She comes into millions of American homes for six hours every weekday as the host of Headline News Network’s “Morning Express With Robin Meade,” and now Meade is becoming not just a TV star but a country one too.
Robin’s debut album Brand New Day, available exclusively at Target Stores and on iTunes, recently made its debut on the Billboard Launch Pad Heatseekers Albums Chart at No. 24.
“What I love about the country format,” Robin told us in a phone conversation from the Headline News studio in Atlanta the day before Thanksgiving, “is the great storytelling. As a journalist, I’m attracted to that. Country music is another form of journalism.”
Unlike other showbiz types who may just come to Nashville for awards shows or because other celebrities are moving here, Meade is very serious about writing and recording in Music City.
She’s working with many top Row songwriters and producers, including Victoria Shaw, John Rich, Billy Dean, and Gary Burr. Shaw produced the album, and has also become a songwriting mentor for Meade.
“One thing I’ve learned from them is that the things you say on the air don’t really sing,” Robin says, smiling. “Can you really sing the world `participated’? You have to write the way regular people speak.”
She owns the masters of all of her recordings, a very sharp move. She licensed the recordings of Brand New Day to a company called Somerset Entertainment, who had a relationship with Target. Somerset is a division of Mood Media.
“I thought that Somerset’s Target deal really took advantage of the strength of the platform I have. I’m in people’s homes six hours every day, and most new artists wouldn’t come with that built-in audience,” she says. “I own my masters, I out-and-out paid for the project. I wanted to really have control of that. Target really hits the target of my demographic, with upwardly mobile and informed shoppers. A lot of them are females. And we have great real estate in the Target stores in an end-cap display in the greeting card section. Who shops for greeting cards? Women.”
The album features 12 songs, with highlights including “Dirty Laundry,” “Put My High Heels On,” “A Nice Bunch Of Girls,” and “Morning Sunshine.” Five of the 12 are either duets with folks like Dean, Rich, Jim Brickman, or Bo Bice, or ensemble pieces.
“I love to express the other creative side of me in music,” Meade says. “So much of what I do on the air is about facts, and we have to be so precise. Music is about emotion and being able to tell others and make someone feel what you’re feeling. I do get fired up about it.”
So do her Headline News viewers.
“Some of them are so tuned in that they knew of my love for music and that I grew up singing,” Robin says. “Others were very surprised and were still very welcoming. Ten or 20 years ago, we only saw our journalists as journalists. They were sort of one-dimensional, stuffed shirts, sort of the Voice of God. But with Twitter and Facebook, we see each other in a multi-dimensional way, 360 degrees. Now the news anchor is a real person, not just someone up there talking.”
Robin grew up a preacher’s daughter in Ohio. She loved music in church and really discovered country when she discovered Mary Chapin-Carpenter’s Grammy-winning 1992 hit, “I Feel Lucky,” and MCC’s breakthrough album Come On Come On.
She won the Miss Ohio contest, then moved to Chicago to begin her newscasting career. Once she moved to Atlanta with Headline News, she was within driving distance of Music City and became a favorite of Kenny Chesney. Kenny watched her morning newscast while working out on the treadmill, and he invited Robin to perform background vocals on “When The Sun Goes Down” during a tour stop in Georgia.
Soon Robin was coming here to write and record, and taking it very seriously.
“I don’t intend to be one of the people who comes and uses the hospitality of Nashville and does a passion project and never comes back,” she tells us. “They’re never seen again. But I’m really grateful for the generosity of the talent in Nashville, and of people like the Academy of Country Music who have just been very supportive.”
Her project is also a major boost for the country format, because Meade talks about country music and about Nashville so often on her television program. Millions of viewers are watching, and that gives the Row and country radio a huge endorsement.
As much as we love country radio, a whole lot more people watch TV than listen to the radio.
Robin tells us that her second album is in the concept phase now. Meanwhile, soon you’ll be able to hear some of the songs from her Brand New Day debut on NMGRadio.com, and find the album at Target stores and on iTunes.
By Phil Sweetland