Disappearing Jewel

Disappearing Jewel

Singer-songwriter Jewel can get away with calling the late country music legend June Carter Cash a "hillbilly" because she thinks of herself as one too. The parallels she sees between the singer who died in 2003 and herself are why she took on the lead role in the Carter Cash television biopic Ring Of Fire.

"We were raised like hillbillies, I think, and both of us were raised in musical families. Comedy and humour have been a big part of my life overcoming my hardship and I think that was a big part of June's life," says Jewel, 39, in a telephone interview to promote the television movie, which will premiere here on Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514) on Sunday.

Despite their similarities, she was careful not to come across in the slightest as Jewel.

"For me to be able to really transform, I had to make sure that Jewel the singer disappeared and that June was the only person present on screen."

By her own reckoning, the transformation was entirely successful, for since playing the role, she has found herself taking on the veteran's mannerisms in real life.

"Sometimes, I feel like June comes with me now. I use phrases of hers or things like that. When you delve into a character so much, it makes you feel almost that you become friends with them, they influence your manners a little bit."

Film buffs will no doubt compare her performance with that of actress Reese Witherspoon's Oscar-winning portrayal of Carter Cash in 2005's Walk The Line.

If she is concerned, she does not show it.

"I love Reese's performance," she says. "I didn't see our performances as competing. As much as I thought if you enjoyed Walk The Line, you might enjoy getting to know June and her story, I saw them as complementary."

Walk The Line - which portrayed Carter Cash's turbulent yet lasting relationship with her husband, the iconic musician Johnny Cash - is a "wonderful" movie, adds Jewel.

Ring Of Fire, she stresses, is different because it focuses on Carter Cash's side of the story.

Jewel, best known for hits such as Foolish Games, You Were Meant For Me and Who Will Save Your Soul from her breakout 1996 debut album Pieces Of You, made her maiden film appearance as a young widow in director Ang Lee's 1999 western, Ride With The Devil.

Born in Utah as Jewel Kilcher, she was raised in Alaska and started singing in bars with her father from young. Before getting discovered in 1994, she earned a living playing in the streets and coffee houses across the United States, and was even homeless for a year in California.

The sudden success of Pieces Of You, which sold 12 million copies in the US alone, threw her into the limelight. Looking back on her almost overnight success, she says it validated her.

"I never had anybody in my life say, 'I like you for who you are'. And I was so honest on that first record, if it hadn't been popular, I think I might have felt the pressure to change who I was for approval."

Ironically, she says, the same instant success ruins many young stars today. "I think a lot of kids with my background implode with fame because with all your insecurities, fame is like adding gasoline to a fire of insecurity."

Since her music debut, she has released 10 more albums, two albums of children's songs, Lullaby (2009) and The Merry Goes 'Round (2011), and a best-selling book of poetry, A Night Without Armor (1998).

In 2008, she married world champion rodeo cowboy Ty Murray and gave birth to their son in 2011.

Despite her responsibilities as a mother, she is certainly keeping busy - she was recently announced as the new judge on television singing show The Sing- Off and is also working on a children's book and a Christmas album.

"I have a two-year-old, so I kind of try to do projects that are easy to do and a lot of these are easy to juggle."

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