On the heels of being named Apple Music’s Country Riser of the Month for March, Paulette arrives with her debut album, ‘The Girl I Was’, out now. Hailing from Lewisville, Texas, Jenna Paulette’s roots as a cowgirl were first established as a young girl helping her family tend to their ranch. It’s where she always felt like her truest self, and where the grit that comes from a hard day’s work was born. Now, emerging on the other side of a ten-year-long toxic relationship, Paulette delivers her debut project with that same grit and vulnerability, facing the heartbreak of her past and diving confidently into her future – ultimately returning to the girl she was prior.
The concept for the album, produced by Will Bundy with impressive writer credits including Rhett Akins, Jessie Jo Dillon and Ashley McBryde, surfaced while Paulette was attending a writers’ retreat. She was driving alone, content with her blue heeler as her passenger, enjoying the sunset in the distance, when an image of her eight-year-old self came to mind. She reminisced on the simplicities of life then – a freckle-faced child helping her grandfather on the ranch – dirty, full of purpose and well-loved. She was determined to get back to her.
“The picture of me that I believe God dropped into my head on the day we wrote ‘The Girl I Was’ in late April last year was taken when I was about eight, helping Granddaddy sell my uncle Hick’s cattle,” reflects Paulette. “It’s the first time I ever felt like ‘myself.’ Every time I looked at this picture growing up it was a reminder to me of all the things I love about myself. My freckles in the summer sun. Drinking a hot orange can of Gatorade on a truck-bed or fence. Being covered in dirt while tending cattle. Dust in the air and the feeling of being capable—surrounded by FAMILY with the world at my fingertips. I am proud to say, the ‘Girl I Was’ is now the woman I am.”
With influences from country music’s past interwoven throughout, and a cover of country legend Gene Autry’s ‘Home on the Range’ serving as bookends to the project, Paulette reflects on heartbreak and redemption with a delivery that’s reminiscent of her greatest musical heroes – Autry, The Chicks and Miranda Lambert among them.
Kicking off with ‘Fiddle and a Violin,’ the upbeat tune delivers a tongue-in-cheek introspection at two individuals who appear similar, but upon a closer look the differences that were present all along become apparent. Songs ‘You Ain’t No Cowboy’ and ‘Bless Her Heart’ continue to delve into the heartbreak of a relationship gone awry, with ‘Pretty Ugly’ signaling its end (“Roses on the counter are wilted now / Nail holes where I took the pictures down / Right side nightstand looks a little bit dusty / Heartbreak makes pretty ugly”).
In contrast, glimpses of healing and new romance are present with wistful love song ‘Anywhere the Wind Blows,’ and hopeful tune ‘Sun Keeps Comin’ Back Up,’ ultimately leading to the transformative, self-discovery title track, ‘The Girl I Was’ (“I can’t believe I ever thought she wasn’t good enough / I’m getting back to the girl I was”).
It’s a level of honesty that left The Tennessean musing “gripping clarity, emotion and feeling are more readily apparent in her work than ever before,” with Billboard noting she arrives “confident” and “carefree.”