Music

Jewel represents Alaska against 55 other competitors in “American Song Contest”

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Jewel Kilcher’s first memories of performing are from her time on stage in Alaska more than three decades ago. Now the singer-songwriter who grew up in the state is representing it in a live competition based on the wildly popular “Eurovision Song Contest.”

She will perform live Monday on NBC’s “American Song Contest,” going toe-to-toe with representatives from 55 other states and territories. The broadcast runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Alaska time.

“My most vivid memories are playing at the Hilton and the Captain Cook,” Jewel said. “I remember the first time I stopped on stage in at the Captain Cook and got the hiccups. It’s crazy full circle.

“I’m just really proud. Obviously you want to do a good job and represent the state well. (Alaska) shaped me and it shaped how I write so I’m excited.”

Among the field of performers, Jewel is undeniably one of the ringers along with Sisqo (Maryland), Macy Gray (Ohio) and Michal Bolton (Connecticut).

Despite being one of the most well-known and established artists, Jewel said that won’t give her an upper hand.

“I don’t think celebrity is going to help at all in this,” she said. “It’s a song contest and anyone can write a magical song.”

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The show also gives Jewel an opportunity to perform on a national stage and still maintain a relatively normal home life.

“I really feel like it’s hard as a female this industry,” she said. “You age out and it becomes a lot harder. This allows me to be a mom and it’s not asking me to tour for a year. It helps me to do something I love on a big format without leaving my kid behind.”

Jewel will perform “The Story,” which she says is “the story of my life and hopefully it relates to everyone’s life.”

“There have been a lot of plot twists in my life. The song ends but that’s not the end of the store. I wrote it to mirror everyone’s life.”

She said the song is technically fairly difficult, including three key changes.

The contest has challenged her to think bigger than she normally would for a song. Not only chiefly for a TV audience but Jewel said it also needs some pop appeal.

“It’s different than just being a songwriter,” she said. “You (normally) aren’t trying to write a hit. You want to write something personal that also speaks to humanity, something that has heart and has broad appeal. (Songwriting) constantly challenges to me.”

Jewel is also releasing a new album this month and last week shared the single “Living With Your Memory,” from the release.

The full-length album, “Freewheelin’ Woman” is due for release on April 15 and features guest spots from Darius Rucker and Train.

She said she wrote about 200 songs to get the dozen that finally landed on the record.

Her writing process has been honed over the years, and often driven by when she has time, not just when the mood strikes her.

“For a long time I wasn’t writing songs,” she said. “You’re not always going to get the muse. Poetry was consistent and songwriting wasn’t always. I think I never hear women talk about what it’s like to be a mom in this business. It changed my work habits. I had to make time to write and make a schedule around it. You have to tap into your creativity when you can.”

Jewel is also set to tour with Blues Traveler this summer a run that has around 40 scheduled dates from June 8 through Aug. 6.

Other members of the Kilcher family has become reality stars of their own with “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” which featured the family on its homestead near Homer. But Jewel said their experience didn’t affect her decision to jump into the reality show ring. She had already performed in the sixth season of “The Masked Singer” before “American Song Contest.”

The show is hosted by Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg, both of whom Jewel said she knows from her years in the music industry. Voting for the contest is available on the site, the NBC app and on TikTok.

“I’m really proud of the song and I’m super curious how people are going to react to it,” she said.

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.

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