Messina's 'Surprise' Comeback

Excerpted from the magazine for

Jo Dee Messina has had a career marked by ups and downs, but right now she's definitely on a professional high.

Her new Curb album, "Delicious Surprise," spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart after its April 26 release. Debuting at No. 7 on The Billboard 200, the set was Messina's first top 10 entry on that chart. The album has sold 174,000 copies in the United States in its first three weeks, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

In addition, first single "My Give a Damn's Busted" -- written by Joe Diffie, Tony Martin and Tom Shapiro and previously recorded by Diffie for his 2001 album "In Another World" -- was No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart for two weeks, marking the sixth No. 1 single of her career.

"Delicious Surprise," Messina's first non-holiday studio album in five years, marks a big comeback for her. Since her last new album, she has made radical changes in her professional and personal life that have helped guide her to this new career peak.

Messina changed management, took her publishing in-house, changed publicists and replaced much of her road crew. She also split with her fiancée after a nine-year relationship and entered rehab for alcoholism treatment.

"The majority of my world has changed," she admits, adding simply that the moves "needed to happen."

"I was working constantly," she observes. "I was more focused on the day-to-day work to be done than being available for the creative aspect, and it took its toll."

Messina, who declared bankruptcy earlier in her career, says her support network hasn't always been as solid as it is now.

"When I went through the rough times, people jumped ship," she says. "I've been emotionally attached to a lot of people who pretty much saw me as a meal ticket. It was a hard-ass lesson to learn, but I learned it. Now a part of me walks around guarded."

Despite those hard lessons, she says rehab helped her get back in touch with her creative side. The experience "allowed me to step back and see what's really important. I got a chance to see why I do music, which is because I love it. I love to entertain."

Since that epiphany, she says, "I'm singing around the house again, singing in the grocery store, singing in the shower."

As part of her new emphasis on the creative aspects of her career, "Delicious Surprise" became the first album that Messina co-produced. She has also refocused on her songwriting, contributing five songs to this album.

"Because my mind is a bit freer," she says, "I have more time to dream, and in those dreams is where my music lies."

For the first time, Messina says there were "no compromises" with the label on song selection. "On every album so far there were one or two songs or singles that I really wasn't comfortable with," she admits. But she says this time Curb executives were "really open to letting me do what I needed to do."

Although Messina is no stranger to success, she says she is enjoying it for the first time. "Do you know how many second chances I've had?" she asks with a laugh. "When people say, 'You're an overnight success,' I say, 'How long is your night?'"

Excerpted from the May 28, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available to

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