my record yet, my label of course was looking for ways to break a folk artist which looked bleak at the time. They thought, “Great, you can watch this girl make her record on the show, you can watch her break” but I was a little bit concerned at the time. I wanted to be known for my music and my writing, not for being that girl.

HW: Why doesn’t mainstream media give country music the attention it deserves?
Jewel:
What’s funny to me about that is whether you guys cover it or not, country music is probably the strongest and healthiest music genre. Pop music wishes to have the longevity for their artists and the continued great record sales without the downloading infringement that country enjoys. So I think it’s alive and healthy and I think that’s why you’re seeing so many pop and rock musicians like Bon Jovi headed to the country market.

HW: Are the barriers between pop and country breaking down? Are you becoming more country, they more pop?
Jewel: I’ve never found the perception of me to be tremendously researched or accurate. Not to sleight anybody or anything. It’s funny, I’ve made about five of my six records in Nashville. I’ve probably worked with more Nashville producers and I’ve written more in Nashville than anybody and all my fans know that, but for some reason the media never really has. I mean, I can’t believe I’ve been able to be successful at all. I am a songwriter in the modern world and that’s a hard gig to do. I think my first single was on alternative radio between Nirvana and Soundgarten, “You Were Meant For Me” was a pop hit and then I’ve had a lot of AAA format success as it’s become a pretty strong genre. But I guess because I was raised on a ranch and I live in Texas and all that, I’ve had a real strong affiliation and love, affinity for country music. I think if I came out now, I’d probably be considered a country artist. “You Were Meant for Me,” it’s a shuffle, it would have no chance at pop radio. So it’s interesting to have been in this job for 12 years now and see how much the business has changed and how much genres have been classified differently. I used to be a pop artist and now when you think of a pop artist, you think of people much more like Paris Hilton, so it’s changed. I have no clue what to identify myself with except I love Nashville, I’ve always worked here, almost all my records have been made here. I think as a storyteller, it’s certainly my future because they still have room for storytellers.

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HW: Will saying goodbye to people be a tough part of hosting for you?
Jewel: Hopefully, these kids—it certainly isn’t the end of anybody’s road. If they were all talented enough to get on this show, they’re talented enough to go on from here. That’s just the format of the show and it’s the way it’s set up. I hope none of them feel too discouraged because I could have been kicked off this show if I was on it. I think cream will rise to the top and if they keep being excellent at what they do, they’re going to continue to rise up and this will just help them.

HW: What else do you have on your plate?
Jewel:
Let’s see, I guess I’ll be working on a record next probably here in Nashville. While I’m here hosting the show, I’ll be writing with people here in Nashville.

HW: How are you being received in Nashville now?
Jewel: I’ve always felt real at home here. When I was 18 and I mixed my record, I had the Stray Gators on that first record which is a Nashville based band. Everybody’s I guess a little bit more like I was raised around, still has a real small town feel. I was raised in a little village in Alaska. It’s always been real comfortable here. I guess that’s why I never really did move to LA. It’s always been hard for me in a big city for too long. I guess that’s why I live in that pretty small town of Stephenville, TX.

HW: You expressed some frustration with acting. Is hosting more comfortable for you?
Jewel:
Actually, I really love acting. My only frustration was with my own laziness. I’ve always been a little bit too lazy to have a full second career so I kind of let go of acting. For me, it is nice to have an opportunity like hosting to be able to get your personality across and challenge yourself to do something that’s outside of your norm, where getting up there with a guitar is pretty comfortable for me and this is new and for me, really being able to watch these kids come up and develop, I’m sure you’ve seen past seasons, but seeing how much they change over the course of the season is incredible.

HW: Who were your country influences or favorite artists?
Jewel:
I think one of the reasons I started writing songs was because of Loretta Lynn. I felt like she really had an ability to tap into the voice of her culture and speak in such a plain, honest and straightforward way about almost really taboo subjects: the pill, what it’s like to be married, and “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ With Lovin’ On Your Mind.” I think she had one of the biggest effects on me because I felt like her writing was so strong. It really gripped me. Other than that, gosh, there are so many great songs. “Help Me Make It Through the Night” is one of my favorite songs. Just all the usual suspects. Willie Nelson as well.

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