There’s a gentle, jazzy breeziness to rising star Jenna Paulette’s latest single, “Mexico.” But don’t let the song’s laid-back vibe fool you. Paulette gleefully relates that the story behind “Mexico” involves a crazy but true little escapade – her freewheeling display at a Mexican bar, in front of her mom no less, at the ready-for-anything age of 18.
“My buddy Will and I wrote it right before Christmas last year,” Paulette begins. “I was getting ready to leave town for [her home state] Texas and we were both sitting in my living room. I had the title and I was saying that I really need a vacation. He knew the whole story and said that if we were going to write the song, we needed to tell that.”
The real-life scenario unfolded as the 18-year-old Paulette was visiting Mexico on vacation with her parents and siblings. Her mom accompanied her to a club in Cancun, where the adventure took shape. After downing a few margaritas (Mexico’s legal drinking age is 18), Paulette made her way to the dance floor. “I was shaking it to Shakira,” she recalls with a boisterous laugh. “And I started making out with this guy. I wanted to stay but mom was like, ‘No, it’s time to go.’ I always give her credit,” Paulette adds. “She used it as a teaching moment, kind of like, ‘See what can happen when you have too much to drink.’ That was very cool of her. And that was kind of their way of bringing us up, letting us make our own decisions and our own mistakes. I felt so bad afterward, though.”
But never let an embarrassing moment get in the way of a good song. “We just said that we’ve got to write this,” Paulette says. “We finished it pretty quickly and cut the demo the next day.” Paulette delivers “Mexico” in a breezy and flirty style that seems almost jazz-inspired, which fits the song’s overall vibe. It plays into what she terms her “New West” brand of music that combines country tradition with modern sensibilities.
“I grew up in Dallas,” she explains, “but my family also has a big ranch in Oklahoma. That is my favorite place in the world. I love wearing boots and cowboy hats and that is part of my personal style. My music has a traditional feel with a modern twist to it. So I just call it ‘New West.’ It’s an extension of who I am.”
Paulette has been cultivating that distinct sound since moving to Nashville from Texas about three years ago. “I was living in Austin but I was going back and forth to Nashville, about a week out of every month,” she says. “I made a few friends during that time. I knew the guys from Lanco and my network kind of expanded from there.” Despite working on her artistry in the Austin music mecca, she maintains that Nashville was always on the radar. “I was really living in Austin because I wanted to keep a foot in Texas if I could,” Paulette says. “But one of my writing mentors in Nashville kept telling me that I needed to move here. It wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t come to Nashville. He was super hard on me but that was good.”
She took the advice and started making the usual Music Row rounds, garnering songwriting appointments and networking whenever possible. The hard work has paid off with recent singles “Coolest Girl in the World” and “ILYSM,” with an EP on the way this fall. “I don’t know if I’ll include those songs on the EP,” she says. “I’m pretty sure that the EP will have five new songs and be all fresh material. This will be my first one,” Paulette adds with notable enthusiasm, “so I’m very excited about that.”
Also on the horizon is the music video for “Mexico,” set for airing soon. “We had so much fun doing that,” she raves. “The crew and I all met at the airport around 4 a.m. and I could just tell that we were all going to be best friends right off the bat. They were definitely open for an adventure and that’s what we had. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”
When she’s away from the studio or the writing room, Paulette likes to indulge in two of her favorite hobbies. “I love to cook and I love to eat,” she laughs. On occasion, you might spot her at a variety of local Music City restaurants. “Butchertown Hall has really good brisket,” assesses Paulette, who likely knows a thing or two on the subject due to her Texas roots. “And they make the best margaritas. Cafe Roze in East Nashville is another place I like. It has great food and the decor is beautiful. Just love everything about it.”
As she gears up for “Mexico” and the EP release, Paulette is also hatching plans to add to her club and concert date schedule. “I love performing live,” she says in an upbeat tone. “I love that aspect of entertaining. So, we’ll have more shows coming up for sure.”
Jenna Paulette’s new single “Mexico” is available now on Spotify and Play Music services.