Jo-Dee Marie Messina was born August 25, 1970 in Framingham, Massachusetts, and grew up in nearby Holliston. When she was 8, she began singing and taking tap dancing lessons. She appeared in local plays and musicals like The Sound Of Music and Fiddler On The Roof. From an early age, she knew that she wanted to be a singer, and she never considered singing any other style of music but country.
When Jo Dee was just 13, she began singing in local clubs with various bands. By the age of 16, she was fronting The Jo Dee Messina Band (“real original,” she laughs), which also included her sister on bass, her brother on drums, and mom, Mary, providing the transportation. They eventually became a major part of New England’s country music scene, performing up to four hours each night, six times a week.
Realizing that being a country singer in a small town in the Northeast would limit her chances of making it in the industry, she loaded up her Pontiac Sunbird and made the move to Nashville at age 19. She found “temping” positions in accounting and computer programming, and also entered singing talent contests to help make ends meet. She soon became a regular on a local radio show called Live at Libby’s.
A producer named Byron Gallimore heard her singing on the radio, and contacted Messina about working together to secure her a recording deal. One day, while she and Gallimore were in his office choosing material for her demo, another struggling young singer dropped by. His name was Tim McGraw, and he’d soon be a country music superstar. Jo Dee and Tim became close friends, and he would eventually serve as Jo Dee’s co-producer along with Byron.
It was at 1994’s Fan Fair that Messina’s fortune changed. She was backstage at one of McGraw’s shows, when a Curb Records executive walked past her. She stopped him and jokingly told him, “What you guys really need over there is a redhead.” At the same moment, Nashville icon and producer James Stroud strode up and announced that he had just heard Messina’s demo tape and believed she was a promising new talent. The Curb executive contacted Byron Gallimore shortly after that meeting, and Jo Dee Messina was signed to the label.
The next task was the selection of songs for her debut album. She, Byron and Tim poured over more than a thousand songs for about a year in order to have ten for the recording. The result was simply entitled Jo Dee Messina, released in March 1996. Messina’s debut single, “Heads Carolina, Tails California” was an up-tempo number about leaving a small town in search of the good life. The tune hit number four on Billboard’s Country Singles chart, and was nominated for Single of the Year at the 1996 Country Radio Music Awards. The follow-up, “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore,” did almost as well, peaking at number eight.
Even though she was now based in Nashville, the folks back home did not forget about her, as she won the Best Country Artist award at the Boston Music Awards in 1996. Messina’s second album, entitled I’m Alright was released on March 17, 1998. It went on to sell more than two million copies, but more importantly, helped Messina rewrite the country music history books.
Of the album’s ten tracks, five would be released as singles and make the country top ten. Even more remarkably, Messina became the first woman in the history of Billboard’s Country Singles chart to achieve three consecutive, multi-week number one singles from one album: “Bye Bye,” “I’m Alright,” and “Stand Beside Me.” She set and then tied her own record for longest run in the Top 30, an incredible 35 weeks.
Jo Dee Messina won the Academy of Country Music’s (ACM) Top New Female Vocalist award in 1999. That same year, she also picked up the Country Music Association’s (CMA) Horizon Award, became Billboard magazine’s Most Played Female at Country Radio, and won a few prizes at the Boston Music Awards including Act of the Year, Outstanding Female Vocalist, and Outstanding Country Act.
Messina’s highly anticipated third album, Burn, came out on August 1, 2000. The album entered at number one on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and went on to sell over a million copies. The first single, “That’s The Way,” spent four weeks at number one that September. Also included on this album was a duet with Tim McGraw. “Bring On The Rain,” a ballad about finding faith at the end of the longest days, struck a chord with listeners post-September 11th, and became Jo Dee Messina’s fifth number one single early in 2002.
She received her first Grammy nomination for Best Country Female Vocal Performance for “That’s The Way” in 2001. A second Grammy nod for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals (“Bring On The Rain”) came in 2002. In June, Messina’s “Dare To Dream” was included on a NASCAR-inspired compilation called Inside Traxx.
Jo Dee Messina released her first holiday album, A Joyful Noise, in October 2002. She made her second appearance on Touched By An Angel in November. She guest-starred on the series a couple of years earlier and stayed in touch with the show’s producer/creator. In the episode titled “Bring On The Rain” (named after Jo Dee’s hit song), she appeared as Annie, the single mother of a teenage girl. The follow-up to Burn is expected sometime in 2003.