Jo Dee Messina Talks Unmistakable: Love And Her Relationship With Curb Records

Ken Morton, Jr. | May 7th, 2010

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Jo Dee Messina doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to her relationship with Curb Records. After selling 4 million albums and notching a dozen Top 10 singles, the fiery redhead behind hits like “I’m Alright” and “My Give A Damn’s Busted” has waited five years for the notorious Nashville record label to release new music.

Now, finally, that new music has arrived. Instead of a full-length album, however, Curb has decided to release Messina’s tunes as a series of EPs. The move follows in the footsteps of competitor Warner Bros., which plans to release a series of three Blake Shelton EPs over the next year-and-a-half.

Messina shared her thoughts about this decision with The 9513’s Ken Morton, Jr.

KEN MORTON, JR.: It’s been a long wait for your new project, you have to feel pretty good that it’s finally out for fans to hear and buy.

jo-dee-messina-interview-03JO DEE MESSINA: It really has been a long time coming.

KMJ: The record has taken a little different shape than when we last talked to you in December of 2008.

JDM: I think that’s when the record was supposed to come out for the third time. (Laughing)

KMJ: At that point in time, it was going to be released as a full album. Now, Unmistakable is going to be released as three separate EPs. What was the reason for the change?

JDM: The reason is that every year, the label would ask me to record a few more songs. “Why don’t you record a few more songs. Go record a few more songs.” It got to the point that we had 22 songs for this record. You can’t release a 22 sided record right now. Well, at my label that’s unheard of. For the consumer, what would you price that at? So we decided that we would take all the songs that we’ve recorded over the last five years and put them out as three albums. And to make them unique, we would put on a couple acoustic songs–songs that were hits. I wanted them done in a different way so we’ve put a couple live acoustic songs on each record.

KMJ: Are you happy with this release schedule, this method of sending out the music to the consumer?

JDM: Well, I’m glad that they’re finally getting new music out. Again, it’s been so long. I’m sorry. I’m just over it. It’s disgusting how much of my life was wasted waiting for this record to come out. Is it really here? I won’t believe it until I see it in a store.

KMJ: Blake Shelton has had some moderate success with his six-pack model with Hillbilly Bone, which came out a couple months ago. Does that give you some confidence that this is going to work?

JDM: It’s great for me to be able to get the music out. I don’t know. Blake Shelton also had a song at radio. My record label isn’t working anything at radio. You know what I mean? The only way people are going to hear about this release is either through the internet or me going on TV and stuff. It’s interesting that while they’re releasing this one on the 27th (of April)–they’re not telling us when they’re releasing the second record. But they have also said that they don’t plan on working anything off of the record radio-wise. It’s just interesting.

KMJ: From the outside looking in, that seems like it just kind of defeats the purpose of releasing an album.

JDM: It feels that way from the inside looking out too. It does. But the hard-core fans get to get the music. It’s interesting. I’ve got to find a way to answer these questions. It’s really frustrating to wait this long and then they say, “We’ll release this record but we don’t have anything at radio.” We’re coming off of my last three records that have all debuted at number one. We’ve actively had a song at radio when the album’s come out. And then we have this release with nothing. It’s just interesting. I’m curious to see what happens.

KMJ: Let’s talk some specifics about the project itself. From your perspective, how would you describe the EP?

JDM: They’ve themed the record. So the first theme is Love. You get to see that side of me. The second one is Drive which is more attitude. It’s a play on driving a hundred times over.

KMJ: And the third one?

JDM: The third one is called Inspiration. It has “Bring On The Rain” done acoustically and another song called “Get Up Again.” They’re all inspiring and motivating songs. Get you going kind of things.

KMJ: How would compare this new project Love to previous albums you’ve released?

JDM: It’s definitely a new side of me. The title track of the entire project, “Unmistakable” is on the first album and that’s definitely a new side of me. Me singing a love song is not what my career was built on. So you get to see a new side of me.

KMJ: Are the other two albums finished? Will there be additions or changes to those are they ready to go?

JDM: Oh, they’re done. The songs have all be done and they were all recorded for the full Unmistakable album. They’re done and a lot of these songs have been done for five years.

KMJ: Wow. I hate to harp on this subject, but your previous albums have had four number one hits on them. The Curb Records philosophy just befuddles me.

JDM: Is there a philosophy?

KMJ: Well said. What kind of tour or promotional things will you be doing to help get the word out on the new albums?

JDM: I wanted to go to QVC. I thought that would be fun. But the label wasn’t able to do that. I’m getting it from all sides. I don’t know if the label is going to advertise. I myself am going to connect with some mainstream broadcasting, which is just my way to keep in touch with the fans. I don’t know what else to say.

KMJ: Beyond this trilogy of releases with Curb, what kind of obligation do you have to the label?

JDM: Life. (Laughing) We’re releasing three albums, but they only count as one. I have several albums due to the record label and if it takes six years per record, that will be approximately another forty years.

KMJ: You’ll be like Johnny Cash releasing American Series albums in your seventies.

JDM: Yeah, but they don’t release them. It takes them six years to release them. So you’ve got to figure, in all reality, I owe them four more records.

KMJ: I feel for you, Jo Dee.

JDM: (Laughing) You don’t feel enough. I’m sorry.

KMJ: What would you be doing if it wasn’t for music?

JDM: I don’t know. Music is part of who I am. It’s what I do. I do it because I love it. That’s why I keep going. That’s why I get beat to a pulp by this label and still go out there and sing. It’s because I love music.

KMJ: Last question for you. Let’s say you’ve got a table for four at your favorite restaurant and you get to invite three other music artists to eat with you and share a meal. They can be past, present, gone or here. Who would they be?

JDM: That’s a great question! Golly! Patsy Cline, James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt.

KMJ: And why those choices?

JDM: While I wasn’t around when Patsy Cline was around, she’s just a legend of the format. She didn’t take any bull. Actually, none of those people ever did. Bonnie Raitt because she’s an amazing talent and a music lover. And James Taylor because he’s an outrageously talented and gifted artist. He’s all about the music and I think that’s great.

  1. Charles Murphy
    May 7, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Everyone in Nashville knows that Curb is notoriously difficult to deal with…but no one understands why. They idea of “Let’s sign acts and hold their career up” just makes no sense. Tim McGraw has bashed Mike Curb and the label in the press, but he is still stuck on there. Let’s hope the truely talented people bogged down in the sludge that is Curb Records are able to dig out or above it and get good music out despite those that hold the contracts.

  2. Mayor JoBob
    May 7, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Is that Rodney Atkins excuse also?

  3. Sam G
    May 7, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Great interview, Ken. Too bad you couldn’t get her to open up and say what she really thinks.

    Hank Jr., Tim McGraw and now Jo Dee Messina have all come out against being on Curb records within the last year. It’s not a real good sign when they can get that many of their own artists to hate them. Oh well, at least Hal Ketchum is finally out of his Curb contract and can do whatever he wants.

  4. Nicolas
    May 7, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I’m so glad that Curb finally started releasing her music <3 I love the first EP and I can't wait for the next two! =)

  5. Michelle
    May 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    I think she was afraid to say anything too negative about Curb. That’s really sad. It’s almost like she wanted to yell, “HELP,” but couldn’t.

  6. Leeann Ward
    May 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Michelle, I think Sam was being sarcastic?:) I think her feelings about curb were quite clear in the interview. They should at least count the 22 songs as two albums. How did Curb end up like this? Didn’t they have a better reputation in the nineties?

  7. Michelle
    May 7, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Her feelings about Curb were definitely clear to me. I guess, to me, she handled herself and her choice of words better than I would or could have.

  8. Leeann Ward
    May 7, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I do agree with that, Michelle.

  9. Alan
    May 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    I think that if Jo Dee and Tim McGraw did a tour together, or even if Jo Dee was simply the opening act, she and Tim would pack large arenas and then her music would reach more country music fans and therefore sell more records despite not having a single promoted at radio. Unmistakable: Love debuted at #2 on iTunes in the country genre the day it was released despite not having a single out. Judging from the popularity of “Welcome To the Rest Of My Life” as the most downloaded track on the EP, Curb ought to take the hint and promote that song to radio. Seriously, how hard is it to declare a song as a single and have the radio stations play it?

  10. Michelle
    May 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    That would be awesome, but they would have to perform “Bring On The Rain” together or I would refuse to go!LOL! Just kiddin’!

  11. Leeann Ward
    May 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Is Jo Dee talking to Tim anymore, considering he’s the one who got her in the Curb mess in the first place?:)

  12. Steve Harvey
    May 11, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Is Jo Dee talking to Tim anymore, considering he’s the one who got her in the Curb mess in the first place?:)
    She and Tim probably stay up late drinking with Hank Jr, telling stories about what a douche-bag Mike Curb is.

  13. Trish
    May 12, 2010 at 8:43 am

    I love Jo Dee Messina! She is a total class act and deserves much better from her current label. I would love to see Jo Dee open for Carrie Underwood. That would be a dream seeing two of my favorite female artists. I think the two of them would get along great!

  14. Susan Schaffer
    August 21, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I recently asked her at a show why she didn’t tour with Tim. She said he didn’t ask her but she’d love to do that. Something weird is going on. What do all of you think?

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