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article imageInterview with Jo Dee Messina Special

By Adrian Peel     Mar 18, 2014 in Music
The vivacious country singer-songwriter is releasing a brand new studio album, her first in nine years. She talks to Digital Journal about the project and the reasons for the delay.
Spread the word, Jo Dee Messina is back. Although the sassy, multi-platinum-selling 43-year-old released three EPs in 2010, her latest effort, Me, is her first full-length album since 2005's Delicious Surprise.
Chatting to me from her home in Nashville, the sprightly star recalled the process of putting together the 12-track LP (including seven co-writes), a project very close to her heart and one that her fans were heavily involved in - mainly via a Kickstarter campaign - choosing the title and deciding which songs made the final cut.
"I was on a record label that wasn't releasing music and so I managed to get out of that contract," explains Jo Dee, "and at that point I didn't really have the opportunity to go sign with another major label, due to overrides and stipulations and all that craziness that goes into getting out of a record deal...
"So I thought, 'What am I gonna do? I have to do this in a unique way, and are the fans still out there because it's been a while since I've released any music?' It was kind of my way of reaching out to the people and saying, 'Hey, let's do this together', as opposed to making a record and saying, 'Hey, this is what you're gonna get!'
"I let them have a voice and you can tell because no one has the same opinion. The record has very pop-sounding, very bluegrass-sounding songs - it runs the spectrum of what you would normally call a genre. It would be 'multi-genre', but it gives it flavour - it's not the same thing over and over again."
Happily, this warm collaboration between Jo Dee and her fans has extended still further. Not only did the public choose the album's first single ("Peace Sign") in August last year, but a call went out last month requesting filmed personal interpretations of the lyrics to a feisty number entitled "A Woman's Rant" with a view to using the best testimonies in the upcoming video.
"They are going to be in the video, yes," confirms the contented mother-of-two, who first hit the big time with her number two smash, "Heads Carolina, Tails California," in 1996. "The deadline for that was the 17th. That song is a single that's out at country radio right now.
"We've been very fortunate. When I play this song live, people come to me and they're like, 'Oh my gosh, you just wrote the story of my life!' And I was like, 'Really? Well if that's the case, then film snippets of a day in the life of you and we'll see if we can incorporate it in the video'. So we're letting the fans again have a voice and be a part of the video."
"It started off as a journal entry," says Jo Dee of the song. "It started off that my husband wouldn't get up and get the baby. I got up. By the time the baby went back to sleep, I was wide awake and went downstairs and started writing in my journal: 'Six am, I'm out of bed, stumbling through the haze, there's no coffee strong enough that's gonna get me through this day...'
"I was like, 'Oh this sounds like a song', and then I was like, 'One thing to another, there's no time to stop, I hit the ground running and keep running till I drop'. Then I was not happy when I wrote, 'I'm taking care of everyone, my head's in a spin. I try but I just don't remember signing up for this!'
"And literally, before I leave the house I pack a diaper bag with clothes and snacks, grab my laptop, find my keys, feed the dogs... It's just really a day in the life of me!"
As revealed, the title of the new LP is Me. Does this reflect a sense of freedom at no longer being signed to a major label (Jo Dee parted ways with Curb Records after 17 years in December 2012)?
"Yeah, doesn't that sound good?! I wish that were the case... It's actually a song title which is a very vulnerable, not so feisty song. The fans chose it. I put three songs on Facebook and said, 'Which one should be the title cut?' It was 'A Woman's Rant', 'Say Goodbye To Superman' or 'Me'. They listened to snippets of the songs and chose 'Me'.
"The song itself is vulnerable. It lists all the things that I have to be to everyone around me. I have to be a teacher to my kids and I barely know what I'm doing myself. I have to be a sibling to my brother and sister, I have to be an aunt and I have to be a daughter and I have to be someone's friend and I have to be a songwriter - and there's never a sick day!
"This song talks about the fear of not being able to pull it off. It's like, 'Oh God, can I do this?' because when I look in the mirror, I see me - I don't see some superhero!"
Strangely, and despite all of her success - six number one singles, a string of awards, a duet with Tim McGraw ("Bring On The Rain") and two Grammy nominations is certainly nothing to be sniffed at - Jo Dee's former record label seemed reluctant to put out her fifth album, Unmistakable, which lead to it ultimately being shelved in 2009. What was the reason for this?
"My record label was afraid to release music... But I guarantee, if this record is at all successful, you'll see that music that's sitting on a shelf in a warehouse! They just got scared. Everyone's trying to find that magic song, or that magic combination of 'is this gonna work?' and I think they were scared stiff - still.
"I have tons of music that I turned in, but they didn't know what to do with it, so that's why I went off on my own."
Me is out today on Dreambound Records.
For more information, check out Jo Dee's official website.
More about jo dee messina, Me, Nashville, Country music, tim mcgraw
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