With its eponymous debut, Trick Pony burst from the chute as one of country music’s most successful new acts while establishing a reputation as one of the industry’s premier party bands. With its sophomore effort, “On a Mission,” the Warner Bros. trio is looking to prove there’s more than one side to its musical personality.
“We don’t want to get pulled into the party-band thing,” says lead vocalist Heidi Newfield, who along with Keith Burns and Ira Dean makes up Trick Pony. “With the singles we’ve put out so far, they’ve been somewhat light-hearted, fun, energetic singles, but that’s not all we are about. There is certainly more to us than that.”
Still, Newfield admits, the new album has its share of lighter fare. “This record is a lot of fun. A perfect example is the first single [the title track]. It’s a good-time, kind of perfect-morning show song. The thing that differs on this album is we experimented a little more. I feel like there was a little more confidence about all three of us, both instrumentally and vocally. I felt more confident and like my feet were underneath me a little more.”
Warner Bros. GM/senior VP of marketing Chris Palmer says the success spawned by the first album provides a strong launching pad for the group’s sophomore effort. “You have to ask if it’s going to be tough to have a new artist like Trick Pony releasing when Faith Hill, Shania Twain, and Tim McGraw and all the heavy hitters are also coming out,” Palmer says. “I don’t believe it’s a bad thing to be out in the marketplace competing when you have so much great music driving people to retail to buy music. I’m glad we have the Trick Pony record on the shelves.”
Each member of Trick Pony contributed in varying configurations to nine of the album’s 12 tracks, thus investing more of an emotional stake in this record than the previous one. Dean and David Lee Murphy co-wrote a compelling song about alcoholism, “The Devil and Me,” on which Dean sings lead vocals. “We’ve grown on this album,” says Newfield, who co-wrote two cuts. “I feel like we’ve raised the bar a little bit.”
“On a Mission” continues what Newfield hopes will become a Trick Pony tradition — featuring a special-guest artist. “We are going to try to do that on every album to come,” she says. “It’s our way of paying tribute to people we grew up listening to and their influence on us and their music. The first album [featured] Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.
“This time, it’s Willie Nelson, because we talked about the kind of artist that seems to keep getting better, and Willie was the first name out of our mouths,” she continues. “We thought of all the great songs that he’s cut, which one we should do, and in the same breath, all three of us said ‘Whiskey River,’ even though he didn’t write that. It is a Johnny Bush song, but [Nelson has] been opening his show with that for years.”
Excerpted from the Nov. 9, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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