Country Next: Jennifer Hart

Jennifer Hart; Photo by Robby Stevens
Jennifer Hart; Photo by Robby Stevens
Jennifer Hart; Photo by Robby Stevens
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Jennifer Hart.

Jennifer Hart is making her mark on the country music scene. Raised in Gilbert, Arizona, the rising singer/songwriter began her career at an early age, writing songs at just 10 years old.  

In 2013, Hart’s platform grew wider after she found herself competing for a Miss Arizona title. On her first go-around at the competition, she won. But, it was through that experience that Hart, who has struggled with Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Social Anxiety, found a way to share her story and help others who are trying to overcome their own set of challenges. 

Jennifer Hart - 1992 EP Cover
Jennifer Hart – 1992 EP Cover

In 2016, Hart (formerly known as Smestad) moved to Nashville, where her hard work and clear talent secured her a deal with RECORDS Nashville. Now, the artist is out with her brand new six-track EP 1992, named after the year she was born. 

The project, which arrives ahead of her 30th birthday, was co-written entirely by Hart. Already, fans have gotten to hear the lead single from the collection entitled “18.” Other songs on the EP include “Heart’s Done Breakin,” “WWJD,” “Burned Out,” “1992,” and “Half The Man” – a fan-favorite father/daughter ode, which made its way into the Top 10 on the US iTunes Sales Chart and racked up millions of views on TikTok.

To celebrate her 1992 release, Hart is premiering the accompanying video for the title track of her brand new EP exclusively with readers of Country Now. This clip finds Hart throwing it back to her younger years as she sports fashionable butterfly clips while watching childhood videos from a vintage TV. 

Was the world spinnin’ slower back in 1992 / ‘Cause I thought when I got older / I’d have somethin,’ somethin’ /Figured out, but I feel like that girl in 1992 / Trippin’ in my momma’s heels / I’m still, trying to feel grown up too,” Hart sings the chorus of the nostalgic upbeat track over an effervescent pop-country beat. 

“I think ‘1992’ just explains the whole EP. I’d like to say that the music I grew up on was ‘90s country, and I also love current country and pop. So, I would say it’s a mix of all of the music that I love to listen to. ‘1992’ felt like it fit everything as a whole. It’s very honest. It’s very me. It’s a great debut title,” Hart says of the track. 

Hart caught up with Country Now to talk about her journey in country music, winning Miss Arizona, her 1992 EP and much more. 

Read on to find out more about Jennifer Hart in this exclusive Q&A below.

Did you begin a career in country music after winning the Miss Arizona title? 

I have wanted to be a country singer since I was three years old. I did not grow up doing pageants. A friend of mine was Miss Arizona a couple of years before me. She’s the reason why I got into it. I went to support her to watch her as a friend. Then I was like, ‘Okay. I want to try this.’ I only did pageants for about a year. I won Miss Arizona on my first try. But, I prepared for months. I went all out for it. After that, I was more serious about my career because when I gave up my title, shortly after I finished college, I then moved to Nashville. So, it has always been a dream, but that made it a little more real. 

Winning Miss Arizona must have put you in front of many people. How did your role in pageantry prepare you for the music industry?  

I severely have social anxiety. I can’t explain it. I don’t know if it was, like, instilled in me. But, I’ve had some determination that I have always had since I was a kid. It’s like, I had so many fears, especially with social anxiety, but my dreams and goals and wants, whatever I wanted to achieve, were always stronger than my fears. So, I’m like, ‘Okay, I have to figure something out to get more comfortable with this so I can achieve these goals.’ So, it’s the same thing for Miss Arizona. I promised myself I’d never do public speaking in college. But, once I realized I wanted to try to become Miss Arizona, I was like, ‘Well, I guess I’ll have to enroll myself in public speaking.’ It was one of the scariest things, but I knew I had to do it. So, those kinds of things helped me push myself to put myself in front of others. Music, growing up, was an outlet. I felt like I could escape with a song for a few minutes and forget about everything and focus on the feeling of the song. If I was singing it myself, it was a therapeutic escape for me.

Have any fans come forward to tell you that your story has helped them? 

Yes. I still get messages on Facebook and Instagram. They tell me that my story, at least, if nothing else, it’s given them a little bit of hope or a sense of them not feeling so alone anymore. So that has been encouraging for me as well because I get nervous to talk about it. It’s the same thing for going on stage. If I get nervous, I try to take a couple of breaths. Something that has helped me is I usually pray right before and ask for confidence. I can get in my head about things too. I’ll be like, ‘Oh my gosh! The audience doesn’t like me.’ You know, I try to talk to myself about the reality of, ‘I don’t know if that’s the truth or not.’ It’s just a lot of self-talk, prayer, and breathing. That’s what I find has helped – and tea! I drink a lot of tea! 

You moved from Arizona to Nashville. How did you navigate your career when you moved to Music City? 

I always knew I wanted to move to Nashville. It was just a matter of time for me. The push was when one of my boyfriends cheated on me. So, of course, I was like, ‘Alright. I’m finally going to move to Nashville.’ I feel like he was maybe holding me back a little bit. So, it was a blessing in disguise. I remember my mom and I packed up my Nissan Altima with everything I owned. I drove three days to Nashville, and she helped me move in. It was exciting, scary, and sad. I had never been away from my family before, so it was a huge leap. But, I had so much peace knowing this was where I was supposed to be. 

Did you write songs before moving to Nashville? 

I dabbled in it when I was younger. Then, maybe in my late teens, I did a little co-writing in Arizona, not much, though. But, I do say, when you move to Nashville, you basically start everything over. So, I would say I started co-writing seriously when I moved here. But I’ve always been interested in it. 

Congratulations on your new EP 1992. How did you come up with the title for your EP? 

I was born in 1992. I brought that title into the writing session one day. I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is weird, but I want to write a song called 1992 that’s about my life and how you think back to that time. It’s nostalgic, but at the same time, I’m almost 30. I still don’t know what I’m doing.’ So, we wrote toward that, and that song fits the entire project. I found that a lot of my songs aren’t intentionally nostalgic. Like, ‘Half The Man’ and ‘18.’ Then, ‘1992’ is thinking about your childhood and how you’ve grown up, and you’re like, ‘Wow. I still feel stuck in a kid’s body sometimes.’ 

Can you tell me the inspiration behind “18”?

With that song, I’m thinking about all the times like if you would’ve met someone sooner at 18, you would’ve experienced all of these specific things that I’ve gone through. That song felt like a happy love song but also very nostalgic. It also was like a life song. It explains a lot of what I went through. I had a Ford Mustang Convertible in high school. And my sister’s wedding, there were so many specifics about me, and I love that the music I’ve been creating is very honest and vulnerable to me. Saying something like, ‘I wish I would’ve met you at 18,’ is me. I’ve always looked up to my parent’s marriage. I’ve always wanted something like that. So being able to explain that, I think it’s very genuine, and I know a lot of that relates to many people too. 

I read that your dad plays guitar. Would you say he’s one of your biggest supporters?

Oh, absolutely! He played guitar a little bit when he was younger. He doesn’t play much anymore. He would still sing to us when we would go to bed at night, not on guitar but a cappella. So he supported my career since I was three years old, which has been nice. He’s been like, ‘If you set your mind to this, I’m going to support you in any way I can.’ Our whole lives, if we started a sport, he was okay with it if we didn’t want to continue the sport after the season was done. But, he would never let us quit during the season. So, I think that was something that helped me because even though he’s supportive, he’s still a great dad in the way that he’s like, ‘I’m not going to let you quit if you don’t like it.’ I appreciate that because anytime I’m doing something in music, I’m like, ‘Wow. Today was really tough. I don’t know if I like this.’ I think of that. I think about how my dad taught me to push through the hard times because it’s all worth it.

One song about your relationship with your dad is “Half The Man.” Can you tell me what drove you to write that song? 

I have always been a sucker for father/daughter songs. Anytime I would go to a wedding, I would lose it. My sister and I are “daddy’s girls.” We do have a good relationship with both our parents. But there is something between a father and a daughter. So I’ve always wanted to write a song for him or about him. I’ve written a few before. But they never turned out the way I wanted. So, I brought the idea of also wanting to write for a future husband and something toward my dad, not thinking about a father/daughter dance. But I was like, ‘This is what I want to write about.’ So, one of my co-writers brought up this idea and was like, ‘What if it’s about fixing a bike or a fence?’ I loved where it was heading, and the title, after we wrote the verse and the chorus, organically fell into the writing, which doesn’t usually happen. You don’t always start a song with the title. It can be complicated. So, the way it happened was just amazing. 

“WWJD” is a clever track. Can you tell me how that one came about? 

I saw a WWJD bracelet on someone, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I hadn’t seen them in forever, but I always wore them. So, I wrote that title down in the notes on my phone and brought it in one day. I thought more that it would be a meaningful ballad type of song. But, when I got together with my co-writers, one of them was like, ‘No. I think it should be like this.’ I was like, ‘Wait. I’ve been through that. That’s a great idea.’ So, again. The first verse is like sharing who I am. I love Jesus, and I go to church. I read the bible. But, I also am human. I deal with this sinful nature of wanting to react and be angry. If someone cheats on me, I want them to hurt just as much as I am hurting. So, it’s another honest song, but it’s also fun with humor in it. 

Did you go back and listen to any other artists for inspiration when creating this EP? 

Not necessarily. But, I think, like in the ‘90s, I loved Sara Evans, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Garth Brooks. I grew up on that. So, I think that’s always instilled in me. And, I go through seasons of listening to albums. It could be an old album from the ‘90s or a pop album or a brand new John Mayer album. So, depending on the week I wrote the song, it probably was linked to an album that inspired me that week. 

What goals have you set for the future? 

I would love to have a hit on the radio. I would love to be on a major tour. I would also love to play the Grand Ole Opry. So, those are some goals. Of course, on an emotional, connecting to audience kind of thing, I want this EP to take people down memory lane. I want it to relate to their emotions, whether they’ve been cheated on or whether they’re in love or getting married or thinking toward a future spouse, or have a good relationship with their dad. Whatever it may be, I want people to connect with their emotions and let them know they’re not alone. I feel like there is a song on the EP for every season. 

Fans can keep up with Jennifer Hart on Instagram.

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