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The Week Ahead

Jewel's searching for a diamond in rough

January 08, 2007|Tribune Media Service

She had her struggles on the path to musical fame, so Jewel is glad to help launch someone else's career.

Just who that someone is remains to be seen and heard, because first he or she must get through the fifth season of "Nashville Star." Jewel (last name: Kilcher) becomes the host with returning co-host Cowboy Troy in a new round of USA Network's talent competition starting Thursday at 10 p.m.

As with Fox's "American Idol," top-selling talents have gotten their start on "Nashville Star," notably Miranda Lambert -- recently a Country Music Assn. Awards nominee -- and Buddy Jewell.

Though her songs from "Who Will Save Your Soul?" and "You Were Meant for Me" to "Standing Still" and "Intuition" have crossed several genres, Jewel appreciates Nashville as a music center, having written and recorded many of her lyrics there.

"I grew up on country music," she reflects. "I was raised on a ranch in Alaska, and my father is a cowboy. My favorite memories are of driving the cattle every spring and bringing them home in the fall. We'd camp out under the stars, and my dad would play me his songs. That really had a big influence on me as a kid.

"The music I continue to write is really a classic, old-school kind of country. I've had a million producers try to take that out so they could bring the music to pop radio, but I really view it as the last great American storytelling genre that's healthy. And I look at my job as trying to tell a story."

Having a weekly commitment to "Nashville Star" is "actually an attraction for me," maintains Jewel, who completed her latest concert tour last month. "I get to have a steady gig where I can be at home. I live in Texas, so I can fly in on Wednesday, fly out on Thursday night and be home for the rest of the week. For me, that's pretty novel, so I'm excited about it. I've always tried to make it a priority not to work so much that I can't enjoy what life I'm having."

Jewel says she also appreciates "Nashville Star" for "its strong focus on songwriters.

"Originally, I was looking at being a judge on it, then I realized the judge only gets about 15 seconds to help the artist," she said. "I looked for a way to have as much time with them as I could. I'm not only hosting but mentoring, so I'll get to be with each contestant and actually talk to them about performing."

She anticipates "a good season" for the series. "What makes me a believer in the show is that they are looking for real talent, and that's attractive. There are so few outlets for true artists to get seen nowadays, it's really nice to have at least one show that values that."

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