When boxing Boston belle Jo Dee Messina was spurned by a Nashville lover she didn't punch him in the ring.

Instead the chirpy chanteuse wrote him out of her life and earned healthy royalties from her song No Time For Tears.

"I met this guy who was a real jerk," Jo Dee told Nu Country during a whirlwind Australian tour to promote second big selling album I'm Alright.

"He really tore my heart apart but he gave me some good material.

"I gave everything I had emotionally, I gave every bit of energy but it wasn't enough. He was never happy and made me unhappy. A friend told me 'you don't have time for this' so I wrote No Time For Tears."

Jo Dee's departure in song from her desolation on Music Row was suffice solace to pull her from the passionless pit which stalled her career and almost sent her bankrupt after the stressful split with the Music City industry figure.

A little different from On A Wing And A Prayer which she wrote with Walt Aldridge about a friend's failed relationship.

"I gave away the money advanced from my record company on my first album," Jo Dee, then 28, revealed, "I'm the type of person who likes to give. I gave to my sister. She has four little babies and bought an old house and it needed repairs."

But it wasn't just the singer's altruistic support of her family that brought her to the brink.


"I was on the verge of bankruptcy. I took a year and a half to make my second album," she lamented, "I didn't have anything to send out to radio. We were off radio for a year, when you are off that long there are a lot of hotter new acts that come along. The work started to slow down. By Christmas 1997 my house was on the market and my car was up for sale. Everything I owned was for sale because I needed money to keep things rolling. Every time I turned around I had the rug pulled out from under me. I almost lost everything I owned, the gas and electricity were cut off."

But the tide turned when Jo Dee's belated second album was unleashed on shops in the slipstream of another smash hit.

"Thank heavens when the first single Bye Bye came off this album work started to pick up," she says, "then I'm Alright has taken us across the world. Radio has been very good, it has chosen to be kind to us. "

Mainstream radio may have been kind to Ms Messina in the U.S. but here she has scored because of heavy CMT exposure and community radio station Nu Country - FM.
Both of her albums were co-produced by fellow star Tim McGraw - husband of Faith Hill - and Byron Gallimore who gave her a punchy country pop platform to capitalise on her charms.

The singer also works out as a boxer in Nashville and the road when band members are tempted to spar with the bouncy babe.


Joe Dee toured with McGraw and outlaws Hank Williams Jr, Travis Tritt and Charlie Daniels as she built from opening act to earn an endorsement for the Matisse lipstick range (a favourite with long haul truckers in Rev Billy C Wirtz songs).

It's a far cry from singing in clubs at 13, with her mother at the wheel and in the wings, and her days as a 16-year-old manager of the Jo Dee Messina band.

Jo Dee fronted the family band in hometown Holliston - a dairying, bees and chicken coop 45 miles west of Boston - and took over bookings and publicity until heading for Nashville at 19.

By day she worked as an accounting computer programmer and record company royalties disburser and sang and wrote at night.

Jo Dee Messina

She also performed on Live At Libby's - a Kentucky radio show, also launch pad for Texan tearaway Tracy Lawrence and Clinton Gregory.

There was no time for tears and even less to await record company power brokers reply to demo tapes she sent.

Especially James Stroud - the head of A & R at Mike Curb Records in Nashville.
"It was politically incorrect to approach a record company executive," Jo Dee recalled, "You had to be represented. He had heard my demo tape and we hadn't heard back from him. Backstage at a show I flagged him down and ran up to him. He looked at me as if I was crazed. To break the ice I said 'y'all need a redhead on your label.' I couldn't believe I said that but he thought it was cute and asked me to cut sides for the label."

The rest, as they often say, is history.


Ms Messina scored runaway hits with her first two songs - both co-written by Tim Nicholls who made an ill-fated album with Zack Turner as Turner Nicholls.

Mark Sanders was the co-writer on debut hit Heads Carolina, Tales California and Nicholls was joint author of the equally infectious You're Not In Kansas Anymore.

But the songs didn't come from expatriate Australasian publishers Barry and Jewel Coburn who once had both writers in their stable.

"I was very fortunate to get Heads Carolina," Jo Dee recalled, "Tim called and said 'I've written this song, it's perfect for you.' Believe it or not he dropped it off in my mail box and said 'see if you like it.' I was out of town. We recorded if after we finished the album. I had to bump a song off to fit it on. It ended up being the first single and a big hit."

Even though Messina cut quality songs by writers diverse as Dave Loggins, Max T Barnes, Bob DiPiero, Gary Burr and Will Rambeaux there was a lull before striking gold.

The two hits from Jo Dee's second disc have been quickly followed by her evocative treatment of the Steven Allan Davis song Stand Beside Me.

Stand Beside Me created history for Jo Dee when it became the third single from the album to top the charts on consecutive weeks.

"He knows women, he's about 7 ft tall," says Jo Dee, "a strong masculine man with a tender heart. He wrote about a girl who was left by this guy. To keep food on the table she took two jobs but the guy decides to come back. She said 'no, you're no good for me.' She turns him away and says 'no I want a man who stands beside me, not one who turns around and leaves.' I was very lucky Steven believed in me enough to give me his song."


There's plenty more chart fodder on the new album - especially Even God Must Get Blues which was penned by John Scott Sherrill who was in the band Billy Hill with DiPiero and Dennis Robbins.

"Helen Darling recorded it but then lost her record deal and they stopped shipping her records," Ms Messina recalled, "I started to perform it live and got such a good response I decided to put it on this album. This song can mean something different to each person who hears it. There's so much going on in the world today, not the most pleasant situations. We look around and get saddened. Even God the master of all - the greatest of great - must look down and see what's going on some times and be sad about it."

Although Jo Dee recorded the Marc Cohn song, Silver Thunderbird, she doesn't travel as well as the writer or many peers.

"I love the stories it told and the pictures it painted but I drive an Eagle Talon jeep," says Jo Dee, "it's not a truck, not a ritzy car, just a normal sports car kind of."

Ms Messina has also revamped Lesson In Leavin' - a Randy Goodrum-Brent Maher penned 1980 hit for Dottie West who died earlier this decade in a car wreck near Opryland.

Although Ms Messina has only had two of her songs recorded she has become a prolific writer with a brace of partners including fellow singer Marcus Hummon and Steven Dale Jones.

"I have written a song, If You Could Only See Me Now, that we played for the Dixie Chicks," Jo Dee revealed, "hopefully they'll cut if for their next album. Two weeks ago we did a show together, I took them on the bus, played the song and they took it with them."

Although the Massachusetts minstrel only played one Sydney showcase gig on this tour she plans to return here late in spring for a full tour.


But has the singer, who lives with four dogs, a cat and a new rabbit to replace the recently deceased Thumper, found a new lover to replace the jerk who spawned No Time For Tears?

"That story could have a happy ending," Ms Messina teases, "the glass is always half filled.

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