Jana Kramer’s winding career path has finally led her to Nashville. Born
and raised in Michigan, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career and appeared on Friday Night Lights, 90210
and Entourage. Then she landed a breakout role as aspiring singer Alex Dupre in One Tree Hill, a prime-time
WB series filmed in North Carolina.
Two years ago, after frequent visits to Tennessee, she officially made the move
to Music City.
“Gosh, I was in L.A. for about nine years, and I never felt at home at all — until I moved here,”
she says. “Even before I bought my house, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m going to live here forever.’”
The relocation has paid
off, as her debut single “Why Ya Wanna” has become a Top 20 hit.
And on June 5, she released her debut album on Elektra Nashville. That career momentum has helped
shed the stigma that
she’s just another actress who’s “gone country.”
During a visit to CMT, the upbeat singer chatted about her musical
influences, her upcoming tour with Brad Paisley and that darn ex-boyfriend
from “Why Ya Wanna.”
CMT: You made such a strong impression at country radio for being a new artist. How did you
go about making that personal connection and proving yourself?
Kramer: I was getting so much criticism.
They were like, “Oh, God, another actress coming in, trying to make it in country radio.” I had a ton of criticism. A lot
of people on the radio tour were like, “Nah, I don’t want to even bother to see her.” [My label] was like, “Just meet her.”
Once I met them, I always thought, “Let the music lead the way. Just be me.” I’m from Michigan and a down-home girl. I’m not
what they were expecting. They embraced me, and it’s been unbelievable. I’m so thankful.
How many times did you
hear those critical comments?
Oh, a million. By the day, it’s less and less. There are a few people who still haven’t
met me who are like, “Meh.” But now all of the people who were not believers are now becoming believers. But I do remember
the people who believed in me in the beginning. I’ll never forget that.
I feel like you embraced a traditional country
sound on “Whiskey” and “You Only Want Me When You’re Lonely.” Why did that approach appeal to you?
When I first
met with [producer Scott Hendricks] and played him some of the things I was writing, he was like, “Wow, you’re country! You’re
not poppy.” There are some things that can lean more pop, but I love Deana
Carter and even older than that, like Loretta Lynn. That’s what I
grew up on.
Have you found that people are surprised that you sound so country?
Yeah, everyone! They’re
like, “You’re from Michigan! How are you country?” I say, “Keith Urban
is from Australia. Let’s have a debate.” (laughs) It doesn’t matter. There are more rednecks in Michigan than there are in
the South. It doesn’t matter where you are. Who cares?
I’ve heard you talk about “sass with class.” What does that
term mean to you?
My definition is: “I don’t want to kill any of my ex-boyfriends. I just want them to suffer a
little bit.” And I don’t think that’s bad, I really don’t! It’s not like I’m going to be standing out there with a shotgun.
But I just hope something happens, like I hope it rains on them on their wedding day. (laughs)
What was going through
your mind when you got the offer to tour with Brad Paisley?
People were always asking me who I wanted to tour with,
and I always said Jason Aldean or Brad Paisley. I’m really happy I got
the Paisley tour. His fans are just awesome, and I love him as a person. I think he’s an amazing entertainer, and I love his
songs. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid. I’m sure he doesn’t like to hear that! (laughs) I’ve been a fan for a while.
you look out at the crowd when you play live, what kind of people are you seeing?
A ton of girls, because a lot
of them are One Tree Hill fans. (laughs) And then the dudes who have to be there, but then they became fans of One
Tree Hill. A total mix — and that’s what’s awesome. That’s what I wanted. I wanted not just the girls. I wanted the guys
and the older people. I wanted to reach a whole group of people.
What is a typical day on the road for you?
I’m not too tired, I’ll go for a run and open up the lungs a little bit. We have load-in pretty early for the Brad Paisley
stuff. We play the show, which is early, then we’ll go out and see the town we’re in. And I’m a huge gamer. I make my band
play games with me, like Catch Phrase and Things and Guesstures. It’s really fun.
of games are those?
Things is my favorite game in the whole entire world. It’s like, “Things you shouldn’t
do in front of your in-laws.” … And you have to guess who said which thing. But it gets really dirty really fast! It gets
very inappropriate very fast!
Is it all guys in your band?
I have one girl, but the band is all on the
same bus. We’re all around the same age. There’s a great mixture of everything. There are no crazy partiers. We all even ourselves
out pretty well. I love having a girl in the band because we can be like, “Boys, blaahh!”
Would you say that music
is like therapy and helps you work through things?
One hundred percent. It is absolutely therapy. When I first
started on the radio tour, I was still hung up on the guy I sang “Why Ya Wanna” about. And now I’ve worked past it, from singing
that song. I’m like, “You know what? You don’t deserve for me to be thinking about you right now.” So now I’m on “I Hope It
Rains” with him. Like, “I hope you suffer!” (laughs)
Have you crossed paths with that guy again?
And he still gives me a big ol’ hug and just thinks that everything is dandy.
You can’t leave him hanging, so I
think you should give him a big bear hug next time.
(laughs) “Hey buddy! Things are awesome!”