2012 Artist To Watch: Jana Kramer

Out of all of our Artists To Watch, Jana Kramer is unique.  The reason for that is that she’s already been watched – by millions each week as the character Alex Dupre on CW’s One Tree Hill.  I have to admit, I was never one of the millions, which actually makes me – and every other non-watching country music fan – her new target audience.

The 28-year-old has now signed off from the small screen and is focused solely on her singing career.  She released her first single, “Why Ya Wanna,” in record-setting style last week.  A total of 55 stations added the song to their playlists, which is the most ever for a debut artist, male or female.  (Read about her reaction to the record and more on the single here.)

One possible reason for country radio’s warm reception is that Kramer’s already proven there’s a market for her music.  Before the radio release of “Why Ya Wanna,” she had a handful of digital singles out.  Those singles have sold nearly 200,000 copies without any airplay.  Clearly, people are listening and liking what they hear – including us.  We featured her “What I Love About Your Love” earlier this month in our Video Picks of the Week.

We talked with her right after she came from visiting her doctor.  A nasty cough slowed her down a bit, but it couldn’t stop her from talking about the passion she has for following her dream of making it in country music.  She knows there are skeptics out there and takes them head-on.  Plus, she talks about some “star” support and dishes details from her “hot” video shoot.

So many people know you from your work on One Tree Hill.  Do you see this as an advantage coming into country music simply because you’re already a known commodity?

Yeah, that’s definitely a help, especially with the One Tree Hill fans because they’re just the most devoted fans ever.  But the coolest accomplishment for me is when someone comes up to me and they’re like, “I love your music.  I had no idea you were an actress, but I love your music.”  And I’m like, “Actually that’s the biggest complement I could ever get because you don’t know me from the show, you know me from my music.”

What do you have to say skeptics who might be saying ‘Well, she’s an actress who’s going into singing?’

I’ve had to deal with that before I even moved to town.  “Oh, you’re just another actress.  You’re probably just gonna do one single and then go do another TV show.”  All I can say to that is I understand you can think that, because there’s been people before me who have done that, who have stepped in and then left.  The difference is I’m gonna stick around.  My music speaks for itself.  I’m here and I’m not just getting out because things get hard or whatever.  I live in Nashville and this is where my home is right now.

That’s a big thing.  You’re actually now living in Nashville and not just flying in and out.  

I bought a house before I got my record deal.  I knew that it was going to take a while.  It happened a lot sooner and I’m grateful and thankful for that.  But even if it didn’t, I’d still be here and still be trying to get a deal.  Because this is what I want to do, this is my dream.

What is it that drew you to country music?  Does it have to do with your upbringing or is it music you’ve enjoyed your whole life?

I grew up singing country music.  I grew up listening to it with my Grandma.  Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash – all the old amazing singers.  It’s just something that I grew up with and I’ve always sang country music.

One of the main things with country music is having songs that are relatable.  When I listen to your “Why Ya Wanna,” even as a 44-year-old guy, I can relate to that.

Yay!  That’s what I want!

Is this something you keep in mind when you’re writing or selecting songs:  ‘”This is something everyone can relate to” or is it more “this is how I feel and I hope the world relates to it”?

I think it’s a little bit of both, but more so what everyone can relate to.  The reason why I’m doing country music especially is it’s telling a story.  Music has helped me so much in my life.  I want to kind of give that back and have songs people can relate to.  Yes, I’m a girl singing about a boy, but it’s awesome that a guy can relate.  It doesn’t matter.  We can all feel the same way.  So it’s really neat.

When will the music video be coming out?

It’s coming out in February.  It’s already been edited.  It’s been edited for a really long time.  When we were out on the radio tour we were showing it to all of the radio program directors and they’ve been able to see it.  So now the fans will be able to see it in February.  It’s awesome and something I can’t wait for you guys to see.

Any details about the video you can share with us?  Obviously, we’re expecting to see you in it.  But, gosh, I don’t know if you’d be comfortable acting in a video!

(Laughs)  I really got to use my acting chops in the video.  It was fun.  I’m on a bike for most of it.  A real funny fact:  It was the hottest day in Nashville ever recorded.  It was like 114 degrees and I had to ride a bike that day and I was dying! (Laughs)  It was so hot!

Along with the video, fan can also expect another special release next month, a CD/magazine combo.

It’s gonna be like a magazine with some songs in there.  And it’s gonna have some fun facts about me, just little things to know about me.  There are also some personal photos.  It’s gonna be pretty cool.  Something fans can have it their hands.  (Note:  It could’ve been due to her cold, but she didn’t mention that the ‘ZinePak will include questions submitted by her fans on Facebook.  Maybe yours will be in there!) 

What is the status of your album right now?

We’re about five songs away from being done.  We finish next week, so I am ecstatic!

The album comes out later this year.  Naturally, you’ll be out promoting it.  Along with radio stops, will you be doing individual shows or are there any tours you’ll be able to hop on?

We’ll definitely be hopping on a tour.  I should know by next week for sure that I’m getting one.  In the meantime I’ll be doing a bunch of radio tours and fair dates.  People can go to my website (www.janakramer.com) to check in and see where I’m coming.

Country radio is certainly embracing you.  How about other country artists?  What sort of feedback have you gotten from them?

The coolest one so far was at the very beginning Charles from Lady A came up to me and was like, “We love your song!” and I was like, “Wow!  Thanks!”  And Clay Walker has been another huge supporter.  Every time I see him and his wife they’re like, “We’re really rooting for you!”  It’s been really great.  So it’s just definitely really welcoming.

Let’s go in the land of fantasy now.  If you could choose anyone you could go out on the road with, who might that be? 

Ohhh, that’s a good one!  I’d want to go out with everyone right now!  But Jason Aldean would be really fun.  The Tim McGraw/Kenny Chesney tour would be awesome.  Those are my top three right now.  And Brad Paisley!

I want to give you the chance to add whatever you’d like for your fans and potential new fans to know about you as a country music singer and songwriter.

I’m as real and authentic as it’s gonna get in every song that I sing.  I’ve felt and lived and I really want people to be able to connect with that.  And know that I’m not just some TV star.  I’m just a regular girl who has the same heartaches as everyone else and the same happy times.  I guess I want that.  It’s really fun to get to meet everyone, too and to get to know people on the road and just have fun with everybody.

What would you consider success to be in the field of country music?  Does it have to be a number one song or a number one album?   Or is it something else?

As great as it would be to have a number song and a number one album, to just get to a point and say just that…I mean people have that and it’s gone the next day.   I really want a very steady and growing and successful career that brings a lot of great songs that people can relate to.  (Pauses) And an award would be great to win!  Those things would be great!  (Laughs)