Sometimes, it’s just easy to root for someone. “Grammy-nominated waitress” Jamie Floyd is one of those people.
Floyd has braved deep lows in her career, from losing a major label deal to being let go from publishing companies, Floyd has stayed on her feet.
But just as low as the lows may be, she has experienced her fair share of highs as well. Floyd was a co-writer on Ashley Monroe’s “The Blade,” which was nominated for a Grammy.
Floyd’s most recent chance for a breakthrough comes off the heals of finishing fourth on the debut season of USA Network’s “Real Country,” which saw Floyd win her individual showcase, and allowed her to perform “The Blade” for a much wider television audience.
Given this new platform, Floyd, who is also a waitress in Nashville, is looking to seize her latest opportunity for stardom.
Read our interview to learn all about Floyd’s highs and lows, and what she has learned along the way.
Pro Country: Who were some of your biggest musical influences growing up?
Jamie Floyd: For me, it started with George Strait. My parents are professional musicians, and my mom would listen to George Strait while she would get ready for her gigs, so that was my earliest exposure to country music. I remember listening to the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers Christmas record at a very young age, so those were all gateway artists for me into country music.
As I grew up and started to choose who I wanted to listen to, Trisha Yearwood was someone I immediately connected with- her voice and her music. Vince Gill was another artist that really captivated me. I would say I was lucky to grow up in a time where country music was really rich and emotional, and full of so many artists who were so unique- and there were so many people to listen to, and I did listen to them all, but my favorites were George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, I listened to LeAnn Rimes a lot when she first came out, so those were my favorites back then.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
JF: Honestly, there was never that “lightbulb moment,” because I started singing with my parents when I was two, so it always just felt natural and that there was never really a decision to be made. It just felt like, “Well, this is what I do,” from as far back as I remember, so I don’t ever remember making a choice, I just remember it being what I did (laughs).
PC: You were offered a major label deal at just 11 years old. Is it easy to get ahead of yourself and think about superstardom when you are noticed at such an early age?
JF: I was offered the deal at 11, and it took us a while to negotiate it, so I had about a year or so where we were working, but contracts take a long time to figure out (laughs). So I had some time to get acclimated to the idea of it.
I don’t know that I got ahead of myself, but I think I was extremely surprised that it could happen to me so soon. I always felt like, “I’ll grow up and be a country music singer,” but when I was offered that deal, “I might not have to grow up, I might just be able to do it now,” (laughs).
PC: How hard is it at that young of an age to stand up to record executives, who ultimately offered you a pop record deal, and say that you wanted to make a country record?
JF: When you have something dangled in front of you that is your dream- if it’s your dream to be a “singer,” any record deal is an amazing opportunity. However, I wasn’t willing to just accept any record deal for the sake of having one. Even then, at the age that I was, I recognized that it was important to be true to myself. I also recognized that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, if you will, if I was faking it. I knew that being the pop artist that they had asked me to be, and there’s nothing wrong with these artists, that direction just wasn’t authentically me. They were behind the careers of Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore, and I have a lot of respect for those artists and what they accomplished, but that wasn’t my path. So respectfully, I told them that a pop record deal wasn’t for me. Still, it was difficult to turn that down, because I could have gone to New York and made a record that very next week. It was hard to walk away from an opportunity like that, but at the same time, I knew that it wasn’t right for me.
PC: When that deal fell through, you were still just 16 years old. What goes through your mind when your deal falls through?
JF: It was a very difficult place to be as a teenager. You’re already going through so much transition and figuring out who you are- then to have to make a decision like that and basically feel like you’re starting over is a funny feeling to have when you’re 16, but I kept going. So that day I lost my record deal, September 2, 2002, I decided I would move to Nashville.
PC: You released your debut EP, “Sunshine and Rainbows,” in 2016. What did it mean to you to release your own music after your songwriting success you had achieved at the time?
JF: It was the first time that I felt truly in control of my career and my destiny. I decided that if a label wasn’t going to take a chance on me or if I can’t find a partner or a champion right now that believes in me, then I’m going to believe in myself enough to release my own music. And I felt very validated by Ronnie Dunn’s cut and Ashley Monroe at the time, so I thought to myself that if these incredible artists that I respect so much believe in my songs enough to cut them, then I should have that same belief in myself, so that gave me the motivation and that final little push to go ahead and do it.
PC: “The Blade” is a song that has hit home with a lot of people, can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
JF: My co-writer, Allen Shamblin, came to us and said the idea came to him from a sermon where the preacher said, “sometimes in life, you catch it by the handle, and sometimes you catch it by the blade.” He brought that idea to me and my cowriter Marc Beeson, and originally, we were starting to write a song about life’s lessons and how to handle things when they don’t go your way in life. It just wasn’t working. Sometimes that happens when writing songs, sometimes the song just doesn’t come out (laughs). At that point, it took a turn toward heartache. We explored that direction- that’s when the song started pouring out in the form that you hear it now. So the song started as an idea from a sermon, and ended up being about the most severe heartache and experience of when someone doesn’t love you back.
PC: “The Blade” is the only song that Ashley Monroe has cut since her debut album. What does it mean to you to have a cut and album title from a gifted writer like Ashley Monroe?
JF: That’s pretty incredible to me. I feel very lucky to have had her recognize a song of mine enough to cut it, when she is a perfectly capable songwriter herself. It felt like she had really connected with it enough to make it the title track of her record, it was an honor, and it absolutely changed my life.
PC: What did the Grammy nomination “The Blade” mean to you after the trying times you’ve had in the music industry? How important was that validation?
JF: I had written “The Blade” about a month after I lost my last publishing deal. That was a time in my life where it kind of felt like I was starting over again, much like when I was a kid losing the record deal. It was a time where it felt like I was having to prove myself again. I had to prove myself to this town, and prove to myself that I was worthy of this dream that I was chasing. So I wrote “The Blade” about a month after I lost the publishing deal, and then it got cut, and then it was nominated for the Grammy- one after the other. When we wrote the song, before anyone had ever heard it and before it was cut, I was proud of it. Then when things started happening with it, it just provided me with the kind of validation that I needed, but that I didn’t know I would get so soon.
I was incredibly grateful to have that happen when it did, because I was my own publisher. On the title track of a major label album from a major artist in country music, it proved to me that even if I was the only person who believed in me enough to invest in me as a songwriter, that I was worth the investment. I was paying myself to write these songs, and the songs were getting nominated for Grammys (laughs). I was incredibly grateful for that moment, because it made me feel like I could do anything.
When that album was nominated for “Country Album of the Year-“ and when I heard them say it over the telecast; to hear your song title spoken at the Grammys and to watch that happen in real time, it was such a beautiful gift for somebody who felt like Nashville had forgotten them. So it validated me as a publisher, it validated me as a songwriter, and it made me feel like my choice continue to fight to be a part of this community was right on.
PC: You mentioned having to fight to be a part of Nashville. You’ve had some major highs and deep lows in music. What has kept you going and allowed you to continue to fight in pursuit of your dream?
JF: I think that when you are using your life to chase after something that seems pretty impossible, it is very easy to sometimes question yourself and your sanity (laughs). I will say that going through the rejection that comes with being in the entertainment business, no matter which part of it you’re in, all of them come with the most rejection that a human being can possibly handle. That rejection chips away at your belief in yourself, and it chips away at the dream that you have. It’s a very difficult process and it’s very hard on the soul. I have been chipped away, I’ve been broken up and beaten down and kicked around, but there was this part of me, and this part of my dream and my belief in myself that they could just never take away. They just couldn’t get to it. That part that they can’t touch is what has kept me going. I am constantly very surprised with myself, as the years have gone by and it’s gotten harder and harder and taken longer and longer, I’m surprised that I have this resolve. At the same time, it’s made me realize there’s just something that they can’t take away from me. If I can recognize that and hold on to that and use that as my fire, then nothing can stop me, no matter how long it takes.
PC: You had the great success with “The Blade,” but have also had cuts by Ronnie Dunn, Kellie Pickler, among others, songs in TV shows and movies, and wrote all 12 songs in “The Last Movie Star.” Is it at all surreal if/when you take a step back and look at these achievements?
JF: It is. I don’t think I’ll ever look back on even the last year and think to myself, “Oh, I knew that was going to happen.” I’ve just been constantly taken aback by things that have happened to me, but I will say, I worked extremely hard for those things to happen. Part of me is surprised that they’ve come one after the other and that they continue to happen. At the same time, I know the work and the hours and the blood, sweat and tears I put in to making those projects what they are and what they became.
I’m definitely grateful for all of them happening the way they did, because they all weren’t supposed to. It’s not very common to write an entire soundtrack. It’s hard enough to get one song, or even half a song into a movie, so to have 12 in a movie is rare and I recognize that and I appreciate that. But at the same time, my story is very uncommon. I’ve got really interesting stories in my life so far, so if there is going to be an extreme, it’s going to happen to me! (laughs). It’s like, I can’t just get a Grammy nomination, I have to be a waitress when it happens (laughs). I’m going to write a soundtrack for a movie, but I’m going to wait tables while doing it. All of those things have definitely pushed me forward and made me feel like I’m still doing what I should be doing.
PC: How did the opportunity for Real Country come to you?
JF: Earlier this year, in March, I was dropped from my publishing deal that I had worked for so many years. They dropped me, and a few weeks later, I got a phone call from Real Country. They had been aware of me because of my work in Nashville. When you live somewhere and you work somewhere for 20 years, your name starts to get around, or so you would hope. They knew my name from my performing rights society (SESAC), and they found me through them. That’s how it started, and it just kept going and going until I found out that I was officially cast for the show.
The timing with all of this has been extremely ironic and fateful. I was going through one of the darkest times of my career; having a movie in theatres nationwide and going back to waiting tables and losing my income- all in the same week. You start to think, “I have this movie out! This is a huge career achievement, I’m going to celebrate!” But no, I was losing my income and having to find a job and having no time to celebrate that week. So getting the call from Real Country was definitely timely and it was one of the extremes in my story that I spoke of before—lose your job, you’re going back to a restaurant, you have a movie in theatres, and a few weeks later, a new television show produced by Shania Twain calls you. There is no way to explain that. Time and again, when I feel like maybe it’s not going to happen, something not just good, but something incredibly amazing happens to me to continue to point me ahead.
PC: You mentioned that at some points, it felt like you were one of the only ones believing in yourself. What does it mean to you to have the belief from artists of Travis Tritt, Jake Owen, and Shania Twain’s caliber and all the people at Real Country to express their belief as well?
JF: The Real Country family has believed in me and given me the greatest chance that anyone has ever given me in my 20 years in Nashville. It feels like all the rejection, especially the rejection I felt in March when that publisher dropped me, is a part of one of the most amazing career achievements I have ever had. I felt completely forgotten, completely cast aside. Then, to have Jake Owen, Travis Tritt and Shania Twain step in, almost immediately, and say that I was worthy of this opportunity and they believed in me as an artist enough to put me in front of the world and sing my own songs and let me tell my story and just be who I am- that was the most beautiful validation that I could have ever asked for, and it came at the perfect time.
PC: As a performer, what is it like to sing in front of artists with the collective success of Shania, Travis and Jake?
JF: It’s terrifying (laughs). It is absolutely the most nerve-wracking, nail-biting, extreme situation you could possibly ask to be in. At the same time, it was the most magical, dream-like sequence for someone who wants to be an artist in country music. To step in front of people you’ve listened to your whole career, and entertainers like Shania who have paved the way for female artists, it was the chance of a lifetime. It was like walking into an actual dream. The feedback and the encouragement from them- when they gave me the standing ovation for “The Blade,” I actually blacked out. I don’t even remember them doing that. They didn’t show this on the show, but I was speechless and kind of milling around on stage and walking in circles, and Jake had to say to me, “Jamie, do you realize that Shania Twain just gave you a standing ovation?” He had to say that to me, and I told him that I didn’t even know it happened, I didn’t see it, because my mind was so blown that I had actually sang for them, I didn’t even remember what happened after (laughs). It was pretty life-changing.
PC: “What I See in Me” is a song where you pretty much just lay yourself out there. Is it at all cathartic to tell your story in that way?
JF: Absolutely. Songwriting is always cathartic. I wrote that song 11 years ago. I was 21 or 22 when I wrote that song, and I was waiting tables then. I was looking ahead to a career that I was hoping and praying would happen. Even back then. Here we are 11 years later, and it still hasn’t happened. So when I pulled that song back out and listened to it- and I perform it every now and then in my shows, but when I really took a step back and thought about what it really means to me now, it took on an even greater weight for me and where I am in my career. I cannot perform that song without hysterically crying, like I barely make it through the end (laughs). Every time! And that also kind of tells you what’s going on. Even though that was a sentiment and a feeling I had running through me 11 years ago, it is still just as strong and hasn’t lost any steam in my life, which is very sad, but it also tells me that the dream is alive and well.
PC: After the platform you were given with Real Country, what are your plans for the near future?
JF: One of the awesome things about winning my episode is I get to perform at Stagecoach in California in April. That’s one of the world’s largest country music festivals, which is amazing. In the meantime, I’m getting ready to play some full band shows here in Nashville, have a few showcases and try to get some support, and trying to connect with the community here, and see what the opportunities are as a result of this show. I’m also trying to figure out a way to record my new music. I have so many new songs written and ready to go, but to be completely honest, from being off work all that time to shoot the show- you don’t wait tables, you don’t make any money. I’ve been very behind. I took a big risk by going on the show, and I’ve been trying to catch up ever since, and I haven’t come up with a way to record the new songs. I’m doing everything I can to get back in the studio and get that new music out to everyone as soon as I can! I’m just taking things one step at a time.
In the meantime, I’m playing a lot of amazing shows that I’ll be announcing soon, and I’m playing one of the big theatres in the Country Music Hall of Fame this weekend (weekend of December 16), and they’re going to live stream it on their website. So that’s really exciting. I’m just working as hard as I possibly can to get out there, to play shows, to get to meet and see everybody, and hopefully I’ll have some new music out early in the new year!
*All images courtesy of Jamie Floyd Official Website*