Jaida Dreyer didn’t grow up intending to become a country music artist, but to hear the story of her crooked road to Nashville, it’s clear she was meant to be here all along. Her unmistakable voice, bubbly personality, and eclectic, insightful songwriting scored her a publishing deal with Grammy Award-winning producer Byron Gallimore (Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Sugarland) at the precocious age of 19; this February, Gallimore announced the creation of his own label, Streamsound Records, and threw his full support behind Dreyer’s career. “I’m proud for her to be our flagship artist,” says Gallimore. “She’s the real deal. I couldn’t feel stronger about anybody.” Her remarkable voice and commitment to doing whatever it takes for the sake of her craft has established her as one of the most promising newcomers in country music. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Jaida Dreyer to discuss her musical roots, the creation of her debut album and what is in store for her in the months to come!
What are your first memories of music in your life?
Music first came into my life through singing in church and along with the radio on long road trips.
Who would you cite as your biggest influences as an artist?
It wouldn’t be one person in particular; I’d have to credit the vast array of dysfunctional characters I’ve come in contact with over the years.
What made you pursue music as a career instead of going a different route?
Before I moved to Nashville I actually grew up showing horses professionally. I won my first World Championship when I was 5 and turned pro when I was 13 years old. Leaving the horses wasn’t a choice I consciously made, it was really made for me. The years of riding and physical labor had taken a toll on my back when I was 17. I had to re-evaluate my life plan. It was find another profession, or face serious health consequences. Shifting my path to writing songs was an easy one because it was the only other thing that I knew how to do.
Your debut album is titled “I Am Jaida Dreyer”. How did you arrive at this title and what does it mean to you personally?
I feel like a lot of debut records are self titled, but I wanted something a little different. Considering I wrote or co-wrote everything on this record, it just seemed appropriate.
What can you tell us about the writing process for this album?
I really had no set process per se. I haven’t lived a lot of years, but I’ve lived a lot of life and fortunately that’s given me a lot to write about. I didn’t set out to write an album, which I think has a lot to do with writing the songs I write. I just tried to write the best songs possible, while being as honest as I could and I think when you do that you’ll eventually get a group of songs that are cohesive with one another.
Are you an artist who is always writing? If so, what do you find inspiring you these days?
Pretty much. I try to look at it like a job and make myself jot something down every day, whether it be a single line, idea, catch phrase, whatever. Your brain is a muscle and I believe if you don’t use it, you lose it. As far as inspiration goes, I deal with issues in my life, usually concerning love, by writing them out. You can write a lot of records on one broken heart.
For the album, you worked with producer Byron Gallimore. How did you two originally cross paths?
To make a long story short, I was writing songs with the wife of the GM of his publishing company at the time. He took some worktapes of songs we’d been writing to Byron. I was just about to sign a publishing deal with a different company and Byron’s came in at the very last minute. I went and had lunch with him and from the moment I shook his hand I just knew that’s where I was supposed to be. I’ve been there ever since and I doubt you’ll ever find me anywhere else.
He is an amazing producer by all accounts. What did he bring to the table for this project and bring out of you as an artist?
Byron really gave me a lot of freedom and enough rope on this record to hang myself if I wanted to, which is a luxury a lot of new artists don’t get these days. He really allowed me to take my time, be myself, cut the songs I wanted to and say what I wanted to say which I’m really thankful for. You won’t find a bigger fan of me and my songs than that man and I can’t say enough wonderful things about him.
As an artist, what was the biggest challenge you encountered during the making of “I Am Jaida Dreyer”?
Narrowing down the actual songs to cut. I’ve written close to 500 songs since I’ve been in Nashville and was writing throughout the recording process. It was difficult trying to figure out exactly what I needed to say on this debut record and what could wait until the next one.
Your first single from the album is “Half Broke Horses”. Can you tell us a little about the song and why it is so dear to you?
I wrote “Half Broke Horses” with the Warren Brothers and our friend Lance Miller. This song is a realistic glimpse into my past, where I came from, the things that have molded me into the person I am today. I always catch myself saying it’s the closest thing I have to a cowboy and a horse song, which it is, but more than that it’s about my relationship with my estranged father.
What is the biggest thing you have learned about yourself while putting the album together?
I should try to write more happy songs.
How do you feel you have evolved as an artist since you first started out?
When I first started out, I was really just in songwriter mode. It was about writing and having an audience appreciate the actual lyric and melody. Over the last few years I have learned to connect with an audience more on an artist level and entertain, not simply play the songs.
The album was released a week or so ago. Did you do anything special to celebrate this milestone?
We had a record release party here in Nashville for friends, family, songwriters, publishers and folks that were involved with this record. It was special having so many people that have been instrumental in my career together in the same room.
Can we expect you to do videos for some of the songs on the album?
Yes, yes. We shot the video for “Half Broke Horses” a couple weeks ago and I’m so excited for everyone to see it. The director, Paul Cain, did an amazing job on bringing to life such an important video for me. It was my first real video shoot experience and my first on screen kiss too.
What do you hope that people come away with after seeing your live show?
I hope they walk away with a reinstated faith in female country artists.
When might we expect to see you on the road in support of the album?
I’m a road warrior, so it’s a rarity that you’ll find me off the road. I’ll be back out there this spring and through the end of the year in support of the record.
It seems like almost everybody has one. Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap Moment” on stage where something totally unexpected has happened?
I was on the Jagermeister Tour with Eric Church and it was one of our first nights out on this tour. I put a bottle of water between my legs to try and open it while simultaneously trying to tell a story on the mic. While unscrewing the cap the entire bottle spilled all over my pants. I had to perform the rest of my 45-minute set looking like I peed my pants. So embarrassing and even more uncomfortable!
You have opened and worked with some huge names in the industry. Has anyone given you any advice about the business?
“Enjoy it while you can, someday we all end up in the bargin bin.” – Carolyn Dawn Johnson via Marty Stuart
What is the best piece of advice that you can pass along to someone who wants to pursue a career in music?
Educate yourself on all aspects of the industry. Put in the time, be patient and stay human.
In your opinion, what does the future hold for Jaida Dreyer? Both long term and short?
I have no idea and honestly, I don’t want to know. I want to be surprised by myself so that I’m along for the ride as well. So, I guess we’ll find out.
Anything you want to tell your fans before I let you go?
Keep on, keepin’ on!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.