We had the chance to sit down with Showdog-Universal’s Jessie James before her new single “Military Man” was sent to radio. The country singer recently announced her engagement to Denver Broncos’ receiver Eric Decker, and while we didn’t talk about her relationship, we did find out what made her cry and leave the recording studio when she was younger. In our exclusive interview with the singer, find out what it was like working with Mark Wright, why she loves country music instead of pop music, and what fans can expect from her this year. We also find out exactly why Jessie is so happy to be finally a country artist, and not a pop artist.
Find out everything you need to know about Jessie in our interview below, and make sure to let us know what you think of her country singles “Military Man” and “When You Say My Name” so far:
You had the chance to work with Mark Wright on your album, what was that experience like?
Yes, I did work with Mark Wright! There was a mistake on the notes and it says “Bright,” but it’s “Wright.” Mark is also the president of my label with Toby Keith, and he’s a fantastic producer. He produced Gretchen Wilson‘s record! I’ve known Mark for years; I’ve been coming back and forth to Nashville since I was fifteen. So, I already had a great relationship with him and it just felt like home working with him. He just makes it sound so warm and so rich, and he captures my voice the way I want it. He’s a great producer and he’s just a great guy.
Was there a little bit of pressure working with the label boss on the record?
No, not at all! The thing about Mark is that we already such great friends, that we already had a good friendship, and he’s just such a sweet guy. I love his wife and his family. I’ve been in and out of Nashville for years, and you kind of get to know everybody. It just felt like I was working with a friend, it really did, and with someone I idolized. He’s created such beautiful music in the past.
What is it about country music that you’re drawn to?
I’ve been drawn to country music my whole life, it’s been my favorite music forever. A lot of people probably don’t realize or understand that since I was signed to a pop label for a little bit. My first CD I ever had was a LeAnn Rimes CD. It was a tape (laughs), it was “Blue.” After that, I just became obsessed with country music. I ordered Country Weekly every week, and I was always on CMT.com. I was just obsessed with country music.. and I’m from the South. I’m used to that being all we’d listen to.
Is there anything you really want to accomplish this year?
I would really like to sell 500,000 singles again (laughs), I would really love that. I would really love it for people to just like my music, and I’d really love if I could get a song at least in the top 30. I just really want to get my music out there, and I really want women to relate to my songs… well, guys too. (laughs)
Do you think there’s a big difference between pop music and country music?
Ooh, yes. It is black and white, it’s two different things. I love pop music but I never wanted to be a pop star, I always wanted to be a country singer, I wanted to be a country star. I came to Nashville trying to get a record deal for years, from age fifteen to nineteen, and nobody would sign me. They already signed a bunch of new country girls, and they told me they just didn’t have any room for me. So, I got a phone call from L.A. Reid at Island Def Jam saying that he heard my song, and they flew me out and signed me. So, of course, I’m right out of high school and if someone was going to offer me a record deal I was going to take it.
They promised me that it would be a pop-country CD, that it would have some country in it. Then I was told that we could make a partnership with a country label… well, it didn’t turn out that way. I remember crying in the vocal booth with some pop producers telling me not to sound so much like myself, not to sound so country. I was just crying saying that it just wasn’t me. So, my next record at the pop label I said “I can’t do this, you gotta let me go.” So they let me find a partnership with a country label.
Now, I know that wasn’t exactly your question, that you asked if there’s differences, and yes, there is. It’s cats and dogs, it’s two different things and I am way more comfortable in Nashville.
So if there was one artist you could choose, living or dead, that you could work with, who would it be?
I would like to work with Bobbie Gentry. She wrote the song “Ode To Billie Joe.” She’s an amazing, amazing artist, singer, and songwriter. She actually wrote “Fancy,” the Reba McEntire song. She was the original writer and singer. She’s just this bluesy, soulful girl from Mississippi. I’d love to work with her.
If you could tour with anybody?
Have you had the chance to sit back and reflect on your country career so far, or is it all still just a blur?
No, it’s not a blur at all. Just the way that everything’s been going feels so natural. The pop thing was kind of a blur, and I think, “oh God, I toured with the Jonas Brothers. That’s crazy.” I loved it, but it was just so different when I look back at it. Now, everything is so clear to me about exactly what I want to do moving forward. I have a plan and it’s just that I’m more mature now, and that I’m happy with what I’m doing now.
Are there any weird stories about recording in the studio?
Yes! So this one time, they were making me record this really pop song and I hated the song. I was like, this is ridiculous. I’m in the vocal booth and of course, I’m crying again, because they’re making me not sound like myself. They say to me, and now I love this artist so I’m not putting her down, but they say to me, “can you sound a little more like Britney Spears?”. I remember going “are you kidding me?” and I just started crying and left the studio. I was just so upset, I didn’t want to sound like that, I wanted to sound like myself. I love Britney, and she’s known for being an entertainer, not really a singer, so when I heard that I was just in shock.
Is there anything you want to tell people that still think you’re a pop artist crossing over?
I would like to tell them that I’ve won many yodeling contests in my day, I really have! I was born and raised in the south, I’m a military girl, so I’ve moved a lot all over the South. I’m as Southern as it gets and I love country music. When I had the pop record I was just a country singer pretending to be a pop artist and this time I really get to be myself, I’m the real deal.
Is there one song on the radio you wish you wrote?
Hell on Heels by the Pistol Annies. I love that song, it’s just so swampy kind of sexy. It reminds me of The Judds a little bit, you know? It’s so badass.
You’ve been pretty active on Twitter with your fans, is this something that’s important to you?
Oh it is so important. I just want my fans to feel like they’re my friends because they are the ones supporting me. Like friends, friends support one another, right? Whenever I tweet to people I try to tweet things that they can relate to, and I try to stay in touch with them because they’re my friends, and I love that they support my music. I want them to feel like they know me on a personal level. I don’t want them to feel that I’m this person that they don’t know that’s just on TV. I want them to know me, so when they see me out in public they can come up to me and talk to me – and they do! They have.
Are there any touring plans for you this year?
Yeah! I’ll be going on a radio tour, and then this Summer I’ll be going out on tour. I can’t say with who just yet, I’d love to tell you. There’s someone I’m really excited about touring with this year.
Jessie’s single “Military Man” will be sent to radio on May 14th, so get ready to hear it on your radio station! Check out the single here and let us know what you think: