At 23 years-old Jamie Lynn Spears spent most of her life in the spotlight and is a seasoned entertainment veteran. Her entertainment career began with a small part in ‘Crossroads,’ portraying the fictionalized younger version of real-life sister Britney Spears’ character. Jamie Lynn then found a home in television; appearing on Nickelodeon’s ‘All That’ and most notably starring as the title character of ‘Zoey 101,’ for which she won the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award for “Best Actress” in 2006. After five years focused on raising her daughter, Maddie, the Kentwood, Louisiana native is back in the spotlight; this time pursuing her passion for music!
Jamie Lynn Spears is dynamic young artist with a sound and style that truly captures her Southern roots. Her official music debut came in the form of country ballad “How Could I Want More,” a song written by Spears along with Nashville songwriter Rivers Rutherford, who has also collaborated with Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, and Montgomery Gentry. The intensely personal lyrics mixed with a simple song production showcases her talents as a blossoming artist who is wise beyond her 23 years and unafraid to pour her heart and soul into her work.
Jamie Lynn’s experiences with Rivers and other Nashville writers, including Chris Tompkins, Liz Rose, Lisa Carver and Luke Laird, made for a master class in songwriting. Jamie Lynn learned about how to bring her stories to life through music and became a part of a community that helped her figure out the kind of artist she wanted to be. The experiences paid off – Jamie Lynn now has over 100 songs in her catalog. Her debut EP, ‘The Journey,’ has already garnered critical acclaim and captured the ear of music fans across the nation. This collection of five beautifully crafted songs truly paints a portrait of Jamie Lynn Spears as a person and offers a glimpse into the world of an artist on the rise. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Jamie Lynn Spears to discuss her musical roots, taking the plunge into a career in country music, the creation of her debut EP, ‘The Journey,’ and much more!
Anytime I get the opportunity to talk to a musician, I like to go back to the beginning and hear about their early years, and how music came into their life and had an impact on them. What can you tell us about that?
Obviously, my sister was always into music and I was just a baby, so I was surrounded by it. My Mom always played the piano as I was growing up and she is actually, secretly, a phenomenal piano player. I think some of my first memories of music were hearing my Mom pick around on that. I remember one time I wanted to learn how to play something and she put cut up little duct tape squares and put them on the ends of the notes I had to hit on the piano for the keys I had to hit. It is one of my first memories of really playing music and my own flirtation with making music.
Who were some of the artists you found yourself gravitating toward when you were first discovering music?
Everyone in my family came from such different walks of music. My sister was definitely more of the pop fan with TLC and Madonna. My Daddy was country to the core! That was all he would listen to! My Mom was more into Elton John, Eric Clapton and all of those guys. I remember growing up, being in the car, and all of them fighting over what we were going to listen to! [laughs] I learned to love them all because I didn’t have a choice because I was two years old!
You have been in the spotlight since a very young age. When it came to pursuing a career in music, did you have any reservations about going that route?
When I was just a kid, I was presented the opportunity to have a television show. That was something I think every little girl would dream of, so of course I said yes to that. I say this a lot but “Did you know what you wanted to do for the rest of your life when you were 10 years old?” [laughs] It is kind of one of those things where at that time I wasn’t really thinking of my future but when it came time for to do so, after I had my little girl and had all of these life changes, it came time for me as an adult to say, “What do you want for the rest of your life? What kind of future do you want? What type of legacy do you want to leave behind? What kind of future am I creating for my little girl?” There was no other choice but music! I think the only reservations I had was if I decided to go this route, I had to do something that was honest and true to who I am because that is the only thing that will make it lasting. About six years ago, I just dove in without any reservations. I went in there and I was nervous to be in the writing room but I started writing and writing with all of these amazing co-writers! I just said to myself, “If you are going to do it, you can’t have any reservations and you have to be honest. That is the only way I can truly feel good about what I am doing.”
You just released your first EP, ‘The Journey.’ Did you have any particular goals or expectations for this release when going into the project?
Definitely. I believe that for myself and the team I have created around me, who are people who have been with me since I was 14 years old, when we set out to do this, I made it really clear that I had to do something that was personally fulfilling to me. I released “How Could I Want More” as my first single. The reason I chose that song was because I only get one introduction to the world as to who I am as an artist. Of course, you want commercial success and we are trying to survive in this world. I have a little girl to provide for. For me personally, the goal was focus on what kind of introduction I was giving to me as an artist, which would set the tone for the rest of my career. For these songs, I really wanted them to be personal and provide a great glimpse of what is to come in my future in country music. I think I wanted to set the basis for what type of career I want to have and what type of artist I am. I feel like these five songs really capture that feeling; from the happy, fun songs to the ones that really bring you to the moments where I was personally going through things.
Did you find it difficult to put yourself out there emotionally and bare your soul in song form?
I definitely did. I think anybody who bares their soul with these stories about themselves, there is this feeling of “Oh, my gosh! How is this going to be received?” It is not about a career move, it is about personally wanting to be accepted. We all want to be accepted and connect to people. Whenever you put these songs out there, it is very scary because you are not only putting something you love out there but it is something you are personally attached to. I was very scared but then I said “The reward is I know I have given this my all. Whether it goes terribly wrong or terribly right, either way, I know I had done something I could be proud of at the end of the day.”
I think it is safe to say you did a terrific job with these songs and ‘The Journey’ is something you can be proud of. What can you tell us about the songwriting process and bringing the songs to life?
When I came to Nashville six years ago I was very scared because I didn’t realize how influential the songwriting community is in Nashville. They make these songs possible for all of us. Being able to sit down with some people who are some of the most respected songwriters in the business was very scary for me but I felt so honored. I knew I had to go in there and do my best. I couldn’t just go in there and be a silly teenager, I had to really put forth my heart and soul. I think for me it was a cool process because they gave me the strength and courage to be confident and brave in telling my story. There were times when I was like, “Can I say that?” They were like, “Yeah! If it happened you can say it! It is your story and no one can tell you otherwise.” I learned so much for working with them. I have almost 100 songs to this point that I have written. None of them would be crafted beautifully the way they were if I didn’t have those certain songwriters that really connect to me and gave me the confidence. They taught me so much and really helped me create the mold to tell my story within.
What do you consider the biggest challenges you faced in creating this EP?
I think the biggest thing was, it sounds cliché but, finding your voice and sound as an artist. Even though it might be next door to someone else’s sound, it still has to be your sound. For me, I learned from so many amazing producers and songwriters, you have to stand up and say, “This is the direction that is right for me. This is the sound that really makes sense to me.” I think the biggest challenge for me was finding the music that I was hearing in my head that went along with my lyrics. When I worked with Corey Crowder, whenever we sat down, not only did we work on the music but he produced these songs and we wrote them together. Corey Crowder, Liz Rose and Lisa Carver have really been my dream team over the past two years of creating the sound. I think that was the biggest challenge for me; being able to say “This is my sound. This is what I want. This is really who I am as an artist.”
You are about to embark on a tour in support of ‘The Journey’ EP. What are you looking forward to when it comes to getting out on the road and what can fans expect from your live show?
I think the best part is the fans. CMA Fest was a great look into how amazing country music fans are! Once they love you, they love you and are very loyal. I think the biggest part is getting out there, really getting time with the fans and putting on a great show. For me, every live show is a learning experience. I am growing as an artist on stage and building my confidence. My fans and I are working together. As far as what they can expect from the live show, they can expect to get to know me. I am up there and I am just like them. I am just trying to get out there and tell my story but I am nervous and I am still figuring it out. No matter if it is 10,000 people or if it is 200 people, I try to keep that intimate feel so people really take away my story at the end of the day. I think that is what country music fans want; they want to connect to you and your music. I am really looking forward to getting out there with the fans. They can expect a good time and it is kind of just like we are hanging out when we do my live show.
You mentioned your daughter and you are a newlywed at this point, so you have some things tying you to the homestead, so to speak. How are you getting into the mindset to hit the road and are you doing anything special to prepare?
During the school year it is a lot harder because my daughter is tied down here at school. My focus is to keep her routine as consistent, stable and as settled as possible. During the school year, I will go out for three days, which is my limit. I will do as much as I can in those three days but I then I am back home to my baby. I am a mom first. The summer is really cool because she is out of school and I can bring her on the road with me. We make them less full days and we have a more laid back setting so I can bring her on the road with me, when it makes sense. Of course, there are going to be times when I am going to be in and out for a day but she can stay at MeeMaw’s. I think the biggest thing about all of it is having the support system I have here in Louisiana but also planning to where I can bring her to be a part of these amazing experiences. That goes for my husband as well. That is why I love the summer! [laughs] I was like, “Book us up this summer because the baby is coming on the road! Build her in the budget!” [laughs]
You have already release a video for “How Could I Want More.” What can you tell us about the video and the reaction it has received?
I did the “How Could I Want More” video and I released it, almost six or seven months ago, just for the fans. I wanted to see what kind of reaction I would get. I didn’t do any real promotion or anything and had zero expectations. Now, I am at the point where I really want to promote the song and get it out there. I am in the process of rebooting to do that and am going on a radio tour in addition to the upcoming tour. I am really just trying to push “How Could I Want More” because I really believe in that song and I believe it has some more spins in it.
You mentioned having over 100 songs written and in various states. When might we expect a return to the studio for a full length release? What are your thoughts there?
Of course, the ultimate goal is to release a full length album but that is something I am working on. Playing live shows has been really great in preparing for that because you get feedback from the fans as to what songs they are liking that aren’t on the EP. That is neat experience because I can really pick out an album that makes sense that makes sense, directly from the feedback I get from my fans. I needed to get this EP out there because we had “How Could I Want More” out there and as an artist you need to give people a little bit more of insight to who you are as an artist but also for the fans I have had for a long time, since my ‘Zoey 101’ days. They have been so supportive and so patient. I did it for them! They deserved something more. They have been listening and supporting one song, so I was glad to get this out there for them. Like I said, the ultimate goal is to make an LP.
As you have told us today, you have been very focused on your musical path and done much soul-searching as an artist over the past several years. What do you consider your biggest evolution as an artist to date?
I think for me, I would get in the writing room and tell my stories and write these songs but there was definitely a confidence issue for me personally. I was afraid of live performances and all of the things that come along with being an enter calls for you to do. I didn’t realize how much that was holding me back. I was being able to be so honest in my songs but then be so shy when it came to everything else. I think that was the biggest thing I have overcome. You can’t do anything wrong as long as you are being yourself and have confidence in that. The biggest thing I have overcome is that fear of people not thinking what you are doing is right and liking it. Now, I know that my Mom, Dad, husband and baby girl are proud of me, so I really can’t be too concerned with the rest!
That is a terrific outlook to have! You have a very bright future ahead of you for sure! What are some of your musical bucket list items for the years to come?
I have one huge goal I have wanted to accomplish and that is playing at The Grand Ole Opry. I am actually going to be able to play there on July 12th! That was a huge thing for me; to be able to play in the most respected place in country music. To be able to stand on that stage and that circle they keep in the new Grand Ole Opry, where all the greats have stood is a big accomplishment. I still have to prove a lot but to be able to sing on that stage is a bucket list thing for me!
You have been fortunate to work with a lot of very talented people and I am sure you have gotten tons of great advice through the years. What is the best advice you would pass along to someone looking to pursue a career in the music industry?
I would say just make sure you are enjoying it. There is a lot of hard work that goes along with it, of course, but make sure you are enjoying it. It is also important to remember you can’t please everybody. Just make sure what you are doing is something you can be happy with, something you can sleep easy with every night and never be afraid to work hard.
I know they are a big part of what you do, so before I let you go, is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
I just want to say thank you for the support and the patience they have had. They have supported me through everything. I am not just doing this by myself; they are doing this with me. I have so much gratitude and I am so thankful to them.
Thank you so much for your time today, Jamie Lynn. We are excited to spread the word on your EP and tour. It is very inspiring to see someone like yourself so focused on making their dreams a reality. We wish you continued success!
I appreciate that! Thank you so much, Jason! Talk to you soon!
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.