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Last season, Jewel cozied up to contestants — and the camera — as host of Nashville Star. This season, she returns in a tougher capacity — as a judge — but don’t expect any Simon Cowell-esque tongue-lashings from her.

"I feel like we’re not there to tear people down, or at least I’m not," she tells Parade.com. "I want to be honest. I can’t lie and say I thought somebody was good if they weren’t. But I’m not trying to do it in a mean way or do it to get some sound bite on television by being maliciously clever like you see the judges do on some shows."

Having "taken a lot of criticism to heart" herself in her early days, Jewel understands how difficult it is to put oneself out there for the world to see. "But there are other times that you feel like you have to find your own way and be stubborn about it," she says.

The nice thing about reality shows like Nashville Star is that it could provide the fast track to fame…or can it?

"There’s only, like, one-and-a-half great performers that have come from American Idol. It’s hard," Jewel says of reality show overnight successes. "Just because you’re given the chance doesn’t mean you have everything that it takes. I feel lucky that I got to grow slow. As we used to say, ‘Hard wood does grow slowly.’"

The 33-year-old’s career most definitely grew slow in — graduating from acoustic folk to all-out country over the past decade. But don’t think Jewel tackled the genre on a whim.

"I was raised on country music," she says. "It’s not as if I woke up one day and said, ‘I think I’ll be a country singer.’ I’m doing the same kind of music now that I have always done. If ‘You Were Meant For Me’ was released today, it would be a country song. I’ve got songs I wrote when I was 18-years-old that are ready for Nashville."

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