By People Staff
Updated July 11, 2008 12:00 AM
Credit: NBC; Jeff Vespa/WireImage

Jessica Simpson has encountered some skeptics since announcing her plan to leave pop music and go country, but don’t count Jewel among them.

Instead, the Nashville Star judge offers a warm country welcome to Simpson, whose debut single, “Come on Over,” has cracked the top 25 on the Mediabase country airplay chart.

“I really like Jessica. She’s always been such a sweet, sweet person,” Jewel tells PEOPLE. “If I were going to give her any advice, I would say work hard and be authentic. Be true to who you are.”

If she does that, Jewel says, country fans will continue to embrace her. “The thing about country music is its fans have an excellent authenticity meter. They can spot bull—- a mile away,” Jewel says. “Anyone who comes to country music just to dabble in it, or who doesn’t know it or respect it as a genre and respect its history and tradition, is not going to make it.” That’s the same advice Jewel gives the contestants on the NBC reality competition Nashville Star, which she judges with John Rich and Jeffrey Steele.

And she should know. When it comes to her own music, including the recently released, chart-topping album, Perfectly Clear, Jewel is — well, perfectly clear that it ain’t her first rodeo in Nashville.

“I was raised on country music. It’s not as if I woke up one day and said, ‘I think I’ll be a country artist.’ I’m doing the same kind of music now that I have always done,” she says. ” If “You Were Meant For Me” (one of the hits from her first album Pieces of You) was released today, it would be a country song, I’d be signed to a Nashville label and my music would be promoted on country radio.”

In fact, Perfectly Clear is on a Nashville label (The Valory Music Co.), and the first single, “Stronger Woman,” is played on country radio. The new single, “I Do,” has just been released along with a video costarring her real-life boyfriend, rodeo cowboy Ty Murray.

Simpson’s wrote or co-wrote all but three of the songs on her first country album, due out this fall. No word on whether her real-life boyfriend, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, will appear in any music videos. — Kay WestNBC; Jeff Vespa/WireImage