Interview: Jo Dee Messina Talks About “Me”


Country megastar and two-time Grammy Award nominee, Jo Dee Messina, has been named the Academy of Country Music Awards’ Top New Female Vocalist; Billboard Magazine’s Most Played Country Female Artist of the Year; Boston Music Awards’ Outstanding Country Act, Outstanding Female Vocalist, and Act of the Year; and the Country Music Association Awards’ Horizon Award recipient. She has been atop Billboard’s Country Music Chart and in the Top 15 of Billboard’s 200. She has platinum albums and gold albums and has experienced a myriad of successes. And while she has been seemingly quiet on the radio as of late, she never really said Bye Bye or even took any Downtime. We were unbelievably lucky to catch up with one of country music’s sensations to find out what she has been up to, when we can expect new music, and to chat about her time on the road – both musically and on foot. During our conversation, she convinced us I’m Alright, made it clear that she could handle anything, so Bring On the Rain, and, when the sun came back out, she made sure we knew that, in certain situations, My Give a Damn’s Busted. All in all, we found out that one of our favorite artists is on her way to a comeback with a vengeance and is ready to give the Peace Sign to naysayers!

First thing’s first – let’s clear up some rumors! Jo Dee never went away. In fact, she did quite the opposite; she has been touring, as well as making records for her fans. And while the songs she recorded on her former label may have ended up on shelves, you might be interested to find out that Jo Dee actually was first to record a song called Put Me In the Ground, which is more identifiable as The Band Perry’s smash hit, Better Dig Two. When Jo Dee’s label failed to believe in the potential of Put Me In the Ground, it became mutually clear for Jo Dee and her label that it was time to part ways. (Oh, and Jo Dee is incredibly excited that the song has been successful for The Band Perry because she loves the song and she loves The Band Perry.)

Upon severing her relationship with her former label, Jo Dee very simply decided that she “was going to take a breath!” Realizing she was free to do what she wanted at this point, she went back to writing and chose to take to the Internet and poll the fans for their thoughts on her projects. Relying on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, Jo Dee asked her fans “If I’m going to make a record, should this song be on it?” The fans were extremely responsive and their participation led Jo Dee to having enough songs to make a record. At the time Jo Dee was ready to record, she had to decide whether she wanted to engage a record label in the process. Rather than dealing with the proverbial red tape, Jo Dee made the determination that she wanted to maintain her artistic freedom, and hoped that the fans’ participation online was indicative of whether fans would continue to support her efforts.

Trusting her gut and hoping that her fans wouldn’t go astray, Jo Dee put her own fate in their hands, began a Kickstarter movement, made a record, and posted some of the songs on Facebook and said “okay, you pick the song. You fronted the record. What song do you choose for the single? And they, again, 220,000 impressions in 10 days picked Peace Sign.”

Once the single was selected (which you can purchase by clicking here), Jo Dee and her fans took it upon themselves to contact radio stations and request that they give her song a shot. As radio stations began playing the song and adding it to their rotations, Jo Dee called upon her fans to express their gratitude, pick up the phone, and say “thank you and let them know we appreciate them. Let them know this is our record and it means the world to us and we’re not taking for granted the fact that they’re playing the record.” Jo Dee admits she realizes the rise of her newest project is going to be a slow process. This realization may be somewhat attributable to the fact that, unforeseeably to Jo Dee, Peace Sign has caused some controversy due to its “tongue in cheek” nature (the song discusses saying goodbye to a relationship “one finger shy of the peace sign”). However, because Jo Dee fluently speaks sarcasm, the song never struck her as controversial, and was just a track she absolutely loves because of its playfulness. In fact, when she learned that some people were taking offense to the song, it shocked her … but she wasn’t about to take the fans’ song away from them!

I heard somebody say “I can’t play that because of the lyric” and I was like “oh my gosh, I didn’t even think that literal about the song! I just thought it was funny!” and the fans picked it, so I gotta stick behind it! They supported me. They helped with the record. Defended the record. I can’t go “forget you now!”

Jo Dee’s enlistment of her fans did not stop at just the single … she even let the fans determine the name of her album, which is Me (the title of a track on the record). We asked Jo Dee what the title track represents and she candidly explained to us that “this last year has been hell.” For those who may not know, Jo Dee’s mother underwent heart surgery and, soon thereafter, had a stroke. Jo Dee went on an emotional roller coaster ride while her mother laid in a hospital bed. “When my mother started losing her mind, I started losing mine. Here’s the rock in the center of my universe and she’s broken.” (***Note that Jo Dee told us that her mother has improved and is now being rehabilitated and we wish her a continued recovery and send our thoughts and prayers to the family***).

All the while, Jo Dee was working on her record and trying to keep herself afloat during what she described as a “really lonely” and “overwhelming” experience listening to the hospital machines. Ultimately, the song Me is about everything Jo Dee is in life, being afraid that she can’t pull it off and the feeling of being pulled in several directions, which was very much the case while her mother was hospitalized. At the time her mother was bedridden, Jo Dee was raising two young children, working on her album, and trying to be there for her mother to assist with her recovery. As we sat on the phone with Jo Dee, she began to sing some of the lyrics to Me to help her explain the meaning of the song.

I’m somebody’s daughter, I’m somebody’s friend, a shoulder to lean on no matter when. I’m somebody’s teacher when they don’t understand. I’ve got a seat in the bleachers, I’m the world’s biggest fan … I wish I was half the woman that I was gonna be. I wish I had all the answers right in front of me. I’m everything to everyone and I’m scared as I can be ’cause when I look into the mirror, all I see is me.

Jo Dee describes the song as the most vulnerable song she has written, and we have to say, it has must-listen written all over it!

At this time, while Jo Dee is finalizing her record, she is fulfilling the Kickstarter supporters’ “rewards,” including at-home private parties, meet and greets at shows (where she hangs out with the fans and takes them on the bus), and is personally addressing all envelopes to her fans to show her gratitude. She is also hitting the road for shows throughout the next couple of months in anticipation of the new album. Don’t worry, fans … She is still performing the hits and understands how important it is to continue to play the oldies, but goodies!

On a completely non-musical note, we asked Jo Dee a little about her time running marathons since she not only hit the road to perform, but also hit the road in a pair of sneakers. Jo Dee told us she has run Chicago, Boston, Phoenix, and the San Antonio half (and even got on stage in her running clothes). We know it’s not exactly a country topic, but it was really interesting to hear about her experiences during her races! Okay, we digress …

More importantly … Jo Dee shared with us that Me will be released on March 18, 2014 in order to set up video and photo shoots and allow time to promote the album. We have absolutely no doubt that this album is going to be everything you would expect and want from a Jo Dee Messina album … and more. This prediction is further substantiated by how catchy Peace Sign is and the teaser we got of Me during our conversation with Jo Dee.

To get more sneak peaks into Jo Dee’s new album, make sure to follow her on Facebook where she is extremely hands on and relies on her fans’ opinions in a way that is completely unique to most artists. We cannot wait for Jo Dee’s album to be released and are so incredibly honored that we were able to speak with her. Not only is her talent unparalleled, but her personality, sense of humor, friendliness, and sincerity are incomparable.

Jo Dee left us with a message of sincere gratitude to her fans and the country music audience. She humbly and graciously explained:

I’m able to make music. I’m able to go out and play shows. I know the fans are there and they’re supportive and I’m grateful … I’m in a very good spot and I’m very appreciative of everything that comes my way.

All in all, Jo Dee exudes thankfulness to her fan base, and the moral of the interview is she wholeheartedly loves that her fans Stand Beside Me.

Previously posted on Keepin’ It Country Blog, October 23, 2015