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HLN's Robin Meade releases country album, remakes 'Dirty Laundry'

By Katie McLaughlin, CNN
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CNN anchor Robin Meade releases album
  • Robin Meade recently received a standing ovation at the Grand Ole Opry
  • Meade co-wrote 6 songs on the album and did an ironic remake of Don Henley's 'Dirty Laundry'
  • CD is exclusively at Target stores near the greeting cards in an interactive end-aisle display
  • Heard it? Tweet @RobinMeade with your review of #BrandNewDay

HLN "Morning Express" anchor Robin Meade's debut country album, "Brand New Day" is available exclusively at Target stores and on iTunes.

(CNN) -- The irony of a newswoman doing a country remake of Don Henley's 1980s hit "Dirty Laundry" was not lost on Robin Meade. "Instead of avoiding what I do for a living and why people know my name," the HLN host told CNN, "I said 'Let's just come at it straight on', and to me it's kind of like a tongue-in-cheek nod at what I do for a living."

The host of HLN's "Morning Express with Robin Meade" spoke to CNN about her debut country album, "Brand New Day."

"If you listen to the words to 'Dirty Laundry' now," Meade continued, "It is still really contemporary, even though it's an old song. When I listen to the words, it makes me think of what types of stories have gripped us. The past month or so has been all about this Casey Anthony trial and people wanting justice for a little girl whose life was ended way too soon and looking at the way the trial started and the way she threw her family under the bus and if that's not dirty laundry, I don't know what is.

"And the same with the Anthony Weiner scandal; I think we all are attracted -- I don't want to say to dirty laundry per se, but we are attracted to the human condition and what happens to other people. It's like, there are fewer soap operas -- if there are any -- on in the afternoons anymore and so it's almost like these types of stories have become our own soap opera viewing. It's not like we, as viewers, want people to lose; but I think we want to look at stories and go: 'Oh my gosh! I hope things get better for them' or you go 'Thank goodness my family's not that dysfunctional!' or, 'See, I am normal! I knew it!' So I think in many different ways, 'Dirty Laundry' is the perfect song."

The track also features the vocal stylings of a group Meade lovingly refers to as the Dirty Laundry Choir.

Robin Meade's hidden talent

"Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn came in on a day he'd rather have been golfing, I'm sure," Meade said. "He did background vocals on the line: 'Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down.' Also, Bo Bice is singing in the choir and a number of other people."

Meade has co-written six of the 12 songs on the album, which is teaming with Nashville heavy-hitters including artist Victoria Shaw, who co-produced Lady Antebellum's first album.

"I happened to get her," joked Meade. "She says I stalked her, I say I employed the tenacity of a reporter to get her."

"American Idol's" Bo Bice also performs a duet with Meade on a country-style remake of another 80s hit, Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting."

"We selected two covers," explained Meade, "because invariably when you go to buy a CD, you always look at the song titles. And if they're all originals you're not going to recognize the titles."

The album also contains an original song co-written by Meade and country artist Billy Dean entitled "Morning Sunshine," which is what Meade says to viewers daily on her HLN program.

"It just seemed logical that I would do a song about 'Morning Sunshine,'" Meade said. "So we co-wrote that together, and [Dean] appears as a background vocalist on that."

Writing and recording all 12 tracks on "Brand New Day" was a true labor of love for Meade, who spent weekends and vacation days driving back and forth between her Atlanta home and the recording studio in Nashville for nearly two years.

"It takes awhile when you have to kind of divvy it up with your off days," said Meade. "I know the road well, let's put it that way."

Meade, who grew up in Ohio the daughter of a preacher, recalled how she always thought public speaking would come naturally to her, as it did with her father. However, Meade began suffering from panic attacks over a decade ago as a news anchor in Chicago, and she credits the power of music with helping her pull through.

"I was failing at being the perfect news anchor that I thought I was supposed to be," Meade said. "In other words, never messing up. I was so busy filling the prescription of what makes the perfect news anchor that I was losing my authentic self, and it manifested itself in the form of panic attacks on the air.

"So to soothe myself I would hum music on my way up to the anchor desk, because it's awfully hard to be panic-stricken if you're singing 'Walkin' On Sunshine', so I used it as a tool. And even now on our morning show on HLN -- it is four hours long live. So we use music on the set and during commercial breaks to keep the energy level of the team up. I call it the 'artificial mood enhancer' -- that's what music is."

In her 2009 New York Times best selling book, "Morning Sunshine!: How to Radiate Confidence and Feel It Too," Meade chronicled how she overcame her fear of public speaking and went on to achieve her dreams.

Meade also took us through the experience of performing onstage at the Grand Ole Opry.

"The first time I performed at the Grand Ole Opry was last fall," said Meade. "It was at what they call the Mother Church of Country Music -- the Ryman Auditorium. I was so honored to get a standing ovation. They said it was rare to get that.

"Then I was asked back to sing this past weekend at the Grand Ole Opry House, so there were two different types of experiences because of the venue. The Grand Ole Opry House is large, it's 4,400 people in the audience and they cut a circle of wood out from the original Ryman Auditorium where the Opry was held prior to the 1970s. In the 70s, they built the Grand Ole Opry House and they cut a piece of the floor out and put it in the new place so that you could still stand in the same spot where, for instance, Patsy Cline stood and performed. I was in that circle, and I was just calling up the genies, so to speak! [Laughs] And so to be asked back to sing, this time at the Opry house, is really something special."

How did Meade make the transition from journalist to musician/journalist?

"The way we write news stories," explained Meade. "We're talking about people's wins and losses and tragedies or the celebrations of their lives and that's what a news story is -- something that is interesting that matters. Then I wrote in a different format when I wrote my autobiography in the form of a book, so it was almost a natural progression to learn how to write about the human condition in song. It's a different venue, a different medium, and instead of 20 seconds like you'd get on my show, I get three minutes and 30 seconds for a song. I look at it as a different type of journalism. You're still talking about the human experience and emotions."

Is Meade planning on trading her anchor desk at the CNN Center for that famed stage at the Grand Ole Opry?

"My viewers are stuck with me," insisted Meade. "My intention is not to leave HLN or 'Morning Express' or news. But this CD is not a one-off either. My next album is already in the planning stages."

Watch Morning Express with Robin Meade weekdays at 6am ET on HLN. For the latest from Morning Express click here.