Jenna Paulette is blazing a career in country music while keeping true to her roots.
Born in Texas and raised on a ranch in Oklahoma, she identified with country artists who sang about the kind of lifestyle she experienced. Through that, Paulette caught the music bug early and eventually learned how to turn her personal experiences into songs, just like the idols who shaped her.
“When people listen to my songs, I want them to feel grounded,” Paulette, a CMT Discovery Artist and Song Suffragettes member, explains in her bio, posted on her official website. “I want them to feel connected to their roots and to the way of life that I represent and love because I think that way of life is just such a beautiful picture of how it can be.”
In the summer of 2021, Paulette’s authenticity with songwriting landed her a global publishing deal with Sea Gayle Music. She then released her single, “Country In The Girl,” via her independent label, Grit Brand Entertainment. A preview for the tune went viral before its release, racking up over 2.5 million views on social media.
Paulette’s recent track, “Pretty Ugly,” will also resonate with listeners far and wide. The catchy tune, which Paulette wrote alongside Jeb Gibson, Parker Welling, and Will Bundy, dives into the unpleasant and sometimes unattractive ways people deal with a broken heart. In late October, Paulette followed up “Pretty Ugly” with “Bless Her Heart,” a song that puts her cowgirl sass on full display. Fans can be sure to look for a music video for the tune soon, although no official drop date has been set.
In the meantime, Country Now recently caught up with Paulette to find out more about her background, musical journey, and what’s to come.
Read on to learn more about Jenna Paulette in this exclusive Q&A below…
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How did you begin a career in country music?
Well, my family was in the Cow-Calf business and the cattle industry. I grew up listening to George Strait, The Chicks and Shania Twain, and all of that great ‘90s country music. I fell in love with what those artists were singing about because I was living the ‘Wide Open Spaces’ and ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’ lyrics and all of the George Strait stuff daily. Those things just made me fall in love with country music as a genre. And, I wanted to make people feel the way country music makes me feel.
Do you come from a musical family?
My mom always sang in church growing up, and my grandma also played the organ and sang in church. So, very early on, I sang in church. I had my first solo when I was 3-years-old. My mom knew how to recognize good pitch and realized I could pursue a career in this. When I was 8-years-old, I remember hearing my mom and dad say, ‘Oh my gosh! She’s good at this! I think she has a shot.’ And, I remember putting that in the back of my mind and into my heart. I knew from then on that I wanted to do this for a living. So, a lot of it spurred from my mom and her ability to sing herself and recognize that I could potentially do this as a career.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
I didn’t even know that songwriting was a thing until Taylor Swift came along. I feel like she brought songwriting for young people into the limelight. You saw her songwriting emphasized in every PR piece they did on her. That was uncommon, especially when looking at artists like George Strait, Tim McGraw, and Shania Twain. Shania wrote a lot of her stuff with Mutt [Lange], but the others cut outside songs. So, I didn’t even think of songwriting as a career until I was in college. And, when I was in college, I was like, ‘Oh, well, other people write songs. I know Taylor Swift wrote her songs. What if I tried to do that?’ So that’s what I did. I do remember the first songs I ever wrote, and they are not good. I’d probably be so embarrassed if anyone heard them nowadays, but they got me to where I am now.
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What helped you to evolve in your songwriting?
I had a mentor, Ashley Gorely, he’s a songwriter, and he’s so successful. I played a lot of the first stuff I ever wrote for him, and he tore it all apart in the best way! He’s so honest. I wouldn’t want anybody to not meet with me because my goal is to always be great at this. And, you have to have people who are willing to tell you the truth and how to make it better, and he always did! He told me the truth, and then he told me what would elevate what I was doing and how to write a hit song or what makes a hit song. He told me what his formula was for hitting the nail on the head so many times. So, it evolved from there. Even the stuff I wrote probably five years ago isn’t as good as what I’m writing now. I think it’s a combination of getting better in my own right, but also just being in the room with people who are No. 1 songwriters more often now because you think of songwriting differently, you edit yourself differently, and you become more confident in what your voice is, and what you contribute in a room. All of those things have progressed as time went on.
What inspired your recent single, “Bless Her Heart.”
‘Bless Her Heart’ was one of the last songs we wrote on a four-day retreat, and we had Heather Morgan there. She was kind of late to the “quote-unquote” party shoot. I had been writing with Parker Welling, Jeb Gibson, and Will Bundy for like three days. Then she got there, and she was like, ‘I can only do it one day, but I want to be here.’ She has written a lot for Brett Eldredge and other people, and she’s incredible! So, when she got there, it was like fresh blood was in the room, and we could dive into some new things. A lot of us were exhausted on the idea side of things. But, she brought in ‘Bless Her Heart’ as a title. We were probably dancing around it for about an hour because we were looking for something clever but just easy for people to understand. Either Will or Me said, ‘Well, what if it was ‘Bless her heart because he’s gonna break it?’ And, the rest of the chorus just flew out of getting to that hook. I love a cheatin’ song. I love music that feels that kind of energy. This song filled a void in my set and on the record that I would love to put out at some point very soon. It reminded me of those ‘90s country greats that I fell in love with as an artist growing up.
How has it been performing the song in front of live audiences?
Performing it out has been so fun because people don’t even – I mean, I was performing it on the road with John Michael Montgomery. The song wasn’t even out yet, and people were losing their minds over it after I was done, which was so fun because you know that it’s going to react when people hear it when you’re getting that reaction on the road. So, it was a good test market for me, and it gave me that much more confidence when we put it out.
Speaking of how you say this song reminds you of ‘90s country, is that the kind of sound fans should expect to hear from you with future releases?
Yes! I have had so much fun figuring out what the balance is and what my sound is. I think every artist evolves, but at first, when I came to town and would say ‘Cowgirl’ in meetings with labels or whatever, they would think it was super cheesy. They would send me songs, and I would question those songs and say, ‘This is what you brought for me? Oh my gosh!’ You know, it felt way more cheesy than the way I wanted to represent what a cowgirl could be. So I think I swung opposite from that for a minute with songs like ‘F 150’ and ‘Midnight Cowboy.’ I love the way those turned out, but from there, I was like, ‘Okay, we will balance it back out with a little bit more of the way I was raised with the sounds I grew up loving.’ And, I feel like the songs that I have gotten to put out this year have been a perfect balance of what it means to be a cowgirl and country today, and it honors the music that I grew up listening to.
How about your recent song, “Pretty Ugly.” How did that one come about?
So, it is kind of funny. So, I write a lot with Jeb Gibson. We write at the same publishing company. I think I have been in a room with him about three or four times, and he had thrown out the title, ‘Pretty Ugly,’ and those just were not the right rooms. Then, we were on the retreat that I wrote ‘Bless Your Heart’ on as well. We were there with Will Bundy and Parker Welling. Jebb was like, ‘I know Jenna, I have thrown this out before, but I am going to do it again. I’ve got the title ‘Pretty Ugly.’ Parker was like, ‘Well, what if it is heartbreak makes pretty ugly?’ And, we were all like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ We wrote that song in about an hour and a half. It was exactly what I was after on that trip. I love when a girl sings in that lower range part of her voice. I love the imagery of it all. It feels so country but so contemporary. And, as we were writing it, I was like, ‘Yes, yes yes! This is it!’ We got that demo back, and I knew that I wanted to put it out. So, seeing it react in the way it has, and seeing Apple Music put it on Today’s Country and having it played on SiriusXM and all of those things, has been so unreal. I am just really grateful for that song!
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on that you can share with us at this time?
I may be putting out a Christmas song pretty soon that I’m super excited about. We worked with a partner that is a company that I’ve respected forever. It’s going to be a ‘Santa Baby’ cowgirl version. Instead of saying, ‘I want a fur coat,’ I say, ‘I want a pair of Wranglers,’ or a ‘Hay Ring’ instead of a ‘Call on the phone.’ You know, make it more specific to cowgirls, and we partnered with the cool company for the video. So, I’m very excited about all of that!
What are you looking forward to most with the holidays coming up, and what’s next?
Oh my goodness! I love being with my family so much! I know some people dread the holidays because they’re going to be around people they know 24/7, but I love that during the holidays, time stands still, and you don’t have all of the work obligations that you usually have. You can take a moment without being so worried about posting on Instagram all of the time, and the world has an excuse to stop, and I love that. I love being around my mom and dad. So I’m super excited about slowing down and spending time with my family! Next year, I’m looking forward to new music and working toward an album.
Fans can keep up with Jenna Paulette on Instagram.