Jana Kramer: In Nashville to Stay

"You Just Have to Be Here"

If you want to be a country singer, Jana Kramer says, you have to hang your hat in Tennessee.

“I tell people all the time that if they want to sing country music, they need to move to Nashville. You need to dive in. Go to open mic nights. Talk with people. All of that,” Kramer told me. “You just have to be here.”

Kramer moved to Nashville six years ago to do just that, after gaining TV fame in her role as Alex Dupre on One Tree Hill. And she feels blessed that Music City welcomed her with open arms.

“Nashville seems to have said, ‘Wow, she’s staying, and she works really hard.’ This is my home. It’s where my family is,” she said of her life there with her daughter Jolie.

And even though Kramer is on the verge of releasing a brand new single “I’ve Done Love,” she has made time to take on some other passion projects.

She’s writing a book about the twists and turns her personal life has taken in the past year, she’s starting a podcast about the joys and faux pas of motherhood, and she’s been teaching her girlfriends to play euchre — the card game she grew up on in Michigan.

All of that time in Nashville has made Kramer into a different kind of artist than she was when she released her 2012 debut single “Why Ya Wanna?”

“On that first album, I was all about making everyone happy,” she said. “Now I’m all about making me and my fans happy. I’m choosing each song carefully.

“As an artist, you grow and you give. So now as independent artist, I’m happy with that because I know what fans want. And I can do exactly that. My fans have been good to me with every up and down. I have people backing me who believe in me. When I play live and they’re singing every word, I think, ‘This is exactly why I do what I do.'”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.