The down-to-earth life suits Jewel just fine

Special to the Tribune

For every self-destructing Britney or Amy Winehouse, there is a Jewel. She was just 19 when her debut album, "Pieces of You," helped define the folk-rock sound of the mid-'90s. And she never once seemed to be teetering on the brink of personal disaster.

Today at 33, Jewel has lost none of her down-to-earth appeal. (Her next Chicago-area performance is Saturday with the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra at the Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont.) Her low-maintenance rep is reflected in the Stephenville, Texas, home she shares with longtime boyfriend, Ty Murray, and their dog, George, a 6-year-old shitzu.To be blunt, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house (built and furnished in the late 1970s) could use an update. "There are lots of brown Formica countertops and brown shag carpet and green faux marble linoleum," she says, anticipating the next question: "Yes, really."

The land itself -- a 2,300-acre ranch -- makes up for everything. "My favorite thing about this house is the view," she says. "As you can imagine, 2,300 acres is a lot of land, and it's green and hilly and full of trees and lakes and rivers. I also happen to like Ty an awful lot, which brought me here in the first place." Ty found the place first 13 years ago; Jewel has made it her home for the last nine. "I keep meaning to remodel, but shockingly have just never found a good time to come home to construction work and copious amounts of dust."

(The singer-songwriter also has a two-bedroom Spanish-style home in Los Angeles that she uses when working on the West Coast. As she explains below, the house is basically a satellite closet.)

In Texas, the home is defined mainly by Ty's decorating style: "Lots of trophies [he's a rodeo cowboy] and championship saddles and cool bits and spurs and guns -- very Western, which luckily I happen to like," she says.

Other than that, the interior aesthetics of their home are not a priority. "Neither Ty nor I tend to think much about the decoration of our house. When we remodel, we will have to get back to you."

1. Most luxurious feature in your home: Our view. We live on one of the prettiest and largest pieces of land, full of oak and pecan trees.

2. One thing on a wall in your living room: A giant cedar tree that hangs all of Ty's World Champion saddles, including one from 1998 when he broke the all-around record.

3. One thing you have in your house from your childhood: Gosh, I don't think I have anything from my childhood in my house. Well, I have a picture of the bay I grew up on over our bed, if that counts.

4. Oldest thing in your fridge or freezer: Some barbecue sauce. That stuff just lasts forever. It must be good for me.

5. One thing on your nightstand: My netsuke. I collect animal netsuke. They are small ivory carvings that Japanese monks sculpted to hang on a string that went around their robes, like charms.

6. If we came unexpectedly, would we find your bed made? Yes, I do make the bed every day. Amazing. I'm very messy in general.

7. Favorite household chore: Favorite household chore? Is that, like, what they call an oxymoron?

8. Most high-tech gadget or appliance in your home: Definitely not our can opener. It's from 1979. It's mounted on our kitchen wall and must be the first electric can opener ever made. Ty won't let me throw it away; he loves it. I dream of throwing it away, but he keeps a very close eye on me.

9. Best furniture bargain you ever got: Great furniture bargains only happen to my friends. They always have great stories that start with, "You're never going to believe what I found!" and end with " ... and it was only 20 dollars!" But not me. All my stories start with a salesman seeing me coming from a mile away. I have no heart for haggling, either.

10. Biggest surprise we'd find in your closet: Well, if clothing surprises you, prepare to get shocked. Actually, my closet here is really small. I have a second house in L.A. that is pretty much all closet, so all my "show" clothes and dressier stuff are there. I take a digital photo of every piece of clothing I own, and I made a file on my computer of my virtual closet. So when I'm getting ready for a tour, I just go into my iPhoto and make a folder of all the clothes I will tour with, and my assistant [who lives in L.A.] brings it with her when she meets me on the road. That way my little closet here doesn't get too crammed. OK, more crammed.

11. Messiest room in the house: My bathroom. Lots of lotions and potions and makeup. I'm addicted to buying makeup. I'm a sucker for a new shade I never wear ...

12. What is the biggest collection in your home? Ty has an amazing collection of buckles he's won over the years.

13. If you had to save one "thing" from your home, what would it be? The one thing I would save from my home would be photographs and my writing journals.

14. Weirdest thing about your home (or in your home): Probably the cottage-cheese ceilings and the green linoleum floors in the kitchen.

15. Do you do any friendly snooping when visiting the homes of others? I don't tend to snoop when I'm at other people's houses. When I was a teenager and babysitting -- that was another story.

16. Thoughts on TVs in the bedroom? TVs in the bedroom rock. Ty and I call it our mini-vacation every night. Our days are so stressful and we are on the phone so much that we love to get into bed at 6 if we can just veg out to some good ol' TV.

17. What is your decorating nightmare? A snobby decorator. No one likes a snob.

18. Room in the house that inspires you artistically: I love writing outside, really, or in my office. But outside on our porch looking out across the fields, a glass of wine, a guitar, and a nice cool evening ...

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