Singer Jewel Growing Happier With Life

Jewel seemed to burst onto the music scene from nowhere, a young woman with one name and a folk-pop sound. Before long, she was mega-platinum and famous.

Then she dropped out of sight, recently reemerging with a slicker sound and a hot new look that had her fans and critics shocked. Jewel's new facet was very polished, very sexy — and, said critics of her video for the song "Intuition," very Britney.

Jewel told ABCNEWS Primetime's Cynthia McFadden she finds the comparison to teen idol Britney Spears "funny."

"It doesn't annoy me," she said. "They just didn't get the joke on the video. You know, that video was done with such tongue in cheek. You can't take it serious. I'd be amazed if any critic genuinely took it seriously."

But some did, calling the video a "rip-off," "a fake," and a "swaggering departure," designed just to sell records in a crumbling industry, furious that the country girl had dared engineer such a radical change.

"The video gets more and more ridiculous, more and more over the top to where, hopefully, you know it has to be a joke," Jewel said. "By the time I get to the fireman scene — I'm being hosed down — you realize it's just a pastiche on music videos and what happens in music videos."

‘Sexy and Smart’

Jewel is particularly proud of her latest video, "Stand," just released this month.

"I feel like my career's in a place where I understand it, where I love music and I love to be able to be able to play it," she said. "But, you know, it doesn't consume my constant, every thought. So, like, I can kind of have a balanced life. … I feel better in my body. I feel sexier than I've ever felt."

On the brink of 30, Jewel said she loves her evolution, going against the grain and playing against type.

"I really do challenge the idea that you can't be sexy and smart at the same time," she said.

Poor in Alaska

Discovered at a coffeehouse 10 years ago, Jewel rocketed to fame, a new breed of folk-pop singer-songwriter. She was 19, with an amazing voice and an amazing story.

Jewel grew up poor in the Alaskan wilderness on the same 800-acre homestead as her father had — no plumbing, no hot water, but plenty of music.

"My parents had a show in a hotel when I was real young," she said. "And I learned to yodel, and did that on the stage with my family."

In many ways, it seems Jewel had very little childhood.

By age 8, her parents divorced and her mother left her with her father.

She remembers the beginnings of depression that would follow her throughout her life.

"It's starting to [go away] more and more," she said. "I think I'm learning more about it. … I don't want to spend the rest of my adult life learning to get over my childhood. And I think music's helped me a lot with that."

By 14, Jewel was singing in bars with her father.

By 16, she was living alone in a one-room cabin.

Looking back, she feels she may have grown up too fast.

"In a lot of ways, I was protected, too, just by grace, probably; I don't know what," she said. "But luckily, you know, worse things could have happened to me that never did."

‘It All Worked Out’

At 18, she made a decision to live in a van, at her mother's suggestion.

"I don't know if it was a good idea or not," Jewel said. "But it all worked out good."

With no rent to worry about, she could concentrate on her on her music.

Ironically, since those days, she has spent most of her time living on the road, touring the world. Little wonder, perhaps, that the idea of home is so important to her now. Just this month, she bought a new house in Los Angeles.

But for Jewel, at this point in her life, home is not a place, but a person — Ty Murray. Murray is her boyfriend of the past five years and a seven-time world champion cowboy.

"He's a really constant love," she said. "He's also a really dependable, decent grown-up. I don't know many grown-ups in the world. He's a real man. And I know a lot of children that are very old. And he's a real accountable adult. And that's just a really rare thing to find."

"I'd like to get married at some point," she added. "I don't believe in causal marriage. I know Ty doesn't either."

After two years off on Ty's ranch, Jewel said life feels "really good."

"I feel saner than I've ever felt," she said. "I feel like I have a better shot than I've ever had. … I really like getting older. It suits me well."