FORT LORAMIE — Clothes for the road? Check.
Travel toothbrushes … kids gear? Yes and yes.
Stuffed monkey? Yup, got that, too.
When summer rolls around, it’s all part of the drill when Jo Dee Messina heads out on tour, often with her sons along for the ride.
Messina’s travel plans this summer will bring her back to Fort Loramie Thursday for an opening-night gig at the 38th annual Country Concert. She’s set for a 6 p.m. appearance (just after Midland at 4 p.m.), with Billy Currington (8 p.m.) and Toby Keith (10 p.m.) closing out the night.
Messina chuckled out loud when asked about the last time she’d been to the scenic campground setting in Fort Loramie.
“I’m very excited. The last time I was there (2010) I had just traded in my sedan for an SUV from Voss BMW up there,” she said last week via phone. “I had looked all over the country because I had just had a baby. That’s the (festival) when I drove the car home!”
Almost a decade later, she said she’s glad to be coming back.
“I love those folks that put on the festival,” she said. “They have been so kind to me and it’s always so much fun to see the other artists and musicians. It’s great enjoyment for me.”
The singer – who rocketed to country music stardom in the 1990s with a string of hits ranging from “I’m Alright,” “Bye Bye,” “Bring On The Rain” and “Stand By Me” to “That’s The Way,” “Burn,” “My Give a Damn’s Busted” and “Heads Carolina, Tails California” – will be wrapping up a jam-packed week of travel when she hits Ohio, bouncing from a July 1 show in Georgia to an Independence Day gig in New Mexico to the Thursday evening show in Fort Loramie.
“I always joke that every booking agent needs a map,” Messina said. “I went to work with a young agency and there was one flight that would get me from Albuquerque to Ohio in time to make the show. We don’t fly day of show. But these guys are young and hungry, so they booked the show, and six weeks ago the airline canceled that flight. Sometimes you gotta pay to play, so we’re flying private.”
Although her two young boys – 9 and 6 – aren’t able to hit every concert date with her, Messina said she coordinates her schedule around the youngsters as much as possible.
“Every day is an adventure when they’re on the road with me. I try to tour weekends and summer because during the year I like to be home and present for everything they do,” she said. “I’m very grateful. That’s one thing I thank the Lord for. That is a blessing I will never, ever take for granted. I was raised by a single mom I didn’t get to see a lot, so I am beyond grateful.”
Planning, she said, is the key to making it all click.
“I think after time we have it down. We have our swim bag – all the flippers, goggles, water guns – that’s packed,” Messina explained. “Everything goes back in the bag and we grab and go. Same things with toiletries. We have our road stuff and our at-home stuff, because we’re constantly in and out. We have to be ready to grab it and go. I don’t have a staff. I dump my dirty clothes when I get home then spend the whole day packing to leave again.”
And the requisite tag-a-long for her youngest son?
“One of my sons has a stuffed monkey that has been around the world,” he said. “He took it to Switzerland. It’s been everywhere.”
Messina, who survived a cancer scare a year ago and recently became a single mother, said she’s grateful she can keep sharing her passion for music with fans around the world.
“Every day my heart is filled with gratitude,” she said. “Nothing is taken for granted. Even more so now.”
And all those hits from the past couple of decades? She said they’re still a blast to sing each night because the subject matter is still relevant and fans continue to connect with them.
“I think a lot of my material was written about things we all went through, painful times of life when you’re trying to find yourself and identify yourself. ‘What am I going to put up with? What is real?’ That part of our life we spend the rest of our lives trying to get over,” she said. “Everyone goes through it. I think the content is so real and everybody feels what we sing about.
“They don’t get old for me, either,” she continued. “Gratitude overrides everything. I’m so grateful to get up and perform and have folks show up for up the shows.”
Messina – whose latest release is “Bigger Than This” – said she plans to sing her biggest hits Thursday, as well as some new material.
“You’re gonna see a bunch of people on stage that love to make music. It’s not ‘Hey, look up here onstage at me.’ It’s about being together and having fun,” she said. “I have new music and stories that I share with people, and we play the hits. It’s the entire package.”
To get caught up on Messina’s latest news or check out her tour schedule, visit jodeemessina.com.
For information about Country Concert, go to countryconcert.com.