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Jana Kramer riding wave of success

Country music singer JanKramer makes her Joe’s Bar debut Jan. 4.

Country music singer Jana Kramer makes her Joe’s Bar debut on Jan. 4.

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♦ 10 p.m. Jan. 4

♦ Joe’s Bar, 940 W. Weed

♦ Tickets, $10

♦ (312) 337-3486

Nashville’s Music Row wasn’t impressed. Heck, they had seen it plenty of times before: Midwestern girl turned soap opera actress turned so-called country singer, looking for a chance to make her storyline complete.

Jana Kramer knew what she was up against.

After leaving the wildly popular television series “One Tree Hill” and her troubled-yet-sexy character Alex Dupre, Kramer drove to Nashville, Tenn., bought a house and began her work to convince the country music establishment that she deserved a chance.

“It was like, ‘Oh gosh, it’s just another little actress looking for a music career’,” recalls Kramer, shortly after her return from a four-day Cancun vacation with steady boyfriend and country music bad boy Brantley Gilbert. “There were plenty of guys at country radio who I made a personal promise to that I was really in this for the long haul. It was a leap of faith for them to start playing my song, but because they did, fans started listening, and together, they gave me the best year ever.”

Indeed, after being signed by Warner Music Nashville last year, Kramer tiptoed onto the country music airwaves with her first single “Why Ya Wanna,” which reached No. 3 on the country music charts and was ultimately certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). At the same time, Kramer claimed the title of highest charting debut single from a new female artist since 2006, previously held by country-pop princess Taylor Swift.

“This entire year has been a complete whirlwind,” says Kramer, who will start off 2013 in Chicago with a Jan. 4 show at Joe’s Bar. “I’ve wanted to come to Chicago to play for a long time and I have heard so much about Joe’s Bar. It definitely comes with a big hype to live up to.”

And while Kramer came out of the box with the achingly sweet video for “Why Ya Wanna,” featuring the brown-haired beauty adorning a sundress and riding a bike down a quaint country road, her fans might just be in for quite a shock with her new single and video for “Whiskey.”

“I’m not on a bike and I’m not wearing a sundress, but I am drinking whiskey and making out with a guy by the fire,” laughs Kramer. “It definitely shows my edgier side. The song is one of my favorites on the album. I just want it to do just as good as ‘Why You Wanna,’ so I guess we will just have to wait and see.”

A Michigan native, Kramer says her Midwestern roots have undoubtedly helped her to stay grounded amid the bright lights of Nashville’s Music Row and her jam-packed calendar for the new year.

“My Mom’s side of the family would knock me upside the head if I let any of this get to me or change me in anyway,” she says. “I’m pumped about the new year. We are going to be a part of two big tours that will be announced soon, which will keep me booked through 2014.”

And yes, she still knows what she is up against.

“I know that it’s not that easy to break through and stay there,” says Kramer. “Pop music is very female-driven, but in country music, it can be tough. Women want to hear the men. I’m not sure why that is. But I do know that this is what I want and this is where I want to stay. I was able to meet Carrie Underwood last year, and she told me she liked my song. I told her that I couldn’t believe she knew my name. Those are the moments I love. Plus, songwriting is my own personal therapy. I just don’t want to do anything else.”

Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.

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