Next Saturday, February 28, marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Jewel’s Pieces of You, a raw, barely-produced little folk album that ended up selling over 12 million copies and sparked an entirely fresh movement of female singer-songwriters on ’90s radio.
In honor of this milestone, the principals involved in Pieces of You shared their memories and stories surrounding Jewel’s early says singing in San Diego coffee shops through the bidding war over her and her slow march to multi-platinum status. The current issue of Entertainment Weekly features the resulting oral history. But there was just too much good stuff to go around, so here is the first of a handful of weird and wonderful tales from the minds of the people who made Pieces of You possible.
The strange trip that yielded her first hit “Who Will Save Your Soul”
Jewel: “I started writing songs and learned guitar when I was 16. I did it so I could hitchhike through Mexico for spring break. I didn’t have the money to make it back to Alaska, so I concocted a genius scheme where I would hobo by train across the States. I started street singing along the way, and that’s when I wrote ‘Who Will Save Your Soul.’ I didn’t know any chords so I played the same four over and over and just started improvising lyrics. I really saw America for the first time. I street sang and gave foot rubs to tourists at the docks in Cabo and earned ferry money to the mainland side of Mexico and then hopped trains through the Copper Canyon and back, without being murdered or raped. I always carried a knife on me, so when I went through Mexico I had my little skinning knife. It wasn’t little actually—it was a pretty big knife.”