Multiplatinum, award-winning, nine-time No. 1 country crooner Jo Dee Messina is the voice of the independent woman. The singer/songwriter declared "Stand Beside Me" -- not "Stand by Your Man" -- and is best known for empowering feminist anthems like "Bye Bye," "I'm Alright," "That's the Way," and "Bring on the Rain" (with Tim McGraw). Longtime fans of both genders funded her first post-label record on Kickstarter and in return got to pick the title, track listing, and first single, and one fan designed the logo for her newly formed Dreambound Records label. Preceded by single "Peace Sign," the aptly titled, highly personal album "Me" was released on March 18.
You funded "Me" through a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign.
My 19-year-old cousin suggested it. All the kids are doing it, you know? [laughs] They explained it to me, and I was blown away. So we set our goal high, and thank God we reached it.
If the funds hadn't materialized, would you have had to self-fund the album?
It wasn't in my existing budget, so I would have had to go out and borrow money. I don't have $100,000 lying around, despite what people might think.
You said that artist/fan collaborations such as this one are limitless. Can you elaborate?
When people band together for a common cause, the energy is endless, and you can move mountains. I let the fans pick the single, too, because I want them to have a choice in what song was delivered to their radio station. I let them pick out the title of the album. A fan via Twitter designed the record label logo. She submitted an idea, and I thought it was awesome.
Are musicians giving fans too much power over artist material these days?
No, it's a song. It's not like I'm asking them whether I should have life-altering surgery.
Speaking of life-altering moments, you've said that it's when you're in the midst of the creative process that you feel most in tune with God. Can you explain that?
They say that in the midst of bliss, there's no sense of time. You can get lost upstairs when creating music, and I think nothing else seems to matter except that one thing you're working on.
On the track "Peace Sign" you sing, "You thought that you could delete me/A few sorry words on a page/To you it was so complicated/Me just taking up your precious space." With our reliance on texting, e-mailing, and messaging, have we lost the ability to break up in a respectful way?
Isn't that funny? And half the programmers don't get what that verse means. I thought it was hysterical when I heard it. I never heard it put that way. So for me, it's so funny, because we're into the single, and we'll have male programmers saying it's offensive, yet they play "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)." I guess it depends on where the listening ear is coming from. But guys will say things hiding behind keyboards that they would never say in person.
Jo Dee Messina takes no prisoners in the "Peace Sign" video:
In the old days, a breakup required courage. Yeah, having kids of my own and realizing how important that is and how there's an entire generation that exists online and there's nothing real behind it, I intend on raising my children and making sure they can handle social situations, and that they could walk up to someone and apologize or walk up to someone and say, "What you did was unfair." You have to be accountable for what you say.
You often sing about very independent women. Where do you find your inner strength?
I think a lot of that persona is I was raised in the northeast, outside of Boston -- I'm half Irish, half Italian -- and it was very blue collar. If you wanted something, you worked for it; and if you had an opinion, you stated it. You stood up for something and believed in it.
I find that these days a lot of people will waiver or will think, "Let me see what that person does first." Where I come from, we stood for certain things, had morals, stood for family, working hard, and doing what's right, and didn't float back and forth, which is not the easiest thing.
Speaking of strong-willed women, a couple years ago you became known to a new audience when you appeared on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." How was that experience for you?
I worked with Kandi Burruss and Lil Ronnie, which was awesome, because they're the lowest drama on the show. Also, for us, it was just a musical thing. We wrote some songs, we recorded them, and Kandi's awesome and a crazy, sick writer and singer. I didn't want to sing in the same room as her. She'd come up with a line and sing it and say, "Now you sing it." I'd say, "Hell no. Not in front of you. Can you leave the room?"
I've read that one of your first jobs after moving down to Nashville was working in computer programming.
Well, I set up accounting software and did a lot of data entry uploading, but I did not program. Back then people had books, so there was a lot of time spent transferring data.
So you should have no problem naming your top mobile apps.
1. I got my Starbucks app.
2. My weather app, 'cause I'm always in a different city, and I want to see what the weather will be. I use the Weather Channel or the app that comes with my iPhone, depending on which one I hit first.
3. WhoSay, but I was told to twist over to Instagram.
4. My Flashlight app.
5. MyFitnessPal, because you just load in whatever you eat and how much you work out, and it tracks it for you.
6. Talking Carl saves my butt on many occasions. It's a game for a one-year-old. If we're at a restaurant, and he's screaming and crying out of control, it calms him down.
7. The developers also made Carl Laser Draw. You use your finger, and it draws, and it sounds like a "Star Wars" light saber.
8. I have my Emoji app with all the faces and symbols and whatnot. You text someone that it's pouring rain, and it has an umbrella with raindrops, etc.
9. I have my Kindle app.
10. I have Faster Scan HD+ so I can take pictures of documents and e-mail them rather than scanning them.
11. Of course Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and it all goes through Instagram.