One of the new CD's best songs - and a top 20 single - is a love song about two famous people, Johnny and June, which, of course, is about the inspiring tale of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. It's not at all unusual for artists to write tribute songs to the late Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. After all, those iconic artists influenced most everybody - at least a little bit. But in Newfield's case, their influence was also extremely personal because she called both Johnny and June her friends.
"I had the opportunity to record with Johnny Cash on the first Tick Pony album (Big River, which is (also) where I met him," she elaborates. "Ira Dean had been great friends with John Carter Cash, and he had met Johnny through (his son) John Carter. And he had asked Johnny years prior, 'If I ever get to record a record, would you come sing on it?' And Johnny said he would. And he made good on his promise. So, that's how I met Johnny. Shortly thereafter, he introduced me to the lovely and very funny June Carter. I just adored June with all my heart. We just hit it off; let me put it that way. He introduced me to his wife, and we just got to spend some time together. They would have us over to the house in Hendersonville. Sometimes with Ira, sometimes without. I got to witness, in person, the kind of love they shared. And it was clear that they were crazy about each other, even though they were just a normal couple."
"I got to go to Jamaica with them for Christmas," she recounts. "I got to spend a very quiet, intimate Christmas with them. There are some memories from that that I will carry with me through my life."
Some of these memories are musical ones, in addition to more general friendship remembrances. "That night we sang Christmas carols together," she says. "And then, of course, (June) would pull out her mother's, and Johnny would pull out a guitar, and they'd sing Ring of Fire. And memories like these are really what spurred the idea for the song."
But like many significant songs, which are too important to write flippantly and quickly, Johnny And June didn't happen overnight.
"I had the idea Johnny And June probably five years ago," she says. "It never came to fruition, for one reason or another. I just put it in the back of my mind. One day, and this is absolutely a true story, I walked into the office to write with Stephony Smith and Deanna Bryant for the very first time, having known both of them, but never having written with them. Stephony said, 'Deanna and I know that you knew Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Would you be up for writing a tune about them? Something along the lines, 'I wanna love like Johnny and June.' And, of course, my eyes got the size of golf balls, and I said, 'This is meant to be, ladies! We're meant to write this song today. I've had that idea forever.' So, we just started chucking away at it, and that's what came out of it. I couldn't be more proud of the way that song turned out."
Another new song, which is also the last song on the CD, is the extremely straight-to-the-point Knocked Up. Its lyric doesn't at all dance around the issue of pregnancy out of wedlock. Newfield didn't write this song, nor has she ever been, well, knocked up. She was able to get into to character for it, however, by drawing upon the inspiration of another country music hero.
"I grew up a huge Loretta Lynn fan, and I loved the pure honesty in her writing," Newfield explains. "When I heard that song, it reminded me very much of a clever, but very honest and almost funny, version of The Pill. And by gosh, let's face it: in this old world you've gotta have a sense of humor. But if you haven't been knocked up, you certainly know someone who has. It's a very relatable song."
Lastly, Newfield simply loves how intentionally politically incorrect the song is. "It's just so blatant and in your face," she says. "It just says it like it is, you know? 'A belly full of baby and a shotgun wedding.' People can laugh about that, but that really happens to people every day. Sometimes it happens in blue collar families, and sometimes it happens in white collar families. But regardless, it happens every day."
Newfield is obviously knocked out by the musical rebirth these recent solo steps have provided. "I think I'm enjoying playing live now more than I've ever enjoyed it," she gushes. "And that's hard to believe because I always had fun playing; just about my favorite part of the whole job is putting on the live show. And I never thought I'd be able to top what I did with Trick Pony. I've got tell you, what I'm doing right now, with the quality of the music I feel like we made on this record, makes the live show an absolute pure joy. It's like the same feeling I had when I first moved to Nashville; that kind of excitement I had when I first came to town, except now I've got a lot more experience under my belt - I've been doing this a while now. It's pretty cool to have that kind of fire underneath you, when you're inspired again. That's a really cool feeling."