Jewel Kilcher was born on 23 May 1974, Payson, Utah, USA. Singer-songwriter Jewel was raised in Homer, Alaska, but left her home at the age of 16 to study opera in Michigan, Illinois. She then joined her mother in her Volkswagen van mobile home in San Diego, California.
At that time Jewel first began to sing professionally at the Innerchange coffee shop, an establishment serving the local surfing community. These concerts quickly attracted a strong local following, and inevitably drew the attendance of several major label A&R staff. There were also early indications of her sense of humour - notably a popular on-stage imitation of the Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan. Warner Brothers Records won her signature, leading to the release of her February 1995 debut album, Pieces Of You. A low-key release, Jewel promoted it with a tour of west coast coffee houses and the release of the album's strongest track, "Who Will Save Your Soul", as a single.
Her first major exposure followed in May with an appearance on the syndicated Late Night With Conan O'Brien television show. She subsequently made frequent appearances in the tabloid gossip columns through her on-off relationship with actor Sean Penn (formerly Madonna's husband). Penn, keen to launch himself as a director, later directed the video to Jewel's second single release, "You Were Meant For Me", which became one of the most successful singles in US chart history. As the album's sales profile began to increase, Jewel was offered the lead in a TNT benefit production of The Wizard Of Oz. However, a tour with former Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy was less well-received ("I wanted to kill myself after every show", she later told Rolling Stone magazine). She also performed one show in Detroit where the assembled audience were convinced they were there to see the similarly-named Death Row Records rapper, Jewell. Despite this, further television exposure on programmes such as The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Entertainment Tonight ensured that Pieces Of You eventually achieved multi-platinum status. She also signed a $2 million dollar publishing deal with Harper Collins. Her book of poetry, A Night Without Armor, sold over two million copies in America alone.
The singer's eagerly await follow-up Spirit was recorded with veteran producer and Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard. The album debuted at US number 3 in December 1998, and included the Top 10 single "Hands". The following year the singer made her acting debut in Ang Lee's acclaimed civil war drama, Ride With The Devil. She also released the seasonal Joy. Jewel's third studio album proper, This Way, appeared in 2001, and demonstrated a lighter-hearted approach both musically and lyrically. If This Way was a surprise, then 0304, a dance pop album light years away from the sensitive singer-songwriter fare of her early material, came completely out of left-field.