Born Jo Dee Marie Messina on August 25, 1970, in Framington, MA; daughter of Vincent and Mary Messina; two sisters, Terese and Marianne, brother Vincent. Addresses: Record company Curb Records, 3907 West Alameda, Burbank, CA 91505; Phone: (818) 843-2872.
Country singer and songwriter Jo Dee Messina enjoyed a trio of successive number one hits on Hot Country Singles & Tracks from her second album, I'm Alright, released in 1998. She became the first female solo artist to score three consecutive multiple-week number one hits from one album since Billboard's country album chart debuted in 1964. The high-spirited, jocular redhead was nominated for six Kahlua Boston Music Awards, a distinction traditionally earned by rock artists. She was nominated for Act of the Year and Outstanding Album, Female Vocalist, Single ("Bye Bye"), Video ("I'm Alright"), and Country Act. After hearing of the award nominations, she told Billboard's Chuck Taylor, "I had to check my messages twice because I didn't believe it." She was also nominated for CMT's Female Vocalist of the Year, and for a Horizon Award. Messina's songs demonstrate a sassy, upbeat muscularity, and are designed to strike a familiar chord or two in the listener. Entertainment Weekly said, "(Messina has ) a style that blends the vocal cadences of Reba McEntire with the lyrical worldliness of K.T. Oslin." Her album I'm Alright went gold and platinum, and she won the Top New Female Vocalist award at the American Country Music Awards in 1999.
Messina was born Jo Dee Marie Messina on August 25, 1970, in Framington, Massachusetts. She was raised in Holliston, Massachusetts, by Vincent and Mary Messina, and had two sisters, Terese and Marianne, as well as a brother named Vincent. Her early musical influences include the Judds, Reba McEntire, Deana Carter, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Jr., Patsy Cline, and Tim McGraw. She performed in plays in the Boston area as a child, and starting at the age of 14, sang in local country bars. By the age of 16 she was performing every weekend in the Jo Dee Messina Band, which included her brother on drums and one of her sisters on bass guitar. Although she was a good student in school, she was sometimes called to the principal's office for falling asleep in class due playing late night sessions. Messina knew at a young age that music was her calling, and at the age of 19 she left home for Nashville.
Messina then competed in talent contests and sent her demo tape to various industry executives. While at the Fan Fair in the mid-1990s, she approached an executive at Curb Records and said, "What you guys really need over there is a redhead." Just as the executive was about to reply, producer James Stroud approached Messina, said he had heard her demo tape, and lauded it to the skies. She was soon signed to Curb and her self-titled debut album was released in 1996, produced by Tim McGraw and Byron Gallimore. Two of her debut release's singles topped the charts: "Heads Carolina, Tails California" (written by Tom Nichols and Mark Sanders) and "You're Not In Kansas Anymore." Messina performed 215 shows in 1996, and told Country Spotlight reporter Susanna Scott that the best gift from a fan she ever received was a stuffed white horse that neighed when tilted, which was left on the stage by a five year old. When Scott asked her what piece of advice she would most like to impart to her fans, Messina said, "Don't give up."
She took her own advice to heart and stayed the difficult course. Taylor wrote, "(Messina) has seen her share of industry heartache, starting with a label deal that promised to make her dreams come true and then went sour when management shifted." She signed to Curb, but saw her finances dry up between hits and came close to losing her home and car and declaring bankruptcy. She spent almost a year finding the right songs and sound for her 1998 follow-up release, I'm Alright, which eventually made her one of the genuine country artist success stories of the 1990s. Robynn James, publicity director of country WYYD/WJLM in the Lynchburg/Roanoke, Virginia, area told Taylor in 1999, "There are so many female singers at country radio now, and it's become all the more of a challenge to break through the pack." Messina told Taylor that the struggle was well worth the ride. "I don't know anything else besides country music. I'll always do some kind of music, whether it's writing or doing demos or commercials. It just runs through my veins."
Messina's 1998 release, I'm Alright, highlights a selection of songs about personal strength and survival. She told Taylor, "I have to be able to relate to what I sing and know what the song is saying. As a singer, you're painting a picture, and you can't sing it if you don't know what it looks or feels like." Jaymes added, "It seems like every record we get from her is stronger and stronger. When you think she can't get any better, she comes out with something superior." Mike Brophy, publicity director of WKLP Boston told Billboard's Taylor, "The beauty of her music is that it's upbeat and positive. From a programming perspective, it's easier to put on that kind of music than slow, sad songs."
Messina's band members include Ralph Friedrichsen on bass guitar and vocals; Tim Haires on drums; Pete Jeffrey on keyboards, vocals, and as bandleader; Stacy Kostes on acoustic guitar and vocals; Allen Love on pedal steel; and Tony Obrohta on lead guitar and vocals. Messina, who has a tenacious, feisty, and dynamic personality, has some clearly defined goals set for her future: she wants to meet Bonnie Raitt, perform with an orchestra, write an entire album, and have Shania Twain cut one of her songs. She toured for several months during 1999 with the George Strait Country Music Festival, and appeared on CBS This Morning on April 28, 1999. She told Taylor, "Every day is a reward. It's all about getting out and meeting as many fans as I can and giving a little bit back to the people who've put me where I'm at. I'm very grateful for it all."
by B. Kimberly Taylor
Jo Dee Messina's Career
Performed in plays in the Boston area as a child; sang in local country bars at age 14; left went to Nashville,1986; competed in talent contests and sent her demo tape to various industry executives; signed to Curb Records, released Jo Dee Messina, 1996 (included "Heads Carolina, Tails California," and "You're Not In Kansas Anymore"); released I'm Alright, 1998; became the first female solo artist to score three consecutive multiple-week number one hits from one album since Billboard's country album chart debuted in 1964; I'm Alright went gold and platinum; toured for several months during 1999 with the George Strait Country Music Festival.
Jo Dee Messina's Awards
Top New Female Vocalist, American Country Music Awards, 1999.
- Selected discography
- "Heads Carolina, Tails California," Curb Records, 1996.
- Jo Dee Messina , Curb Records, 1996.
- I'm Alright , Curb Records, 1998.
- Billboard, March 5, 1999.
- Entertainment Weekly, March 27, 1998; April 12, 1996.
- "Jo Dee Messina Biography," http://www.curb.com (September 24, 1999).