In the bowl of salad that is life, some bold and vibrant accoutrements sit atop. Without these particular garnishments, life would be bland, uneventful, oftentimes wilted. We call them the tomatoes, and we cherish each that grows on the glorious vine.
One of those whom we love and who enhances our worlds is vocal powerhouse, platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated artist, Jo Dee Messina; a woman who needs absolutely no introduction, but is deserving of that respect and so much more. There was truly nobody better to sit down with, debate #SaladGate with, and make the subject of Nashville Gab‘s first ever Female Focus Friday.
Right out the (salad) gate, Jo Dee made a very valid point, explaining that, in reality, Keith Hill inadvertently complimented the ladies of country music when comparing them to tomatoes. After all, the nutritious part of the salad lies in this bright and flavorful topping, rather than in the bed of greens below.
With that being said, Jo Dee wholeheartedly believes that the women in the industry are a viable commodity and that the tides will turn, as they always do. Thinking back on the past, Jo Dee reflected on the ever-changing state of country music, reminiscing on the influxes of a female presence on radio.
Music is my life, so I’ve seen the different seasons. There was a season where Dolly Parton would get played on the radio, it was a big deal because she was one of the few females. And then there was a season where Martina, Faith, Sara, Shania, Patty Loveless, you know, all these women dominated the marketplace, and it just seems now we have more outlets for people to vent, and so I’m certain it’s frustrating as far as being a female artist, as far as trying to get radio airplay, I’m sure that’s frustrating, and it gives people a way to vent. But, it’s nothing that hasn’t happened before. It’s a season in country music where it’s male-dominated. It’s not that it hasn’t been there before. It’s not that it hasn’t switched either.
Standing on somewhat neutral ground, albeit recognizing the current state of inequality as it relates to radio play, Jo Dee eloquently opined that the shift of the industry as a whole is due to the use of unfettered discretion to catapult an individual career, as opposed to the existence of a gender-based unfair playing field.
The sad state of country music is not that it’s more men than women right now. It’s that it’s becoming so cutthroat, people almost lose their moral judgment just to get ahead in the game, and they hurt other people in the process with no regard.
Jo Dee’s perspective widened my eyes and shed new light on the industry happenings, and I returned the favor when I mentioned that CBS This Morning discussed the allegation that females aren’t creating music that is “good enough” with Martina McBride.
Who’s to say we’re not good?! If you look at the way radio was programmed, it’s just that. It’s programmed. I think there’s an unfair assessment, and, again, it comes from a place where someone is thinking they’re above being decent to a human being. . . . Who can say what’s good and what’s not good? Someone likes pistachio ice cream and someone doesn’t. So, if someone is like “this is good” and someone is like “this is gross,” it’s all an opinion. It’s all an opinion, and everyone’s got one.
The quick-witted, decorated singer-songwriter also shared her thoughts on why people have been so quiet regarding the issues until now; specifically the male counterparts who have maintained seats on the bench while females like Miranda Lambert head to the batter’s box. Explaining, from her own viewpoint, the life of an artist is hectic and disallows for excessive time listening to the media, Jo Dee applied her experience and brilliantly rationalized the possibility of why artists have taken the silent approach to the current situation. Additionally, she shared that focusing on the negativity is an unnecessary thorn in a hardworking musician’s side.
Country music was always known as being wholesome, being family-oriented, everybody gets along with everybody. I went to an event recently and the artists get along fine! It’s the people around them that were horrible to one another. . . . I think the person in the position of authority in the industry that stands up and tries to level out the playing field, the one that’s brave enough to go against the grain, is the one that everyone should be talking about.
There is one female Jo Dee is definitely talking about, and that is Taylor Swift. One of the things she is baffled by is the fact that Taylor was essentially “run out” of country music when she was doing such wonderful things for the genre.
Why did we run Taylor Swift out of the format? That is sad to me that we would run her off. She’s a twenty-five year-old kid. Grown men are attacking her? That’s sad. And some of the people who launched attacks on this poor girl have kids her age!
While speaking of young female artists, we also discussed Maddie & Tae and the duo’s bold entrance into the industry, introducing themselves to fans, fellow artists, and executives as the girls who were going to take a stand against “Bro Country.” The fact that Maddie & Tae received backlash for their hit song reminded Jo Dee of a time she was faced with similar accusations of being offensive with her music.
I had a song that programmers were offended by when it was released, and these are the same programmers who spun “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.” So, it’s all in how you look at it. Again, Keith Hill’s getting a lot of flack for a comment, and he really just said it on the record. Everyone’s been saying it. It’s not new. This has been the theory if you listen to the radio, this has been the theory. He’s just the guy who’s taking the beating for it. This week. I’m sure I’ll be the next!
In regard to the future of the industry, there is one particular female artist Jo Dee is most excited about, and she makes no apologies for standing behind this young woman.
I’m still loving Taylor Swift. What’s wrong with that?! Am I the only one afraid to admit that publicly? I mean, the girl knows how to write songs. You can’t tell me that you don’t hear a Taylor Swift song and sing it all day long. That’s an art. That’s a knack. She’s got a knack for that. I actually have a fine jar in my house and every time I sing a Taylor Swift song, I don’t realize it, but my husband makes me put money in the fine jar because I sing ’em all day long! I try to sing the album cuts, that way he doesn’t know it’s a Taylor Swift song!
Adopting a mentor mentality for up-and-coming female artists who may shy away from pursuing their art, Jo Dee encourages them to focus on their careers and what they love to do, without allowing outside influences to get in the way.
Just do your thing. Do your thing, take pride in your work, don’t pay attention to the headlines, don’t believe what you read. There really is a fair shot for everybody, ’cause I would hate for this to discourage some young girl from making music and sharing their talent. How horrific is that? What right does someone’s comment have to steal someone’s passion? They don’t. So, anyone that’s new, up-and-coming, wants to have a career in the music business, wants to be the next Taylor Swift, go out there, work your hardest, be your best, do your best, and just believe that it’s possible. Because though it is a male-dominant industry at the moment, we do have Miranda Lamberts out there. Or the Carrie Underwoods.
In closing, Jo Dee maintains the optimistic point-of-view that the tides will shift and things will turn around because, as history has proven, they always do. A great indicator of the potential change is the female-saturated pop genre, one that shares demographic similarities with country music. Jo Dee is confident that the musical sovereignty of females in pop will result in a domino effect and will open the door for change, and to that I say “from your mouth, Jo Dee. From your mouth.”