Unmistakably Jo Dee

Jo Dee Messina will bring her Music Room to Tacoma's Pantages on Sunday, an intimate, interactive version of her live show that's sure to include "I'm Alright," "My Give a Damn's Busted" and other fan favorites.

But when the singer phoned from her home in Nashville recently, most of the discussion focused on major life changes and the five long years that passed between her “Delicious Surprise” album and last spring’s “Unmistakable: Love,” the first in a trilogy of planned EP releases:

You’ve put out a handful of singles in recent years. But it took awhile for an album to come out. What was behind the delay?

(Laughing) The record label. It took ’em six years to decide to do anything with the music. I actually was finished six years ago with that album.

I guess I’ve heard that. There were reports of a new album from as far back as when the “Biker Chick” single came out in 2007.

That was the first single from the album, and then they pulled that after about two weeks and then they didn’t do anything else. (Resigned laugh) The industry has gone through a lot of change, and that record label (Curb) has gone through huge changes. And it just seems as though my music has gotten lost in all the chaos over there. The staff that made all those decisions and shelved the record – and, you know, were clueless pretty much – are gone.

I could harbor really bad feelings and be like I’m living with what horrible decisions these people had made or the work that they did not do on my career. But (label founder) Mike Curb himself, his heart and his intent has always been very positive for me personally. If you’re talking about a one-on-one relationship between Mike and myself, there’s a great deal of love there. But, man, that staff – (she lets loose with a hearty laugh) – Good God! Good riddance!

You’re not mincing any words.

No, I never do. I’m from the East Coast, dude – but (I’m) more classy than Snooki (from MTV’s “Jersey Shore”).

If I follow, though, the singles aren’t on the new EP. Do you have a whole ...

What it boils down to is, it took ’em so long to decide to do something with my music, I had 24 songs for this album. I just kept cuttin’ and kept cuttin’ and kept writing.

And they said let’s try to find a theme. We have enough for three EPs, so let’s try to find a theme for each EP. ... That way, they’re hearing everything I recorded in the last years as opposed to 10 songs that I recorded and 14 songs that they never will hear.

What I’m hearing in your voice is you were going through a really frustrating time and this is a big relief.

(Let’s out an exuberant, Little Richard-style wail.) Here I am creating and emoting, going through huge things in my life. I got married since my last record. I had a kid. My ... kid’s in school, dude, OK. So from the last time I had a record out to the time the label decided, “Oh, we’re ready to do something with the music,” I met my husband, was engaged to my husband, got married, had a kid. The kid is walkin’ and he’s in school! (Hearty laugh.)

How old is your kid now?

He’s 18 months. He’s in Montessori (school). They start at 16 months. But the whole point is, it’s been a lifetime! So, you know, I am. I’m very happy, and I feel grateful every day that I get out of bed. It’s like I can breathe.

You mentioned why you’re doing the EP thing now. But at the same time it seems like there might be a mini-trend. You’ve seen artists such as Blake Shelton have success with putting out a shorter CD than doing a full length.

I don’t really know about it being a trend. I will say that is what gave us the idea.

I think that when we saw what Blake Shelton did with his first EP, it was like, “Oh my gosh, we can do that. But we have enough for three.” I don’t know how many he has. I just knew, I just heard when that first one (came out). So to him I give the credit.

Speaking of which, what is the timetable? You’ve got the first part of the trilogy out.

(Laughs) One is called “Unmistakable: Love,” the one that’s released. The second one’s supposed to be called “Unmistakable: Drive.” And the third one is “Unmistakable: Inspiration.”

The “Drive” one has more songs like “I’m Alright” and “Bye Bye” on it. The inspirational one has more songs like “Bring on the Rain” – you know, those empowering kind of get-on-your-feet-again songs.

So there are aesthetic differences.

Right, but when they come out, I haven’t received the date on those yet.

OK, but you’ve got them ready to go.

Oh yeah, these things were done years ago. The music’s been done – packed in. The album cover was taken when I was five months pregnant.

As long as that’s been, you might have enough for a whole new album now.

I’ve just been kind of freed, in a way of speaking, to be creative again. I ran into the Warren Brothers in the airport in Denver and (said), “Yes, we’ve got to get together and write.” And then I just booked appointments for next week, so I’m just in the beginning stages of putting together a new project. Now, it doesn’t take me but a couple months. What happens after that is what takes so long.

What about the live show? How much of the new stuff are we going to hear?

Well, this show is unique. This is a Music Room show. This is really dictated by the audience. We come out and we do two songs, and then I’m like, “Hey, we don’t know what we’re doing after this point. Does anybody have a question or a request or a story they’d like to share?” It’s always dictated by the audience.

The stage is set up like the music room in my house – the couch, the coffee table, the piano, the lamps, the windows. It’s like you’re coming over to my house to visit for the day, for the evening. So what do we do? If you have someone come over, you hang out, you talk to them. You share stories. What have you been up to? Here’s what I did today. And that’s the Music Room.

But if you wanna hear the new songs, you gotta call ‘em out?

You gotta ask for ’em. We’ll do ’em. We’re not scared. We know ’em all.

Ernest Jasmin: 253-274-7389, ernest.jasmin@thenewstribune.com, blog.thenewstribune.com/tacomarockcity