Jamie Lynn Spears Talks Opening for Alabama, Family Life + More
Jamie Lynn Spears has come a long way since she moved to Nashville with the dream of making it in country music.
The former teen star of Nickelodeon's 'Zoey 101' wasn't exactly ideally situated at the time. She'd gotten pregnant at 16 and weathered a giant public controversy that ended in her show being canceled, and she moved to Music City as a young single mother with no contacts, plus the skewed perceptions that come along with not only her own fame, but that of her older sister, Britney Spears.
Jamie Lynn persevered, and last year proved pivotal for the young singer-songwriter. In March she married Jamie Watson, and in May she released her debut country EP, 'The Journey,' which features her first single, 'How Could I Want More.'
Spears has since kept busy with promotional appearances for the album, as well as settling into married life with her young family. Among the highlights of those appearances are a string of dates she just performed with country legends Alabama, one of her own musical influences.
Taste of Country caught up with Jamie Lynn Spears just before her shows to discuss opening for Alabama, settling into married life and much more in the following exclusive interview.
Congratulations on opening for Alabama. When did you get the news that that was happening?
I want to say almost a month ago. You have to work all the logistics out, so you can't say anything until it's all confirmed. But probably about a month ago, and of course, I'm really, really excited.
Have you actually met them before?
No, I haven't, so I'm just really excited. I'm not gonna bother them or anything, but if I can quickly just get a glimpse of them, that would be great.
With them being the biggest group in country music history, they had to have played some sort of role in your musical development.
Yeah, of course. Alabama is somebody that I have always loved, but I think what is so cool about them -- it's amazing, actually -- is that even people who aren't enormous fans, you know their music. You know of them, you know what they've done in the music world. I think that really says something about them. They really owned a place and made a place for themselves in the music world on all levels.
They're almost like the Beatles of country music.
Yeah! Everyone's familiar with their songs. It doesn't matter who you are.
Alabama is somebody that I have always loved, but I think what is so cool about them is that even people who aren't enormous fans, you know their music ... I think that really says something about them.
That's really exciting -- is there another part of you that thinks, 'Oh my god, you're on stage with these legends, you've got to really step it up'?
I try not to think about that part. I'm trying to think, 'Go have a good time.' I planned it to where my little girl and my mother could be with me, just because it's a special moment, and I'm just trying to look at it as one of those things where I'm just really blessed to stand on that stage with them.
Of course those thoughts creep into your head. I mean, these people are beyond legends, and then I have to go onstage before them, and their fans are there. I'm sure their fans will want to see something that's gonna be worth coming before Alabama. So it's definitely nerve-wracking.
Do you change up your setlist for a show like that -- do something that you wouldn't do on another night?
We try to change the setlist pretty often, whether it's taking a song or two in or out. The difference is, normally I'll play a 75-minute set, but I'm only playing 30 minutes. So you've really got to choose something that ... you're going out there first. You're supposed to hype up the crowd, get the crowd excited, and choosing the right songs for that I think is important.
Are these the biggest shows you've done in terms of name recognition?
I did some with Alan Jackson. Those were pretty amazing for me. They are pretty different artists, so on each level I respect them for different reasons, but this is a band, and Alan Jackson is your country man who's a writer and all of those things, and then you have Alabama, who's just kind of across the board. Everyone knows them. They're both so special to me for different reasons.
Did you get to speak with Alan Jackson?
I did! I got to meet him and my daddy got to meet him, and my husband got to meet him. He actually let us come on his bus, and he was so soft-spoken and so sweet. It's just really cool to see somebody who's still that humble. He is what he is.
He's such a low-key guy, you can barely believe that he can go out and do what he does.
I know! But some of the biggest stars, I've noticed, are that way. They're very to themselves, and then they go out on stage and they just take on this other personality.
I've said it before, I'll say it again -- it's opened a lot of doors, having my last name, but it's closed just as many.
How old is your daughter now?
She's six years old.
So you're settling into schools and married life and all kinds of different things all at once.
Yes. She's in first grade, and actually I had to plan this out with her school for her to be able to come and miss today at school and come with me this weekend. They're gonna let Maddie bring back some pictures and let it count as musical education. So she had to get all of the real work done before.
It's a lot going on at once, but I'm really blessed to be able to do what I'm doing. It's all about balancing it, and having a good support team around you, and I think it's all kind of falling in place.
How are you settling into married life and adjusting into being a family unit now?
It's like we've been together for so long now, it kinda just feels like it makes sense. It was kind of inevitable that it was gonna happen, but it's really nice to be a wife and to have a husband, and to really have that family. It's all official now, and it just all feels really good.
You have to adjust. The first year of marriage, you definitely get to throw the wife card out whenever you're mad.
Do you have a different quality of life in Nashville than you would in another entertainment town, like New York or L.A.?
I lived in Nashville for about three years, while I was writing my project and just figuring out the artist I wanted to be and mainly focusing on songwriting. I live in Louisiana now, because that's where I was born and raised, and that's where I want to raise my family. And I think that Nashville is turning into a real big city now. It feels like it's turning into the Hollywood of the South, I noticed a lot of people have called it. But I lived right outside of Nashville in Brentwood, so I lived in the suburbs.
We didn't realize you were back in Louisiana now. How's that in terms of commuting for work vs. family time?
It was important, during the time that I lived in Nashville, it was important for me to be there, because every day I was writing, I was taking voice lessons, I was taking guitar lessons. It was important to me to be there every day. It was like going to college for what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I really had to dedicate myself to it. So me and my little girl moved to Nashville, and that's what I did, day in and day out.
But when it came time to say, 'where do you want to raise your family, where do you want to have your life, where do you want home base to be?,' that's Louisiana for me. That's where I can go recharge and then throw myself back into work, and I think that now it's a lot easier because I travel a lot more, so it doesn't matter where home base is. But it's really important that I took that time in Nashville.
Nashville can be a town that's pretty wary of people that they perceive as outsiders. How did you get around that -- especially, not that you were ever a pop singer, but I think maybe that's some people's perception.
Yeah. I've said it before, I'll say it again -- it's opened a lot of doors, having my last name, but it's closed just as many. I think a lot of people don't understand, because of my last name -- they don't know my story, which is totally understandable. Here's this huge pop icon, so of course I get it. I'm proud of my sister and I'm proud of my last name. So it's just about me getting out there and telling my story, so people understand where I'm coming from a little bit better. But yeah, it definitely has people scratching their heads, for sure.
As far as going out and promoting your record and getting the reception you were looking for, do you feel like you've overcome that now, or do you still feel like you've got a way to go in overcoming people's outside perception?
I think for me, as long as true as I stay true to who I am as an artist, it's not really about proving anything to them. Of course, you want to be respected by your peers, and you want people to connect to you as an artist, but for me it's more about staying true to myself and doing something I believe in, and focusing on that. The rest will fall in place.
What's going to happen after this holiday break? Will we see another single coming out?
Possibly. I've got to re-evaluate and see what the next steps are for me, but I think 2015 will be an exciting year, just getting in there with my team and just saying, 'Okay, fresh start -- where do we go now?' I'm looking forward to that. But I don't have any set plans just yet.
We assume you'll be looking at some more recording at some point. Have you thought very much about that?
Yeah. Like I said, I was in Nashville for three years, just writing every day, so I have plenty of songs that I could release at any point. It definitely will be fun to get back into the studio and bring those to life. To me, being in the studio is one of the most exciting parts about being an artist. Really hearing your stories come to life, it's really an amazing thing.
It's the part of that job where you get to be alone with the art the most, as opposed to going out and doing the promotional part.
Yeah, exactly. I love that part. I could be in the studio 24 hours a day. That would be great. But that's not how this works. [Laughs.]
What kind of a writing process did you employ in writing all of these songs -- were you mostly writing alone, or co-writing by appointment?
I did a lot of co-writing by appointment at first, because I was new, and I didn't know anyone in Nashville, and I was a mom, so the only way I would ever meet people is to set up appointments. And from there I kinda figured out my niche, like who were the people that I really clicked with and really wanted to write with. You figure that out over time, and then you can get together when you want to. But at first it definitely took setting up appointments and making those connections. It was a really scary thing at first, because you don't have those connections at first.
What inspires you when you write by yourself? Do you set time aside to write, or write when you find a particular inspiration?
Always, if I'm by myself, it has to be an inspiration. If I'm driving in the car and something pops into my head, I just have to sing it real quickly and record it on my phone. For me, writing by myself, I can't set time aside to do it, because then it's not inspired, I feel like. But whenever you get in a room with people, it's different, because you can all bounce ideas off of each other. But when you're by yourself, I definitely think you have to start with inspiration.
Do you start with lyrics more, or a chord progression or melody, or just an idea?
A lot of times it'll be a lyric for me. Sometimes a melody. I'm more lyric-driven and more melody-driven.
Then how do you develop that into a song?
I'm one of those people who can play a little bit on the guitar, enough to kind of write, but I couldn't do a full song by myself. So I definitely have to take my ideas and bounce them off of someone else, and make sure I'm not crazy. But it's really cool to see it come together like that -- you have this idea, you have this melody or whatever it is, and then for me I wrote with my producer sometimes, which was really cool, because he would look at it in the big picture as well.
It's always a different way. There's no set formula for me.
Do you think it's possible your next recording project will be a full album?
Of course everybody, their ultimate goal is to put out a full album. That's something that is always in the back of my head. But right now I've got to figure out the next steps for me, and it's kind of up in the air.
There's been a lot of debate about women at country radio and what seems to be an imbalance of opportunity for women at radio. What's your take on that?
It's definitely a time right now where a lot of guys are out there killing it in country music, and I respect that. I think there's a lot of talented women. I think what just happened at the [CMA] awards show with Kacey Musgraves winning and performing with Loretta Lynn, I think that was a really cool moment for country music, and that really gave me real hope, saying what she's doing is really connecting with people. I think that's something all of us women in country music can take from, to support each other, and I think it will all fall back into place. I think it's an exciting time.
What a bold choice to win Song of the Year.
I know! The song, and her -- even the way she looks, it looked like country music again, you know?
Is there anything else you want fans to know about your concert dates with Alabama or anything else that you've got going on?
Just that I'm really excited right now to be on the road with Alabama, and hopefully I'll see you all again soon in 2015.
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