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Is Jewel quitting the music grind?

Tour burnout drives the multiplatinum songbird to put acting first

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Steve Granitz/Retna

Sure, Jewel has a new album of jingle-bell rock, ”Joy: A Holiday Collection,” in stores today, but when it comes to hitting the road to yodel her tunes, she’s sounding a little Grinch-like: ”Being on stage is always electric, and I love it,” says the precocious 25-year-old, ”but the travel part is real hard for me.” After slogging through a summer tour of Europe and North America with only a few days off, she says the pressure to please not only her fans but the media and her record label has done a number on her self-esteem: ”The constant homecoming queen, I’m-going-to-be-the-best-cheerleader-this-year contest is draining. Do I have legs as nice as Mariah Carey? Who cares? When you’re on stage you don’t think about it, but sometimes just getting to the stage is the hardest part, and I find it really tedious and overwhelming.”

Living up to Mariah’s much-exposed gams isn’t the only thing bugging Jewel, whose next concert won’t be until New Year’s Eve in Anchorage. She realized that playing and performing nonstop is a routine that has lost its luster. ”I’d grown complacent in music,” she says. ”I’d been doing it for so long it was like a natural limb, and I felt the other parts of my creative body were starting to atrophy, which is horrifying.”

So she turned her attention to acting, snapping up a lead role as a Civil War widow in Ang Lee’s ”Ride With the Devil” (opening Nov. 24). ”I had zero skills at it, but I was desperate for the challenge,” Jewel says. ”Still, that doesn’t help you evade the fear. With music, if I fail, it’s just me looking like an idiot. But with the film, I could let everybody down. So there was a lot of pressure.”

Despite her lack of experience, she says she discovered that acting and music are surprisingly in tune. ”As a writer, I get inside people’s heads and deal with characters, which is the same thing an actor does.” In fact, she liked the experience so much she’s ready to try it again — but producers take note, there’s one part she won’t play: ”I’m not interested in singing and acting in a movie.” Too bad. With her blond good looks and yodeling skills, she’d be a natural for a ”Sound of Music” remake.