Last Updated on March 12, 2022 by Lil Ginge
Pieces of You is Jewel’s debut album. It was released in 1995. The album sold over 12 million copies in the United States and is one of the best-selling debut albums of all time. The album peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart on March 1, 1997, while staying on the chart for a total of 114 weeks.
The album, co-produced by Ben Keith, only had a budget of about $50,000. To promote it, Jewel and a surfer friend drove around from gig to gig at high schools, stores, and radio shows. But, the album did not catch on right away. It would be over a year before the album would start making waves. Jewel also got an assist from an opening spot on Bob Dylan’s tour.
Pieces of You was released on February 28, 1995 in the United States and falls under the pop/rock and folk-rock genres. The album, recorded live at The Innerchange and at the Broken Arrow Ranch studio in Redwood City, California, clocks in at 58:31 and was released by Atlantic Records.
Songwriting and Development of Pieces of You
Jewel, innately gifted, wrote the songs on Pieces of You when she was just a teenager, mostly between the ages of 16 and 19, and honed them playing at The Innerchange, a cafe in San Diego where she had a weekly gig. There is a mixture of both studio and live recordings on the album – the live ones were recorded at The Innerchange. The studio tracks were done at Neil Young’s personal studio in Redwood City, California. Steve Poltz, Jewel’s ex-boyfriend, co-wrote two of the album’s tracks. Poltz met Jewel at Java Joe’s where she was a barista.
The song “Who Will Save Your Soul” was written while Jewel was busking during a solo hitchhiking trip she took during her spring break from Interlochen Center for the Arts, where she had a vocal scholarship. And the song “You Were Meant For Me” was written during a drug bust in Mexico where Jewel and Poltz were traveling.
The couple happened to be whale watching with cops who suddenly got a call to arrest drug smugglers. Jewel and Steve Poltz were given AK-47s just in case something went bad, a memorable experience to be sure. The songwriting pair also helped the cops load the confiscated pot. Jewel was convinced she was going to be framed for the drugs, but thankfully she wasn’t.
Jewel’s buzz rocketed when a bootleg recording of her playing at The Innerchange to her large San Diego following was broadcast on 91 XFM radio. The bootleg proved so popular that it ignited a bidding war for her musical services at the major labels. She would ultimately sign with Atlantic Records, launching her recording career and setting the stage for the production of Pieces of You.
Recording Pieces of You
Ben Keith was the co-producer of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, an album Jewel loved. As a result, she chose him to be the album’s producer. He was not a slick producer and stuck with Jewel’s raw natural sound, which was part of what made Pieces of You so successful as a debut album. It was so different from so much other music hot on the radio at the time – lots of grunge and alternative rock like Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and Live. Keith had also produced albums by country legend Patsy Cline.
On the music vibes of the time Jewel has said:
“Listening back to these songs, I hear a lot of courage, though I didn’t feel that at the time. I was really raw, but I wanted people to feel what I was feeling as intensely as I was,” says Jewel of this important period in her career. “I knew it was going to be a slow process, but I also saw a change in the zeitgeist. Grunge was a tectonic shift in the culture, but you can’t live in cynicism forever. I happened to be a little ahead of that curve in my own life—I was thinking about what do I do with pain, how do I stay sensitive?”Jewel Kilcher
On her experiences with studio recording, Jewel also said:
Typically I’ve had difficulty in the studio. I don’t sing as raw, it’s just a bit more tame. I’m a live singer who’s always fed off the energy of the audience. In a studio, you’re just looking at a wall—it feels very odd to me. I’ve been a live performer since I was six years old. The reason I recorded the album live with the band was so that I could play guitar, which I usually never do in the studio, while I sing at the same time. The band was accustomed to following singer-songwriters and feeling for me slowing down and speeding up. It has a real ebb and a flow and a naturalness that didn’t inhibit my singing or performanceJewel on recording Pieces of You.
Music Videos from Pieces of You
The video for Who Will Save Your Soul was filmed in a bathroom serving as a kind of sanctuary. For Jewel, it was the only place in a busy city where she could get some alone time. She missed the outdoors and nature of her youth in Alaska, and bathrooms became a kind of holy space.
The Album’s Reception
The lead single “Who Will Save Your Soul” wasn’t released until June 4, 1996. It peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second single, “You Were Meant For Me” was the second single from the album. It was released on November 12, 1996, and reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third single was “Foolish Games” which also reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. As of 2015, the album has sold 12 million copies. When You Were Meant For Me was released it became Atlantic’s biggest selling single to that time.
Entertainment Weekly’s David Browne was staunchly unimpressed by what he considered Pieces of You’s “wimpy” production. But what he might call “wimpy”, many others see as raw, passionate, and honest. He ultimately gave the album a very middling C+. Meanwhile, Robert Christgau of Village Voice simply considered Pieces of You “bad folkie joke to end all bad folkie jokes” and gave the album an even lower C-.
The album wasn’t hated by all critics though. Both Sarah Sytsma and Stephen Thomas Erlewine, reviewing for Allmusic, called the album “charming.” Although Sytsma considers some of the lyrics to be naive, she feels the songs are saved by the powerful melodies.
- Who Will Save Your Soul (4:00)
- Pieces of You (4:15)
- Little Sister (2:29)
- Foolish Games (5:39)
- Near You Always (3:08)
- Painters (6:43)
- Morning Song (3:35)
- Adrian (7:02)
- I’m Sensitive (2:54)
- You Were Meant For Me (4:13)
- Don’t (3:34)
- Daddy (3:49)
- Angel Standing By (2:38)
- Amen (4:32)
Singles From Pieces of You
- “Who Will Save Your Soul” – Released on June 4, 1996
- “You Were Meant For Me” – Released on November 12, 1996
- “Foolish Gamess” – Released on July 8, 1997
- “Morning Song” – Released on January 9, 1998
- Oscar Butterworth – drums
- Tim Drummond – bass
- Jewel Kilcher – Guitar, Lead Vocals
- Spooner Oldham – Keyboards
Additional Musicians On Pieces of You
- Robbie Buchanan – Piano (Who Will Save Your Soul, Morning Song)
- Charlotte Caffey – Piano, Arrangements (Pieces of You, Foolish Games, Near You Always)
- Flea – Bass
- Mark Howard – Bass (Morning Song)
- The Stray Gators (accompanists on “Who Will Save Your Soul”, You Were Meant For Me)
- Kris Wilkinson – Strings
Produced by Ben Keith
- John Dixon – Assistant Mixer, Engineer
- Gene Eichelberger – Mixing
- Danny Goldberg – Special Adviser
- John Hausmann – Engineer (assistant)
- Tim Mulligan – Digital Editing, Engineer, Mastering, Mixing
- John Nowland – Engineer, Mixing
- Jenny Price – A&R
- Gena Rankin – Production Coordinator
- Inga Vaishtein – Management
- John Codling – Art Direction
- Hugh Hales-Tooke – Photography
Music and Lyrics by Jewel Kilcher
“Adrian” and “You Were Meant For Me” – written by Steve Poltz and Jewel Kiltcher/