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Jo Dee Messina

Biography

Discography

Awards

Touring Schedule

 

Biography

"I have a real problem with being honest... I can't not be! I was raised in a very connected community,

where everyone was approachable and friendly. Everyone was honest -- so I have a difficult time with

things that aren't real. That's just the way I was raised, and it's who I am."

When it came time to record I'm Alright, Jo Dee Messina's already platinum sophomore album, she had a

lot of ground to cover. With her breakthrough "Heads Carolina, Tails California" and follow-up Top 5

smash "We're Not In Kansas Anymore," the copper-haired firebrand soared into the role of next superstar;

but the dissolution of her management company and other circumstances conspired to undermine the

ground she'd gained and Messina eventually found herself teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

"It's all life -- and you can't take anything for granted," Messina says philosophically. "All you can do is

keep working, keep believing and be grateful that you can use those trials to put back into the music."

Working closely with her good friends and co-producers Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw, Messina

spent nearly two years seeking out songs that reflected her will to live and thrive, to be true to oneself --

and the faith and commitment required to see one's dreams through.

"These songs are very survival-oriented," says the two-time CMA Award nominee and winner of the

Horizon Award in 1999, addressing the ten songs on I'm Alright. "As I sing 'em and as people hear 'em, it's

a strength thing that you hear in my music. When I hear these songs, they actually change my mood --

when I'm down, I listen to 'I'm Alright' and the energy just lifts me up, then the lyric carries me along.

"To me, the songs have to say something I can relate to or would actually say. I have to be able to represent

it and I have to be able to feel it. Otherwise, I'm not doing myself or the song any justice."

Messina knows what she speaks of. Her energy, passion and joy for living infuse songs she sings with a

power and an infectiousness that's undeniable. When people hear her full-throttle commitment to the music

she makes, they can't help but respond. As a result she's spent over 10% of the past year sitting at #1 on the

charts with I'm Alright's first two singles: two weeks with "Bye, Bye," then three weeks with "I'm Alright."

And those two chart-toppers are merely the surface of an album that's both complex and comforting.

Whether it's the resigned heartbreak - into - action - into - healing of Messina's own "No Time For Tears,"

or freewheeling on Grammy-winner Marc Cohn's paean to automotive nirvana "Silver Thunderbird" or the

hushed real life commentary of "Even God Must Get The Blues," Messina weaves the conversational

intimacy normally reserved for old friends.

"Hey, I like people," she laughs. "My character is to give... It's not about being a success in the music

business, it's about doing for others and giving of one's self. When I'm out there and people say my songs

touch them, help them, maybe change their life, that's why I do it! It gives the music a purpose and me a

reason for doing this.

"My Mom's the same way. So you could say I get it from her."

Raised largely by a single mother in Holliston, Massachusetts, Messina learned early about working hard as

a means to making one's way in the world. When she was 12, Messina discovered country music --

Alabama, the Judds, Janie Fricke, Deborah Allen, Reba -- through some kids at school and her course was

set.

"I've always been a very passionate emotional person," she concedes, "and that's what country music was. I

could relate a lot better to 'Leavin' On Your Mind' than I could to 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot,' because it

was more about how people live their lives.

"To me, that's what it's about; getting out there and living life."

Once music resonated inside Messina, there was no looking back. She put together a band as a teenager and

began playing around. Ever the aggressive businesswoman, she tackled all the support duties: booking,

managing, publicizing, everything except driving to the gigs, something even the most industrious 14-yearold

can't do.

When she graduated from high school, Nashville was a foregone conclusion. Messina struck out for Music

City, knowing no one and determined to make her mark on country music. Like so many hopefuls, initial

success was elusive, so Messina took to looking for breaks and picking up money singing in the various

talent contests that draw the aspiring and the delusional.

"I was hanging out at the Pink Elephant, where they had these talent contests where you could win money -

- and I needed money," Messina recalls fondly. "So, I won the Grand Prize and part of the deal was getting

to sing on this live radio show broadcast from Kentucky."

"I went up there and did pretty well, so they made me a regular. I was singing on the show one night, when

they told me I had a phone call. This guy says he's a producer and he wants to get together. It's December

19th and I'm going home the next day, because I'd missed Christmas with my family the year before and it

about killed me, so I really wasn't in the mood for the runaround again."

"I was thinking, 'Oh, great, now I gotta go meet with this guy!' He starts in with 'You got a little Dolly in

your voice, and a little Reba.' He's running down all his plans: make a demo, shop it to a couple labels,

maybe do a showcase. Finally, I said, 'Hey! That's great... but I don't have any money,' figuring that would

be the end of it, because it's always about that."

"He looked at me like I was nuts! He said, 'I don't want your money...' and we went down in the basement

of this publishing company he was with and actually put some stuff on tape."

That producer was Byron Gallimore, who was also developing a young maverick named Tim McGraw.

Though Jo Dee was the first one Gallimore got signed, her initial recording de-railed during a management

shift at the label.

"Just about every label in Nashville offered us a deal," Messina recounts, "but by the time my deal fell

apart, they'd all signed women and the slot was full."

While Messina struggled to recover her equilibrium, McGraw's star took off. At the height of his initial

explosion, Messina went to Fan Fair as her dear friend's guest -- and met Curb A&R exec Phil Gernhard

backstage. "I was thinking y'all need a redhead on your label," she announced cheekily.

The folks at Curb agreed. Before long, Messina was in the studio with Gallimore and McGraw coproducing

her debut album. It came out of the chute hotter than Georgia asphalt -- and a star was seemingly

born.

Though circumstances conspired against her, a few things remained constant. Not only was Messina's love

of music an anchoring passion, her sense of self maintained her during the dark months that lay between the

end of supporting Jo Dee Messina and the release of "Bye, Bye."

"I lived in the same house my whole life, so I'm very strong-rooted," Messina explains. "I grew up in a

small town where everyone knows everyone, so you never lose sight of who or where you are. It was very

hard to leave that when I came to Nashville, but then you realize growing up like that, you always remain

that person."

Knowing who you are, what you want, what's important can ground a person in the stormiest waters. For Jo

Dee Messina, it allowed her to wait until she found the songs she believed in -- and offered her the

confidence to stay true to her heart.

"I think these songs are very basic," Messina says with a knowing smile. "I look for the simplest songs in a

lot of ways, because it's the simplest things that people relate to. And music is, ultimately, about

connecting."

From the sweepingly resolved ballad "Stand Beside Me," with its realization that relationships are about

respect to the hushed vulnerability of "Because You Love Me" to a feisty romp through Dottie West's

signature song, "Lesson In Leavin'," Messina brings a sparkle and a strength to songs that offer women a

realistic path through the world.

"I never know if a song is a hit," she acknowledges, "all I know is if I love it. When I heard 'Bye, Bye,' that

song hit me. It is the same when I write. I don't know if the song 'No Time For Tears' is a hit. But it has a

groove and melody that was in my head that I had to sit down and write."

"That song was exactly what I was feeling. And that's what I like songs to do, hone in on my heart and go

from there."

"Look at 'Even God Must Get The Blues.' Because I went two years between records, I got to try a lot of

songs out on the road, and people would come up to me and say, 'I need that song. You have to record it.'

There aren't very many ballads that rip my heart out and lay it right there in front of me... But I figure if

you're gonna do a ballad, it better be one that goes that distance."

When Jo Dee starts talking about her music, her already strong verbal skills kick into overdrive. Every song

is important every influence integral. She has a strong commitment not only to her records, but to the

people she makes them for.

"Look at Dottie West. Tim and I both saw the TV movie of her life and he thought 'Lesson In Leavin' was a

perfect fit. But to me, she was just untouchable, because how do you fill those shoes? I figured I couldn't

copy it, but rather do a tribute -- after all, what better tribute than to someone who was such a survivor?

Someone who gave so much to others?"

"And that's how we attacked it."

Surviving is a pretty bottom-line thing for Messina. But her strength, grace and laughter makes even the

rudimentary things soar. And when she wraps her voice -- all raw emotion, funky promise and a hint of

cayenne and honey -- around direct statements of real life, she can't help but connect.

I'm Alright, indeed. For Jo Dee Messina, alright would be a bad day. No, for the Boston-bred redhead, most

days are diamonds that sparkle in the sun and lift us up to a happier place. Just listen to the resilience, the

spring, the easy-come, easy-go spirit that infuses her songs and feel the cares melt away.

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Discography

Albums

  • Jo Dee Messina
  • I'm Alright (Double Platinum)
  • Burn (Gold)
  • Greatest Hits

Singles

  • You're Not In Kansas Anymore
  • He'd Never Seen Julie Cry
  • Heads Carolina, Tails California
  • I'm Alright (#1)
  • Bye Bye (#1)
  • Stand Beside Me (#1)
  • Lesson In Leavin' (#1)
  • Because You Love Me (Top 10)
  • That's The Way (#1)
  • I Wish

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Awards

  • Country Music Association Horizon Award (1999)

  • Academy of Country Music Top New Female Vocalist (1999)

 

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Last modified: 04/21/2014