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June 20, 2008
Jewel on the culture of women in music

jewel-04.JPG One of the topics that came up when I interviewed Jewel, who appears Saturday at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre with Brad Paisley (read my story here here) was the subject of women in music and what it was like for her when her debut album "Pieces of Me" was released in early 1995.

Alanis Morissette released her debut album "Jagged Little Pill" later that year and, Jewel, notes there were big differences in the way the two artists were received. For one, Jewel's sound was a soft folk-pop and, initially, radio stations wanted nothing to do with her.

"When I first started out Nirvana and Soundgarden were king and they wouldn't arrest a girl," Jewel says.

Then Morissette exploded on the scene with her first single "You Oughta Know."

"Alanis sounded like one of the guys - it was very angsty rock and I was just this sincere little songwriter - very traditional sounding," Jewel says. "Getting me on the radio was (still) heck. I couldn't get my first single, 'Who Will Save Your Soul" on the radio for 10 months."

Once she did make it on the radio, of course, Jewel did very well; she's sold more than 18 million records since the start of her career. But, she adds, being a woman in music during the mid-90s definitely had its downside.

Jewel's success, along with that of Morissette's and others such as Meredith Brooks, Jill Sobule and Hole's Courtney Love meant that most female musicians - regardless of their sound - got lumped in together.

And it was the women who came before them that paid the real price, Jewel says.

"It was insulting - there were so many great women that came before us and (the press) was trying to act as if we invented the concept of women in rock," she says.

"We didn't - Joni Mitchell and Carole King and Rickie Lee Jones came before us. And before that it was Josephine Baker and Etta James and Nina Simone - there were always these women who did amazing, revolutionary things with music."

Consider yourself schooled.

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