Tonight, Impact Wrestling will feature a Knockouts Title match between Velvet Sky and Mickie James; but as she fights in the ring, the siren from Virginia is also waging another battle — on the country music charts.
Earlier this month, James released her album Somebody’s Gonna Pay. This is the second release for one of wrestling’s top female performers over the past 10 years.
The itch to be a country singer started virtually since birth, as did wrestling, as James told SLAM! Wrestling last week.
“Music has always been a part of my life, I’ve always loved music,” she said. “When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a rock star, but I would also jump off the couch and drop an elbow on my little brother and tell everybody I was the greatest champion in the world.”
And while the call of the ring came first — Mickie has been in the business for over a decade, first gaining national exposure in the early days of Ring of Honor and TNA — it’s music that has always truly been her passion. The life that she had as a kid, one that carries through to today, where visual entertainment has few opportunities in comparison to audial, lent itself better to the music scene.
“I grew up on a horse farm when I listen to music more than I watched TV,” she explains. “Being on the road so much — being in my car and travelling — that’s what I connect to most. I didn’t have a lot of time to watch TV.”
It was also during these long trips for her former employer that she started the building blocks towards her music career.
“I was on the road a lot with WWE and I was travelling by myself a lot,” she said, “and I was starting to write music and lyrics, be it songs that were on the radio and I would change up the lyrics, or I would start hearing these melodies in my head.”
After she had a few songs written, James took a chance on Nashville and started on the road to her first album, Strangers and Angels. In prepping for the release, she spoke with some of the biggest producers in country, including Kenny Chesney and Fail Hill’s teams. While she admits there were bumps in the road, she did find her producer, Kent Wells, who also put together Dolly Parton’s final recording. The result was a self-released album.
“That’s where I got my feet wet, which for me runs really parallel with the wrestling industry. I feel like I’m starting over on the independents again, which is cool,” she says. “It’s starting at ground zero again and learning. It’s a new adventure.”
In prepping for Somebody’s Gonna Pay, James went to her loyal fanbase with a Kickstarter campaign to produce the first six songs of the album, despite apprehension. As part of the incentive, she recalls, she hand-painted 200 t-shirts for those who made contributions, and while that part of the campaign was grinding (she describes that it felt like it took a year to make the shirts), the gamble paid off, and the CD was released through eOne Music.
“You never know how it’s going to be perceived, but it went really well. It got that part of the project off the ground and out of that I got signed by the label in September,” James explains.
Along with the album, a music video was produced for the title song, which premiered earlier this year. The video, which included Mickie, boyfriend Magnus and long-time friend Trish Stratus, can certainly be called a benchmark in music, even in an era where videos being shown on broadcast television is a rarity. She reflects that it meant a lot to her, given what had existed when she was growing up.
“I was stoked to be able to do my music video because I grew up in that era of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ and ‘Yo, MTV Raps!’ And all that stuff was really cool.”
But what was it that got James going in the first place — to go from childhood to adulthood with the same goals in mind? A belief that there’s only one chance in life, so you might as well take it.
“The chances of the wild, crazy dreams you have as a kid coming to fruition as an adult is a rare thing,” she explains. “You don’t want to live your life with regrets — with the ‘what if’s?’ or ‘why didn’t I’s?’ Just do what you want because you only live once. You only have this one chance to do everything you want.”