Jewel’s observations on gay Texans

Posted on 21 May 2013 at 2:40pm

Jewel

In a recent interview with our contributor Chris Azzopardi, singer-songwriter Jewel talked about her move from the largest state in the union, Alaska, to the second largest, our very own Texas. Azzopardi asked her about the move, as well as her gay friends there and here.

The following excerpt really caught my attention. Read on, and have a good laugh:

Question: You started out at biker bars, where you performed for lots of lesbians. Are there a lot of lesbians in your life now? Jewel:  You know, I don’t have any lesbians right now. I used to when I lived in San Diego, but in Texas, it’s been a little bit slim on the lesbian front. [Laughs] But what’s really cool is, I have to do a reality show about the gays in Texas, because there’s this whole gay culture in this really cowboy town that I live in that when guys break up, it’s like, “I’m gonna come get my cows off your place!” “Well, I’m gonna take down the fence I built!” “You better come get your mineral feeders!”

You’re living Brokeback Mountain down there.  It really is like that. And thank god for Grindr, otherwise they could never find each other.

Read the full interview with Jewel after the jump.

Question:  Pieces of You was released 18 years ago. Do you relate to that album anymore, or does it feel like a stranger to you?  Jewel: I never go back and listen to any of my albums ever. Once they were mixed and mastered, I’ve never gone back. But it feels like yesterday. I remember it so vividly. It’s such a big part of my heart.

And a big part of your career.  A huge part of my career. Having moved out at 15, and being homeless at 18, I should’ve been a statistic. The fame should’ve just fueled every insecurity I had. Thankfully I was aware of that, and I worked really hard at trying to manage my neuroses and my insecurities so that fame didn’t completely act like fuel to the flame.

Jewel2That [album] really is just an honest portrayal of who I am and was at that time. I was accepted for who I was for the first time, and it was on a mass level. What a strange thing to go from being an outsider your whole life to suddenly having the whole world say, “We value your thoughts.” It wasn’t that people thought I was pretty, it wasn’t that people thought I was clever or cool; people actually valued what I was thinking and they valued my emotions and they valued my earnestness, and that was pretty remarkable. It was actually very healing and it changed my life. I can’t even tell you in how many ways: not just psychologically and emotionally, but financially. It changed everything for me.

Your entire life really is an It Gets Better story.  Yeah, it’s really true. You can’t live without hope. You can live without money, you can live without so many things, but you really can’t live without hope. It’s so hard to be able to look down the road and see that there are possibilities. As long as you feel like there’s a possibility, there is hope. It’s important for people to feel that.

I know what it’s like to get stuck in those moments, but sometimes it’s the littlest things. For me, sometimes it was somebody smiling at me kindly for no reason when people usually just looked at me like I was a leper because I was homeless. You never know what will touch somebody and give them that little something to keep going and keep fighting for what’s unique about them.

What in your life made you feel less like an outsider? Was it music?  It was writing. Reading authors that were really honest and didn’t use art as propaganda to make themselves seem more perfect; they showed their flaws. At age 14, to hear somebody talk about being less than perfect made me feel a lot less alone. You do find people you feel accepted around, and then you get out of high school and life goes on and the weirdos are always the ones who end up influencing pop culture — so god bless us!

Who was your first gay friend?  Doug. I think we were in eighth grade. I was so terribly in love with him. He was the only guy who smelled nice and dressed good and was actually kind. I kept trying to turn him straight but it never worked. [Laughs] Doug’s parents kicked him out when he came out and I had one friend — this black guy — and he hated gays. He said, “I’m not gonna let you be friends with Doug.” I saw Arthur, the black kid, years later walking on the beach … holding hands with a guy! Isn’t that typical?

“Pieces of You” really resonated with the gay community, especially the line, “You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same?” … but some people missed the point of that song.  I can’t tell you how many people walked out of a room for, like, a political abstaining without getting the freaking lyrics. [Laughs]

Jewel3Well, the word “faggot” carries a lot of weight. People really thought you were homophobic then, didn’t they?  It’s hard to think that anybody earnestly thought it, but I was written up during New York Fashion Week. When I sang “Pieces of You,” you could hear forks dropping. Half the audience was gay and the other half was Jewish — and then there were pretty girls there. Nobody actually listened to the lyrics, and I was written about the next day as homophobic. It’s just so funny to me. But for the most part, I think people really got it. I wrote it from a very personal standpoint.

What inspired the “faggot” line?  All of my gay friends. Not anyone in particular. It just made me look at the nature of hate. It was a personal exploration of trying to figure out the root of my own insecurities — and, actually, that was right around the time my friend Arthur walked down the beach.

Would you ever write a song as socially charged?  I had a song called “Jesus Loves You” that was kind of like that. I had just written it and I had a private gig where I was hired, but I forgot it was a very Republican room that I was in. I was in Austin and I sang that song not thinking it was that political and then I realized it was a Jesus song that’s completely offending everybody there and I was never asked back again. And so there was that!

I don’t know. I’ll just have to see. But that song is definitely probably the most shocking of mine, and it’s probably harder to get away with that nowadays.

You started out at biker bars, where you performed for lots of lesbians. Are there a lot of lesbians in your life now?  You know, I don’t have any lesbians right now. I used to when I lived in San Diego, but in Texas, it’s been a little bit slim on the lesbian front. (Laughs) But what’s really cool is, I have to do a reality show about the gays in Texas, because there’s this whole gay culture in this really cowboy town that I live in that when guys break up, it’s like, “I’m gonna come get my cows off your place!” “Well, I’m gonna take down the fence I built!” “You better come get your mineral feeders!”

You’re living Brokeback Mountain down there.  It really is like that. And thank god for Grindr, otherwise they could never find each other! When I was 14 and hitchhiking in Alaska, this guy picked me up and he said, “You’re really pretty; you shouldn’t be hitchhiking.” And I was like, “Thanks; I hear that a lot.” And he said, “No, you’re really beautiful.” He kept saying I was beautiful over and over, and I was getting really freaked out. I had a knife in my boot and I pulled it out and I stuck it under his chin and said, “Are you gonna fuck with me?” And he laughed! And I realized the second he laughed that he was just the nicest gay guy on the planet earth, and we’ve been friends ever since. He lives with me in Texas now and he helps me take care of my baby. We call him the “manny.” He’s amazing. He’s just a treasure in my life and I don’t know what I’d do without him.

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