Ira Dean
 Courtesy of Ira Dean

In recording his solo debut It's About Time, Ira Dean said there was a liberating feeling that came with being a solo artist as opposed to one-third of the award-winning trio Trick Pony.

"It felt like somebody had just tore down a fence around my yard and I was a pooch running free," Dean told Billboard. "I've never been married, but it's like someone who has been divorced and didn't really know how to get back in the game but is excited and has all the freedom in the world. With that excitement, he can either shoot himself in the foot or go out there and make it happen. With Trick Pony, we always had to agree on songs, and I'm a big fan of the uptempo rockers, and I always felt there was a leash on us. Now I didn't have a label, I didn't have Keith or Heidi, and I was just making music that I loved, and experimenting all the way."

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Dean said there was a loose atmosphere in the studio. "We had fun and just played. You could tell there was a party going on at the studio. We were playing just to make music. You don't normally get that when you're on the clock. I couldn't be more proud of anything I've ever recorded."

Not that Dean is taking a knock at his former band, mind you. But he said there has always been more to his musical pedigree than just being the "crazy upright bass player" with the band. "Those were some of the best times of my life, but I had to re-create myself as people didn't know I played 13 instruments, went to college for music, and actually got a scholarship as a drummer. I just finished the new album. It's been great working on my own time and not on a clock. I'm having so much fun. It will be my first debut solo album -- I had a solo deal when I left Trick Pony and came out with a single, but the album never came out. I made a pact this last year that I was going to finish an album before the end of the year. So I put the writing on hold and recorded 14 new songs."

One of those new songs is current single "Nothin' to Do 'Round Here," which features cameos from Ronnie Milsap, Lee Roy Parnell, Montgomery Gentry, Colt Ford and Jeffrey Steele. "That kind of all happened by accident," he said. "I was watching The Life and Times of George Harrison, and it showed all the Travelling Wilburys stuff, and I thought about how there had been so many all-star vocal things like that or the Highwaymen, but nobody in country had ever done an all-star band. I thought it would be cool to do something like that with all the guys I looked up to as players."

That set the phone calls into motion. "The first phone call I made was to Ronnie Milsap. A long time ago, we had talked about doing a rockabilly project together, and he said sure. Then, I called Lee Roy Parnell, and he said he was in. He asked if I had the song, and I said 'Yeah.' Of course, I didn't at the time. Jeffrey Steele and Shane Minor helped me write it, and I thought ,'This is it. This is exactly what I'm looking for.' Jeffrey and I had just written a song for Rascal Flatts' Changed album called 'Friday.' I told him I wanted that same kind of thing, so we wrote it and went into the studio. I asked him to co-produce the song with me. He ended up singing on it, and Ronnie played and sang on it. Lee Roy cut his part at his house because we couldn't work our schedules out for all of us to play together. We were getting ready to mix the song, and I was talking to Colt Ford and Eddie Montgomery about it and how much fun we were having. Colt said 'I want to sing on it.' I asked him when he could, and he said he was in town next week. Then, Eddie and T-Roy came in. After I heard the final mix, I thought 'This is crazy.' John Marks over at SiriusXM heard it, and said 'You've got to get this thing out on iTunes so I can start playing it."

Dean marvels that he had no plan to put the record out -- everything is happening for the love of it, as it should be, he said. "We just were having fun. We weren't thinking about going to radio or anything like that. I just wanted to play with the guys I looked up to as players and singers."

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