By CEAN BURGESON
MANISTEE — Country artist Jo Dee Messina, who came to fame in the mid-1990s, and is best-known for her kiss-off songs, like 1997's "Bye Bye," 1999's "Lesson in Leavin," and 2005's "My Give-a-Damn's Busted," is coming to Little River Casino Resort’s new event stage Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.
“We’re excited to start elevating the level of acts we can bring to the area,” said casino general manager Jim LaPorte. “We have a beautiful facility that we look forward to sharing with the community and our customers.”
Based in Nashville, Messina will make her way to Michigan as part of a week long road trip which will bring her to Ohio, then up to Manistee. She says that the way she combats the stress of the road is to maintain a set schedule.
“There’s definitely a system,” says Messina. “If you don’t get a system down, forget it. Each day has a schedule to it that’s pretty consistent. I get up, get something to eat, have some coffee, go for a run, come back, go to the gym, go back to the venue, get some food, get a shower, do sound check, take a nap.”
An avid runner, Messina is doing the Chicago Marathon Oct. 7. “This is my second full one, I’ve done a couple of half (marathons),” she said.
This isn’t her first trip to perform in Michigan. “I’ve got a great fan base up there,” she says. She likes northern Michigan, despite the fact that it always seems that she ends up performing here when it’s cold out, and hasn’t had much of a chance to enjoy this part of the state during the summer months.
This time, the weather may work to her advantage. It’s so warm in Nashville, she thinks she’ll do some of her long runs to prepare for the marathon in our more mild climate. “We’ll run at some point up there,” she said.
Her drive on the running course is matched only by her passion for performing and producing music. With the release of her most recent album, “Unmistakable,” Messina steps firmly into the front ranks of country singers. An album that displays both her songwriting prowess and her abilities as a co-producer, “Unmistakable” is above all a showcase for one of the genre's most remarkable and distinctive voices.
Messina describes herself as “a girl next door,” and prides herself on the fact that she has been able to maintain a level of success in her career. “People say, ‘oh, that’s Jo Dee, she’s consistent, she’ll be around, she’s been around, of course she’s going to do good work,’ Messina says of her fan appeal. “A lot of people have said that to me. A lot of the press, too.”
"She is a great singer," says Chris Ferren, one of four co-producers who worked with her on the project, "but I guess I didn't know how great until I worked with her." It was a sentiment echoed across the board. Dann Huff, who co-produced several cuts along with Jay Demarcus of Rascal Flatts, calls her "obviously, a great singer" as well, and Jerry Flowers terms her "the best vocalist I've ever worked with. No matter what you ask her to do, she can do it, and do it better than what you wanted. She sings from her heart and it's just amazing every single time."
Unmistakable is the sixth album in a career that has brought the Massachusetts-born singer to the heights of the genre she has loved since she was a little girl. She’s sold five million albums, had nine #1 singles, earned two Grammy nominations, in addition to awards by the CMA and ACM, and seen her albums go platinum (Burn) and double platinum (I'm Alright). The latter made history, as three consecutive singles reached the #1 spot for multiple weeks on the Billboard singles chart, making her the first female artist ever to earn that distinction.
Messina promises that she’ll bring a nice mix of her old and new material to the Little River Stage on Sunday. “I’ll do a lot of the hits for everybody, and we trickle in the new stuff,” she said. “The new stuff’s been getting a great response. It’s been really rewarding. Usually, I’m afraid to play new songs, but people are hooking onto them by the first chorus, so it’s like ‘wow, we’ve got some catchy material, here.’”
"I believe in my heart this album is going to be the biggest yet," she says, "because so much of my creativity is in it, and in the midst of your creativity is when you're most in tune with God. There's so much of it on this record and it came so effortlessly. I can't wait to see what people think.”
Tickets for the show are available now in the Odawa Trading Post gift shop or online at Star Tickets Plus: www.starticketsplus.com.
Messina wants everyone to know that her performance is what she calls “a show for everybody. There’s definitely something in there for everybody — whether you’re having a good day, bad day, falling in love or out of it.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org