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Jo Dee Messina Makes A Delicious Return
By Wendy Newcomer: CMA Close Up News Service
Photo By: Jon Scarpati

It's been five years since Jo Dee Messina released an album of all new music. But with the success of "My Give a Damn's Busted" - her fastest-rising No. 1 single - the long absence has hardly tarnished her career. In fact, the award-winning, multi-Platinum star now finds herself once again in the national spotlight. Just don't call it a comeback.

"I see it as a saving grace," said Messina, who spent the last year undergoing a public and personal overhaul; she ended a nine-year relationship, sought treatment for alcohol addiction and replaced her manager and publicist.

"It was just time," she said of the changes. "I was very shielded, protected and instructed for a long time. I had reached a point where I would look in the mirror and be staring at a stranger. [Looking back] I think everything was a blessing: shutting down last year, taking a break, stepping off the merry-go-round."

Messina spent time reconnecting with family in Massachusetts. "I hung out with cousins and uncles and the whole Messina clan - the people where I came from," she said. "And I found the most amazing person: I found myself again -the dreamer - the one who has faith in herself, who wants to sing and loves the simple things. I rediscovered that person I had lost in a chaotic lifestyle."

The family solace came just in time. She'd been anxiously waiting for her new CD, Delicious Surprise, to be released. "It was as if someone had put me in a straitjacket and thrown me in the corner," she said of the album release delays at Curb Records. "It was really hard. I had a lot of material that we were chomping at the bit to share with the public. But for whatever reason, the record wasn't ready. And to finally have it come out, I was able to take a deep breath and just say: 'It's out!'"

Out it came with a bang. Her fourth studio album spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, and debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 - Messina's first Top 10 entry on that chart. "I had no expectations," she declared. "I just knew that I loved music and wanted to share it, and here was my opportunity.

"Everything that happened after the release of the single was just gravy." The 13-track album features five songs written or co-written by Messina, and she shares producer credits with Byron Gallimore and Mark Bright.

"I had gotten past the worry point," Messina continued. "In the last few months before the record was released it was as if I had come to a peaceful spot of just enjoying what I do."

Messina's mood was considerably feistier when she discovered the kiss-off chart-topper, "My Give a Damn's Busted," written by Joe Diffie, Tony Martin and Tom Shapiro. "The day I went out looking for that song, I was in such a sassy mood," she recalled. "They played it and I grabbed it. We've all reached that breaking point, whether it's work-related or with personal relationships, love, life, family, whatever. You throw up your hands and say, 'Ugh. My give a damn's busted!'"

It was a fitting message from Messina, whose career is replete with spunky, empowering tunes, from "Heads Carolina, Tails California," and "Bye Bye," to "I'm Alright" and "Bring on the Rain."

Yet despite her public persona, Messina insists the real woman is quite different. "The perception has more grit than the real person," she admitted. "I think people think I'm a bit more wild than I am. I'm a homebody. I'll hide in the corner at the award shows because I don't want to get in anyone's way. I get embarrassed when people see me without makeup. I am shy in public situations where people don't know who I am.

"Though I've taken some really big steps in the last few months to reach out ... if you catch me offstage, at the grocery store, you'll see a person you don't know. Someone who's a bit more reserved than most would think."

Reserved, perhaps - save the photos accompanying her new CD, which shows the singer in a midriff-baring cropped top, and inside she appears au natural, except for a pair of boxer briefs and combat boots. It's clear she's found peace with her newly-sleek body, as well as her music.

"I've worked at it," she stressed of her streamlined figure. "It's a conscious effort every day. I'm not doing Atkins or The Zone. It's not a specific diet. I'm doing what's right for me - lots of vegetables, fruits, proteins, natural fats, oils and nuts. Not a lot of processed stuff."

It's yet another phase of a new life that Messina describes as "simple." "There's a lot of stuff going on in my life," she explained, "but what I hold close are the simple things: my family, my friends, my music. My happiness comes from the simplest things - and that's where I'm at right now in my life."

As for her old life, there's only one thing she misses - and track nine which she co-wrote with Mike Reid, "Love Is Not Enough," on Delicious Surprise gives it away. "I miss the love of my life," revealed Messina, of her longtime relationship with former tour manager Don Musquiz that ended last year. "It's funny, because of all the press [regarding the alcohol rehabilitation] a lot of people think my biggest struggle is to not pick up a drink."

"But my biggest struggle is just trying to get through one day without thinking about him. It's been over a year, and I sometimes still can't sing 'Love Is Not Enough'. It's either vomit or cry. But it gets better every day - and I still smile."

Her smile returns when the conversation shifts to the album's title cut (co-written by Beth Hart and Glen Burtnik) and follow-up single to "My Give a Damn's Busted." "The gist of it is, 'You just gotta believe, anything is possible,'" she explained. "If you stop believing, there's no hope. It also paints a picture that sounds very much like me. If you do finally reach your goal, you add a little bit of quirkiness to make it your own.

"For example, some lines of the song are, 'If I won me the lottery, I'd dance naked in the street with a top hat full of money . If only I was President, You know I'd paint the White House pink and never have to pay the rent. If only I was President .' You pick those achievements and make them your own. That's what I see in the song. It's the ultimate dreamer's message."

So, would this dreamer really dance naked in the streets?

"If I won the lottery, sure! Definitely now, since I've lost all the weight. I just wouldn't show my backside to anybody," she added with a giggle.

The first song on Delicious Surprise, "Not Going Down," (written by Shaunna Bolton and Kevin Savigar) declares that no matter what happens, giving up is not an option. It's a credo that Messina now lives by, and a message she's proud to proclaim throughout the new CD.

"I'm not saying this album is great," Messina said. "I'm saying I, Jo Dee Messina, love this record and I'm proud of it. Whether anyone else in the world likes it I don't know. There's nothing on there that's trying too hard, trying to fit or be something. It's all just real."                                  
On the Web: www.jodeemessina.com

2005 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

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