It's 6pm on an autumn evening in Texas. It may be the witching hour for anyone with small children but singer Jewel sounds calm and collected. She's on the phone on the eve of the release of her children's book and song, That's What I'd Do, while her rodeo star husband Ty Murray is in the background playing hide and seek with their 14-month-old son Kase.
''My husband is amazing, a completely dedicated dad,'' she says, proudly. And it sounds like giggling Kase isn't causing the household too many dramas.
''You know, he's such a good little guy,'' she says. ''He's very easygoing and really cheerful and really happy. He's been an easy dream. We've been really blessed.''
There is no nanny or babysitter. Jewel and Murray have wanted to be the hands-on parents ever since Kase was born in July last year.
''It was important for me to try to take advantage of this time, it's so fleeting,'' she says.
''I've been blessed enough to be successful and so I can take these moments and take time off work. So we really have. I haven't toured. I've really done all the things I can do from home so I don't have to leave him. It's been great. I've really loved it.
''I'll definitely go back and tour at some point but I'm really not in a hurry. It goes so fast, you know?''
She has described her first children's book as a love story to her son and a tangible expression of the bond between mother and child. She wrote the song while she was pregnant and ''as I was writing it, I was thinking, I really want to make this into a book. The words really stood alone and had a different dimension.''
That's What I'd Do, the song, is a beautiful, lilting ode to everything a mother would do for her child. The book, which includes the CD, has gorgeous illustrations by Amy June Bates of a mother and baby sharing intimate moments throughout their day. (''That last picture, when they're sort of touching foreheads and noses, made me tear up when I first saw it, it was really sweet,'' she says.)
''I really wanted, hopefully, to give parents a little something to share with their children as a keepsake to let them know how much they love them,'' Jewel says. ''Writing really inspired me as a child and I loved images and metaphors and I really wanted to write something that was poetic and let kids have a sort of a measure of your love and all the things you would do for them.''
There is definitely a sense of contentment in the voice of the 38-year-old singer, whose stunning looks are thanks to German-Swiss heritage. From a hardscrabble upbringing in Alaska, where her own mother left the family when she was eight, to becoming an internationally lauded singer with one of the biggest-selling albums of all time - Pieces of You - Jewel appears to have negotiated her huge change of fortune with an incredibly level head. But she says she could have just as easily been another Hollywood casualty.
''It's a choice,'' she says. ''I think having a difficult upbringing, I wasn't raised to be very happy. I wasn't taught to be happy and I think happy is a learnt thing. I really had to teach myself how to be happy, I had to create happiness for myself. Fame can certainly present many obstacles to that. I think it's why you see so many unhappy famous people who are on drugs and so many other things. I knew I was very vulnerable to becoming one of those statistics, so I made a very conscious effort about making choices that would lead to happy results. And, for me, that meant really balancing work and not just taking every opportunity. It meant turning down money and doing things that would make me less famous because I wasn't working as much but it gave me a happy, manageable life. I choose to live outside of Los Angeles, outside of Hollywood, outside the camera's eye. I'm able to do publicity and press and be public but no paparazzi follow me. I have a life, I have my privacy and I have a fan base, most importantly, who let me be myself. And I feel all those choices really contributed to what I have. And I'm very happy with what I have.''
Central to her happiness has been her husband Murray, a steel-jawed nine-time world rodeo champion who couldn't be less Hollywood.
''We met at a rodeo in Denver. Like all couples do,'' she says, with a laugh.
''We were friends for about a year. I was touring through Australia and Europe at the time and we just talked on the phone and developed a friendship. He just seemed like a very authentic person. He wasn't fake and he wasn't shallow and those are qualities that are hard to find anywhere in the world and especially in my profession. It felt like he had long-term personal morals, which would help make a long, healthy relationship, rather than just a shortened situation.''
They wanted to have a child but struggled to conceive.
''It took us a couple of years,'' she says.
''I ended up with an undiagnosed thyroid issue, which was hard to detect. I knew something was wrong, I didn't feel quite right. Every doctor kept saying I was fine. It just took a lot of perseverance and a lot of not giving up and really trying to figure it out and being your own advocate until you got some answers.''
And then came Kase. And he is obviously the love of their life, the three ensconced in domestic bliss. The little boy already enjoys music, anything with rhythm: ''He's been listening to some '80s Madonna recently.''
''He loves music, he loves dancing. Loves when I play him the guitar,'' she says.
''We just hang out at the house. I don't know what I did for entertainment before I had him. People call it 'baby vision': you just want to watch the baby. We go outside a lot. We live on a ranch so there's horses. He loves the outdoors. That's probably his favourite thing.''
Motherhood has been a revelation for Jewel, who has no contact with her own mother. She was raised with her two siblings in Alaska by her father in a house with no running water or heating. They lived off the land. She and her father formed a musical duo, performing anywhere and everywhere, from bank openings to biker bars.
She moved out of home when she was 15 and, after much struggle, was discovered in a coffee house in San Diego. She obviously had a prodigious talent. The dark, mature single Who Will Save Your Soul was the first song she ever wrote. The album Pieces of You was released in 1995. It went on to sell 12 million copies.
Later, there was everything from a tour with Bob Dylan to a performance at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. Yet, for all her success, Jewel believes one of her greatest achievements is that she is her father's daughter. ''He taught me to love horses and hard work and music,'' she says.
''My mum left us when I was eight and at the time I really didn't understand that she had left and just didn't want to be a mum any more. Now that is just so unbelievable, I just can't imagine it. It puts a whole new perspective on it and a new respect for my dad. He really took on three kids when there weren't a lot of single dads at the time. He really stood up to the plate and made a lot of sacrifices and it really wasn't perfect but I'm really glad he did the job that he did.''
Jewel wants to instil some of the lessons of her childhood in her own son.
''It seems like when things are easy for kids, it isn't the best way for them,'' she says. ''I certainly don't want my child to go through what I went through, there was a lot of heartbreak and I was on my own in ways that kids definitely shouldn't be. But at the same time, I've been around a lot of rich kids who never had much responsibility or struggle and it didn't really help them, it didn't do them a favour, as far as I can tell. So I really do hope I can teach him the good aspects and the rewards of working hard, because that's what really gives you confidence: when you see that when you put time into something it grows.''
Jewel says one of the sacrifices she's made for her family is putting a stop to tours to far-off locations such as Australia. But ''when the baby is older I would really love to come back there and tour,'' she says. Her focus, musically, more recently has been on producing her children's albums Lullaby and The Merry Goes 'Round.
As for more children, watch this space.
''You know, I'd be open to it but I don't think my husband is. My husband really feels like we beat the house. Kase is such a good, sweet baby.''
For all her success, Jewel seems incredibly humble and grateful for all she has.
''I'm just amazed I made it to the level I did. You know, being on the cover of Time magazine and being able to tour the world as a folk singer was kind of unheard of. I wasn't a pop princess. It was very sincere, authentic music and true to me, at least. I was amazed it was received as well as it was around the world, and very touched. I didn't have much validation in my life and, to be validated in that way, for people to be touched by my work, meant a lot to me.''
■ That's What I'd Do is published by Simon & Schuster Australia. $19.99.