VOICING CONCERNS

Trick Pony's Heidi Newfield, sidelined with surgery on her vocal chords, had to gear herself down to recover

After months of voice problems and throat pain, Trick Pony's Heidi Newfield took a drastic step: She agreed to undergo surgery.

"I was stressed about having surgery on my vocal chords," says Heidi. "My voice is my instrument -- my living!"

Doctors at Nashville's Vanderbilt Voice Center assured her that the procedure to remove a polyp from her vocal chord was relatively safe, but still she had fears.

"I'm usually pretty gung-ho," confides Heidi. "Heck, I'll jump out of an airplane. But I've never had surgery before so I was really, really nervous."

The surgery in January went well -- but feisty Heidi faced another challenge in her recovery. "I had to be completely silent for two weeks!" she explains. "Everybody said there's no way I could do it. But I didn't even whisper a word!"

Heidi couldn't be more excited to be back touring with bandmates Ira Dean and Keith Burns. "I'm singing again!" she exclaims. "It still sounds like me, I don't think anyone will know the difference. But I can tell the tone is better and it's much more effortless."

Keith Urban has also suffered voice troubles and was forced to halt touring earlier this year when a vocal chord hemorrhaged. "I've had a polyp on my right vocal chord for years and it finally caught up with me," he explains. Fortunately, Keith was able to avoid surgery with a regimen of complete vocal rest for six weeks. Most recently, Sara Evans had a small blister, probably related to her last pregnancy, removed from her vocal chord.

Heidi, Keith and Sara are hardly the only stars to be plagued by voice woes. Others include Rosanne Cash, Pam Tillis, Randy Travis, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Faith Hill and Ronnie Dunn.

"It's always a concern for singers," says Heidi. "We push too hard. And country artists tour most of the year while rock stars tend to take part of the year off. Plus we have close relationships with our fans so it requires us to do a lot more talking."

How will Heidi keep her voice healthy in the future?

"I've learned some great new voice techniques," says Heidi. "The best thing in the world to do is to sip warm water -- and I have to talk less!"

That's a tough task for a fun-loving woman from the band known as the life of the party. "I have to be more disciplined," says Heidi. "Some nights when the guys want to go out after a show I'll just have to be odd man out. I've got to take care of myself."

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