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Trick Pony is on a mission

By Jeffrey B. Remz, December 2002

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"We kind of let the song decides who sings it," Newfield says. "With 'The Devil and Me,' that's a song that Ira wrote and is very autobiographical. That song shows another side of Ira. It's a little bit of a dark song. I think that's great. The song adds a lot to our album...It was obvious who was going to sing the song."

"The Devil and Me" is a drinking song, but it ain't no party song. Dean wrote and sang: "I've battled with the bottle/All alone for years/I've lied a thousand lies/And I've cried a million tears."

The chorus describes a man who is "too tired to fight it/Too ashamed to pray/And I'm sure the Lord must be bored/With the promises I've made/So I sit here with my secret/Where no on else can see/I'll just keep it/Between the devil and me."

"It was something that Keith and I said that there was no doubt that Ira needs to sing that," Newfield says.

"None of us really hoard our material," says Newfield. "Most of the time, it's really obvious who will sing what."

"Each of us brings our own instrumentation to the group," Newfield says.

The Healdsburg, Cal. native wanted to move to Nashville since "I was a little itty bitty girl. It's very difficult to get started in country music and not be in the heart of music. It was kind of imperative that I move there, that I work here, night work and start getting my name out there."

Burns and Dean had gigs with other artists prior to forming Trick Pony. Burns was a guitarist in Joe Diffie's band, while Dean was a member of Tanya Tucker's group.

The pair talked about starting a band.

Burns, an Atlanta native, has his ex-wife to thank for discovering Newfield. Burns' wife at the time heard Newfield sing and apparently liked what she heard. "She approached me actually and said, 'my husband's putting together this trio, and you really fit the bill,'" Newfield says.

Newfield handed over a demo, and Burns called the next day.

He then thought about forming a trio with one female and two female members.

"We had been friends since about 1991," says Newfield of Dean. "I had not seen him in a long time, and I had worked in Nashville doing demos, waiting tables, basically doing anything I could do to make ends meet. I was doing my solo thing, but when Keith approached me about putting the group together, we hit it off."

"I loved the idea of three individual singers, three individual looks and having family harmonies," says Newfield.

The three shared similar musical tastes of Waylon, Willie, Johnny, Loretta, Merle and Tammy.

"These are the people who have had the biggest influence on us collectively and individually I think," says Newfield. "When you talk about all of these types of artists, you're talking about integrity. It just so happens they happened in an era where you call their music more traditional."

"They stuck to their guns. They had their own sound. They were originals. They didn't sell out in any shape or form. Those are the types of people in any genre of music that we are drawn to as fans."

Trick Pony played out for about five years, honing their sound.

"I wouldn't trade any of the early days - well I'd probably trade a few - all of the things that I've gone through to get me to the place in my life working with this group, I wouldn't give back," says Newfield. "I feel like I've paid a lot of dues. All three of us have paid a lot of a dues."

"I had a couple of big producers in town that were interested. We'd go in and record. I had a lot of bites, but did never really (get) the big one. The timing wasn't right or whatever. I think that it wasn't because this is what the good Lord meant to be."

"The best advice I got was 'hang in there.' Perseverance. Being so far away from my family and friends was always very very difficult. Staying in Nashville was probably the hardest part."

Producer Howard found the band and managed to get a senior vice president at Warner to see Trick Pony at Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon.

"There were other labels in Nashville that were willing to sign us if Ira cut his hair and put a hat on or I sang every song, which was to compromise our sound," she says, but they thought "if we stuck by our guns, somebody would believe in us the way we were."

"Pour Me" was the band's first single, almost hitting the Billboard top 10. But it got the band's name out there, especially Newfield's raw sounding vocals and the energy for which the group is known.

A follow-up single, "On a Night Like This," did even better, hitting the top five last year.

But in this fickle world where you're only as good as your next hit, Trick Pony is hoping they offer something a bit different.

"Certainly nothing would please us more than for everyone to love our music and love the album and go and pick it up - that would make us as happy as could be," says Newfield. "The fact is that if something is a little bit different, it's a bit of a harder sell. It can be a little tougher, but that's okay with us. But that's a challenge that we're up for. We'd rather create our own niche in this business and certainly creatively than doing the easy thing that follows in the footsteps of so many others. That's not knocking any of the other records you hear on country radio. I think there's room for all of us out there."

"There's a lot of new country music and a lot of new performers and writers out there that are sort of carrying the flag for country music and carrying it on that would make a lot of the legends and a lot of the guys we listen to and still listen to proud," says Newfield. "Even though we are newer, there are some of us out there who still believe in musical integrity, those who do believe that way. The cream rises to the top. It maybe it takes a little longer."

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