From clashes with her label chief to missed appointments and erratic behaviour, country singer Mindy McCready's troubles go back further than her recent run-ins with the law.
The 29-year-old from Fort Myers, Fla., came to Nashville in 1994 with tapes of her karaoke vocals and earned a contract with BNA Records. Just two years later, her uptempo Guys Do It All the Time hit No. 1 and its dig at male chauvinism endeared her to female fans.
But her subsequent albums didn't sell as well, and McCready lost her record deal. Attempts to restart her career tanked. Since August 2004, McCready has been arrested on drug and drunken driving charges, jailed for a probation violation, nearly beaten to death by a former boyfriend who is the father of her unborn child and hospitalized twice after apparent suicide attempts.
"This isn't something that happened overnight," said Schatzi Hageman, a veteran Music Row publicist. "I quit working with her because I felt like there were lots of demons she was dealing with, and all too often the focus was on the drama and not on the actual talent and music itself."
McCready's attorney, Lee Dryer, did not return phone messages.
A moving truck was parked in front of the singer's town house on Wednesday. Neighbours said the house had been sold at auction, and that they had not seen McCready since she was rushed to the hospital Sept. 23 after apparently trying to kill herself by overdosing on antidepressants.
"I feel bad for her because the reality is that she's going to be spending a lot of time recovering from this after all of the media attention is over, which I think feeds some of this," Hageman said.
Even before her recent problems, McCready had an uneasy relationship with some in Nashville's music industry.
A 1998 British documentary called Naked Nashville chronicles a petulant, perpetually late young star clashing with her record label head, Joe Galante, over McCready missing deadlines and generally not wanting to hustle after she hits the big time with her first single.
As the camera rolls, Galante nearly loses his composure when McCready fails to turn up for a media luncheon. He's particularly perturbed by the influence of her then-boyfriend, actor Dean Cain, best known for his title role in the '90s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
McCready, a striking blonde, insists she knows better than Galante what's best for her career. At one point she says, "His age group isn't buying country music. Mine is."
Galante responds, "At 21, we all know best."
Galante declined to comment for this story, as did several industry executives and insiders who cited respect for McCready's privacy.
"I don't want to get into a negative story, and that's what it would be because of where Mindy's been lately," said Stan Moress, her former manager. "Obviously it's time to rally around Mindy and help her out and not continue to push her down. She's been through a lot, and I would leave it at that."
McCready's first album, 1996's Ten Thousand Angels, produced four hits and sold 2 million copies. She toured with major artists including George Strait and Alan Jackson and was regarded a promising young star. Her follow up, If I Don't Stay the Night sold 825,000 copies, and her third, I'm Not So Tough sold a paltry 144,000.
After losing her contract with BNA, she signed with Capitol Records and released a self-titled album in 2002, but it also sold poorly and the deal dissolved.
Hageman said McCready's behavior was erratic when they worked together on the Capitol release.
"There was always some dramatic excuse and unrealistic excuse as to why she was late or couldn't do the work," said Hageman, who declined to discuss specifics. "It was frustrating. ... You never knew what personality you would be dealing with. But underneath all of that, she was very sweet."
McCready's list of problems is long:
- August 2004: Charged with using a fake prescription to obtain the pain medicine OxyContin. She pleaded guilty in November.
- May 2005: Charged with drunken driving in Nashville. The charge is pending.
- May 2005: Former boyfriend William McKnight charged with attempted murder after he allegedly broke into her home and beat her up. Charges against McKnight are pending.
- July 2005: Charged in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., with unlawful use of transportation and hindering prosecution after police say she and a known con-man tried to use her celebrity to obtain two luxury boats. Charges are pending.
- July 2005: Hospitalized in Florida after a drug overdose that authorities say appeared to be a suicide attempt.
- August 2005: Jailed in Tennessee after authorities say she violated her probation on the drug charge. She was released on bond and the case is scheduled for trial in November.
- Earlier this month she testified in court that she was pregnant by McKnight, the man charged with trying to kill her. Later she was hospitalized after overdosing on antidepressants after a quarrel with McKnight.
Longtime Music Row executive Jeff Walker, owner of the promotions company Aristo Media, said he's seen other singers face similar struggles.
The demands of the industry can be brutal, he said.
"It pulls people in many different directions, sets unrealistic levels and puts pressures on people to reach goals that in some sense are unattainable. Once you have some degree of success, to come down to a second level of success makes it difficult to cope and adjust."