Jo Dee Messina's music is no longer held hostage

Jo Dee Messina

Jo Dee Messina

Jo Dee Messina

Jo Dee Messina

Jo Dee Messina

  • When: 8 p.m. Friday, March 26
  • Where: Clayton Center for the Arts, 502 East Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville
  • Cost: $36, $46 or $56; 865-656-4444

— It has been five years since Jo Dee Messina released a new album. The singer, whose debut single "Heads California, Tails Carolina," made her a country star, was a regular fixture on country radio for a decade. However, even though her 2005 album "Delicious Surprise," included the No. 1 Billboard Country Song "My Give a Damn's Busted," Messina's record company has kept a follow-up album in limbo.

"We finally came to an agreement on a way to get it out there," says Messina from her Nashville home.

Curb Records, she says, was undergoing management changes and opening new labels that kept many of the artists on hold.

"It's awful," she says. "It really has affected how I make a living. It was brutal. There was all this (company) infighting and, meanwhile, me and all these other artists, Wynonna, Heidi Newfield, Lee Ann Rimes and all these other artists are going, 'Hey, can we finally just go on with our lives, please?'"

She says the label kept asking her to cut more songs for the album. She had 22 songs when she finally said, "Enough!"

"How do you get all that material out?" says Messina.

The album, titled "Unmistakable," will be three separate discs each with six new songs and two of Messina's hits recorded live.

"There will be an album released in the spring, in the summer and the winter," says Messina. "They're all called 'Unmistakable,' but the first one is the 'Love' edition; the second one is the 'Drive' edition; and the third one is the 'Inspiration' edition."

In a market as competitive as music is today, a five-year break between albums could kill a career.

"I know!" says Messina. "I'll tell you if it has."

Raised in Massachusetts, Messina moved to Nashville at the age of 19 to try and make it in country music. In the early 1990s, she became friends with then-fellow-aspiring country singer Tim McGraw and producer Byron Gallimore. The two would later co-produce Messina's albums.

Messina says she has two different types of concerts these days. One is a regular full-band show. The other (which she will present in Maryville) is called the "Music Room show" and features fewer musicians and a very different atmosphere.

"For the 'Music Room' shows we make the whole stage look like the music room in my house," says Messina. "It's just like hanging out with me in my house at a barbecue or something. We tell jokes and hang out."

The shows can last from 75 minutes to more than two hours, depending on the crowd. She also takes requests.

Messina's many hits include "Bye, Bye," "You're Not in Kansas Anymore," "I'm Alright," "Stand Beside Me," "Lesson in Leavin'," "That's the Way" and "Bring On the Rain," but sometimes she's asked to perform songs that aren't her own hits.

"I'm surprised at how many people think I sang Martina McBride and Sugarland's hits!" says Messina with a laugh.

She has honored requests for other people's songs when she can remember them.

In 2009, Messina gave birth to her first child, Noah.

She says a Nashville parenting magazine recently asked her what her biggest parenting mistake was. Messina says she couldn't take the question seriously.

"I told them: 'I don't know. I'll know when he's 16 and in therapy!'"

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