Mickie James cut her teeth as one of professional wrestling’s most dynamic performers and, along the way, cemented herself into the history books as a multi-time champion. However, entertaining the millions and millions of fans who tune in each week to see her perform inside the squared circle is just one side to this multi-faceted artist. In 2013, Mickie James is set to take the country music world by storm! With Somebody’s Gonna Pay, her debut project for eOne Music Nashville, listeners can connect with her passion and drive from the very first notes of the album’s title track. Produced by hitmaker R.S. Field (Alison Moorer, Todd Snider, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and many more), the Jamie Hartford-penned tune showcases Mickie’s high-energy style, something she’s honed not only in the ring, but also via recent performances opening for the likes of Gretchen Wilson, Randy Houser and Montgomery Gentry. The album, produced by Field and Jamie Lee Thurston, highlights the energy Mickie brings to songs like “Best Damn Night” (which Mickie co-wrote with Thurston and Porter Howell of Little Texas fame) and “A Good Time,” (written by Bridgette Tatum) as well as the emotion found on ballads like “If I Can’t Be Me” and “Hurts Don’t It.” (penned by Kerry Kurt Phillips.) In fact, some of Music Row’s best writers have contributed to the album, including Rivers Rutherford, Tom Shapiro, the Civil Wars’ John Paul White, Odie Blackmon and Craig Wiseman. The album serves as a high-energy introduction to her work and will surely solidify her as an artist to watch in the years to come. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Mickie James to discuss her musical roots, the creation of ‘Somebody’s Gotta Pay’ and the challenges that she faced along the way!
The world of professional wrestling has been very good to you and now serves as a perfect platform to spread the word on your other ventures. Did you have any inkling when you first started out that it would lead you to the heights it has?
Absolutely not! I hoped and I prayed! I believed in myself and I believed I would make it one day but I didn’t know how far or how well I would do. Obviously, you just try to put it out there in the universe, pray about it and hope it comes true! Luckily, I was fortunate and blessed enough that it did!
You are about to unleashed your music side on the world with the release of “Somebody’s Gonna Pay.” Going back a bit, how did music first come into your life?
I grew up listening to all kinds of music. It was a very eclectic range ranging from rap to R&B to pop to country to classical. It was pretty much everything and anything! Being from a small town in Virginia and riding horses all of my life, country music was a massive part of it. I played the violin for five years in school. I still have it! I still have that ol’ fiddle. Obviously, I don’t play it as much as I used to! But yeah, music has always been a large part of my life. I think you can relate to music because of all of the stories that can be told. I have always been intrigued by how it moves me and how I have connected with it so much in my life. Also, being on the road 250 days out of the year, we spend a lot of time in the car and listening to the radio! [laughs]
Who would you cite as your biggest musical influences, be it artists you admire or a personal mentor?
I think on of my all-time favorites is George Strait. You can’t deny almost sixty number one singles through his career. I don’t know if any other artist has really done that! He has been around a long time and for him to still be out there making hit songs is incredible! When it comes to music, I grew up listening to everything. Madonna was a huge influence on me. I think it was because she was one of the first woman to be able to change with the times and stay culturally relevant. There are so many because of different aspects.
Your debut single and album share the same title, “Somebody’s Gonna Pay.” What can you tell us about the song, why you chose it as the album title and what it means to you personally?
I love that song! I absolutely love it! It is an old James Hartford song. He had written it and put it out. My producer, R.S. Field, had me listen to it. He asked me what I thought of the song when we were looking for some songs we might want to remake, redo or revamp. The song selection of an album is probably the hardest part — picking songs you can relate to, you love, you can sing, tells a story within the album itself and helps everything mesh together. When I first heard the song, I said “I don’t know! That is really country! I am not sure I can pull that one off! I love the song but I just don’t know.” He said “We are gonna throw seven guitars on it, rock this shit out and it’s gonna be awesome!” [laughs] I said, “OK!” I had so much faith in him because I had heard what he had done with other albums. He had done the Uncle Lucius who are on the same label I am. He had just come from Austin where he did their album and I was able to hear some of that. I said “If you say it is gonna rock, I believe it is gonna rock!” And it rocks! [laughs] I am grateful for that! As we went to pick out what the debut single would be, Dan Fletcher, who pretty much hired me under eOne Music, suggested that as the title. He said he thought it really set the tone for the rest of the album, for who I am and what I am trying to do! It was a perfect fit!
What made you think now was the time to forge ahead and pursue the musical side of your career?
I had put my first album out by myself. I had a cool team behind me but it was all self-released and self-financed. I learned a lot of that experience. I learned a lot of the ins and outs. Obviously, I am still learning. It is all very new to me and I am just getting my feet wet. I wanted to do it the right way and I wanted to do something that no one else is doing right now by having my own unique sound and by being who I am. I think that is the difference. Now, I am comfortable with that, rather than the first album where I just wanted to do music. I wanted to do music that I loved and a few of the songs I wrote made it on the album. I still feel as great as that first album was, it wasn’t me in a sense. I wasn’t being who I am. With this new album, I was able to hone in on that, do something unique and be myself. I was fortunate enough to have eOne behind me, R.S., Dan and my mangers pushing me. All of these people came together to help build this the way it had to be. I hope everyone loves it as much as I enjoyed making it! It is really exciting because I feel like it is a whole new chapter. It is something that is a new journey for me that, hopefully, everybody jumps on board with!
What was the biggest challenge in creating this album?
The music selection was the hardest part. You want to find the songs that represent you, your life experiences or ones you can relate to. You also have to find songs you can actually sing! There were songs I absolutely loved but there was no way I could sing it do to the way it is sung or the pitch. Sometimes, if you attempted change something like that, it changes the song itself. I co-wrote a few songs on this album as well. Making sure those songs measured up to the songs I was getting from publishing companies was a challenge. It can be tough to compete with songwriters who create songs all day! They are great at it, where as I am still in the learning process and working with some truly talented people who can help teach me how to write good songs.
That is interesting. What can you tell us about the song you created in the co-writing process?
I feel the songs I write are typically from life experiences of my own or ones that I have been close to with my family or friends. It is hard because you want to write something that is going to kick butt and people are going to love but at the same time you want to male them feel something emotionally. One of the songs I wrote for this album is called “80 Proof,” I wrote with my guitarist. We were driving back from New York when we wrote the song. It is pretty awesome. It’s a drinkin’ kinda song! You know, an anthem-y, southern rock kinda song! It is really cool. That is the one I was really excited about. When we wrote it, it was more of an acoustic version. We played it a few times but hadn’t really locked in exactly how it was going to feel. I never got to hear it with the full sound until I heard it in the studio as we were recording it. That was very cool! Another song I co-wrote on the album is called “Best Damn Night”. I had two producers for this album. I had Jamie Lee Thurston for the first six songs. That was right around the time eOne picked me up and wanted to go back in the studio and R.S. Field came in. He produced the last six songs. We ended up cutting one of the first songs. Even though it has two producers, the way that it blends is still really cool. That was a big concern of mine and I wasn’t sure how it was going to work with two different artists in the magic room. It turned out awesome, it really did! Anyway, “Best Damn Night,” I wrote with Jamie Lee Thurston and Porter Howell who is from Texas. It is a cool, really upbeat, party song. The last song on the album is my TNA Wrestling Entrance music which I co-wrote with Serg [Salinas] and Dale [Oliver], who work on all the TNA music. We threw that on as a bonus track! It is just one of those songs that once it gets stuck in your head, it stays there all day.
You have quite a busy schedule with being on the road for TNA much of the year. What are plans for touring in support of the album?
I am looking forward to it! The album comes out on May 7th! I am going to have a CD release party here in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I am working out the details of that now. I am hoping and praying for the best. We are hoping to hit some of the cities as we are in them but we may also start locally, outside of Nashville or Richmond. We will see what happens. I am just going to hustle my butt off and hope for the best! [laughs]
You put out a great video for “Somebody’s Gonna Pay.” What was that experience like for you? It looked like a lot of fun!
Oh my God! We had so much fun! Honestly, I had a lot of friends come out for it. Nick Aldis [aka Magnus], who works on TNA, played the boyfriend in the video. He did a great job with that! His two buddies are out of Ohio Valley Wrestling, which is where I spent a long amount of time! I had to pull a favor. I said “They are gonna get their butts kicked! I kinda need somebody who is able to get their butt kicked and not have to worry about it!” [laughs] Joe and Jose both did a fantastic job. Obviously, Trish Stratus was there! She came down from home and it was awesome! The girl who plays the girlfriend in the video, Casey, is a friend of mine from Nashville. She is an ex-Disney princess and theater actress. Everybody did so great! I also had a lot of my friends from the music industry, songwriters, singers and Nashville friends out for the shoot. It was great because we got to hang out all day and make this video. It made for a long day but because you are with friends and people who are excited about what you are doing and vice versa, it made for a really fun day!
I am sure you have seen a lot of things during your career which would make a good read. Have you ever considered penning an autobiography?
Ya know, I have thought about it in the sense of when it is all said and done and I am sitting at home with grandkids or something that it might be cool to tell my life story from the front to the back. I feel like I am still a bit young and have so much more in front of me right now, that if I was to write a book now, it would only be half the story!
Well, ya know, Chris Jericho has two or three autobiographies, so that is one way to approach it! [laughs]
This is true! This is true! [laughs]
What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to someone who is looking to a career in music or professional wrestling. I am sure there are many parallels.
They definitely run very parallel. In all of the entertainment industry, no matter if you are a model, an actor, a singer, whatever you want to do, isn’t the easiest business. I know it isn’t for everybody but if you believe in yourself and really hone you skills to be the absolute best you can be, at the end of the day, the only person who can tell you can’t do it is yourself. You have to believe in yourself and visualize where you want to go and pursue it fearlessly. You can be whoever you want to be and that is the beautiful thing! Nobody wants to be the same thing and no one is the same person. We are all individuals and that is what makes us special. Everyone has something unique and beautiful to offer! You just have to go after what you want!
What is the best part of being Mickie James these days?
Oh! [laughs] I don’t know! [laughs] I am getting to live my dream everyday! I am hustling, busting my butt and I don’t sleep a whole lot! But, I am having fun doing it!
Being in your position, you get to shed a little light on some charity work around the nation. What do you have going on in that respect?
I recently became a part of the City of Hope. I am a Citizen of Hope. I think it is just such a beautiful cause. They are working on research to find cures for many diseases from AIDS to many different types of cancer. I recently did a little thing for them where I chose a word. The word I chose for the as “Believe” because I do believe there are cures. I, as well as a lot of people, have lost family, friends and loved ones to something I believe we can find a cure for. I believe there is a way around it. I am very hopeful. City of Hope is really a beautiful cause and something special and very close to my heart. You can learn more at www.cityofhope.org. If you are on Twitter, you can follow them @cityofhope. They are really incredible!
That is great! We really appreciate you taking time out to talk to us, Mickie! We look forward to spreading the word on all of your projects!
Incredible! Thank you so much! I really appreciate it!