"Once this crisis hit, I really felt like this was the song I needed to share with people," Jewel tells PEOPLE of the song, the first off her upcoming studio album

By Dave Quinn
April 07, 2020 11:00 AM
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Jewel knows it’s important to focus on gratitude, even during a dark time.

The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter, 45, released an uplifting new song on Tuesday called “Grateful,” singing about the transformative capability of finding a bright side to see during life’s challenges.

PEOPLE has an exclusive premiere of the guitar-driven pop rock track and its lyric video. The tune is the first single off of Jewel’s upcoming twelfth studio album — her first LP in five years — out later this year.

“The sun’s gonna shine in this heart of mine / The sun’s gonna shine in this heart of mine / The sun is going to shine, it’s true,” she sings in the song’s rousing chorus. “‘Cause I can all always be grateful.’

It’s a message that has become an especially valuable tool in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Once this crisis hit, I really felt like this was the song I needed to share with people,” Jewel tells PEOPLE. “I wasn’t going to be releasing anything yet. I had zero plan, I’m just now mixing the record. But these are the times I feel like my music’s built for. I’m built to help create connection, and I want to help give these tools to people.”

“My life has been full of crazy obstacles, of insurmountable heartbreaks, and trying to figure out how to deal with crazy situations. I sort feel like my whole life has prepared me to help right now,” she jokes.

Jewel
Brendan Walter

Jewel herself learned about the power of gratitude 25 years ago, while homeless and unable to get out of the vicious poverty cycle.

Though she had moved out of her abusive household at 15 determined not to be a statistic, she found years later she wasn’t able to beat the odds, when she was fired by her boss from her job without pay after refusing to have sex with him. She wound up living out of her car and then on the streets after her car was stolen, unable to get work.

A rock-bottom moment, when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror while shoplifting a dress from a clothing store in San Diego, helped Jewel realize she needed to start rewiring her brain.

“I was sick, I was broke, and for some reason I remembered this quote by Buddha, that ‘happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you have, it depends on what you think,’ ” Jewel recalls. “That’s really all I had left. And so I wanted to see if I could turn my life around one thought at a time.”

She started when she felt a panic attack coming on. “I just forced myself, even though I didn’t feel like it, to focus on something that I could be grateful for,” Jewel says. “I ended up looking at the sun filtering through this palm tree that really was beautiful, and it was warm and I was alive, and I just began to be really profoundly grateful for that one simple thing.”

That’s the same principle Jewel sings about in “Grateful.” All these years later, she still uses the mindfulness technique as a way to overcome obstacles.

“Anxiety has been a teacher to me,” she shares. “Every single thought, feeling, and action leads you to only one of two basic states of being: dilated, where you feel open and relaxed, and contracted, where you feel anxious and tight. When I was heading into a panic attack and feeling this overwhelming anxiety, that would be debilitating. So I learned, through becoming deeply grateful, that I could hack my way out of that contracted state by forcing myself to very consciously engage in a feeling that dilates me.”

Jewel
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Mental health has long been a focus of Jewel’s. For more than 18 years, her Never Broken program within her foundation has helped at-risk and homeless youth with their psychological well-being, giving them a toolkit of exercises to help put them back in the driver’s seat of their lives.

Her website, JewelNeverBroken.com, has also become an emotional fitness destination for a community of users looking to practice mindfulness, find resilience, and cultivate positive change in their lives. The site features many of Jewel’s tried and true exercises, with a team of esteemed doctors and leading experts in meditation research helping explain the science behind the work.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Jewel has also been using her platform to shed light on COVID-19’s silent symptoms like fear, isolation, and depression.

She’s launched a now-weekly at-home concert and talk series titled, “Live from San Quarantine.” The first installment of the show, which will stream on Jewel’s social media pages every Thursday, raised more than $550,000 for her foundation.

“What we’re facing isn’t just the virus; we’re facing this miserable triad of the virus in combination with an economic downfall and a mental health crisis. And I don’t honestly think one’s to be underestimated over another,” Jewel says. “Suicides tend to double during recessions. There were 1.4 million suicide attempts last year, so if that doubles, that number could far surpass the death toll of the virus. Our mental health is critical right now. We have to give people the tools and the feeling of connection and being nourished even in their homes.”

One exercise that’s helped Jewel stay calm and present during the coronavirus has been shutting off the noise of social media and the news, which she affectionately calls “fear porn.”

“I only log on to the CDC’s website or other government websites to know best practices and then I turn off the rest,” Jewel says. “These aren’t times where we get to mess around with negative messaging. It’s debilitating. We can’t really be thinking about where this is going to end, because that isn’t really up to us. So turn off all the extra noise and all the fear, and ground yourself.”

“Get curious now,” Jewel stresses. “Ask yourself, ‘What experience do I want out of this?’ Or maybe, ‘What is the one thing I would love to leave behind that I never thought I’d have the time or the courage to do?’ If you’re going to be mindful in this time, you’re going to notice you’re scared. That’s normal. But peace isn’t the absence of something, it’s being willing to come in harmony with what is.”

The Alaskan-born songstress has found turning off the “fear porn” during the coronavirus has been especially helpful for her 8-year-old son Kase Townes, whom she shares with ex-husband Ty Murray.

“With our kids, they’re not going to remember all the details of what’s happening [with this pandemic], they’re going to remember the mood in the house that you created,” Jewel notes. “So I’ve really focused on creating a beautiful environment where we get to spend real quality time.”

That’s not always easy to do for parents, Jewel admits. But letting yourself off the hook is crucial.

“Look, I’m in the same boat, trying to juggle my job and teaching my son. You know, the homeschooling deal is real. It’s so much work. Five hours, at least, a day — and I only have one child, I can’t imagine multiple children!” she says. “We’re going to get through this. Our kids are going to go to school. It’s going to be okay. The most important thing is the mood and the environment. Just to focus on that, and cut yourselves some slack.”