Jo Dee Messina has never been freer than she is with her soon-to-be released Me. With the record set to be released next Tuesday (March 18), the red-headed singer opens up about her life throughout the 12 tracks, particularly on her current single "A Woman's Rant." Digging her heels deep into rock, she plans on making her mark, with the help and loyalty of her fans.
Me will be released on her own Dreambound Records and distributed by eOne Music. Having bucked the trend, Messina sought out help on the popular crowdfunding source, Kickstarter, to give her an upper hand in the next chapter of her musical career. "My 19-year-old cousin Alex Preston, who is, by the way, on ‘American Idol,' [recommended it],'" she tells NashvilleGab, exclusively, of the ultimate decision to go with Kickstarter.
While on a mission to find eyelash glue for an upcoming video gig, she reveals that "he lived with me for awhile. When I was putting this record together, he was like, ‘hey, why don’t you do a Kickstarter thing?’ I said, ‘I really want to get the fans involved. I really want to let people know I’m still making music.’ He was like, ‘Everybody does it.’"
She adds: "I read about it and researched it. I thought it was a great idea. It’s the most familiar name in crowdfunding, which is why I leaned that way. It was also scary in the sense that if you don’t meet your goal, you don’t get anything. We were in the studio recording, sweating [it out. Ultimately,] we got the money we needed to make a record."
By choosing to go her own way, she admits that she "could do anything" she wanted with her music. She explains, "I didn’t have an A&R department. It was just me sitting down in my living room and playing my favorite songs. It wasn’t someone saying, ‘nope, you have to do this kind of song. Nope, you have to do that kind of song.’ Or, ‘this isn’t you.’ At times, artists can be battered around with ideas and concepts that are different than their own. But that didn’t happen in this case."
In her cute, bubbly way, Messina makes sure to clarify, "It’s not mean like, ‘oh gosh, everyone has a concept.’ Even the fans [have ideas about what you should do]. Some fans are like, ‘I can’t believe that you recorded that’ or ‘this record is so different.’ Everyone has an opinion."
"With this, I was really blessed with the input from the public. Everyone was really kind in the song selection. It was fun. I only brought to them the songs that I loved," she says. In many ways, it's like chocolate, "Not everyone likes white chocolate. My husband doesn’t like white chocolate. I think he’s crazy," she chuckles.
While the final Me contains a healthy 12 tracks, there were some that did not make the cut. "Fans shot some of them down. Some of those I wasn’t sure about. It was an interesting perspective," she shares. "I let them choose the first single. We were getting some flack here and there from small markets saying, ‘how could you sing this? It’s so offensive.’ I’m like, ‘we never meant to be offensive.’ I thought it was hysterical when I saw it. But they’re entitled to do what they feel. The fans voted for the single. They saw what song won [the poll]. I couldn’t go against that. I promised them."
Musically, she was inspired by "all kinds of music" and teases that she "started with an idea to write with P!nk," but "we couldn’t get it to happen."
For a certain level of Kickstarter backers, she offered donors the chance to sing on the record, on the song "He's Messed Up." She details about that cool experience: "It was simple and easy. I made it very safe in case we did have singers. So, all they had to do was clap and yell."
"I will say: they all could sing. It was awesome," she gushes. "We got to spend the day together. They flew to Nashville. One girl, Miss Cool, was like 14-years-old. She missed school, and I wrote a note to her principal, which did not help her case at all," she laughs.
Another album highlight is the plucky "Like A Kid Again," a song that tested Messina's strength in the studio. "I could not sing that song to save my life. I could not sing the line, ‘I would trade all this real just to feel like a kid again.’ I just couldn’t sing it because at that point in time, I was living at the hospital with my mom trying to keep her alive on a daily basis."
"I would go to the studio all grunged out just filthy dirty from living at the hospital. I was run down exhausted, emotionally. When we’d get to the that line, I just couldn’t."
For her "A Woman's Rant" music video, Messina is, again, turning to her fans for involvement. She chose the song as the second single because "that song is the most talked about when I sing it live."
"People come up to me like, ‘oh my god. You are talking about my life.’ Literally, that song is a day in the life of me," she says of the song. "I wrote it about myself. I had gotten up, and the baby was crying every two hours and had to be fed. My husband slept through it. I wanted to kill him at that point. It was 6 a.m. and I was stumbling through the haze, ‘there ain’t no coffee strong enough to get me through my day.’ I mean, how true is that?"
Closing out the record is the stirring "Say Goodbye To Superman," a song she describes as absolutely "wicked." "It took me over a year to write that song because it was so sad," she confesses. "I would start it. I had the chorus and had the verses. I just couldn’t finish it. I would sit down to play it and cry."
Over the past 15 years, the market has gone from seven or eight females climbing the charts to a meager three or four. She ponders this: "I remember when I signed my first record deal, they said, ‘a few people passed on me because they already had a female.’ It was like, they have 10 males and a female. That slot was already covered."
"I know the majority of the buying and listening audience (that generates money) is women. Obviously, people market a great deal to women, and what’s more appealing than a sexy man?" she giggles. "Beautiful women are intimidating. With a sexy guy, you can put them on your wall!"
On the promotions side of things, Messina bucks the trends, again. "If someone is playing the record, I’ll do whatever I can for them. It’s almost a backwards approach," she explains. "Instead of saying, ‘I’ll come there if you play the record.’ I don’t have the money for that. It’s my own little label. But, if they play it, well, heck yeah, we’re gonna go there! It’s kind of an appreciation approach."
Having her own label, she sometimes feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. "I’ve been touring, plus I have a five-year-old and now a two-year-old I have to raise," she says, "and I have a mother who needs 24-hours a day care. We give it to her. There are days when you can not get me because I’m feeding or changing my mother. You know what I mean? Every task needs assistance. It’s crazy. [Having my own label] is stressful but it’s the trade off to get to do what I love to do."