DIARY - 24 FEBRUARY 2004 - JO DEE INTERVIEW 1998
TEARS FOR JO DEE JERK
When boxing Boston belle Jo Dee Messina was spurned by a Nashville lover
she didn't punch him in the ring.
Instead the chirpy chanteuse wrote him out of her life and earned healthy
royalties from her song No Time For Tears.
"I met this guy who was a real jerk," Jo Dee told Nu Country
during a whirlwind Australian tour to promote second big selling album
"He really tore my heart apart but he gave me some good material.
"I gave everything I had emotionally, I gave every bit of energy
but it wasn't enough. He was never happy and made me unhappy. A friend
told me 'you don't have time for this' so I wrote No Time For Tears."
Jo Dee's departure in song from her desolation on Music Row was suffice
solace to pull her from the passionless pit which stalled her career and
almost sent her bankrupt after the stressful split with the Music City
A little different from On A Wing And A Prayer which she wrote
with Walt Aldridge about a friend's failed relationship.
"I gave away the money advanced from my record company on my first
album," Jo Dee, then 28, revealed, "I'm the type of person who
likes to give. I gave to my sister. She has four little babies and bought
an old house and it needed repairs."
But it wasn't just the singer's altruistic support of her family that
brought her to the brink.
on the verge of bankruptcy. I took a year and a half to make my second
album," she lamented, "I didn't have anything to send out to
radio. We were off radio for a year, when you are off that long there
are a lot of hotter new acts that come along. The work started to slow
down. By Christmas 1997 my house was on the market and my car was up for
sale. Everything I owned was for sale because I needed money to keep things
rolling. Every time I turned around I had the rug pulled out from under
me. I almost lost everything I owned, the gas and electricity were cut
But the tide turned when Jo Dee's belated second album was unleashed on
shops in the slipstream of another smash hit.
"Thank heavens when the first single Bye Bye came off this
album work started to pick up," she says, "then I'm Alright
has taken us across the world. Radio has been very good, it has chosen
to be kind to us. "
Mainstream radio may have been kind to Ms Messina in the U.S. but here
she has scored because of heavy CMT exposure and community radio station
Nu Country - FM.
Both of her albums were co-produced by fellow star Tim McGraw - husband
of Faith Hill - and Byron Gallimore who gave her a punchy country pop
platform to capitalise on her charms.
The singer also works out as a boxer in Nashville and the road when band
members are tempted to spar with the bouncy babe.
BILLY C WIRTZ
Dee toured with McGraw and outlaws Hank Williams Jr, Travis Tritt
and Charlie Daniels as she built from opening act to earn an endorsement
for the Matisse lipstick range (a favourite with long haul truckers
in Rev Billy C Wirtz songs).
It's a far cry from singing in clubs at 13, with her mother at the
wheel and in the wings, and her days as a 16-year-old manager of
the Jo Dee Messina band.
Jo Dee fronted the family band in hometown Holliston - a dairying,
bees and chicken coop 45 miles west of Boston - and took over bookings
and publicity until heading for Nashville at 19.
By day she worked as an accounting computer programmer and record
company royalties disburser and sang and wrote at night.
performed on Live At Libby's - a Kentucky radio show, also launch pad
for Texan tearaway Tracy Lawrence and Clinton Gregory.
There was no time for tears and even less to await record company power
brokers reply to demo tapes she sent.
Especially James Stroud - the head of A & R at Mike Curb Records in
"It was politically incorrect to approach a record company executive,"
Jo Dee recalled, "You had to be represented. He had heard my demo
tape and we hadn't heard back from him. Backstage at a show I flagged
him down and ran up to him. He looked at me as if I was crazed. To break
the ice I said 'y'all need a redhead on your label.' I couldn't believe
I said that but he thought it was cute and asked me to cut sides for the
The rest, as they often say, is history.
NICHOLLS & ZACK TURNER
scored runaway hits with her first two songs - both co-written by Tim
Nicholls who made an ill-fated album with Zack Turner as Turner Nicholls.
Mark Sanders was the co-writer on debut hit Heads Carolina, Tales California
and Nicholls was joint author of the equally infectious You're Not
In Kansas Anymore.
But the songs didn't come from expatriate Australasian publishers Barry
and Jewel Coburn who once had both writers in their stable.
"I was very fortunate to get Heads Carolina," Jo Dee
recalled, "Tim called and said 'I've written this song, it's perfect
for you.' Believe it or not he dropped it off in my mail box and said
'see if you like it.' I was out of town. We recorded if after we finished
the album. I had to bump a song off to fit it on. It ended up being the
first single and a big hit."
Even though Messina cut quality songs by writers diverse as Dave Loggins,
Max T Barnes, Bob DiPiero, Gary Burr and Will Rambeaux there was a lull
before striking gold.
The two hits from Jo Dee's second disc have been quickly followed by her
evocative treatment of the Steven Allan Davis song Stand Beside Me.
Stand Beside Me created history for Jo Dee when it became the third
single from the album to top the charts on consecutive weeks.
"He knows women, he's about 7 ft tall," says Jo Dee, "a
strong masculine man with a tender heart. He wrote about a girl who was
left by this guy. To keep food on the table she took two jobs but the
guy decides to come back. She said 'no, you're no good for me.' She turns
him away and says 'no I want a man who stands beside me, not one who turns
around and leaves.' I was very lucky Steven believed in me enough to give
me his song."
more chart fodder on the new album - especially Even God Must Get Blues
which was penned by John Scott Sherrill who was in the band Billy
Hill with DiPiero and Dennis Robbins.
"Helen Darling recorded it but then lost her record deal and they
stopped shipping her records," Ms Messina recalled, "I started
to perform it live and got such a good response I decided to put it on
this album. This song can mean something different to each person who
hears it. There's so much going on in the world today, not the most pleasant
situations. We look around and get saddened. Even God the master of all
- the greatest of great - must look down and see what's going on some
times and be sad about it."
Although Jo Dee recorded the Marc Cohn song, Silver Thunderbird,
she doesn't travel as well as the writer or many peers.
"I love the stories it told and the pictures it painted but I drive
an Eagle Talon jeep," says Jo Dee, "it's not a truck, not a
ritzy car, just a normal sports car kind of."
Ms Messina has also revamped Lesson In Leavin' - a Randy Goodrum-Brent
Maher penned 1980 hit for Dottie West who died earlier this decade in
a car wreck near Opryland.
Although Ms Messina has only had two of her songs recorded she has become
a prolific writer with a brace of partners including fellow singer Marcus
Hummon and Steven Dale Jones.
"I have written a song, If You Could Only See Me Now, that
we played for the Dixie Chicks," Jo Dee revealed, "hopefully
they'll cut if for their next album. Two weeks ago we did a show together,
I took them on the bus, played the song and they took it with them."
Although the Massachusetts minstrel only played one Sydney showcase gig
on this tour she plans to return here late in spring for a full tour.
But has the
singer, who lives with four dogs, a cat and a new rabbit to replace the
recently deceased Thumper, found a new lover to replace the jerk who spawned
No Time For Tears?
"That story could have a happy ending," Ms Messina teases, "the
glass is always half filled.
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