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On the threshold of that open door, Heidi Newfield and Trick Pony bandmates Keith Burns and Ira Dean poured out what she calls “My ode to the group” in what would be the threesome’s final songwriting session together. Days before announcing her departure from the platinum-selling band that had earned four top 20 singles, an ACM Best New Artist award, and an army of fans for their rabble-rousing honky-tonk brand of country music, Heidi had a lot on her mind. “I love the road— but when I stopped wanting to pack my bag and get on the bus, that was a telltale sign it was time for a change,” she recalls.
The diminutive blond who became famous for her explosive voice, rambunctious stage antics, and trademark unruly curls points out, “That was still me. But I felt that I had been painted into a corner, and I wanted to be able to branch out. I wanted to depart from that simply because I felt that I could do more. ” So with a heavy heart, a deep respect for where she came from, and an artist’s hunger to evolve, Heidi Newfield flew the Trick Pony coop.
She alighted—as fate would have it—in the capable hands of famed producer Tony Brown. “He wouldn’t have time for me,” she remembers thinking, “between George Strait and Reba and Brooks & Dunn.” Yet Brown was intrigued by the project, and after giving Heidi three hours of his undivided attention, he was in. “Right away we just clicked. Right away I think he got my song sensibility, and was right on track with it. Loved that I wanted to step out from what I had been doing, kind of get out of the bar room for a minute.” The resulting ten-song collection is a reflection of that shared vision. “That’s the way I feel like a record should be made,” Heidi declares. “It’s been creative, and fun, and professional, and just a total joy.”Brown and Newfield’s great alliance is never more evident than in the album’s crowing jewel and lead single, “Johnny & June.” Written by Newfield, Stephony Smith and Deanna Bryant, the song wasn’t even born until the album was sixty percent finished. “From the moment that we started in on it, we all three just sort of looked at each other and went ‘ok wait a minute—this is really a special song,’” Heidi recounts. “I still listen to Johnny & June right now, after all the writing it and going through it and living with it, and I still get chills up my spine.” Using country’s legendary First Couple as a muse, “Johnny & June” yearns for a love that is “powerful and big, and crazy and wild. Everybody wants to find that kind of a big love in their life,” Heidi says with a smile.
She’s thinking, obviously, of her NFL agent husband, whom she married in June 2004. “It takes a special man to watch their spouse get on a bus and go up & down the road,” says Heidi. “This job takes a lot out of you and it is very time consuming, and even when I’m home, I’m not ‘really’ home sometimes. My wheels are always turning, always thinking about a song, what I need to do better, what I should do more. Thankfully, he understands, as he is very passionate about his job too. But then we have our time together and we try to keep that sacred. We do a good job of supporting one another.” Married shortly after Heidi’s mother passed away, the couple’s support system is certainly tried and true. “2004 was a year of transitions,” she recalls. “Interesting, and sad—the ultimate joy and the ultimate pain and sorrow at the same time…But my mom, it’s weird, because I really feel her. She’s with me very much. She’s right there with me.”
Growing up on a horse farm in Healdsburg, CA, in the heart of Sonoma County wine country, Heidi’s talent was lovingly nurtured by her mother and father. Every trail ride, every horse show and rodeo was set to a soundtrack of Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and all the great traditionalists. Later—to her mother’s dismay—Heidi’s two older sisters turned her on to the great rock bands of the 60’s and 70’s: The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and AC\DC. Heidi also fell in love with traditional blues, and began playing the harmonica at an early age, attracted by what she calls “the most lonesome sound on the planet.”
From the first time she ever picked up a microphone at the age of 5 or 6, Heidi was blessed not only with enormous vocal talent, but the conviction that she was meant to be a singer. “I never really veered off that path,” she explains. “And my parents, fortunately, were very supportive.” She remembers her first trip to Nashville at age 13 to record a demo: “We didn’t know what we were doing, and we certainly didn’t have the money to be running me all over back and forth between Nashville, but they did their very best to try to support me.”
Between the loss of a parent and her new marriage, Heidi Newfield is in a very different place now than when hard-partying, good-timing Trick Pony hit the scene in 2001, and her new album reflects that. “There are parts of this record that are not just about a man and a woman for me,” she explains. “They’re about my experiences all the way around, like leaving the group, and my feelings about that, the pain and the hurt, or the joy of being independent and standing on my own two feet. Everybody who listens to this record can take these songs, and place them in their lives, and relate to them.”
The diversity of the song selection is striking: from to the bleak melancholy of “Wreck You,” the sweaty desperation of “Can’t Let Go,” and the angry wail of “Nothing Burns Like A Memory,” Heidi reaches not just new heights as an artist, but new depths as well. She gracefully leads us through the sweet, breathy yearning of “All I Wanta Do,” the simple hurt of “Love Her And Lose Me,” and the retro groove of “Tears Fall Down.” Closing with the “redneck-clever” anthem “Knocked Up,” the album whirls its way through a 360 degree tour of Heidi Newfield.
“I wanted to create a really important body of work, no matter how long it took me,” Heidi explains. “I had no interest in going in and making another Nashville country record that just gets thrown out there and quickly forgotten. I was only interested in cutting a record that was going to step out and have some relevance in this day and age, when we are head-to-toe in pop culture with videos, the internet, and imagery. We don’t always listen with our ears and our hearts—we, more often, listen with our eyes. So I wanted to make a record that stood out. I wanted people to begin to get to know me in a way they’ve never known me before. I wanted to showcase with humility and pride that God made me different…without ‘trying to be different.’ I hope that people will open up their hearts and minds to me and this music because it has soul— my soul. For that, I have high hopes, and always will.”
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