Jamie Lynn Spears exchanges acting for a shot at a country music career

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Jamie Lynn Spears may only be 23 years old, but she knows what she wants in her career.

Known to millennials as the title character in Nickelodeon’s “Zoey 101,” Spears has her mind set on success in country music. Last year was a case study in exactly how Britney Spears’ little sister can do that.

Her debut country EP, The Journey, peaked at No. 24 on the country charts and No. 5 on the Heatseekers list. The first single, “How Could I Want More,” reached as high as No. 29 on the country chart.

“It was definitely an exciting year,” says Spears in her charming Southern drawl. “It was a year of firsts for me. It was a learning experience for me as well.”

She learned work-life balance, and how to be the best mom to her 6-year-old daughter, Maddie Briann Aldridge.

“I think finding a balance between my personal and professional lives was an important thing I learned last year,” she says. “I’m a mother, so I have to make sure when I’m traveling that I give 110 percent to my performance. I think I really got a good grasp on what that means this year.”

Spears is pleased to be a part of this year’s Country Thunder in Florence. She performs first on Saturday, April 11, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.—the same day as Blake Shelton.

“I’ve seen him at an award show live, but I’ve never actually seen him at a show,” she says. “I think that would be exciting to see. He’s at the top of his game.”

Upon hearing the rest of the headliners—Brett Eldredge, Big and Rich and Luke Bryan—she gushes at the prospect of sharing a stage with them.

“I think it would be really fun to see them at the festival in action,” Spears says.

She was booked for some sweet gigs last year as well. Spears opened for the likes of Alan Jackson and Alabama. She made her Grand Ole Opry debut in mid-2014. She’s speechless when asked about it.

“There are no words to describe it,” she says. “It’s one of those things everybody knows of. It’s such an iconic thing. Just to stand in that circle, you don’t feel worthy. It’s such a humbling moment and such a moment you’re just so grateful for—to even be on that stage.”

COUNTRY THUNDER, 20585 E. Price (Station) Road, Florence, 877.569.7767, arizona.countrythunder.com, Thursday, April 9, through Sunday, April 12, various times, $50-$160

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