With her sunny personality and her concise delivery, Robin Meade perks up millions of television viewers daily on HLN’s Morning Express With Robin Meade. Now she’s bringing her cheerful signature tag — “Morning, sunshine!” — to country music.
Gearing up for the holiday weekend, she’ll be singing Friday (July 1) in Warner Robins, Ga., at the 29th annual Independence Day concert featuring the U.S. Air Force Reserve Band and headliner Wynonna. A crowd of 30,000 people is expected to attend the event that will be taped to air Monday on the American Forces Network.
During a rare day off, the Atlanta-based newscaster dropped by CMT to talk about her debut album, Brand New Day (available exclusively at iTunes and in the greeting cards section at Target), the influence of her day job and the personal touch she wants to give her viewers and fans.
CMT: “Morning Sunshine” fits you perfectly. What were you hoping to capture when you wrote that?
Meade: Thank you! I say, “Morning, sunshine” every day to the viewers, every half hour. And it’s become my mantra. People will tell me, “I don’t wake up until you say, ’Morning, sunshine’ to me.” When I say, “Morning, sunshine,” it’s something that I derived from my dad. I grew up in Ohio, and on those cold, wintry Ohio mornings, he would come in to the room and say to each kid, “Morning, sunshine!” Now, it was a cheerful way to wake up, but it also meant if you don’t get your butt out of bed, you’re gonna have this boot up your butt, or he would rip off the covers and that chilly Ohio room would wake you up.
Likewise, I say, “Morning, sunshine” to people to get them going but also as a way of thinking. The song is a nod to what people already know me for, but also it is a way of looking at things. In the song, I say, “I know I should be grateful for my life/It ain’t perfect, but I’ll work it/In the end, it’s always worth it/To just wake up and find morning sunshine.'”
You wrote that with Billy Dean.
Billy Dean! The first time I met him, it was a couple of years ago. I was walking in to watch the CMA Awards and he said, ’Morning, sunshine!’ Those were the first words out of his mouth. When I met him, I knew exactly who he was. And I met his wonderful wife, Stephanie, and I loved them right off the bat. My husband and I have stayed friends with them, and they came to our little lake cottage in Atlanta, and we wrote that song.”
Do you have music playing on the set when you’re at work?
Yeah, we do. The show that I do on HLN is six hours long, and we do four of it live. That can be a long time. During commercial breaks, to me, it sounds like a morgue in there if you don’t have anything going on. So we actually pump a lot of music — country, hip-hop, pop, whatever it may be — through the speakers every commercial. It keeps the spirit up. I call music “the great artificial mood enhancer,” so we use it to artificially enhance our moods in the morning. … If anyone dare puts on a ballad, I’m like, “Come on, you’re putting us to sleep! Give us something to wake us up here!”
You talk about good and bad stories every day. Does that play into your songwriting?
Yeah, very much so. There’s a song on the album called “Rain” that I wrote in response to the question I get a lot which is, “How can you talk about these things that happen in the world … and stay sane and chipper the rest of the day? How do you not let that affect you?” Sometimes there are natural disasters and people lose their lives, and it’s not fun to talk about. Basically, the thought is, we can care about each other and we can have empathy, but I don’t have to let the trials of someone else become my story. I can sympathize with someone without wallowing in the deep, so to speak.
On your album, you also have a balance between fun songs and serious songs.
I tried to. I wanted the record to match what people already know, if there is such a thing, as a Robin Meade brand. I wanted this to match that and not knock them off their chair in terms of, “What, she’s singing about dancing on a bar? That’s not my news person.” … There’s a song called “In Valentine” that deals with spousal abuse. Even in that song and the others, it’s all very optimistic and uplifting and can-do and forward-looking. It’s much of what you already know me for on the air. … I really like this song because the woman decides to take matters into her own hands and she comes out a winner without harming anybody else.
Do you feel like your broadcasting career helps you dig into a narrative story like that?
Yeah. Most of all, I feel like my broadcasting career helps me in terms of how to write about the human condition in song. I’ve been writing about what’s happening to people for decades now in the news. Then I wrote my own story in a book. When I wanted Victoria [Shaw, her co-writer and producer] and other people to teach me how to write songs, it seemed like a natural progression because I’m still examining the human spirit and what happens and how we feel, but this time in a different medium.
When you talk about the human condition, what exactly are you talking about?
Our loves and our losses. Our hopes and our dreams and the way we hurt each other unexpectedly or the circumstances that we never thought we’d be in. To me, that’s all just the human condition. To me, that’s why people watch the news. I think we watch the news to either identify with something that’s happened to someone else and maybe it happened to us, and we know we’re not alone. And that’s the same with music. We want that song that you can identify with. On the flipside, there are also those things that happen on the news that you watch and you go, “Oh, my gosh. I am so glad that it’s not me! I am normal, and my family is normal!” (laughs)
I read that one of your favorite albums is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come On, Come On. That was one of the albums that brought me into country. I still love it.
Yeah. Me, too. I do, too. Now, I was not brought up on country music. When I listened to country music was when we needed to know if we were going to have a snow day or not. The local station was country, and that’s who would give us our snow delays up in Ohio. Other than that, I was not raised on country music except for the crossover stuff. There was a lot of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers crossover in that time. But when I fell in love with country music was in 1993, I think. I was asked to sing “I Feel Lucky” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, which was also a crossover hit, so I knew the song, but I really wanted to learn it. So I bought the CD, and when I stuck it in, I just loved every song on it. I loved her alto voice. As someone with a deeper voice, myself, I really felt an affinity with that. I liked the writing on it. And I liked it as a whole because you could hear the vocal instrument in country. I thought, “Man, if this is country, I’m in love.” I was hooked ever since.
What did you enjoy the most about your time at CMA Music Festival this year?
This is the first time that I’ve been here as an artist. I had come before to do stories on Nashville’s flood recovery. So this is the first time I actually came promoting my music. What I love is the same thing I love about meeting my viewers — which is when you’re face to face with somebody. So for meeting music fans, it’s the same way. I love registering that eye contact. I feel like it’s a campaign every day. There’s so many music choices, there are so many news choices that if you get that chance to be right in front of somebody, you better make the most of it. I’m not somebody who just says, “Thank you!” and you pose for the picture and you run away. No, I really like to talk to people and thank them, show them my gratitude.
A big part of your TV show is the salute to the troops. Why do you feel that connection to the military community?
Yeah, a strong part of the morning brand is a salute to the troops. It all started really organically. I don’t even remember which military base, but they sent me a cup that said their base and I just happened to raise it on the air and say, “Oh, and thanks to so-and-so at Fort so-and-so for this cup.” Well, oh, my gosh. It was like the floodgates opened. People were like, “Say hi to us, say hi to us!” We realized there was this segment of the population that we all feel so grateful for, but do they know we feel grateful for them?
So the salute the troops is just 30 seconds, once an hour. It’s usually a military family member saying, “I want you to know about my dad who’s a warrior. He’s serving in Iraq. And Dad, I salute you.” Or it’s for a mom who is serving. It’s their chance to get some recognition for their loved one. And I feel like it’s just a thank you because they do so much.