Add Jo Dee Messina’s name to the growing list of established artists who are bucking the industry standard of working with a major label, and doing things their own way. The singer — who charted twenty-three singles on the Billboard charts between 1996 and 2009 — has just released a new single, “Peace Sign,” on her own Dreambound label. When asked how it felt to be on her own — the bubbly singer was very honest.
|‘You Put the FU in Fun’|
“Scary as crap,” she said, but also admitted that at this point in her career, it’s very liberating. “Being at the point where I was at, struggling to get music released, having a hard time completing albums, and seeing things on the same level with the team I was formerly with was so frustrating. So, to be able to do something that is so much fun and off the cuff is great.”
Messina says the creation of the single and forthcoming album was a group effort… with her fans.
“They picked every song for this record,” she tells Billboard. “We’d been working on the record since last year. We’d put little snippets of demos or live performances up on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, and let people decide thumbs up or thumbs down. Then, we started getting involved with Kickstarter, and people got a chance to participate in the recording process of the album.”
Her fans also got to play the role of A&R. “When it came time to choose the single, we had gotten such great response to two songs in particular. So, I put them up against each other. It was so close. There were 220,000 impressions on that poll, and ‘Peace Sign’ won 52-48%, so it was a close call.”
To show that it was totally a hands-on project for her fans, she even let them pick the title of the upcoming album. “I’m gonna kill them, because I’ve got to live with it now,” she said, laughing. “People are going to think I am so conceited. It’s named after a song that the fans love called ‘Me.’ It talks about all the things I have to be in the course of a day — a mom, a boss, a sister, a wife, and a daughter.”
She admits that there were a few naysayers about her working with Kickstarter, but she didn’t let them deter her. “I had someone tell me I was stupid to think you could make that happen. I didn’t understand why not. I haven’t heard from the person since we did it, but there were people around me who were very doubtful. I just can’t focus on that. I have to focus on the fact I love music. It’s been a part of my life since I was a little girl. It’s what I do. It’s a part of who I am.”
Messina is glad to be able to be in control of her music now, She says that has not always been the case. “The last song I recorded for my former label was called ‘Put Me In The Ground.’ They didn’t hear it, and wouldn’t commit to it being a single, so the writers said they wouldn’t license it because The Band Perry wanted to cut it. It was a number one record for them under the title ‘Better Dig Two.’ I’m so glad they did it because I knew the song was a smash when I heard it. We did it live, and people loved it. I’m glad someone did hear it because the writers deserved it to be out there,” she says with pride.
Some of her Kickstarter supporters can even be heard on the upcoming project. “That was one of the tiers on the Kickstarter account, and the fans did great. I had designed it where they were just chanting in the background. The song is called ‘He’s Messed Up,’ and when it comes to that part of the chorus, everyone chants.”
She said the recording experience was especially memorable for one of her teenage fans. “One of the girls was fourteen years old. She took a day off from school in Florida, and her mom drove her to Nashville and back from the session immediately after. Can you imagine? If I had been fourteen years old, and had sang on a Reba McEntire session, I would have died,” she admits.
Messina knows with this project, the buck stops with her, so she’s hoping for a little bit of magic. “It’s a little nerve wracking. It’s totally going to depend on the public and my friends in radio. I really believe I have some good friends out there that can make a difference. I pray that they pull me through, because they’re all I got!”