Jordyn Shellhart Shares Her Story on ‘Primrose’ Track By Track

Written by Kat Dobay

Videos by American Songwriter

Jordyn Shellhart has grown up in Nashville, and with her debut album Primrose she’s growing into her artistry.  

Shellhart has had success writing for other artists, including Little Big Town’s Grammy-nominated “Sugar Coat,” and songs recorded by Kelsea Ballerini, Cody Johnson and Don Williams. She’s excited, to say the least, to share her music through her own voice.

“I may have written these songs for me, but I’m releasing them so that they might belong to someone else now,” she said in a press release. “So that they might walk someone through heartbreak, empower them, understand them, give them hope or shift their perspective the way they’ve done for me. That’s my big, grand dream.”

Her inspiration comes from classics like Emmylou Harris and Kris Kristofferson and modern writers like Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift.

Born in Wyoming amongst ranches and cowboys, Shellhart is country to her core. She moved to Nashville at the age of 10 and was ultimately thrown into the scene with a publishing deal, record deal, Grand Ole Opry debut, and a country-wide tour by the age of 16. 

“When the pandemic hit, like countless other people, perspective hit at the same time,” she says. “I called my now producer Cameron Jaymes and said, ‘Ok. I’m ready. We have nothing else to do. Let’s make something we love.’”

The album, available via Warner Music Nashville, was written with the help of some hit country songwriters including Marc Beeson, Allen Shamblin, and Barry Dean. The lyrics dive into different seasons of heartbreak, who she was, who she wishes she was, and who she’s becoming. With the stand-out track “Maybe Someday You’ll Have A Daughter,” she opens up with sincere vulnerability. 

Shellhart shares the stories behind the songs on Primrose in American Songwriter’s track by track below.

1. “Amelia”
(Jordyn Shellhart, Cameron Jaymes)

At the core, this song is about the insidious way that abuse twists someone’s sense of self. One day I was sitting at Barista Parlor in East Nashville drinking a flat white and I just thought to myself, “What if I illustrate that by writing a song that simply changes someone’s name?” And the whole lyric fell out of the sky and onto my notes app in literally about 5 to 10 minutes, from the first line to the last, as if I was journaling. I’m singing from the perspective of this narrator who is manipulating “Amelia” in real time – I know you’re telling me that you’re Amelia, but no, I’m calling you Amy.

Then I brought the lyric to my producer Cameron to help put music to it and the second he hit that G7 chord in the B section for the first time I was like, “Oh my God, this song is becoming so perfectly itself.”

2. “Who Are You Mad At
(Jordyn Shellhart, Marc Beeson, Allen Shamblin)

As a human being, it’s so important for us to be humble enough to apologize when we’ve done something wrong. But also as a human being, it’s so important to be able to distinguish when maybe you didn’t actually do that thing wrong. Maybe it has nothing to do with you.

Writing this song was a beautiful day with Allen and Marc. Something had just happened to Allen with a stranger that he was telling us about, and as we processed this feeling of being held accountable for something you didn’t do, I started singing the chorus and we all sort of stumbled into this song. No one walked in the room with this idea, it really seemed like it was waiting for us before we even got there.

3. “Tell Your Mother I’m Fine” 
(Jordyn Shellhart)

The character in this song is everything I wished I was when I got my heart broken. She doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. She knows what happened and that’s enough for her. She’s composed, and cool, and calm, and collected… even if she’s not fine. I on the other hand processed my heartbreak with just about anyone who would listen INCLUDING his mom.

I wrote this song in Ireland during the 2020 lockdown in front of a wood-burning stove after weeks of writer’s block and frustrated hiking and isolation and swimming in this feeling of, “I’ll probably never write anything worth anything ever again.” And then I listened to Donovan Woods’ album Without People on its release day, and I don’t even remember how, but it inspired this. I think it was the guitar part that reminded me of him. It was a great feeling though, getting out of my head for a minute.

4. “Joni”
(Jordyn Shellhart, Cameron Jaymes, Savana Santos)

It’s simple. Joni Mitchell rules, and I want her to love me. This co-write started with Cam saying he wanted to write a 2 chord song. Then I read that line (my original line was something like, You walk in and ask me what’s wrong / I don’t think Joni Mitchell would like any of my songs) And Savana laughed and immediately was like, “That’s the hook.” Then we basically had a great time being our most dramatic artistic selves, really making fun of our dysfunction and assuming no one would relate to that sentiment.

But funny enough, everyone seems to feel this level of spiraling about something or bringing problems into life and relationships that are totally unrelated. Maybe we’re all drama queens and kings and melancholy artists at heart.

5. “Steal a Man”
(Jordyn Shellhart, Cameron Jaymes, Barry Dean)

This is a “dissecting the cheating song song.” I had a friend once say to me, “I hate the term homewrecker because it doesn’t exist. No one can wreck a home that isn’t already wrecking itself.” I was riffing on that and I thought, if that’s the case, maybe no one can steal a man. I didn’t want the song to cast blame on either of the women, just make the case that, she can’t be a thief – even if she’s not the victim. Cam and Barry helped bring it life so beautifully.

6. “When Something’s Gotta Give”
(Jordyn Shellhart, Marc Beeson, Allen Shamblin)

The line between love and codependency can be so thin; this song lives on that razor’s edge between beautiful surrender to a person and painful submission to them. I don’t always know the difference, but I know the feeling of being a tree in someone’s wind. This was another magical day at Allen’s farm with Marc – we spent time with Allen’s horse Bella and ate chicken salad and talked about life in rocking chairs and we wrote this song. A perfect day.

7. “Dreams Chase You” 
(Jordyn Shellhart, Cameron Jaymes)

At my Airbnb in Ireland, I had clementines sitting next to an orchid on the kitchen counter, and I just wanted to rhyme oranges and orchids in a song. That’s genuinely how it started. But the feeling behind it is of course a culmination of my whole music business journey – hanging up my hat and hiding out in the shadows, but always having that little itch to make my own album one day. Then finally doing it.

This is one of the newest songs on the album, written really about the experience of deciding to make it in the first place. The first version of the song happened at that Irish kitchen counter, and then I brought it to Cameron and we finished it together in Nashville and I listened to the demo about 3,000 times.

8. “The Only Perfect” 
(Jordyn Shellhart, Cameron Jaymes)

It is an impossible feat to measure up to a fantasy. This song tackles that feeling. I was doing yoga and listening to Norah Jones and suddenly I was writing this song. It happened fast and all at once. And I never finished the yoga. But I sat there and wrote this a cappella on that mat. At first, I thought it was going to be a pretty mellow and sleepy song, but when I brought it to Cam he wrote the chords and the chorus melody morphed into that rapid-fire thing, and suddenly we were like, “Wait, does this feel like a hit song?” I think this moment is when Cam and I really hit a new creative stride together.

9. “Maybe Someday You’ll Have a Daughter” 
(Jordyn Shellhart, Courtney Dashe)

One of the older songs on this album and still one of the weirdest/hardest to share. I remember everything about writing this song and nearly everything about this season of life – the heartache, the insecurity, the overwhelming feeling of being something so easily discarded by someone I loved. It came from a very young and very raw heart processing all of that.

I started trying to write a song about this experience immediately after it happened and had some lines and melodies and that guitar part. One morning I was at breakfast with Courtney telling her about it all, and I just said in passing, “I don’t know, maybe someday he’ll have a daughter.” She looked at me and said, “Can we please write that? Can we do it today?” And I knew that title was the perfect ocean to hold the ship I’d been trying to build. We went to her house and we wrote it together and I couldn’t play it live for months.

10. “On a Piano Bench Getting Wasted” 
(Jordyn Shellhart)

This happened just word for word literally on December 21, 2019. I watched Sleepless In Seattle and I was struck with a sudden romcom-inspired loneliness attack and I poured a glass of wine and I sat on a piano bench while playing a guitar and I wrote this song about someone I’d never met. It’s actually one of my favorite lyrics on the whole album. My ode to those of us who love being single until we watch the wrong movie and mess it all up.

11. “Irrelevant” 
(Jordyn Shellhart, Cameron Jaymes, Melissa Peirce)

I love the feeling when you first start falling for someone new after you’ve been totally wrecked by someone else. It’s the feeling of not trying to bring up that other person in conversation for the first time, of suddenly not feeling like revisiting those spots or picking at those wounds. They always say the best way to get over someone is to meet someone new – part of me thinks that’s terrible; part of me knows it’s true.

12. “Near-Death Experience” 
(Jordyn Shellhart)

This is the story of the first chapter of my life. When I was 18, I was having dinner with my mom and she opened up to me about this season. A couple years later when I was 20, I wrote this song before a show I had that night. I decided randomly to play it there just hours after I’d written it and my mom came up to me after and said, “What made you write that song?!” She didn’t even remember telling me that story.

It was such a passing conversation but obviously it stuck with me, and over those two years between finding out and writing this, I was quietly processing what it meant to me. This song perfectly describes my conclusion: I’m glad to be alive. I ended the record this way for obvious reasons – I wanted that sentence to be the last thing I said. It’s still the truest line on this album and the truest sentiment of my heart.

(Photo Credit: Jory Lee Cordy/Courtesy of Warner Music Nashville)

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