Interview: Jo Dee Messina On the Power of Kickstarter and New Album ‘Me’
By Annie Reuter
When Jo Dee Messina used Kickstarter to fund her latest album, Me, she never thought her job would be to explain what the crowd-funding platform is. She didn’t find many people in the country music sphere who were familiar with the crowd-fundraising platform, which caused some issues early on.
“I spent the first two weeks dodging bullets,” Messina told Radio.com. “People were asking me, ‘What are you doing, asking for money?’ So I had to simplify it and figure out a way to say, ‘You get something from this. You donate, you get something from every level. You can get a single download, or it could be me playing in your backyard. Or coming to cook you dinner. Or us going for a three-mile run together.’ Every dollar that was donated, somebody got something. I had to simplify it and say, ‘Look, I’m having a yard sale, you buy stuff you normally can’t buy, and with that money I’m going to make a record.'”
And it worked: Messina raised over $120,000 last June for her project.
The country hit-maker first rose to fame in the ’90s thanks to her powerhouse singles “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” “I’m Alright” and “My Give a Damn’s Busted,” all of which reached the Top 5. She was awarded Top New Female Vocalist at the ACM Awards in 1998, and went on to enjoy a string of hits well into the mid-’00s.
Messina spoke with Radio.com recently about her Kickstarter campaign, her first full album in nearly a decade and first-ever independent release. She credits her 21-year-old cousin, Alex Preston, an independent singer-songwriter and Top 3 finalist on Season 13 of American Idol, for convincing her.
Much like Kickstarter, Messina looked to her fans for advice on songs to make the album. Using Facebook, Twitter and StageIt, she’d perform the songs and test the waters. One of the most well-received songs is her current single “A Woman’s Rant,” which she explained started off as a journal entry.
“It was literally a day in the life of me. I was up at six o’clock, the baby was crying, my husband wouldn’t wake up, I was exhausted trying to drag through the day,” she said. “I was just griping in my journal. And then it became funny. One of the lines about my pregnancy was, ‘I’m so gonna have it out with Eve when this is all done,’ because I was on tour three weeks before I had my kid, and my son was up in my lungs, and I had a really hard time breathing on the last couple of shows before his delivery. That’s how it became that line in the song.”
“It’s interesting because so many women that hear it feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, somebody gets it,'” Messina continued. “Men sometimes don’t get it, they don’t do it. They don’t live it. You’re trying to take care of everyone and everything all the time, it’s just our nature. So we feel, ‘Does anybody get it?’ When women hear this song, they hear the story of their life.”
Messina said Me evolved thematically to span several musical styles including country and bluegrass, which can be heard on “A Woman’s Rant,” as well as the R&B flavor of “Take It” and heavier rock vibe of “He’s Messed Up,” which she originally wrote for P!nk.
“I set up the song, had the idea while she was in town and this is before she was doing all the crazy Cirque du Soleil stuff,” Messina explained. “I reached out to her tour manager and just wasn’t able to make it happen, so I just finished it without her.”
The album kicks off with a powerful opening salvo, “Not Dead Yet,” where Messina plants her feet firmly as a musician who refuses to give up her career. She said the song came about after a record executive said the country genre had changed dramatically, and it was time for her to leave the business.
“I’m like, ‘No way. I’m just getting started. My voice is the best it’s been its whole career. I’m not done, I’m not dead yet.’ If I believed everything that dude was saying I’d have one foot in the grave. I would just give up on everything, and that’s the thing a lot of people do, they just give up because everyone around them tells them it’s not possible. And they don’t even try. I just say, ‘turn your ears off. There’s not just one way to skin a cat.'”
She belts on the chorus of the song, “I’ve paid my dues, gotten bent and bruised; I’ve walked a 1,000 miles in these shoes. I’m here and I’m well. I’ve felt the fire; I’ve been through hell. I’m a little out of breath; But baby I’m not dead yet.”
And with a little help from her fans and Kickstarter, she’s very much alive.
Jo Dee Messina’s Me is out now.