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My meetings with Jewel!

Meeting 1: February 3rd 1999

When I first discovered that Jewel would be paying a visit to my home town I thought it must have surely been a joke. I live in a place called Teesside in the North East of England. What you haven’t heard of it? Well that’s my point! It turned out that Jewel was about to partake in a brief tour of some of the U.K’s regional radio stations. Luckily for me, one of those radio stations just happened to be TFM, which is about 5 minutes drive from my house. To say I was excited about meeting my idol of the past two years was an understatement at the very least! I only had about a week to prepare for this unbelievable opportunity, I could have had a year and I still wouldn’t have been prepared.

When the momentous day arrived, I made sure I had all the vitals; my copies of Save The Linoleum, A Night Without Armor, the Pieces of You promotional handbook, and of course a camera. I then dragged along my friend Gail whom I was in the midst of converting into as devoted a fan of Jewel as I was. We were both extremely excited and were discussing the sort of things we would say to Jewel when we met her, meticulously trying to plan every aspect of the conversation word for word. Of course it isn’t that easy and things never turn out as planned as we soon discovered. On arrival at the radio station, the receptionist informed us that Jewel wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 3.00pm. The current time was about 9.30am!! I had made over 10 calls to the radio station over the past week, trying to discover more information about the visit but of course no one had a clue which was why Gail and I arrived as early as possible to ensure we didn’t miss our big chance. Because of this newfound mistrust of the radio stations’ reliability, we decided it would be best to go back home and return at, allowing some leeway.

As we were so excited, we ended up back at the radio station at 1.50pm (just in case!), after having been into town and buying a beautiful bunch of 8 red roses, which I was looking forward to presenting Jewel with. We decided to sit outside the building as the weather was reasonable and we wanted to watch Jewel arrive. Every time a remotely expensive looking car drove by, our hearts skipped a beat. (I had no idea there were so many Jaguar and Mercedes owners in my town!) However, at approximately 2.20pm, a huge, grey coach with blackened windows approached the building. The last thing I expected Jewel to arrive in for some reason was a coach. The mere thought that a musician on tour would travel in a tour bus must have seemed alien to me at the time! The coach seemed to take an age to park, it seemed to be having trouble, and of course at this time, I was still unsure of whether Jewel was even in it. Eventually it stopped and a short time later the door opened. At this point, curious beyond belief I decided to investigate and walked over. I asked if Jewel was inside and he said no. What a jerk! Of course at this point I knew she was, and moments later after a mutual agreement with Gail at how mindless bus drivers can be, a balding man stepped off the bus carrying an acoustic guitar in a soft, black case. He smiled and explained Jewel would be out in just a minute. He went inside the radio station with the guitar and a few moments later, returned and began chatting to me. He was completely dumbfounded as to how I knew Jewel would be here today and I said I found out on the Internet. At this moment he almost automatically asked if I had heard of the E.D.A’s and I said, “yeah I am one!” I told him I had been on the list for well over a year and he was very impressed, not least surprised, although he was aware Jewel had a small, loyal following in the U.K. Moments later, the time arrived and she appeared. I can’t begin to express in words what it feels like to see someone you have worshipped for 2 years in the flesh. It was almost too perfect. The way she descended the steps of the bus was almost like an angel descending from heaven. She looked fairly casual; I was surprised to see her wearing a black beanie hat! The first thing she said was “Wow, I have 2 fans.” I couldn’t help but laugh. I can’t imagine what a shock it must be to leave a country where you are a household name and enter a place where no one has heard of you. She said “Hi” and I handed her the roses for which she thanked me. There she was. Jewel Kilcher, standing in her buttoned up black coat, black hat and hiking boots in a Teesside car park. Wow! She was obviously missing the American climate as she said, “Come on let’s go inside, it’s cold out here.” So we followed her inside where her tour manager and Personal Assistant as well as a few others got things organised. For some strange reason, I decided it would be great if my official words to Jewel were “Wow you are so small!” God knows where that one popped out from but thankfully she wasn’t offended. She commented that everyone said that to her which comforted me somewhat! I mean I am only 5 foot 3 myself, who the hell am I to talk about height! There was a bit of standing around in reception so I took the opportunity to get out my merchandise for her to sign. I then stood there awe-struck for a few seconds, trying to contemplate what was actually happening. I was standing in the same room as Jewel! Thankfully, Jewel wasn’t quite so nervous and asked “Do you want me to sign those for you?” Feeling stupid, I handed her my 3 items. “Wow where did you get Save The Linoleum from?” she queried which made me feel instantly cooler. I explained I got it from a mail order company. I figured it might have been a while since she had signed a copy of it but she knew exactly where she wanted to sign it. She opened up the case and written ‘Rachel (heart) Jewelxx’ over the top of the black and white picture of her inside. She went on to explain to me that all the people on the front cover of the STL sleeve were her old friends, the people who used to come to her early gigs. “Really?” I exclaimed, to her reply of “Yeah!” She signed my poetry book next with the words ‘Rachel, Good Luck God bless Jewel’. I thought that was really nice of her. I took the words ‘good luck’ to mean good luck in life and as I want to be a musician, her words were extremely inspirational and gave me a lot of hope. Finally, she signed my Pieces of You brown, promotional handbook. She explained that her ‘very good friend’ appeared somewhere in this book and I said “Yeah Steve Poltz!” “That’s right,” she said. “And he will be playing guitar on your up-coming Spirit tour right?” “You’re great!” She replied. Now that brought a smile to my face. She proceeded to sign the handbook with the words ‘Rachel, Love Jewel’. This time however, she doodled a little self-portrait as part of her signature, similar to the illustration on the front of the handbook itself. I couldn’t believe it, an artist at work in my presence! I explained to her that I would be attending her May 9th concert in Manchester to which she exclaimed “Right on!” I was trying to think of things to say to Jewel, after all, I had planned the structure of the whole conversation days earlier but in these situations your mind tends to go blank! I managed to ask her how things were going with Higher Ground for Humanity, the charity she organised with her mother, Nedra. To this she replied "Yeah, fine.” Short but sweet I thought but then at this point, I don’t think HGH had really taken off. Her tour manager then noticed the camera in my hand and asked if we would like it if he took a picture. Hell yeah! So he lined us up, Jewel in the middle holding the roses, Gail to the left, and me to the right. At this point I remember thinking ‘This is my one and only chance to touch Jewel.’ So I put my arm around her! I thought, ‘Hey, it’s a photo, I’m just posing.’ It’s not like I squeezed her or anything. That would have been weird! The day was getting more and more unbelievable, but the best was yet to come.

I feel I have to make it clear at this point that Gail and I weren’t even sure if we were going to get to SEE Jewel today let alone meet her and have a conversation with her. Because the radio station had been so sketchy with details and so forth, we had reservations in our minds but our excitement and faith kept us hoping. Maybe it was because of this wishful thinking that the following happened. After returning from a short disappearing act, her tour manager said it would be ok if we came in and watched Jewel do the interview. Hang on. Me and Gail, in a studio, watching Jewel do an interview. Hang on, didn’t the tour manager carry an acoustic guitar into the building earlier. Is this going to be my first time seeing Jewel perform LIVE? And this isn’t at concert, this is in a 12ft x 12ft studio. Just Jewel, me, Gail, the DJ, the tour manager and the PA. How close is THIS to a private performance? Gail and I took the two seats at the back of the studio; it’s like this moment was destined to happen. The PA and Jewel sat at the front of the DJ’s desk and the tour manager, like a true Gent, sat on the floor!! Jewel said to the DJ, “This is Rachel and Gail.” Oh my God she introduced US to HIM! At this point I was almost hyperventilating. I removed my newly signed merchandise from my bag and showed Gail excitedly. She was like “Rachel, Jewel is in the room and you are yapping about a CD. For God’s sake put it away and pay attention!” To which I obliged. I was happy to just sit and stare. At this point it was quite relaxed, music was playing in the background and the DJ began explaining to Jewel how the interview was to proceed. He had quite a nice discussion with her off-air about he was a fan and how he had seen her live 2 years previous in Scotland. I was highly impressed by this to say the least. I was hoping that because he was a fan, he would make the questions more interesting than the usual repetitive, misinformed, badly researched bloopers that journalists usually ask. Indeed, as the interview progressed, it was more of a friendly chat than a question and answer session. The DJ was very interested in the inspiration behind the ‘Spirit’ album and it’s concept of faith, compassion and belief. Jewel seemed very comfortable with the situation. In the various breaks, the DJ would talk to Jewel about his newborn son, to which she was highly respondent. There were lots of jokes and a lot of laughing and Jewel seemed to be enjoying herself, which I was pleased about, seeing as how she usually hates promotion work. At the end of the interview, a handsome man in his twenties raced into the room to read the weather. Jewel asked if she would have to give up her microphone for him and giggled. What a flirt! After the weatherman left, it was time for Jewel to perform. She looked over towards us and asked, “Is there anything you guys wanna hear?” I could have said something totally obscure but I thought she isn’t here to plug Carnivore or His Pleasure is My Pain or Buttercup so I went second best and asked for either Kiss The Flame or Enter From The East. I thought that because they are both vocally stunning i.e. she would really have to reach some high notes, it would be great to watch, and of course they are both off the ‘Spirit’ album so technically she would still be plugging the album. She started playing the chords from the two songs I requested and seemed to be practising the vocals. She then started playing EMILY which totally surprised me. Of course, as I had expected, she ended up playing ‘Down So Long.’ I didn’t mind, that was the song she was trying to get on the radio over here and at least she asked me which I thought was very sweet of her! At this point, we were sitting on the floor. We had given up our seats for the PA who was standing up and looked like she wanted to be sitting down. I didn’t mind. I was closer to Jewel and sat right next to the tour manager, who at this point I liked very much for his kindness! It was an absolutely stunning performance. I couldn’t quite comprehend how she could sit squashed up in this little studio without a soundcheck (actually the guitar wasn’t even plugged in) and still hit every note without the slightest hint of a struggle. Her voice was just absolutely perfect, just effortlessly crystal clear. It was also nice to know that that was probably one of the few times this year that she would perform DSL as a solo acoustic! When she finished we applauded and whooped rapturously with the encouragement of the DJ. I had always wondered when listening to the radio who those 2 or 3 people were in the background that cheered like idiots! Today we found the answer! Just before the session was over, the DJ asked Jewel what song she would like to hear before she left. She’d have probably recommended one of her own but as she had just performed DSL and the DJ had played Hands before the interview began, she instead chose a song which she had heard previously and which had prompted some humorous discussion earlier in the day. The song? Well it was National Express by The Divine Comedy. I think hearing the word ‘arse’ in a song had caused Jewel to chuckle! The DJ unfortunately declined her request for the simple fact that it had only been an hour or so since he last played it. He instead promised to play it later in the day so that she could hear it as she travelled down the motorway to her next destination! At this point, we stood up and realised it was time to leave, our time had come. I approached Jewel and said it had all been brilliant. The day truly had exceeded all of my expectations. Gail and I left the building after thanking everyone, especially the tour manager for orchestrating everything and being such a kind soul. We waited outside watching the PA return to the coach and the various other crew members. Finally, Jewel appeared, and said “Bye you guys and thanks!” She was still clutching the roses I had given her earlier which I thought was nice. We turned and watched her head off back to the coach; it was still almost too much to take in, like a dream. We wandered off back home in somewhat of a daze. Now was the time to take out my newly signed merchandise and start yapping about it! I remember thinking that if this day was so great, then the concert, which was just 3 months away, was going to be even better. Roll on May 9th!

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