The last time we heard from Jamie Lynn Spears, she was 16 years old, and had just announced her pregnancy and the end of her Nickelodeon show Zoey 101. That was eight years ago, and a lot has changed since then. Today, Jamie Lynn is 25 years old, a married mom to 8-year-old Maddie, living in Louisiana while she launches her country music career. She's letting her fans back into her life with a TLC special, Jamie Lynn Spears: When the Lights Go Out, this Sunday night at 10 p.m. Jamie Lynn stopped by our office to talk about family, her brand-new music, and why she needed to get away from it all.
Why did it take so long for you to tell your story? I was introduced to the world as a young girl. Most people and most artists get to introduce themselves as who they are in that moment. So, for me, over the past eight years, I've been tucked away writing and creating and really finding my voice and my sound as an artist. I think it was important to let people in to bridge that gap between then and now, fast-forward eight years. I wanted people to meet Jamie Lynn the adult for the very first time, so they can understand me as an artist.
Why was it important to get away from the spotlight when you learned you were pregnant? It wasn't necessarily about getting away from the spotlight. It was about taking time to reflect on what kind of future I wanted to create, because I was bringing another life into this world. I needed to really grow up myself so I could be the woman that my daughter deserves. And not everything needs to be seen or heard. Even though I was out of the spotlight, I was working very hard on creating a great song catalogue and setting some real cemented foundation for a future for us.
There was such a media whirlwind around your pregnancy. Did any of the reactions get to you? Of course, nobody likes to hear anything negative said about them. But what people forget is I was a young girl who was about to have a child. So what magazines printed was just really petty to me. It was not my concern. What I was concerned about was figuring out my next steps, figuring out how not to disappoint my loved ones and all of those real-life decisions. There's nothing that a magazine could have printed that could have affected me more than what I was going through as a young girl.
What was your family's reaction? Of course my family was very surprised. I don't think there's one right or wrong reaction to that. Their baby is telling them that she's pregnant at a young age. I didn't expect them to be like, "Oh, great!" Of course they were extremely upset and extremely scared for me. It was all out of love though.
Did you worry about how disappearing for a few years would affect your career? I didn't have a singing career at that point. I'd just been on Zoey. And at that point, I really wasn't thinking about career. It was more like, I'm about to have a child, I've got to set up a home. I've got to remove myself, so I can figure out how to grow to be the mother that this child deserves. Career was on the back-burner. But eventually it was important for me to figure out, How am I going to provide for this child? Not just provide in a way that will die out one day, but to provide in a way that's substantial. And that's when I started going to Nashville and writing. That has been my outlet and a way to provide for my child—writing songs for myself and for other artists.
What has your day-to-day life been like in Louisiana? It depends on the day! I lived in Nashville for about five years. It was almost like me going to college for my craft. I immersed myself in the songwriting community there. They embraced me, and I made some real friends but also learned so much. When I'm in Nashville and I'm songwriting, it's different meetings, different gatherings, just being a part of that community. But when I'm home and I'm a mom, it's car line, picking her up from school, softball, gymnastics, cooking dinner for her and my husband. Just what every other mom does. When I moved back home to Louisiana from Nashville, it was important for me to separate things. When I'm working, I'm able to focus on that, and when I'm home, I'm able to just be a mom.
Will you stay in Louisiana? Oh yes, forever. Even when I was working in Los Angeles [on], the minute we'd wrap, I was on a plane back home to Louisiana. It was important for me to live in Nashville for a little bit because I needed to build those relationships and make a reputation there, but when it came time to decide where's my daughter going to go to school? Where's my support system? Louisiana has always been it.
In the special, your husband, Jamie Watson, calls himself "a normal guy with a normal job." What drew you to him? We have the same values and it doesn't matter if he won the lottery tomorrow. It's about your values in life. It's not about what someone does or who they are, it's about what you value in life. And I love that he'll keep me in check to make sure my values always stay the way they should.
How does your husband feel about being in the public eye? He's very supportive of what I do. He runs his own companies and his own businesses. And I think that coming from someone who is his own boss, he understands you have to make decisions that are going to better your business and I am my business. This is my job.
What have the conversations with Maddie been like when it comes to fame and all that comes with it? We try to not sensationalize the whole thing. This is a job. This is how I provide. This what I do for a living. We're very blessed with opportunities and experiences, but, at the end of the day, this is a blessing. I never want her to feel entitled.
What's the best part about being a mom? Getting up every day with a purpose. Someone who loves you and needs you in that purpose is so fulfilling no matter what's going on.
What's the hardest part? Balancing everything! You always feel guilty. Mom guilt is a thing my mom said never goes away. But I have such an amazing support system between my husband and my mother and being able to make sure her life doesn't change and her little routine stays consistent.
What have you learned from your sister, Britney, about the music industry and being a mom in the spotlight? Sisters learn a lot from each other, especially in our situation. Being a mom, one of the biggest things, though, is you can't compare yourself to others because there's no such thing as perfect. What's perfect for one mom might be the worst idea for another.
Why country music? People always assume that I lived in California: I worked there but I've always lived in Louisiana. Living in the South and growing up in the South, we talk a different way, we have all these different ways about us. It's a way of life. So, when I went to Nashville and started writing, it's not like I sat down and said, I'm going to sing country music. It's just that when I got in the room and started telling stories, it just organically led itself to country music. It was where my voice sounded the best and my stories resonated with a country music crowd. It was like therapy for me.
Will you ever go back to acting? Everyone always asks me that! Right now, I'm just really focused on my music. I've got my new single Sleepover coming out this week. I've learned to never say never to anything but, right now, it's all about my music.
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Kate Storey is a contributing editor at Marie Claire and writer-at-large at Esquire magazine, where she covers culture and politics. Kate's writing has appeared in ELLE, Harper's BAZAAR, Town & Country, and Cosmopolitan, and her first book comes out in summer 2023.
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