When singer/songwriter Jewel ventured into the studio for the first time in two years, she insists, she wasn't there to make a record. She was there to make music. "I had quit the business, really. I

When singer/songwriter Jewel ventured into the studio for the first time in two years, she insists, she wasn't there to make a record. She was there to make music.

"I had quit the business, really. I just wasn't sure I wanted to come back to the machine," Jewel admits. "I took a year off and then two years passed and finally I knew there were things I wanted to say. I had a very clear vision and was not willing to compromise."

The resulting 14-track "This Way," which streets Nov. 13, showcases a less self-conscious, less polished Jewel. Most of her vocals were recorded live with musicians she found off the beaten track, giving her fourth Atlantic album a more personal, less trend-conscious bent with a vivid diversity of styles, from the expected pop and rock to country, folk, and some surprisingly strident rock. "This Way" has Jewel sharing production duties for the first time with co-producer Dan Huff.

"My passion is in just doing something, not perfecting it when it's done," Jewel explains. "My records have always suffered because I hate singing to a wall, and I don't have patience -- or maybe the vanity -- to make them absolutely perfect. This time, I sang the vocals live with the band a few times and just picked the best. It allowed me to perform more as an artist than a scientist in the studio."

First single "Standing Still," written by Jewel and Rick Nowles, is disobeying its title with a fast start on Billboard's Adult Top-40 chart, where it is No. 13 in its third week. The bright, midtempo pop number addresses simple desires ("Do you want me like I want you?") with an underlying message about taking forward steps in life.

"I wanted the lyric to be smart but colorful and vibrant like a little movie in your head," Jewel says. "I like writing hooky songs that can be hits, but I like them to have a lyric that has another layer."

Ron Shapiro, executive VP/GM of the Atlantic Group, says, "Because of her songwriting genius, Jewel always has a couple of different levels going on in her music. She really had a number of agendas on this record: to represent her diversity, to really have a hand in the whole process, and to mix songs of the heart with statements about important issues going on in the world. The project represents the difference between the girl of 18 that made 'Pieces of You' and the 27-year-old woman that she is today. She has recommitted herself to the music and has written songs that take you on a journey."

Among the standouts are "Love Me Just Leave Me Alone," a classic rock-rooted, no-holds-barred jam that Jewel has performed live; the whimsical, bluesy "Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime"; the biting but luscious ballad "Break Me"; and the intimate, social commentary "Serve the Ego."

The new album follows a non-stop whirlwind ignited when "Who Will Save Your Soul," the debut single from "Pieces," caught fire in 1995. It was encored by 1998's "Spirit," which spawned the signature hit "Hands," and the 1999 platinum Christmas collection "Joy." All the while, Jewel toured exhaustively; wrote two books -- the million-selling poetry collection "A Night Without Armor" and short story/essay text "Chasing Down the Dawn"; co-starred in the film "Ride With the Devil"; and backed various causes and charities, including her own Higher Ground for Humanity. She also was nominated for three Grammy Awards, graced the cover of Time, and moved 20 million albums worldwide, according to Atlantic.

"I was really tired," Jewel says. "I just ran out of energy to go around and promote the way you need to. I barely had energy for shows. I was just sort of done." So she moved to a Texas ranch with boyfriend/rodeo champion Ty Murray for a much-needed break.

This time around, Jewel vows to pace herself in a way "that won't use me up again." Atlantic started its marketing campaign with a quick, two-week U.S. promotional tour, with appearances booked on the late-night TV shows, MTV's "TRL," the My VH1 Awards Dec. 2, and a series of live radio Christmas shows in December.

The international release of "This Way" will be staggered to space out Jewel's schedule. It won't hit racks in Europe and parts of Asia until February 2002. This year, in addition to the U.S., it will be issued in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Latin America.

At retail, the forecast is optimistic, in part because of rekindled airplay of Jewel's sensitive "Hands" in the wake of Sept. 11. "It was unexpected, of course, but that put her back in people's minds," says Eric Keil, a buyer for the South Plainfield, N.J.-based Compact Disc World chain. "I think the public is in the mood for the kind of music that she makes -- plus, the first single is getting such a good reception at radio. That bodes well."

Jewel also gives this work her personal stamp of approval. "It was important that this record feel less premeditated," she says. "I needed to have fun, be sensual, be raucous, and feel sassy. I'm a fairly mercurial person, and I'm glad I got that across on this record."

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