There’s little doubt fans of country superstar Jo Dee Messina will enjoy her new album. That’s because they picked every song on it.
Messina, who created her latest album, “Me,” a title also picked by her fans, through a successful $100,000 fundraising campaign on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter.com, will perform Oct. 16 at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.
Known for hits such as “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” “I’m Alright,” “My Give a Damn’s Busted” and “I’m Done,” Messina parted ways with her record label in 2012 and set out to do things her own way.
Through social media, she sought input from fans.
She’d write a song, play it for them and go from there.
Before long, she had her fifth studio album, co-writing seven of the 12 songs on “Me.”
“All of it was accidental,” she said. “I started giving [fans] more of a voice. They picked every song on the album. They chose the name. They chose the single. They funded the record. They sang on the record in the background.”
The album has a feistiness to it, with songs such as “He’s Messed Up,” “A Woman’s Rant” about the ups and downs of working women and “Peace Sign,” in which she tells off a no-good lover.
Among the “Peace Sign” lyrics: “I’m just saying goodbye, one finger shy of the peace sign.”
“I thought it was hysterical when I heard it,” Messina said of the song. “I guess some people were offended by it. It depends on who’s listening. ...
“People are like, ‘We can’t play that.’ We play songs with, ‘I want to see you in your short shorts’ and ‘Save a horse, ride a cowboy.’ But we can’t play that? If someone’s looking for a reason to be offended, they’re going to be offended.
“If they’re looking for a reason not to like it, they’re not going to like it. It came from a playful place, and that’s where my mind was.”
Her song “Not Dead Yet” was inspired both by Peyton Manning’s football career and her own sassy declaration to naysayers of her musical career that she’s not even close to finishing what she started.
The title track, “Me,” shows Messina’s softer side. It is a heartfelt song about being everything to everyone and hoping at the end of the day that it is enough.
“It comes from a very vulnerable point of ‘I have to be so many things to so many people, and it’s scary because I look in the mirror and see me,’” she said.
“It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I can do it.’”
A mom of two young sons ages 2 and 5, Messina juggles her country music career with motherhood. She’s also working on a Mother’s Day-themed book and has become a sort of fitness coach, challenging fans to join her on a fitness journey.
Those involved work as teams to support and push one another through social media.
Having run the Chicago Marathon in 2007 – the year of water shortages – Messina said she took a break from a regular fitness routine when she started having kids.
She’s now getting back into it.
“It’s a work in progress. When you look at me, it’s a work in progress,” she said. “But I think it’s harder to look at someone totally ripped out and fit and go, ‘Oh my gosh, I can never look like that.’ It’s a perfect time for me to do this and say, ‘Hey, we can do this together.’ “
Messina focuses on workouts that can be done anywhere, such as planks and burpees, workouts that don’t require a gym or a huge set of weights.
She eats healthy foods – egg whites, vegetables, oatmeal, fish, boiled chicken – and drinks protein shakes loaded with vitamins.
“It’s what we normally eat, I guess. No Twinkies,” she said.
Her goal is not to be skinny, she said.
“Strong is the new skinny,” she said. “It’s just looking out for yourself and being aware, because you deserve it.”
It’s a similar theme with her music – songs about enduring and enjoying life, perhaps with a bit of attitude.
Her fans have been loyal since 1996, when her self-titled album debuted with the lead single “Heads Carolina, Tails California.”
The 44-year-old landed the record deal after moving to Nashville, Tennessee, at age 19. She worked temp jobs and entered talent contests.
One win led to a gig on the radio show “Live at Libby’s,” which caught the interest of a producer who was working with a young Tim McGraw at the time. McGraw and Messina became friends, and backstage at one of his concerts, she suggested that his record label, Curb, needed a redhead.
McGraw eventually ended up co-producing Messina’s Curb albums.
Beginning with that first album, she’s had nine songs reach No. 1 on the charts and 16 Top 40 singles. She is the first female country artist to score three multiple-week No. 1 songs from the same album and has won countless awards, including the Academy of Country Music’s Top Female Artist of the Year in 1999.
Social media has connected her with both old and new fans, including a younger generation, those in the ages of 18 to 25, she said.
It’s also allowed her to get to know her fans, and that’s reflected in the new album, she said.
“There’s a lot more variation in the music because the music was picked by a million and a half people versus one guy sitting in a cubicle,” she said.By JAMI KUNZER firstname.lastname@example.org