Episode 002 - Jenna Paulette, Country Music Singer-Songwriter

Justin’s Taylor McAdams talks with country music’s cowgirl, singer-songwriter, Jenna Paulette. Jenna shares stories behind her songs, her music inspiration, and about her balance of ranch life and Nashville life. Born in Texas and grew up working on a ranch in Oklahoma, she identified with country artists who sang about the kind of lifestyle she experienced. She’s in the CMT’s New Women of Country Class of 2022 and her latest single, "Anywhere The Wind Blows" is playing on SiriusXM's The Highway. Jenna Paulette's debut album, "The Girl I Was”, is on the horizon releasing on March 31, 2023. The album features songs co-written by Ashley McBryde, Rhett Atkins, Jessie Jo Dylan, Will Bundy, and others. Currently, on tour with Aaron Watson, she shares what it’s like behind the scenes on the road.

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Podcast Transcript

Taylor Mcadams: You're listening to the kick your boots up podcast where we swap stories of the West. Whether you're just waking up or getting in for the day, come on in and kick your boots up. In studio today on Zoom, is none other than the 2022 next CMT women of country, Jenna Paulette. She's a well-known singer-songwriter livin’ the dream in Nashville, but she resides in Lewisville, Texas, and grew up on the border on the Texas/ Oklahoma border in Thackerville, Oklahoma. We are so so honored to have Jenna here on the podcast. And for all of you guys listening, I hope you guys learned something from this new opportunity with Jenna getting to hear her story. Jenna, we're so excited to have you here. Thank you for clearing your schedule and having just a moment with us. We appreciate it

Jenna Paulette: Thanks for having me.

Taylor Mcadams: Oh, without a doubt, and we have so many exciting things to talk about. You have some big news coming up that I'll let you reveal but before we do that, I want to talk through your growing up. How did you grow up? What was it like on the border of Texas and Oklahoma and and the ranch life there?

Jenna Paulette: Yeah, my family had a cow-calf operation on the Oklahoma-Texas line. We had mainly Black Angus mama cows and ended up crossing on Angus and then Charolais, and I just love those little charcoal babies. I just think they're so stinking cute. And of course, we had a few like, more. I don't know, mutt looking mama cows that just produced every year but we're kind of crazy. But we I just loved it. I think I fell in love with ranching and the lifestyle at a very young age. And that had a lot to do with my mom and my grandparents and the way that they value. That way of life and my dad as well. My dad's more like that kind of family's more business oriented, which is why Lewisville was where we called home, my dad needed to get to an airport. But we spent so much time on that ranch. I worked there in high school and college and just I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the lifestyle. And I think because of the lifestyle I fell in love with country music. And it wasn't really the other way around. Which I think for more people, it's that they fall in love with country music, and then they want to dive into the lifestyle. And for me, it was like, I was on the back of a four-wheeler checking cows and singing wide open spaces at the top of my lungs because it's where I was. And yeah, so for me it was just this perfect like hand in hand way to bring out what I really feel like God made me to do. And that is sing country music and cowboy. And I think I just knew that from a very young age and in my experiences growing up or what kind of led me there. Yeah, I think it's amazing when you get exposed to agriculture in any way, shape, or form when you are growing up, because it teaches you that life and death are very real things and you deal with it on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. And I think because you realize that life is precious, that you value it more, and you see a lot of sunrises and a lot of sunsets. And it just gives you this perspective on the world that I think is missing a lot in our culture today. Because we live in you know, cities, and I mean, I have an apartment in Nashville. So I very much am experiencing that part of it to where you're living in a city, your heads kind of buried in your phone. And and yeah, I don't know, I just felt like I was very blessed to have the opposite growing up. And really, my goal is to bring an aspect of the ranching lifestyle to the mainstream so that people can just get a feel of what they're missing in most respects but they don't know they're missing.

Taylor Mcadams: Oh, yes, there's rural Oklahoma, rural America is the most beautiful places on the earth. And selfishly, I don't want to even tell people how wonderful it is. You want to keep it to yourself. But yes, I love how big of an advocate you are for that. And I'm gonna kind of go off track really quick. This is a little surprise question. I just thought of this Thackerville Oklahoma, is also home to Terry Bradshaw, have you ever interacted with him on his horse ranch?

Jenna Paulette: The funny thing is, everybody asked me that question. And we've never run into each other. I think his daughter followed me a couple of weeks ago on social media, so I'm hoping we cross paths sooner than later. But, but yeah, they're there. Everybody asked me that question. And I don't know. We just kind of kept to ourselves. My grandparents' house was in Gainesville, Texas, which is 15 minutes from Thackerville. And my grandma always said I don't want to die and okie and so they planted their roots in Gainesville instead of living on the ranch and he just commuted every single day. So we knew a bunch of people obviously, in fact, her bill because they were our neighbors, but it wasn't the same as like literally sleeping there, you know, and waking up being right there. So I never met the Bradshaw's or I haven't yet but I would absolutely love to and I just love how real they are in in the world that we live in as well. I think I just I highly respect what they do and what they're about.

Taylor Mcadams: I couldn't agree more. And we've got to give Rachel a shout out. I’m really good friends with Rachel. And in fact, she's getting married soon I get the opportunity to go to her wedding. And it's gonna be a fun experience. But you're absolutely right for just like you very, very humble. And that's what I appreciate and respect about them. And you as well. Even just having anything anytime anyone mentions Jenna Paulette, they say, Wow, she's so talented and so humble. And so that's huge. That's, that's big, you know, right. But I want to kind of go back to your humble beginnings a little bit. What about, tell us about that your first memory that you remember having of like, well, I can actually seem pretty good. I'm out here singing to these cows. And I can actually harmonize and I can actually hit the notes. So what was your first memory there? They had to have been at a young age.

Jenna Paulette: Yeah, I think because my mom, my grandma both sang in church. My mom, she we've never, not had that was terrible English. We've always had country music playing in our kitchen. Like there wasn't, I don't remember many nights that we didn't have music playing in our house, there was always music playing cars, always country. And my mom has told me before that even when she was like nursing me and rocking me, she would sing songs to me. And I would cue back on pitch. And so I think she recognized that there was potential for that and me, and she had gotten it from her mom. So she just kind of paid attention when I was very young. And then helped me kind of realize that as I was growing up, my first solo was in church at age three. And from there, I think my most poor memory of thinking about country music as a career path was like eight years old, I was in our gold suburban that we had. And my siblings were all in there with me. I'm one of four kids and three girls and a boy. And my mom and dad were in the front and Dixie Chicks record was playing. And I was singing along to either cowboy take me away or wide open spaces, and my dad turned down music and turned it back up. And I was on pitch and on time. And I remember him saying, I remember like his lips in the rearview mirror being like, she could do this. She's She could really do this. And I think it just like, like, didn't need that moment. Like, there wasn't another option from then on. It was just kind of like, okay, well, these are the two things that I love. And they go hand in hand. So everything in my life was to that purpose. And yeah, it took longer than I hoped. But but it's going great. And in Yeah, it just it started young. And I'm glad that I could recognize that and that my parents could recognize that in me, so that I could have intention in all the goals that I set for myself in life.

Taylor Mcadams: Oh, without a doubt. And that's what I respect about you again, going back to that respect is I grew up singing Hannah Montana and thinking that I was going to be the next star but like you actually are doing it. And that's what makes you you, you're taking the initiative to become something and work hard at it because you know that it takes a lot of work. And we'll get into that in a little bit. But kind of moving on to the ranch life and Nashville life. Is it true that after you're done songwriting and getting the glamorous life you can be seen at like friends, cattle ranches, helping them work cattle.

Jenna Paulette: Yeah. In fact, like so I used to I went home during college every summer and worked on our place, and my granddad and my uncle fell in love with it there. And then during 2020 My granddad passed away. And so our ranch sold and I didn't have the ability to go home and work anymore. So I just started calling people that are friends of mine that have operations all over the place and just say like, Hey, y'all need a handler? I'm just trying to keep our chops up. Please, please use me don't you don't even have to pay me just let me come help y'all. And so yeah, I've worked all over the place. I've worked in Colorado, Utah, and lots of Texas and Oklahoma. And yeah, I think it's an honor. And I love I think it's cool to see how people do it on other operations. Because every operation is different. The grass is different. Your way you set up your pins and your traps are different. Like it just makes you a better cowboy to experience a million different situations and be able to do it with Gosh, what do they call those Noor forks and more calf tables are just roping and dragging them to the fire. Like there's just a million ways to do it. Now I've gotten to do it all kinds of ways. And so it's just it's really helped me out and I love getting to work with my friends too. So and the goal for me is to get our ranch back I still have my brand in my name and register and love County, Oklahoma. And the guy that bought our ranch from us just told me to let them know when I'm ready and that he said he was like I got a feeling you're gonna get it back. So keep your keys I didn't change the locks and so yeah, so I've got like, just all of his hope for where I'm headed and like as far as ranching goes as much as singing goes. And so for me it's like getting down About on other people's places and getting to work for whoever will let me come. And help just makes me better for you know what the real goal is for me and that is touring on a high level and ranching on a high level.

Taylor Mcadams: And you're great at both. I mean, it's so cool to watch you go on stage and to live the glamorous life that everyone sees the city people live and then turn right around and live the humbling life that's every day working cattle covered in dirt.

Jenna Paulette: That's what I'm thankful for, because I never, ever, ever want to have a season of my life where my hands aren't dirty and that somebody can't tell me what to do. Because I think in like the glamorous life, people, it's so easy to get caught up in the attention of it all. But when you are ranching, when you are working for somebody, it is their place, and you are under their authority, and it's just nice to have somebody who say, Jenna, get over there, you know, don't let that cow by, you know, and yell at me, you know, like, it just, I'm not perfect. And I've got so much to learn. And it's good to be in those situations. And, you know, I tell people that worked with me in the music industry to like, hey, like, if something can be better, do not just tell me it's good. Because you think that's what you should tell me. I want to be the best. And it goes the same with ranching. And I think because of that, like, it's my goal to keep both of my boots on the ground. And I think that's the way that God's given me a path to do that. And that's my prayer is that that would always be the truth.

Taylor Mcadams: It's so evident that you're using that you're using his story for his your your story for His glory, truly. And along the same lines. Is that how you kind of get your inspiration for your songs. I know girl in the country. I mean, every song slow drawl, bless her heart, El Paso, everything comes back to you, the girl I was. So was that how you get your inspo?

Jenna Paulette: Yeah, it's interesting. And I've talked to so many people in Nashville about this recently. Because for me, I get inspired because I'm listening to people talk that grew up like I did that, that are around people, that the kind of people that I love to be around all the time. And my best inspiration comes from not being in Nashville, like I think there's this, there's a lot of good that's come from it. Because I think it's taught me how to write a great commercial country song one that hopefully belongs on the radio. And it's given me all the relationships with people that know how to do that and know how to take an idea of mine and lyric of mine, and just drive it completely home. But I think there's a limit to how you can connect with real people. If you stay on the hamster wheel and you're doing the whole writing thing 11 to three everyday in Nashville. And that's all you do. You're not living life. And I've told my team, you know, like, I get to be out here with Ross in West Texas. And we're working on ranches and going to people's 40th wedding anniversary, two step dances at the Civic Center. And you know, I've got a rancher out here, I was just talking to you that Ross works for and and he was like, you know, Jen out here, it's hard to make a living, but it's easy to make a life. And I was like, you can't hear that kind of thing in Nashville, in the hamster wheel in the commercial business aspect of you just can't hear those things that are true and real and right. And that make my music worth anything at all. And so, so yeah, I try and stay, I go and I'm a part of it. Because there that's where the best songwriters are, but I have to be living it for it to carry any weight to impact the world the way that I would love for it to impact the world. So yeah, I think those two things just, they balance each other out.

Taylor Mcadams: And I think going back to the national side of it, you're a mentee of Ashley Gorley, you got to sign with Sea Gayle Music, you probably have lots of writing sessions, lots of rights, as you would call them. What's it like to go to sit through a right because some of my friends have described it as quite literally, it's a bunch of talented people sitting in a room with just all their ideas. And that's how the best songs are created.

Jenna Paulette: Totally. Yeah, it's like that. And I think it's, it goes two ways for me, like I've got, I'll give you two examples. Sometimes I'll hear somebody say, you know, it's hard to make living easy to make a life. And I'll just write that into my phone and I don't know what it sounds like or feels like and that's one of those, you're going into a right and everybody's tossing around ideas to one lands and like there's not much around it. I didn't have a melody or anything. It just became what it needed to be in the room that day because I was with the right people that know how to write that kind of song. And then I have moments like where it's more of a solo thing that I bring in that is more polished, and that there's a song called make the world small town on the girl I was my record and I'm, I had just been in fact gerbil shooting the girl I was music video and Laurie who owns the front porch cafe. That grill is, which is where my family went to eat after working cattle. Our brand is on the wall. And they're like, it's just so small town and so awesome. And I called her because I knew they weren't open on Saturdays and Sundays. And I was like, Laurie, hey, this is Jennifer Hall. I don't know if you remember me or not. My granddad was Pete Jones. And she was like, Oh, my gosh, Pete Jones, he ordered a bacon and mustard sandwich. And I was like, oh, gosh, I can't believe you remember that. She she was like, it's a hard order to forget. And it's been, it had been two and a half years since he passed away. And she still remembered his order. And I was on my flight back to Nashville. And I wrote, If I can make the role of small town, in my notes, and I just wrote a poem. And like, I started out with like, folks around here, they give you the shirt off their back, maybe simple how we talk about our words, a check, you can catch. And I talked about difference with, like how I wish that London to Tennessee could feel like that could build on me. And there's moments like that was just like this nugget of truth that resonates so deeply with my soul, that poetry comes out. And then I take it into a writing room and they helped me drive the idea home, but the nuts and bolts of it, the skeleton of it. It was something that very much came from a raw place in my heart and became a song and I've learned to trust that side of me as a writer in the last year really, because people have been like, oh, no, I love that. And I'm like, Oh, it's good enough. Because I think being mentored by somebody like Ashley Gourley, who's got 65 number ones or more, I don't even know right now. He's just ridiculous. And he wasn't easy on me. But I was happy about it. Like I, he, I would send him an idea. And he was like, Well, that could have been good if you need, like XYZ. And he was just, like, beautifully, like, brutal in the best way possible. Because I think that made me look at my songwriting critically, and not just like the stream of thought feeling thing that, you know, I wanted people to feel with me, because I think there's a way to articulate things that hits home more concisely, then, you know, like the songs I wrote originally are way more watered down versions of what I can right now. And that's because he was very honest with me. But once you get that structure down, and you learn how to write a great song, you have to learn how to trust the soul of what you've been trying to communicate that much more so that the two can come together at that point. And I was talking to somebody on my team and they were like, Yeah, Jenna, you graduated from songwriting school, now you need to settle in to who you are, and what your voice is what you have to say, and trust yourself. And that stuff has started happening this year. And, and really a big part of that was make the world a small town and realizing that most of that lyric was just what came out of my heart. And it was just shaping it up with one other person that made it something that would resonate with a lot of people and I can't wait people to hear that song in that song and then a song called Stop, stop and smell the horses, which I sent to Jess on the Justin team, like the day after I got the demo back because I was so I knew she'd get it. You know, and it's a play off of stop and smell the roses and the hook is because it ain't always roses. Remember, stop and smell the horses. And it's just all these little things like taste that tequila before you kill it with that line. Pick the blackberries off the vine, listen to the crickets, watch the sunrise and sunset, you know, like all these things that are very quintessential to anybody that grew up in the heartland who gets caught up in the busyness of life and needs to slow it down. And yeah, anyway, those two songs on the record, were just me and one other person. And it was really fun to learn how to trust myself in that and learn what my voice sounds like, in a writer room. As much as you know, having people that are just ridiculous songwriters and be like, No, let's see it your way, you know, because you want to make those people happy when you're in the room too. So anyway, it's been a learning experience.

Taylor Mcadams: And since you brought up your album, I'll let you go ahead and share the details. It's coming up soon, right?

Jenna Paulette: Yes. Oh my gosh. March 31. The girl I was the title track, honestly, is what made me feel like I could even put a record out I'm I love artists that put out albums and I think for a long time because I was in a relationship that really robbed me of who I was he really shut my voice down and there's a million things I could go into. But that's not the focus of where I am right now. It's where I'm headed. And I think when I was in that I couldn't just be who I am. And so much of that felt like I needed to change and there was so much pressure on me from him and are really just only found joy in my career. And now it's like I God set my feet on solid ground again and giving me the ability to recognize, oh, I've just always been that girl. And that moment for me was I was on a writer's retreat last year, and I'd had some time to process everything. And it was like April or early May, and I was going to get everybody pizzas with Jesse Joe Dylan will Bundy and Jeff Gibson, and will and Jeb are all over my record. And Jesse Joe's my first weekend with her and she's Dean Dylan's daughter, who wrote the chair for George Strait. So I just wanted to make sure that I had something valuable to offer. So I went on my dog and my truck and went to get pizza for everybody. The sun was setting and this picture of me as a little girl, helping my granddad sell, my uncle hates cattle popped into my head. And I just remember having this hot can of orange Gatorade records on my face, the smell of dust, and cows in the air. And I remember just feeling like, like proud and at peace and good. And my mom had taken this picture of me, and it was at my grandma's house for the longest time. And every time I was there, I would look at that picture. And think, I love that girl, like, that's who I am. It's like, you know, when you like, see something in yourself, and you're like, it makes you just proud and settled all at once. And that's how I felt every time I looked at that picture. And it popped into my mind on this pizza trip to go get dinner for somebody. And I was like, I'm just getting back to the girl I was. And I was like, if that's the only song we write this weekend, then every thing will make sense. And we nailed it. I mean, like, it just felt so honest. And so right. And like it represented so many girls that, you know, we all get caught up in life, we all get caught up in motherhood, or careers or relationships like me, or just being busy and so easy to forget who we are. And I felt like it was a love song reminder to, you know, girls across the United States that grew up like I did, who might have lost sight of that girl. And when I got the demo back, I was on a trip to Wyoming with boot barn. And it was so random, I got the song back right before I got on my flight. And I was listening to it. My manager and I had been talking about me putting a record out and I was like, I know I want to do that I just don't even know where to start. And getting that song back. When I landed in Wyoming I called her I said, the records called the girl I was the first thing people hear is going to be an intro instrumental version of Home on the Range. And everything in between is going to be about people that grew up on the range. And it just made sense to me finally, and it's like that was the missing puzzle piece that let me have the freedom to say what I needed to say. And it's got some songs that are already out on it, like country and the girl because that I just felt like it was the people song. And it is very much part of the story too. Like when you hear it from beginning to end, you're gonna see, you know, just all the puzzle pieces come together. And yeah, so it's, it's the first body of work that I've felt like I could put my name on, that actually felt worthy of being called an album to me, because I have very high standards, you know, like I love, you know, Reba McIntyre. And, gosh, George Strait and the Dixie Chicks and Miranda Lambert and these people that have put together pieces of art that I will forever listen to top to bottom. And so that's like the standard that I hold myself to, and then, you know, you're trying to do something great. And this was the first time I felt like, I could even approach a benchmark like that. And it's, you know, obviously, I've got a million ways to grow and, and I can already see the things that I want to be better on my next record, but I'm very proud of this work of art. And I feel like it is a step. A very right step in the right direction. We'll get it.

Taylor Mcadams: Oh, yeah. And you're doing everything to make it look so easy to so I commend you for that. But there's just something about the rawness and the realness of every song that you put out that for instance, even my friend Ralph in Germany, who you actually got to randomly meet me has listened to every song since meeting you and is your probably your biggest fan in Germany. And he knows that, you know, the four songs by heart the four songs that he's mainly listened to. And so I think that's really cool because people that are enthralled with the Western industry, they're automatically enthralled with you because you live it you're not like Nashville, you live it every day and you understand and appreciate the hard work that goes into it. But really quick before we go I have one final question because one thing that popped out to me when I first heard the name Jenna Paulette, before I was even with Justin was how you saying about Justin boots? And I've got to ask what was the story behind adding Justin boots in country in the girl?

Jenna Paulette: Yes, you're right, country in the girl. So for me, I grew up working in Justin boots like, I don't know, it was a very obvious brand. I'm a Texas girl. And Justin is a very Texan brand. And Nocona you know, like, you know, I just I had Justin's like that, that was the area that I grew up in. It was the most familiar brand to me. And I grew up working in ropers. So like, the very traditional ropers, which is so funny, because like, I ride in like the Clara booth. It's like super. But they're like the high, like super tall. I don't know, to shaft level. Shocked? Yeah. Oh, I thought it was anyway. And because I like it throughout here, because there's rattlesnakes and stuff like that. But in Oklahoma, like we had snakes and everything, but we were on four wheelers. So I didn't need to worry about the tow or anything like that. And I just loved the way ropers looked. And so when we were writing that song, I was like, they were like, Do you have a brand you love? And I was like, Yeah, Justin boots and they're like, sweet, and we just put it in song. And it's so funny, because obviously Justin has like a massive presence in the western industry, the rodeo world, all of it. But I have loved hearing girls come up to me and be like, Oh my gosh, like when I heard that I was like, Oh my gosh, I'm wearing Justin's right now they felt like they were a part of the club. And I don't know, it just it felt like the right fit because I had been wearing them for so long that it just made sense to me that that was what we use. Plus, like, to me Justin's a work brand, as much as it is a fashion brand. And so that and that's what we're trying to talk about in the song is like the difference between somebody who wears boots because they you know, want to look the part versus people that wear it for utility, and do have a nice pair of boots that they wear on the weekends, but they're wearing them because they have a job to do. And so yeah, it just felt like the right call to make and nobody I wrote that song with two dudes and one of them's my future brother in law which is a side note but like they were like That's so sick Jenner you know and like both of those guys like they their country but they're not like Western at all. So they had no you know, weigh in at all. They were just like, Yeah, sounds sick. Give me a pair of you get sponsored by Justin.

Taylor Mcadams: Oh, now we're happy to send them, right? Yes, exactly. Before we go, we literally have zero time left but I want people to be able to buy your merch I want them to be able to listen to your songs where can they hear you? Where can they find you tell us everything.

Jenna Paulette: Thank you so much. Um, so yeah, Jenna paulette.com is where you would be able to buy merch we've got a bunch of stuff coming. We should be launching like the week of the record. And it'll be a lot of really cool stuff. We've got trucker hats that are modeled after the feed store in Gainesville, Texas, which is where my mom grew up and where my grandparents lived and commuted to and from the ranch. T-shirts and sweatshirts and koozies and all that good stuff. And I cannot wait to reveal it all and design them with a friend of mine and she knocked it out of the park. So that's where you can find that, and then socials just Jenna Paulette, if you look on Tik Tok, or Pinterest or Instagram or Facebook or anything, just J E N N A P A U L E T T E and yes, that really is my last name. People are always like it's an extra middle name. Last name.

Taylor Mcadams: Well, very good. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule. I know you're on tour with Aaron Watson right now. So thank you again for carving out a little bit of time to talk with us. We love you so much. I love you so much. And I wish you the best in everything you do. And you guys heard it March 31 To get ready. That's all you're ever going to want to listen to for the next rest of your life.

Jenna Paulette: Thank you.

Taylor Mcadams: Thanks so much. Thanks for joining us on Kick Your Boots Up. I'm your host Taylor McAdams and we can't wait to share the next story of the West. Until then, feel free to like, subscribe, and leave us a review. Follow us on social media at Justin boots to keep up with our next episode. And we'll see you the next time you kick your boots up.