"I think that a lot of public figures, before they go to Nashville, arrive in town and say that country music means a lot to them, and they do what amounts to a vanity project."
Two years ago, HLN morning personality Robin Meade released her debut disc, "Brand New Day," which made it onto the Billboard Heatseekers chart and lead to an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Now, the Ohio native is back with her second release, "Count On Me," available exclusively at Target and on iTunes.
In an exclusive interview, Meade tells Billboard:
“It was so important that I do a good job on the second album. I think that a lot of public figures, before they go to Nashville, arrive in town and say that country music means a lot to them, and they do what amounts to a vanity project. Then, you never hear from them again. I said all along that it was not my intention for the album to be a one-off, and I meant that. So, I’m delighted to be able to come back with a second album.”
The album is a mix of new material and cover songs that have all made a special impact on the performer. She hopes the familiar song titles make it an attractive buy for record buyers. “On this album, I wrote seven of the twelve cuts. There are also several covers on the album. The reason I have done that is that research has shown that when people buy a CD, they will inevitably look at the track list. It’s like your brain is looking for something familiar. And, with me just having one album out, some aren’t familiar with my singing. So, they will say ‘If I don’t like anything else, I know I like that song.”
One song that listeners will be familiar with is Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” though Meade’s version is very different from the 1986 original. “I wanted something that fit into the theme of 'Count On Me,' the album title. Victoria Shaw, the album’s producer, said, 'Why don’t we go with ‘True Colors.’"
That fits in that theme. We made it more bluegrassy -- where it fits right on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. I performed it there two weeks ago, and it got a warm reception. I saw people tweeting about it. It just has a fresh twist and a treatment that most people had never thought about before. My dad said ‘I never knew what Cyndi Lauper was saying before. These are beautiful words.’ It’s his favorite cut on the album,” she says with a smile.
"Count On Me" includes guest cameos from the Blue Sky Riders -- comprised of Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman, and Gary Burr -- as well as Keb’ Mo’, who helps to make “Slow It Up” one of the album’s highlights. “I loved his voice and guitar playing,” she says of the Grammy-winning great. “When we went into the writing session, I said I wanted to write a ‘Saturday’ kind of song, one that reminded me of the lake where I like to go on the weekends, and not put on makeup, and sit with my honey. I love the swampy feel of it.”
Meade also tips the covers hat to Garth Brooks (“The Dance”) and Tom Petty (“I Won’t Back Down”) on the disc, but hits the emotional home run on the stirring “Better Than Me.” She feels the tune contains a message for us all, herself included.
“This is the one original on the album that I didn’t write. But, when I heard it, I knew I had to have the song. The song starts out at a funeral, and it’s a celebration of a life. It makes the singer -- or the writer -- examine themselves, and say ‘When I go, I want people to be glad that I came to this world. I want to be better than me.’ What a great pay off line. We are all on this proverbial self-improvement project that goes on forever, and don’t we all want to be better than we are at the moment.”
And, no one does morning television any better than Meade, though the 2 am alarm does come early for her hosting duties on HLN’s “Morning Express with Robin Meade.” But, she reasons, “That’s part of the gig. I’ve done morning television for a long time, and while I joke that when I retire, I will sleep for two days, I am so grateful to do this job. I know it’s the part of the day that I am good at in television, trying to get you on your way in a good frame of mind.”