Jewel Kilcher has come a long way since her days of living out of her car and singing in coffee shops.

Along the way, the singer-songwriter had to battle a lot of hardships, from abuse to living on her own at age 15 in a cabin with no running water to homelessness and beyond. Those experiences inspired her music, but also the life she lives and lessons she wants to share with her fans.

“My entire life has been about, ‘How do I become an architect of a life I create and not just a life I inherited?’” she told Hoopla in a phone interview. “It’s what I write music about.”

She’ll bring her music — and her family — to Iowa this weekend for a show at Riverside Casino Saturday (12/9) and Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines Monday (12/11). Tickets to the Riverside show are sold out, but a handful remained available in Des Moines as of Hoopla’s deadline.

Jewel’s Handmade Holiday Tour brings her father Atz Kilcher and brothers Atz Lee and Nikos onstage with her. The family — all musicians — open and help close the show, with Jewel taking center stage to sing holiday music — she has released two Christmas albums — sprinkled with a couple of her biggest hits.

It’s not the first time the wider Kilcher family has been in the spotlight. Atz Kilcher and Atz Lee are featured on the Discovery Channel’s reality show “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” which documents the family’s life on a homestead outside Homer, Alaska.

Jewel’s relationship with her father wasn’t always positive. She got her start in music singing backup for him, but after her parents divorced when she was 8, he became alcoholic and abusive. She moved out at age 15 and lived by herself in a one-room cabin before earning a scholarship to performing arts high school Interlochen in Michigan. During one spring break at the school, when the students all had to leave campus, she hitchhiked across the United States and Mexico. It was during that trip that she wrote what would later become her hit single, “Who Will Save Your Soul.”

After graduating, she drifted, homeless and sleeping in her car, eventually playing a coffee shop gig that got her noticed by record labels. Since her debut album, “Pieces of You,” was released in 1998, she has sold more than 27 million copies of her albums.

She and her father have since reconciled and again have a positive relationship.  

“My dad went through an amazing transformation where he got sober, he learned a lot of the things I learned,” she said. “He learned how to be the architect of his own life. He was raised in an abusive childhood himself.”

Though she now lives in Nashville, she wants her son to know his Alaskan family, and this tour is part of that.

“My son gets to have this amazing relationship with this pioneer man,” she said. “I live so far from my family. For me this is a way to get my whole family together.”

The tour also is about spreading that ethos of love, forgiveness and family.

“I really wanted to try and help solve things for what I see happening in culture,” she said.

A craft fair before the show will be open to ticket holders, who can come and make a handmade gift.

She hopes those gifts can alleviate at least some of the pressure to spend money at Christmas for participants.

“Holidays can be the hardest times for parents and kids. Growing up, a lot of my friends would just be dying for Christmas to be over because they knew their parents were embarrassed they couldn’t give them a better Christmas,” she said.

The tour, through partner Zappos, also is sponsoring pet adoptions through Des Moines-based Hope Animal Shelter of Iowa. All adopters must be preapproved before Dec. 16 to qualify. Applications can be completed online at Adoptions will be at no charge, thanks to Zappos for Good.

All adoptions will be completed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 16 at PetSmart, 5050 SE 14th St., Des Moines. Other times that day are available by appointment.

Jewel said she hopes the “Handmade Holiday Tour” continues on as a sort of musical franchise, with other artists stepping in to take on her idea of combining music and good deeds on the road. The tour will continue in future years, she hopes, just with other headliners.

The idea behind the tour is all about spreading community alongside the songs.

“I wanted to create a sense of connection and community for myself as well,” she said. “So when I’m looking at something I want to solve in the culture at large, I’m solving it for myself as well.”

That sense of connection and community is one of the things she loves about music.

“Music is about how we connect, the stories we tell,” she said. “It really has nothing to do with making a living, it just happens to be how I ended up making a living.”


WHAT: Jewel’s Handmade Holiday Tour
WHEN and WHERE: 8 p.m. Saturday (12/9) at Riverside Casino, 3184 Highway 22, Riverside; 7:30 p.m. Monday (12/11) at Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave., Des Moines
TICKETS: Sold out at Riverside; $49 to $89.50 for Des Moines show, available at