Mickie James Wrestles Her Way Into the Country Music Ring
There's a new country artist in town but you may have spotted her in a different arena until now. Mickie James grew up on a horse farm in Montpelier, Va., where her summers and weekends were completely devoted to horses. But wrestling became her passion at an early age as she, her dad and her brothers watched the sport on television religiously.
Mickie attended wrestling school in Manassas, Va., in November 1998 and had her first match in March of the next year.
"It's one of those deals where you'll work for peanuts. You scratch and you crawl your way to the top," Mickie tells The Boot. "Everybody's route is a little different, but that's the route I chose to take. I kept doing tryouts, and finally after five years I got signed by WWE. They ended up moving me to Louisville [Ky.], which is their farm territory where they groom their superstars until they bring them up to TV. I was supposed to debut five different times, but finally on October 9, 2005, I made my debut. I'll never forget that day because when I was sitting in Louisville all those times, I would see so many of my friends who never got a shot or had been let go before they had a chance to make TV. It's such an in-and-out business -- especially for a woman -- it's here today, gone tomorrow."
Mickie didn't go to a traditional college, she says, because her parents couldn't afford to send her. "I signed up for college online, and my start date for college was also October. 9, 2005, so it was kind of ironic. They called me a week prior to say we need you on [wrestling show] 'RAW.' Since I had already been called up about five times before that, I didn't put a lot weight on that. That was to be my debut ... my first two years of being on the road 250 days a year. I'm also going to school full-time and getting my degree. I wanted to have something to fall back on. I got my degree in business administration."
The Virginia native says she grew up listening to Hank Williams, Jr. and Willie Nelson, but it was contemporary country that really caught her attention. "Probably the first artist who really captured me was Tim McGraw," she notes. "His songs 'Don't Take the Girl,' and 'Indian Outlaw' were fun, and he was different than a lot of artists. My favorite artist right now is Darius Rucker just because he kind of broke the mold of what a country music artist should be. He's a genius, an excellent songwriter, and he puts out amazing music. It was a great crossover, and it was a beautiful thing he did to break that mold and open the door for so many artists out there. You just have to be true to yourself and do what you love to do."
Growing up listening to country music, the future wrestling diva didn't think much about trying her hand at singing until she began to mingle with the country-music community. "I've been very blessed to meet and connect with people in the world of country music. I've talked to a lot of producers. The producer I found, Kent Wells [who produced Dolly Parton's 'Backwoods Barbie'], we just had amazing chemistry right off the bat. He made me believe that I can really do this. He has a lot of faith in me and I have a lot of faith in him. I feel like God always puts these signs in your path. I just kept getting this weird feeling that I should just try it."
Mickie is keenly aware of the crossover fan base between her former profession and her new country music path. "I think it's because it's kind of the same demographic -- everyday America, blue-collar workers -- and you can lose yourself in country music just like you can lose yourself to wrestling. When you go to a show, you can escape from yourself."
Mickie's debut country album, 'Strangers & Angels,' is in stores now. The single, 'Are You With Me' is at country radio now. Listen to it below.