RISKY BUSINESS

Trick Pony loves to color outside the lines

Story by Larry Holden Photo by Morrison/Wulffraat

Trick Pony could have played it safe with their third single. They could have followed their two rockin' hits with a sugar-sweet ballad, like some folks thought they should. They could have followed their tried-and-true formula of Heidi Newfield singing lead, like some folks thought they should.

But playing it safe has never been the Trick Pony way.

"We're all about taking risks and laying it on the line," declares Heidi. "We've always gone outside the box."

Deciding to keep the volume turned way up on their skyrocketing career, the high-octane trio just released "Just What I Do," a pumpin', tongue-in-cheek look at what happens when people don't get any romance.

And, as a bonus, it's an educational tune.

Educational? Oh, yeah.

"The song shows that some of history's most famous people did what they did because they weren't getting enough lovin'," cheekily explains bass player Ira Dean. "Jesse James robbed trains when he couldn't get any loving. And why did Orville Wright build planes? Well, it was because he wasn't gettin' any, either!"

Guitarist Keith Burns nods. "I think the song will put a smile on people's faces when they hear it," he says, "and they'll crank up the radio. They'll say, 'I'm a car mechanic - it's what I do when I can't get no lovin.' Or 'I'm a waitress' or a pilot. It doesn't matter what someone does for a living, this song caters to them."

Heidi says the song, written by Keith and Ira five years ago, hooked her the first time she heard it. "The chorus' a cappella harmonies slapped me in the face and made me go 'whoa.' I love songs that do that to me."

Ira chuckles. "Any country song that mentions Picasso is doing something. And we've done that with 'Just What I Do.' We have Picasso proclaiming, I'm the workinest painter that you ever saw/'Cause lately I ain't gettin' no lovin' at all."

Going with another up-tempo tune was a bit of a gamble, the members of the hit-making trio admit.

"Picking this song was difficult for us," confides Heidi. "We knew it was a hit, but we thought it might be early for Keith to take the lead vocals on a single since we're just getting established with me singing lead. But then we decided it would be fun to step out and color outside the lines by releasing a song that's kind of unexpected."

Doing the unexpected is becoming a Trick Pony trademark.

"Our first song, 'Pour Me,' was a chick drinkin' song," explains Keith. "People said radio wouldn't play it. Fortunately, radio did and it was a hit for us. Our second song, 'On A Night Like This,' starts off with Heidi talking through the verses. People said radio won't play a song where the girl's talking. Fortunately, radio did and it was a bigger hit for us.

"Now," he adds, "it's common for Brooks & Dunn to switch off on singing lead. The same with Montgomery Gentry. Hopefully radio will let us do the same thing. And we already know the song's the second-most-requested tune in our live shows. It clicks with the audience."

The trio - who won Favorite New Country Artist at the recent American Music Awards show - will get the chance to click with an even larger audience than usual when they hook up with a country superstar's tour later this year.

"We're fired up about it," declares Keith. "We're going to be part of a big, big tour. We can't tell you who until they announce it. But it's gonna be major."

So, have Trick Pony's hit records changed the members?

"If we were a new band, the first blush of success we're having now might turn our heads," admits Heidi. "But we've been making music for a long time. And, also, all three of us were raised by good people with traditional values. So no matter what success we're lucky enough to have, I don't think any of us are ever going to be egotistical and stop forgetting that the fans are the reason we're where we are."

Ira agrees. "We haven't changed a bit," he says. "We're still the lovable rednecks we always were. We still live in the same places. Keith's driving the same old truck and all I did was get a little PT Cruiser."

"But," tosses in Keith with a nod, "I have to admit, Heidi is now wheeling around in a fancy Jaguar."

Heidi laughs. "It's a 1994 Jag. I've wanted a Jaguar my whole life. My mom drove one back in the '60s and now I've got mine."

OK, so Trick Pony's got a grip on reality, but if the mega-bucks started rolling in - you know, Garth Brooks kind of money - they reveal what they'd splurge on.

"I'd go for lots of great clothes and shoes," acknowledges Heidi, "but my No. 1 goal would be to buy land away from the city and have horses, horses, horses. And, of course, I'd add to my harmonica collection."

For Ira it's cars and guitars. "I live in a little townhouse now and I have over 30 guitars," he confesses. "So, if I had all the cash I wanted, I'd have plenty of vintage cars and hundreds of classic guitars."

Keith's high-dollar dream sits about 200 miles southwest of Nashville.

"If I were filthy rich, since I love Elvis, I'd buy Graceland - and I'd live there," he declares. "I'd call it Keithland. I'd build a golf course all around it.

"Now, that would be cool."

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