Mickie James not only lives up to her “Hardcore Country” moniker in TNA Impact Wrestling but in music as well.
The multi-time women’s champ is gearing up to release the follow-up to her 2010 debut album “Strangers & Angels” with “Somebody’s Gonna Pay” on Tuesday, May 7.
When her first CD came out, James was on her way out of WWE.
This time around the veteran wrestler is among the top knockouts in TNA, and the Virginian believes she has grown as an artist with her sophomore musical effort.
“So much has changed not only in my life, but in my career as well since the release of the first album,” James said. “I wanted the album itself to represent and relate to that…I was getting such great songs, so I wanted to make sure the songs that I did write for the album measured up to these songs. I learned a lot from that first album, and I’m still learning.”
James juggled her pro wrestling career with working on the project over the course of a year. During that period she says she took time to find the right producer, choose the right songs and bringing it all together in the studio. James put the same dedication into making an album she can be proud of as she does in putting on the best show in the ring. The hybrid grappler-country singer described the process as a “big learning experience.” The knockout feels she is showing a little more of herself this time around.
“I feel like this one is a little bit more rough around the edges,” James said. “The first album I had written some of the songs on there, but I didn’t know who I was as much as a performer off stage and stylistically who I was. So I went more for the traditional style of country and what was playing on the radio. This time, with the people who were beside me and the changes in my life, I’m a little more fearless as far as breaking down boundaries and walls and not caring about what everyone as a whole thinks.
“I do hope that they do love it, but it was more about putting out music that I love, that I want to hear and hopefully that my fans want to hear. I’m trying to be a little more true to myself because I am a little rough around the edges. My story is different than a lot of people, so for me to stay in some type of mold that a female country artist is supposed to be is ridiculous because that is not who I am. With the right people behind me and guiding me and telling me it’s OK to be who I am. That’s what makes it different and me unique.”
Her passion for music reverts to the five years she spent playing the violin in school.
“Obviously I know in the music industry that doesn’t really amount for a ton,” James said, “but I’ve always been creative in writing short stories and poetry. I started writing music in the car when we were on the road 200-and-something days of the year. Then often times we would have a 200-mile drive after the show, so it left me in the car doing a lot writing. Out of that, I started writing lyrics to songs that were already on the radio and were already hits, but switching it up and writing my own lyrics. That’s where I started writing music from my life.”
From there, an idea was born to take some of the songs she wrote to Music City USA, not knowing what to expect. James decided to give a new facet of entertainment a shot and test the waters.
“If nothing came of it, then that was fine,” James said. “Music was always something I wanted to do. I was always passionate about it. I just didn’t know the first thing to begin on that road. So I took the songs to Nashville thinking that even if the album ended up on my mom’s coffee table and nothing comes of it, at least I did it. At least I can say I did it because it was the one thing in my life that I wanted to do but never have done. All these doors started to open.”
James has performed her songs at numerous shows and gained some exposure in the country music world. The driven entertainer hopes to build on her success with “Somebody’s Gonna Pay.” A Kickstarter fundraising campaign online gave fans or members of the “James Gang” a chance to help make the project a reality. An initial EP of six songs turned into a full-blown album. Last month the music video for the first single, the same name as the album, premiered. Among those in it is her friend and WWE Hall of Fame rival Trish Stratus.
“I’m really grateful for that,” James said. “I called her on the phone saying, ‘Trish, I need to ask you for a huge favor. You can say no. Would you come down and be a guest star in my music video?’ She said, ‘Are you kidding? Absolutely, I’m so excited for you and happy for you.’ So she took time out of her busy schedule, which is obviously just as busy as mine if not busier some days running her own company at the same time.
“It was a real honor, plus it was fun and made the day go by faster. It was a long day shooting, but for us, we had the same silly stuff that we would do in WWE to make the day go by quicker. We just bounced off each other as far as our personalities. We were complete goofballs, and it was awesome. I was grateful that she was able to do it.”
With Stratus and James reuniting in front of the camera, it begs the question if we will ever see one more match between the two down the line.
“We talk about it,” James said. “That would be awesome, but it would have to be the right stage and the right setting.”
Another person from the wrestling world fans will recognize in the video is TNA’s Magnus, who took quite the guitar shot. James can now add accomplished swinger of stringed instruments to her impressive resume.
“I have never swung a guitar before, which I know you may find surprising,” James said. “So I had to get Jeff Jarrett to come in -- luckily we were shooting in Nashville -- to show me how to swing this guitar properly without killing anyone. So he showed me how it was done and where the sweet spot was. I had songwriter friends and musicians there. We only had two guitars, so we only had two takes to get it right. We did it in three because in the first swing I stopped mid-swing. I got nervous.”
The former WWE diva is thankful to have TNA’s support as she continues to pursue her other projects outside the wrestling ring.
“I hate to compare the two companies, but I will say my schedule has been much lighter with TNA, giving me more time to work on that album,” James said. “[TNA President] Dixie [Carter] has been super supportive. When I first got signed to TNA that was one of the things she wanted to embrace was music. Not a lot of people know this, but Dixie represented Tanya Tucker for 20 or so years I think. I don’t know the timeline, but she was working with her forever. So she comes from the country music world and knows how it works. She was able to lend a ton of advice and help me out as far as that aspect goes. TNA let me do my own music video and helped write my entrance music, which we added to the album as a bonus track for fun for all the wrestling fans.”
Aside from her musical aspirations, the budding country artist still has goals for herself in TNA and sports entertainment overall.
“I still have more stuff I want to do,” James said. “I’ve accomplished a lot, but I haven’t accomplished everything. I would like to hold the knockouts championship for a respectable amount of time. That would be nice. I would like to perhaps win the knockouts tag team titles or in that avenue, but I don’t know what we are doing with those titles. I would love to go to Japan and wrestle there. I have a million and one things I really want to do.”
Look out for Part 2 with Mickie James, as she discusses working with Velvet Sky, her future in TNA and more.
• “Somebody’s Gonna Pay” will be available on Tuesday, May 7, but you can preorder it on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/somebodys-gonna-pay/id633499730?ls=1. Visit www.mickiejames.com for more information and to check out the music video.
• Follow Mickie James on Twitter @MickieJames.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN, http://twitter.com/#!/smFISHMAN, where I post links and information. Opinions expressed reflect no other entity. I can also be found tweeting incessantly during wrestling shows weekly.
• Check out the new TNA Knockouts site at www.impactwrestling.com/knockouts.
• TNA One Night Only PPV
Two dozen of the biggest names in wrestling count on a whole lot of fight and a little bit of luck as they compete for a $100,000 grand prize as TNA Wrestling presents One Night Only: Joker’s Wild, a pay-per-view event hosted by Jeremy Borash and Christy Hemme that is available throughout May for $14.95.
The Joker’s Wild lineup features a who’s who of TNA Wrestling’s past, present and future. Former TNA champs such as The Cowboy James Storm, The It Factor Bobby Roode, The Samoan Submission Machine Samoa Joe, Mr. Anderson of Aces & Eights and Rob Van Dam jump into the fray alongside ring veterans Christopher Daniels, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Devon of Aces & Eights, Al Snow and Doug Williams, as well as talented newcomers like Gunner, Crimson, Joey Ryan and more.
The Joker’s Wild format pairs TNA superstars in randomly drawn tag teams, facing off with another team in a series of six matches. The winning teams from those six matches will then be entered in a 12-man Gauntlet Match, with the last man standing taking home $100,000.
The complete roster for Joker’s Wild includes James Storm, Christian York, Gunner, Crimson, Jessie Godderz, Mr. Anderson, Doug Williams, Kid Kash, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Rob Van Dam, Robbie E, Zema Ion, Joseph Park, Hernandez, Alex Silva, Devon, D.O.C., Rob Terry, Matt Morgan, Joey Ryan, Al Snow and Bobby Roode.
Contact your cable or satellite television provider for complete details.
• TNA Impact Wrestling in Tampa in May
TNA will return to Central Florida but on the west side of I-4 when Impact Wrestling broadcasts live on Thursday, May 23 at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa. Bell time is 7 p.m. EST with television at 8 p.m. EST.
Tickets, starting at $15, are available via TicketMaster online www.ticketmaster.com, TicketMaster outlets or by phone 800-745-3000. To avoid some service fees, you can purchase tickets directly at the arena, but check with the arena for availability and hours of operation.
• TNA Impact Wrestling on Spike TV
TNA Impact Wrestling is 8 p.m. EST Thursdays on Spike TV. Visit http://www.impactwrestling.com/.