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Music

Jewel Celebrates Family And More With Handmade Holiday Tour

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Courtesy photo
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Acclaimed singer-songwriter Jewel brings her Handmade Holiday Tour to Wichita's Orpheum Theatre on Monday, Nov. 26.

The performance will spotlight her take on holiday classics and reveal a different side of her vocal range. Joining Jewel will be her father, Atz Kilcher, and her brothers, Atz Lee and Nikos Kilcher, all three of whom are featured on the hit Discovery Channel series Alaska: The Final Frontier. The series focuses on how the family — living outside Homer, AK — exists without modern heating or indoor plumbing while subsisting on food gathered from hunting and farming.

Jewel has sold more 30 million albums worldwide and has authored three books, including Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half The Story (2015) and the poetry collection, A Night Without Armor. Her two holiday albums to date are Joy: A Holiday Collection (1999) and Let It Snow: A Holiday Collection (2013). She has also appeared in a range of film and television shows, including Alaska: The Final Frontier. She recently spoke with KMUW about her decision to take to the road with her family.

Interview Highlights

Tell me about the origins of the Handmade Holiday Tour.

Last year was my first one. I think my Christmas record was one of my better selling records but I never did a tour with it. This show lets me sing in a way nobody knows I can sing. It's a very range-y show and very difficult vocally. I'll sing like Aretha Franklin and really be belting. I'll do a vibrato-less, perfect, pristine aria like "Ave Maria." It really lets me push myself as a vocalist. But I don't write that way for some reason. I don't really write for my vocal capabilities. But the main reason I did it was to figure out how to get my family together for the holidays without me going to Alaska.

[Laughs.]

My whole family comes down: my dad and my brothers and my son. We all get to live on a bus together and do what we grew up doing, which is handmaking gifts for one another and singing. My son gets to see that tradition in our lives. I think, around the holidays, it's really important to create a connection. For me, that handmade aspect is really important. My dad's making gifts out of roots and trees. He makes jewelry and baskets and things; he'll be selling them in the lobby. My son is busy making bath bombs every day. It's so cute here at the house. My friend and I made jewelry. The holiday can be simple. It's an offering from the heart. That's what this entire show is.

I would imagine that at points in your career you did have times when you had to be away from your family at the holidays. I think that's a very common thing among many musicians. Did you have times like that, and how did you get through them?

My entire career, I don't think I've ever spent a Thanksgiving at home; I don't think I've ever spent a New Year's at home. Very, very rare. And I'm far from home. Alaska isn't exactly like you pop home for two days. It was hard. I got homesick a lot. Especially for the land itself. I don't know why it took me this long, call me a slow learner, but I finally said, "Oh! I could bring my family here and we could all sing together!" [Laughs.]

I really wanted my son to be around my family and see that singing wasn't just mom's thing. My brothers both write, my dad writes. They actually do a writers in the round at the beginning of the show. They all sit around on stage together and tell stories and talk. They're all really funny and entertaining. They have different writing styles. My son gets to see that writing is not just my thing. He can have his own voice and a very different voice because none of my family members write nothing like the other.

The handmade element of this is really fascinating. I think about times in my own family when maybe money was a little bit short at the holidays. The gifts were quirky, but they were more special as the result of that.

We didn't have money to buy gifts, but we made gifts. There's a show about my family called Alaska: The Last Frontier. My family has a hit TV show. The producers didn't know it was my family. They're homesteaders. They live off the land. You can really see how I was raised. It's beautiful. It's hard work; it's all done by hand. I loved never getting store-bought gifts. I think, as a kid, I kind of wished I got a Walkman like the other kids, but I have baskets my dad wove me out of the roots on the beaches that we grew up riding horses on. It's priceless. That's the way he was raised: All of his eight siblings, they all made each other gifts. Sneaking away to hide your gifts that your building for your siblings, it's very sweet. I wanted that to be a big part of this show.

What's that been like, having your family at the center of a television show?

I had the hardest time explaining how I was raised to the press. I had to quit talking about it. Nobody could understand. "Was it a hippie commune? Was it a ranch? Why did you have an outhouse? What?" The TV shows illustrates a really noble way of life. I think people have to remember where their food comes from, we have to remember where our water comes from. You can't value what you don't have a relationship with. People don't have a relationship with the earth. It's sad.

I think this show has a ton of value. I'm super proud. I landed somewhere, I flew in private somewhere for a gig, and the rancher/operator there said, "Are you Atz Kilcher's daughter?" I said, "I am!" I love it. I think it's great.

Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.