For Jamie Lynn Spears, the road from TV star to country singer hasn't been easy. Britney Spears' younger sister rose to fame in 2005 thanks to her starring role in the Nickelodeon TV show Zoey 101. In 2007, Spears announced she was pregnant and put her career on hold to raise her daughter, Maddie.
After seven years out of the limelight, the 23-year-old entertainer announced plans for her debut country EP, The Journey (out May 27th), and released her first single, "How Could I Want More." Though Spears relies on sweet, homespun country to connect with fans, it's her honest songwriting and openness about motherhood, love, and her past experiences that will surely perk ears.
Zimbio chatted with Jamie Lynn Spears to talk about her budding country music career and the challenges she's faced as a singer/songwriter.
When did you decide you were ready to get back into entertainment and try a career in music?
When I was younger I did Zoey 101. It was a good opportunity, but who really knows what they want at 12-years-old? After I had my little girl it was really time to step back, re-evaluate, and, more than anything, figure out what kind of person and mother I wanted to be, and what kind of future I wanted to set up. I moved to Nashville and I started writing music. I've been writing music for the past six years now.
Why create a country album? Why not go into pop like your big sister Britney?
I worked in L.A. as a child, but I went to school in Mississippi and grew up in Louisiana. Whenever I went into a writing room and really dug in, country music was what organically came out. It also made the most sense to tell my story. It's not as if I woke up one morning and said, "I'm going do country music."
What does the title of your EP, The Journey, mean to you?
When you listen to the whole thing through, it's a glimpse inside my personal life and a peek into where I've been and where I am now. I'm very vulnerable and honest. I have my fun moments and my sad moments. But at the same time, it's all about my journey.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced in trying to jumpstart a music career?
The biggest challenge is trying to balance it all and not neglect anything — my work or my personal life. Any time away from my daughter is the hardest time. I don't want to miss that time with her. But I have a good team around me and a really great support system between my mom, husband, my team.
Are there any particular lyrics in the EP that were especially hard to write?
"Shotgun Wedding" was one of the first songs I ever wrote. I co-wrote it with Chris Tompkins. He helped me to be brave by telling me that it was okay to lay out my experiences and not hold back in the songwriting. There is this line in the song, "I got the news in the ladies room at the BP. A little pink plus and there wasn't no guessing." It was about a pregnancy test and I'm like, "Oh my God, people are going to thing I'm so tacky." But, you know, things happen. But sometimes I wonder how people are going to take to that.
What advice have you gotten from Britney about music, performing, or handling criticism?
The main thing is trusting your gut and sticking to you guns and what you believe in. But it's hard to be brave and vulnerable sometimes.
Does it bother you that the media always refers to you as "Britney Spears' little sister?"
I'm really proud of my sister. She's done so much and she is still going. My sister is this huge pop star, so I'm happy to be called her sister.
What country artists do you look up to?
I love Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson. An artist who is out now that I really like is Holly Williams. I covered one of her songs in one of my last shows.
Do you ever miss acting?
When I was younger it was a fun thing I did. It was a creative outlet. Now that I am able to have this creative outlet in music, it feels really good. I enjoyed acting, but music is my passion.
What do you want people to take away from The Journey?
I've never really introduced myself to the world as an adult. I want people to really understand me as the woman and mother that I've become. I want then to feel like they are getting to know me for the first time.
Listen and download 'The Journey' over on iTunes here.