Introducing Jaida Dreyer: “My Story is a Blessing in a Blender”
On the surface, Jaida Dreyer isn’t unlike the other 20-something female artists that are so often found at the top of the country music charts: She’s blonde, pretty and very personable. (She prefers hugs over handshakes.)
But the difference comes when she opens her mouth—whether it’s to use her soul-filled nothing-but-country voice to give treatment to a self-written heartbreaker or to fire out quick-witted comments and jabs. At 21, Jaida is, indeed, a different breed.
She has used that uniqueness to her advantage. After just three years in Nashville, Jaida is well on her way.
“Shoveling Shit and Throwing Hay Bales”
Jaida was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, but grew up in Iowa–eventually living in seven different states before she turned 18. Her first passion was showing horses. She won her first world championship at age five, and turned pro at 13—a year after her parents divorced.
“It was a very important time of my life,” Jaida says. “I was riding when I was in her belly. That’s what we did. I wasn’t one of the rich kids that did it as hobby, we did it to make money.”
To make a living, her mother would buy cheap ponies and transform them into prized show horses. Then, she’d sell them for a profit.
“I grew up shoveling shit and throwing hay bales,” Jaida says.
Jaida and her mom traveled the country showing horses—an experience that ultimately hardened Jaida.
“It was very physically demanding, but it taught me a lot. It taught me how to work hard and forced me to grow up real quickly,” Jaida says. “I was the 17-year-old kid hanging out with the 30-year-old cocaine cowboys.”
But life on the road gave Jaida something to write about—an experience that would ultimately pay off.
Change in Route
When she was 18, Jaida hurt her back badly. The doctor said that if she kept riding horses, she’d be in a wheelchair by 25.
“That completely rocked my world, because that was all I ever knew,” Jaida says. “That was where my life was going. I had to totally re-evaluate my life plan.”
She looked back on her writings from the road, and decided to take a shot at Nashville.
“I wanted to move to town and I wanted to write songs… I really had no aspirations to be an artist, not because I didn’t’ want to do it, just because I’m very much a realist,” Jaida says.
Ironically, in a city full of dreamers, the realist got a break. Within weeks of moving to Nashville, she posted a no-budget work tape recording on her MySpace page. Almost immediately she heard from singer-songwriter Robin Lee Bruce who helped her plug in.
“Next thing I know, I was being offered publishing deals,” Jaida says. “At that time, I was so naïve, I didn’t know you could get paid to write songs.”
She eventually signed with award-winning producer Byron Gallimore’s Song Garden Publishing—a unique two-for-one deal.
“Being a producer and all, I’m looking for great songwriters for one thing, but I’m also looking for artist writers,” Gallimore said. “With Jaida, I was attracted to her because of her writing, but also because of her amazing artist ability. She’s just an amazing artist in my opinion—and a really unique singer.”
From there, the snowball started to roll.
Friends In All Places
In the past three years, Jaida has firmly planted herself in the Nashville scene. She’s written songs with Guy Clark, done a couple shows with Eric Church, dined with Hayes Carll and describes Carolyn Dawn Johnson as her “surrogate mother.”
“She kind of took me under her wing as her little baby,” Jaida says with a smile.
Her Nashville friends aren’t limited to the country spectrum. Eighty percent of the material for her debut album was co-written with Kings of Leon producer Angelo Petraglia. She’s also friends with Jaren Johnston from the rock band American Bang (who just broke the Top 40 with “Wild and Young”).
“I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great people,” Jaida says. “I credit a lot of what I’ve been fortunate to do to being around them.”
But Jaida has a special mention for her best friend in Nashville: Universal Republic recording artist Sunny Sweeney.
“If we’re not attached at the hip, we’re attached at the heart,” Jaida says. “Friends like that are hard to find, especially for me because I’m so much a guy’s girl…We’re just balls-to-the-walls kinda girls.”
Sweeney recorded one of Jaida’s songs, “Fall For Me,” which is expected to be a single on her Republic debut.
“Blessing In a Blender”
Jaida’s music is a mix of thoughtful lyrics sung by an unmistakably country voice, backed by semi-traditional production. It leans slightly Americana, slightly country-pop, and slightly classic country—similar to the format used on Holly Williams’ album Here With Me. But Jaida doesn’t like comparing and categorizing.
“Once you’ve boxed something in, it is what it is. I don’t want to be that kind of girl,” Jaida says. “For me, I just love good music and it’s important to me. More than anything, my songs and my music are just real.”
While some artists rush into an initial record deal and spit out a debut album as fast as they can, Jaida is taking her time. Right now, she and Gallimore are shopping her album around for a deal, but she isn’t in a rush.
“In this industry, timing is everything. Patience is a virtue and fortunately it’s somewhat one of mine,” Jaida says. “I’m young, so I’m not in that big of a hurry. I want to be around a long time, so I want to do it right.”
Gallimore believes that because of her distinctiveness, she might encounter a little resistance finding a deal right away.
“Unique vocalists usually have a small love/hate thing and it can take them a little while to click in, but when they do, you have a real defined artist,” said Gallimore, referencing Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles. “And to me, that’s what true artistry is about—it’s about having that unique voice.”
Jaida shouldn’t have trouble eventually finding a place in the business, Gallimore said.
“I would put her up with any new artist, period. The quality of the songs that she writes…she has some amazing songs. I could sit down and play you a dozen songs that if you would sit down and listen to the lyric, you would be just stunned.”
And all those songs come from a unique life experience that has included both broken hearts and lucky breaks.
“My life hasn’t been between the lines all the time. My story definitely has been a blessing in a blender,” Jaida says. “But that’s created the person that I am.”
“I’m still a work in progress.”
- Leeann Ward: I'm not an ETC fan, but I do love "Brotherly Love" with Keith Whitley.
- luckyoldsun: It's got to be "What I'd Say." (I think that's the title.) There was some question, I believe, over whether …
- Paul W Dennis: probably "Nobody Falls Like A Fool" or "Silent Treatment"
- Lynchie from Aberdeen: Where in heck's name is "That Was A Close One"?!?!? It's the guy's best song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrR_2rXiKA0
- Cody: Love seeing ETC getting some credit! My five, in no particular order at first; Crowd Around the Corner Home So Fine I Have …
- Juli Thanki: I think it's technically a Keith Whitley song, but I've always been fond of his duet with ETC, "Brotherly Love."
- luckyoldsun: Lots of very good artists have not had anywhere near the radio play and hits that Lee Ann Womack has …
- Hard Times: Just read Jewly Hight's feature on Womack. I couldn't believe Womack has had only a half dozen or so Top …
- Barry Mazor: Leeann, Im not surprised about your sister's response--or that, for many, Garth Brooks now equals the ancient days of country …
- nm: I think that anyone who likes country music or Nashville and visits Nashville for those reasons is pretty quickly made …