Emerging artist Jenna Paulette is proud to bring western ideals to the bright lights of Nashville. The singer-songwriter grew up working on a cow-calf operation on the Oklahoma-Texas border in Thackerville, OK. While she boasts accolades, including CMT's New Women of Country Class of 2022, she is even more proud and dedicated to keeping the country in country music.
For as long as she can remember, music has been a big part of the Paulette family. It was always playing in the kitchen, and it was the soundtrack of the pasture while checking cattle. Jenna fondly reminisces listening to Don Williams, Eddy Arnold, and George Strait cassettes with her granddad in his dusty ranch rig. The lyrics told stories she witnessed with her eyes and filled her with pride to live that same lifestyle.
One of four kids, Jenna knew she needed a full-ride scholarship to make college a reality. In her senior year of high school, she played one of the lead roles in a national musical. Her performance caught the eyes of Savannah College of Art & Design, which was establishing a six-member ensemble. Though art school was not her original plan, she was thankful for answered prayers and accepted the scholarship.
Jenna found an article about Kenny Chesney's marketing degree when deciding on a major. She thought, "that man really owns his slice of pie." She followed in his bootsteps and marched forward with Visual Communications, which included advertising, graphic design and marketing. She told her professors her plan to sing country music, and they helped her apply her studies to that career path. This enabled Jenna’s understanding the complexity of defining her brand and communicating it to others – visually and in her songs.
During her senior year, she was selected for a mentorship by Ashley Gorley, an incredible songwriter who taught her that it can be a career. He taught her what a good song is and, more importantly, how to make good songs great. One day he asked Jenna to sit alone and write out what she wanted to say, how she wanted to say it, why it was important, and why anyone should listen to her. That encouragement gave her complete clarity and direction in her career. It helped give her the foundation to build a body of work that means something, rather than just singles.
Jenna credits much of her career success to the grit and adaptability she learned growing up on the family's cattle operation. If a cow lost her calf, Jenna wasn't just told how to do it, but she was expected to rise to the occasion, figure it out, and get that calf paired back up.
She learned from her granddad and uncle, who served as incredible examples of agriculture and what it means to be faithful stewards of the land. They taught Jenna they were "grass farmers, not cattle farmers," focusing on restoring land to native grasses through the Noble Research Institute. When an operation's grass is healthy, its herd will be, too.
To this day, she loves reading books and listening to podcasts to learn more and more about running a successful cow-calf operation. Both with cattle and her career, Jenna knows that the slower you go, the better it is, and she says, "stick-to-it-ness brings heart and character to [her] music and helps people have something to grab ahold of."
Jenna intentionally weaves threads of the western lifestyle into the tapestry of her songs. Her music is a mix of fun, let-it-all-go vibes and deep introspection. Whatever the tone, there is always an underlying cowgirl theme full of grit, character, and responsibility. Jenna hopes this helps people feel rooted and encourages them to take a new look at a traditional way of life.
Being a cowgirl in a city like Nashville, where so many want to be one, certainly puts Jenna in the spotlight. In fact, it's one of her favorite talking points. She takes every opportunity to share authentic peeks into the lifestyle, overcome stereotypes, and invite others into what it means to be a cowgirl.
So how does she balance it all with one boot on the ranch and the other in the city? It's rooted in her passion for country music and having an incredibly supportive family on speed dial. On the road, Jenna brings a candle that smells like home and works on as many ranches as she can. There is something about seeing the dirt roll off her hands after a long day that keeps her in touch with who she is. To Jenna, it all comes down to making time and remaining committed.
Jenna's persistence is paying dividends. After years of working and honing in on her brand, her debut album is set for release in Spring of ‘23. It's all coming together around "The Girl I Was," which is a song title that came to Jenna while driving down a two-lane road, thinking about getting back to herself: the little girl with freckles and pigtails, sitting on the fence with an Orange Gatorade in hand, helping her granddad move cattle.
It's a cohesive body of work that speaks to the heart of anyone who grew up in a small town. "It's heart, grit, soul, love, tears," Jenna says, "and all the things that make life beautiful and hard at the same time."
Yet, this is just the beginning for this special artist. When her grandfather passed in 2020, Jenna inherited the family's brand, but the family chose to sell the land. After they closed on the deal, she penned a letter to the ranch's new owner, telling him the rich history of the soil, the generosity it was built on, and the stories of those who lived on it. The kind gentleman told Jenna to keep her keys because she was welcome anytime and that he would happily sell the land back to her one day.
Jenna knows all her hard work will pay off when she can buy back the family ranch and continue its legacy. After she boldly achieves this, she plans to extend a helping hand to others trying to keep ranches in their families.
When it comes to living with grit and integrity with your heart on your sleeve, there is no better example than Jenna Paulette. To learn more about her, visit https://www.jennapaulette.com/