Native Texan Jenna McDaniel was born with an undeniable love for music and performing that’s as big as the Texas sky and as wild and untamed as the indomitable Lone Star spirit itself. Growing up surrounded by the music of country legends like Reba, Martina, and Faith Hill, she fell in love with singing just about the time she could walk. Singing karaoke as a toddler and watching music videos around her house growing up in Temple, Texas, Jenna was constantly drawn to music, and it wasn’t long before she was singing in school choirs and anywhere else she could find an audience to listen. As a fifth grader, she happened upon new music by an at the time up-and-comer named Taylor Swift, and that discovery pretty much cemented it for Jenna, who grabbed a guitar and began penning her own songs inspired by Swift’s honesty and sheer relatability.
“Taylor came out at the perfect time in my life,” explains Jenna of the huge influence Swift had upon her formative years as a budding artist. “When you’re dealing with teen issues the songs she writes are so true to herself and her life, and it’s very relatable…it’s like she goes into your mind and writes exactly what you’re thinking,” admits Jenna about her main musical influence.
Listening to Swift’s songwriting inspired Jenna to pick up a guitar and try her hand at writing her own songs, and soon she was traveling back and forth to Nashville to hone her writing skills with some of Nashville’s talented tunesmiths. She also began performing at open mic nights and various clubs and festivals around her home state, opening for everyone from Gloriana and Phil Vassar to Cory Morrow and Jason Boland. The young songstress learned plenty about performing by watching from the wings, including the importance of entertaining a crowd and keeping the fans engaged.
“Each time I open for someone I take a little piece of each person or performance because it shows me how to be a better entertainer” admits Jenna. “Phil Vassar was a great example of an amazing entertainer and performer. He was jumping around the stage and on top of his piano, and it made me see that there is so much more you need to do onstage to make it engaging for the audience. So Phil was probably the main one I took something from, to be an entertainer and interact with your fans, enjoy yourself, and make sure your fans enjoy watching you.”
Jenna is racking up her own legion of fans with her growing list of tour dates as she plays all over Texas and the Southwest, and the industry is taking note of this budding talent as well. She was named Best New Female Vocalist of 2014 by Internet station Big Star 97, which has been instrumental in helping break major recording artists like the Eli Young Band and Miranda Lambert. Jenna was also awarded Entertainer of the Year for 2015 by the Musician’s Association of Central Texas.
Back in 2014, Jenna recorded her second collection of songs, Little Miss Understanding, produced by Walt Wilkins, and the songs have been well-received. The collection of self-penned tunes showcases her impressive vocal ability and Jenna tackles subjects like heartbreak, love, and loss with a mix of soulfulness and sassiness. Influences like Swift and Colbie Caillat are evident on songs like “Train Wreck,” “Here Comes The Rain,” and the feisty title track on the project, as are touches of another strong female musical icon Jenna idolizes a bit as well – Stevie Nicks. “I’m a huge fan of Stevie, in fact ‘Landslide’ is my all time favorite song. It’s such an amazing song and she is such a great vocalist and writer. She’s a big influence for sure.”
In 2015, Jenna teamed up with producer Zac Maloy to record her third release, Puzzle. The duo co-wrote every track on the EP with the exception of two tracks that include a third writer, Andy Skib. The new batch of songs focus more on herself rather than past heartache. Tracks like “Unknown” and “Losing Time” talk about being lost yet optimistic for what is around the corner.
As she continues to carve out an impressive career for herself on the competitive musical landscape, Jenna also makes time to give back as well, working tirelessly performing for causes and charities like the Ronald McDonald House, the local Jaycees, and Wish For Our Heroes. A program that focuses on helping military families, which is near and dear to her heart.
Jenna recently made the big move to Nashville, Tennessee where she plans to pound the pavement and work her way up in a new music scene. She continues to travel back to Texas regularly for gigs at some of her favorite venues with some of her favorite musicians and friends. She says “I will always love visiting my old home of Temple, Texas but Nashville is my home now and I am excited for this new chapter.”