“Dreams really do come true” according to country singer/songwriter Jana Kramer. This “honey voiced” actress-turned-singer, released her self-titled debut album on June 5th this year through Elektra Nashville. Some of you may also recognise Jana from popular American teen TV show One Tree Hill, in which she played actress-turned-singer Alex Duprais. Jana debuted 4 songs through the show, and later signed to Warner Music Nashville. First single ‘Why You Wanna’ has sold 225,000 digital downloads, and has gained an audience of over 10 million in just 10 weeks after its country radio debut, and quickly moved into the top 25 on the charts, which is a record pace for a solo female country newcomer.
Though it’s pretty lucky that Kramer has decided to share her vocal talents with the world, a daunting prospect for anyone, as she hasn’t always been as confident. “I figured it would be easier to hide behind a character than actually be myself. Music was the thing I wanted to do, but was terrified.” When listening to Kramer’s songs and vocal ability, it is hard to believe that she would ever need to question herself, but she admits that she was intimidated by the idea of singing in public and says she was “too overwhelmed”, especially when “[she’d] listen to the radio and hear Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride, and they just had these big powerful voices.”
But what Kramer failed to realise was her voice is beautifully powerful its self, her vocal style and ability is like a breath of fresh air; very soft and sweet, and it was the belief of One Tree Hill’s producers that gave Kramer’s singing career a platform to shine and launch from. Jana joined the cast in 2009 and, once she opened up about her musical ambitions they wrote musical talents into her character. Kramer says she never told anybody because she doubted herself, but it was that leap of faith that paid off in the end. “I read through the next episode, where I saw he wrote in that my character started singing. I just started crying, I was so excited.”
Since then the career she always wanted has gone from strength to strength, despite some initial doubters on her first radio tour. “A lot of people weren’t taking me seriously, they thought I was going to try it and then realise that it’s actually a lot harder than it seems, and take off back to Hollywood.” Well she sure proved them wrong; moving to Nashville on a permanent basis and ‘Why You Wanna’ getting over 55 radio adds in its first week. Along with being the biggest debut artist since the chart’s inception, these adds were nearly triple the record for any debut female artist.
Kramer’s self titled album debuted at No.5 on country album charts and No.2 on digital country album sales, and she has been named one of “Summer’s Hottest Artists” by People Country, and is one of Billboard’s “Season’s Biggest New Names”. She is currently on tour in the US promoting the album which began in May and finishes up in August. Kramer has already sold over 500,000 digital singles.
It is clear why, Jana Kramer’s music is emotional, honest and relatable, whilst being polished, soft and very easy to listen to. Album opener ‘Good Time Coming On’ has an upbeat country vibe and sets up the record perfectly. Tracks like ‘I hope it Rains’, ‘Goodbye California’ and King of Apology’ have a more upbeat and, definitely in the latter two, bouncy feel to them. While tracks such as ‘Why You Wanna’, ‘Whiskey’ and album closer ‘I Won’t Give Up’, showcase the soft, gentle side to Jana’s voice beautifully, while – particularly in ‘Whiskey – still being able to bring the power on the chorus. The whole album is like a story that we get to hear through Kramer’s voice, which carries all the emotion within, that comes across in the music.
This is an excellent debut, that showcases wonderfully what Kramer’s voice can do, her songwriting skills, and mixes up both sweet, heartfelt, slower tracks and raw, upbeat songs; she can do them both and do them extremely well.
And now, Jana Kramer is happily looking to the future, finally accepting herself as a musician and living her dream. “I’m ready not to hide behind anything anymore, I’m ready to just be me.” She also says that she loves the “rawness and imperfections” in her voice, “That makes me me.” She adds, “I’m not going to hold back anymore. There’s no time for that.” I completely agree.