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Jordana Bryant was only three years old when Taylor Swift released her iconic song "Love Story" back in 2008. Nevertheless, the story of true love told within those romantic lyrics still made quite an impression on the music lover as the years went by.
"I loved Taylor Swift, and I loved how the lyrics to her songs inspired me to fight for the love I have always wanted," explains the 17-year-old viral phenom during a recent interview with PEOPLE. "I just loved how 'Love Story' told a story about her fighting for the love she wanted and the life she wanted."
But just a few years back, when Bryant sat down in the writing room with fellow songwriters Seth Mosley, Zach Kale, Steve Fee, Jesse Reeves and Nicole Witt, she found herself looking at "Love Story" in a whole new way.
"I always knew I wanted something a little bit different when it came to love," the Pennsylvania native, who began playing the guitar at the age of 10, admits. "I didn't want to be the damsel in distress waiting for some guy to come save me. I wanted to be a strong woman who didn't need someone to protect her, but who could still find love."
And it was this mantra that led Bryant to create "Romeo," her new single premiering exclusively on PEOPLE, which touches on the ideals of new generations and ultra-modern love stories.
"I wanted to write a song about the kind of love I want and that I want to fight for," Bryant explains. "That's how this song really came about."
Bryant also says she wrote "Romeo" for the hundreds of thousands of young fans who have flocked to her and her music since first breaking out onto the country music scene during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020.
ROBBY KLEIN Jordana Bryant
"I started going on social media when the pandemic hit," says Bryant, whose music has accumulated over 20 million views online and over 10 million views on TikTok. "I would just go live every night for an hour and play songs and talk to people. Personally, I was just looking for community because I was feeling isolated like so many other people. I wanted to create something that could be something people would look forward to every night."
She did just that with covers such as Camila Cabello's "Señorita" and Why Don't We's "What Am I." And now, she hopes that "Romeo" continues to reach young women just like her.
"I want to inspire other girls to know that they don't have to be fragile or weak to find love," says Bryant. "They can be strong and confident and independent, but still want someone to be there for them to go through life with. I wanted to inspire other girls to know that they should want whatever they want and not settle for a relationship that isn't all that they know they deserve."
Indeed, it was this "not going to settle" mantra that Bryant herself has felt both professionally and personally, especially as she moved with her mother this past summer to Nashville to pursue all her musical dreams.
"I would probably be a senior in high school right now if I wasn't doing music," says Bryant, who graduated a year early from The Shipley School this past June. "But I'm taking this other path."
And it's this 'other path' that, thus far, has kept her from finding her very own 'Romeo.'
"Sometimes you're told that it can be intimidating to guys for a woman to have a career," says Bryant, who just signed a record deal with Riser House Entertainment in Nashville and who garnered over 100K streams on her label debut, "Guilty," in its first week. "But I think that when that happens, you know that they are just not the right guy for you. The right person is going to love you and support you and be proud of your accomplishments and not want you to be weak or need him to save you."
She draws in a deep breath.
"I'm still waiting for a guy like that. Or maybe I'm not waiting!" she says with a laugh. "I hope that one day I'll find that, but I think what's really important is being content with who you are and what your life is without someone. And then when the right person comes along, you'll know it's right."
But until that happens, Bryant says she will continue to find her way in this ever-chaotic country music industry while looking up at the one artist that has inspired her thus far.
"Taylor Swift will always be a big inspiration to me," she concludes. "Her songwriting is incredible and what she's done in country music as a woman is so incredible. There's so much that you can study about how she writes and how she paved the path for herself and not just country music, but every female out here."