Singer and songwriter Jewel is proud of her Alaskan upbringing, but she’s never appeared on the Discovery Channel series that features her family, Alaska: The Last Frontier — until now. In a series of episodes airing on Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, she’s heading to the homestead. I chatted with the angel-voiced singer and she revealed that her visit home was pure heaven.
In the first part of my interview, Jewel talks about her decision to go home. Next week, she’ll share details of her Alaskan Adventures … and an upcoming TV event with the Kilcher family.
Channel Guide Magazine: Good morning, Jewel!
Jewel: How are you?
I’m great. Thanks so much for taking some time to speak with me. I just finished watching the episodes that you’re featured in of Alaska: The Last Frontier.
After several years away from the homestead, what prompted your return visit?
Well, I really was wanting to take my son up there and I wanted to wait until he was old enough to remember. So it had been at least six years since I’d last been home. It was beyond magical for me. I’m very, very proud of how I was raised. I think it gave me the type of values and grounded-ness and down-to-earthiness that has helped me stay true to my values as somebody who ended up being in the spotlight. I never was taught that fame or money make you happy. It’s what kind of human you are. That’s something I’ve always tried to hold true to.
Sharing it with my son, and getting him to see the homestead, and be around my dad, and learn things from my dad, was incredibly heartwarming for me.
What did Kase know about the homestead before he visited?
I had told him about it. We had seen some episodes of the show. Opa comes down quite a lot to visit him — my dad. Sorry, we call him Opa. He really hadn’t seen anything first hand, obviously. The most interesting thing to me that I noticed, was that Kase is usually attached to my robe. He’s a five-year-old and with strangers, he’s very shy. But it was almost like he just knew they were his family even though they were strangers — my uncles and cousins he’d never met, and my aunts. I’d be like, “Where’s Kase?” — and he was off running through meadows. It’s just really how childhood should be. It was very heartwarming.
You mentioned that you’ve seen the show. What is it like for you to watch your family on TV?
When I first got discovered, journalists would ask me how I was raised and they just couldn’t comprehend it. They were like, “Was it a commune? Was it a ranch? Why didn’t you have plumbing?” It was so difficult for people to understand, that I kind of quit talking about it. I’m really proud, though, that there’s a beautifully filmed show that I can be like, “That’s where I was raised, and that’s how I was raised.” I’m so proud that there’s a family on television showing what it’s like to choose to work hard because the rewards are incredibly great. I’m just very proud of them.
I guess, to have a show filmed about where I was raised and be able to share it with my son — who else gets that? It’s incredible.
Your dad, Atz Kilcher, put a ton of preparation into Kase’s first visit to Alaska. What’s that like for you as a parent, to know that your dad went to such a huge effort to give your son a magical experience?
It doesn’t surprise me. My dad is incredibly crafty and handy and thoughtful so we always grew up making gifts for each other. I had told Kase that Opa had a surprise for him and I think he thought it was going to be a toy. So when my dad took him out to look at the meadow, he was kind of like, “Heh? What? Where’s the toy?” But it was really neat for him to learn to see what an amazingly special and unique gift it was. He just still talks about it every day.
You said that Kase still talks about the trip, what are some of the things that he really loved about Alaska?
I think just being outdoors in nature. Seeing a moose. His blueberry fort. My dad’s going to build him a fort out there in that little outdoor playground that he made for Kase. He talks about picking wild blueberries. Listening to the Hermit Thrush sing. Just really simple beautiful things.
In the episodes of Alaska: The Last Frontier, both you and your dad talk about the closeness of your bond. How is your dad different now that he’s a grandfather than he was when you were growing up?
I have a book out, a memoir called Never Broken where I talk a lot about Alaska, my childhood, and a lot of the obstacles I had to overcome — like being homeless and what resiliency really is and how do we transmute pain. And my dad and I had some difficult years. My dad had a beautiful childhood, but also a difficult childhood. He picked up some of those patterns to where I ended up moving out at 15. But my dad did a lot of work on himself and has become, he always was an amazing human, but he got rid of the bad habits that he was raised with, and is able to really enjoy a great relationship with all of us now. So he’s quite a different … My dad was always talented, very charismatic. But watching him with my son, it’s like almost he’s a whole new person. He’s just very patient and obviously incredibly knowledgeable. It’s been good to see them. They have a great relationship.
In Part 2 of my interview with Jewel, she will talk more about her visit to Alaska and share inside info about the 2-hour super-sized Alaska: The Last Frontier episode on December 4, airing as part of Discovery’s Mega Week.
Alaska: the Last Frontier: “The Prodigal Daughter Returns” > Discovery > Sunday, Nov. 27 at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT