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Speaking With Jo Dee Messina... 12.07.12

Jo Dee Messina

Jo Dee Messina

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♦ 7 p.m Dec. 7

♦ Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee

♦ Tickets, $25 (ladies get in free)

♦ (800) 745-3000;

Updated: December 5, 2012 6:48PM

Calling Jo Dee Messina a spitfire is an understatement.

The 42-year-old singer/songwriter seemingly knows no bounds. Chalk it up to an overdose of holiday spirit, perhaps?

Maybe. But for Messina, life is meant to be lived to the fullest, and she’s walking that walk.

With nine No. 1 country singles (including the hits “Bye, Bye,” “I’m Alright,” “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” “Downtime,” and “Stand Beside Me”), more than 5 million records sold, two Grammy nominations and numerous CMA and ACM awards to her credit, Messina is equally busy outside the music industry as a mom to 3-year-old Noah and 10-month-old Jonah (with husband Chris Deffenbaugh, whom she wed in 2007).

In her spare time, she blogs about motherhood and “a whole lotta other stuff” at , and indulges her true guilty pleasure: running, Jo Dee-style. A recent race in downtown Franklin, Tenn., yielded this post: “Oh and YES. I AM wearing reindeer antlers. Had bells on my sneakers too. It was a fun time.” (It’s not all reindeer games — Messina has run the Boston and Chicago marathons.)

Messina recently called the Sun-Times from her Tennessee home.

Question: Since it’s the holiday season, why was it important for you as an artist to release a Christmas album (“A Joyful Noise”)?

Jo Dee Messina: It’s my favorite time of year. My house looks like the Griswolds’ [from the film “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”]. You can see it from airplanes on approach to Nashville. It’s the truth! It’s just such a sentimental time of year for me. For all of us.

Q. The album’s songs are classics, but you maintained their traditional spins albeit with some smartly updated arrangements.

JDM: The album really is all about the classics, kind of like the way we heard the songs growing up. We didn’t fine-tune the vocals [on the album], so there’s some stuff on there if you listen real close. It’s real. We didn’t mess with it [in post-production]. We didn’t want any effects, didn’t want to over-compress it. So it has this very intimate feel to it. Like on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” It’s just a piano and me. I wanted it to be just as if I was going over to someone’s house and singing to them. No big, sweeping orchestrations, except on the songs we heard them on as kids.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite Christmas song?

JDM: That’s really hard, but I always cry when I sing “O, Holy Night.” It was just a favorite for me. The meaning of the words just makes me get all choked up. I’m that way with the National Anthem, too. I’m a total cornball. I’m going to do a version of the National Anthem for an upcoming children’s book that a friend of mine is writing all about the song and Francis Scott Key. Like where he was when he wrote [the anthem]. Here’s this guy watching the battle and watching our country being pummeled. Every time a bomb went off it lit up the night sky and he could see “the flag was still there.”

Q. Does singing the National Anthem throw you for a loop as it does so many other artists?

JDM: Nah. I’ve done it a lot. If it’s for a military base or national holiday event like the Fourth of July or some extremely patriotic event I usually cry, because those folks really know what I’m singing about. They get it. [Laughing] At sporting events people just start screaming cuz they want the game to start, ya know? I’ve never goofed is it, because the song is a conversation and I know the history of the anthem. It’s Francis Scott Key speaking those words.

Q. What’s the best gift you ever got for Christmas?

JDM: It was an organ. I went to Sears with my mother and she let me play it while she ent and looked at vacuum cleaners. I played for two hours in that store. But it cost $750 and my mom was a single mom and could not afford it. But it arrived on Christmas Eve. I found out later she financed it and paid for it a little at a time. But it meant the world to me because it really encouraged me to pursue my music. My mom went to the ends of the earth to get me that. I wish I still had it. She got rid of it when we sold my childhood home.

Q. How does it feel to blog about motherhood, giving advice to other moms?

JDM: It’s just the most fun, most rewarding thing. I’m no expert, which is why it’s “fumbling mom.” I’m just trying to learn it day by day and deal with what comes up just like every other mom out there. It’s just humorous and funny. I have two kids and am just figuring it out as I go along. I’m a parent. I don’t see myself as a mom cuz moms are supposed to have all the answers, [Laughing] and I’m clueless.

Q. Did becoming a mom change your approach to your music?

JDM: It really didn’t. I’m still feisty. My new single comes out early next year. It’s called “A Woman’s Rant.” It’s this hysterical song inspired by my husband and newborn at 4 a.m. when the baby woke me up with his crying and my husband slept right through it.

Q. What’s your guilty pleasure?

JDM: Running! That’s MY time. It’s me and pavement, and probably Taylor Swift and One Direction or Rihanna. I so look forward to being back in Chicago. I love the city and running along the lake or down by Navy Pier. I try to run every day. I want to break 30 minutes on the 5K. I’m Italian. I think that’s where all this crazy energy comes from!

Q. So how do you feel about Christmas fruitcake?

JDM: [Laughing] Oh God no! Why is it part of the Christmas holiday? It’s just nasty.

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