The singer opens up to PEOPLE about her divorce, motherhood and life's struggles

By Steve Helling and Katie Kauss
Updated September 15, 2015 05:45 PM
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Credit: Gustavo Caballero/Getty

Jewel has never been one to shy away from talking about life’s ups and downs.

And Jewel has weathered her share of storms. From her 2014 split from Ty Murray to her battles with sexual harassment in the music industry, things haven’t always been easy for the 41-year-old singer.

So why sing about things that are so personal? “It’s really about being truthful,” Jewel tells PEOPLE. “And being true to who I am, and not shying away from things. I try to be brave in all my decisions.”

Jewel gets startling candid in two new projects. Her first studio album in five years, Picking Up the Pieces, debuted Friday. Her new memoir, Never Broken was released on Tuesday.

In the memoir, she opens up about her teenaged homelessness, her rise to fame, and her estranged relationship with her mother. (They haven’t spoken in 12 years.)

So was Jewel worried what her 4-year-old son, Kase, would think when he grows up and reads the book?

“I’m aware that someday, Kase will be reading it,” she says. “So that certainly did inform some of the things I was willing to say. But in general, I think the best gift we can give each other is transparency – what it really takes to be human, what we really face. Otherwise, there’s tremendous isolation if we think we’re going through things alone.

“I’m not ashamed of anything that I’ve been through or how I’ve gone through it,” she adds.

That includes her divorce from Murray. “If there’s a person out there who doesn’t know heartbreak or loss, then I’m very happy for them,” she says. “But I think it’s pretty rare. My heartbreak has made me stronger.”

Jewel tells PEOPLE that she doesn’t regret the past five years. “I took time off to try to build a family. I enjoyed it, and taking time to learn what being a mom meant to me. I turned my career around so I could make being a mom a priority.”

“Now, I feel like it’s reasonable to start working again,” she says. “As a mom, I didn’t want to do a 6-7 months promo tour. I made an album that won’t be played on the radio, and that’s fine with me.”

So what does she make of her struggles now? “These are the things that make us human,” she says. “I’ve had heartbreak, but I’ve also had a lot of happiness. I can still laugh.”

Check out some of the more lighthearted moments from Jewel’s PEOPLE interview in the video above.