If Trick Pony’s R.I.D.E. seems to blow out of the speakers with a lot of pent-up energy, it may be because the album was pent up for so long. It was originally recorded for Warner Bros. Records, the trio’s first label, but then a top-down management shake-up at the label left the project in legal limbo for months. “I’ve tried to block it out of my mind, to be honest with you,” says Trick Pony’s lead singer, Heidi Newfield, “because it wasn’t a fun thing to go through.”
With partners Keith Burns and Ira Dean, Newfield formed Trick Pony in 1996. Eventually, the trio signed to Warner Bros. and, in October 2000, released its first single, the raucous “Pour Me.” The song made it to a respectable No. 12 on the Billboard charts. Trick Pony, the group’s debut album, came out in March 2001 and was certified gold less than a year later. The second album, On a Mission, made its bow in November 2002.
Then the earth began shaking at Warner Bros. “We just had a wonderful team there,” Newfield recalls. “But it’s just the way of the world. We live in corporate America, and Warner Bros. is a huge corporation. So there was this big regime change. Slowly, we started to see the people that we knew … start to disappear. They had left of their own accord or had been let go. Then we heard that [label chief] Jim Ed Norman was on his way out. … It was one of those things where we were not their ‘baby’ anymore.”
Concluding it was being marginalized, Trick Pony knew it had to make some serious career moves “The three of us and our team sat down and had many ‘come to Jesus’ meetings to talk about the future of our band,” Newfield continues. “We thought, ‘If we don’t be careful, we could go by the wayside and never be heard from again if we don’t take matters into our own hands.’ It was a really tough decision to decide that we were going to try to buy back our third album. … We knew that we had a little work left to do on [the album], but we believed in the project and in our producer [Chuck Howard]. And we really wanted this music out.”
The band signed to Curb Records late in 2003, but it was another year before it released its first single — “The Bride” — under their new contract. “Leaving Warner Bros. [involved] a lot more red tape than met the eye,” says Newfield. “We didn’t think it was going to take all that long to land somewhere else, which, very fortunately, it didn’t.
“But that wasn’t the issue. It was getting our creative freedom and our rights back to own the album in its entirety, to be able to re-sequence songs and do all kinds of other things that most people would think are minute but which are really big, like remixing the record. All those things took a long time. … But, looking back, we have no hard feelings. Nobody’s angry with anybody because nobody was at fault. It was just people doing what they felt was the right thing to do.”
R.I.D.E. (which stands for “Rebellious Individuals Delivering Entertainment”) emerged from the legal fray with plenty of the band’s legendary sassiness intact. It bristles with sharp hooks and infectious melodies and is seasoned with brief guest appearances by Country Music Hall of Famers George Jones and Kris Kristofferson. Jones provides wisecracks about the album, while Kristofferson reads the memorial commentary Newfield wrote as part of a tribute song to her late mother.
Chartwise, “The Bride” topped out at No. 27, while the follow-up, a cover of Bonnie Tyler’s 1978 pop hit, “It’s a Heartache” peaked at No. 22. The third single, “Ain’t Wastin’ Good Whiskey on You,” hit the wall and collapsed at a heartbreaking No. 54.
Newfield says that she and her partners routinely clash over song choices for their albums. “Absolutely! In fact, that’s the one subject we fight about. It’s the one time that we really get genuinely pissed off at each other. I think it gets a little bit easier as time goes on now because we pick and choose our battles. If one of us is so absolutely, totally, head-over-heels loves a song — just believes in it wholeheartedly — the other two will give it a try. And that’s all you can ask for.”
Obviously, the members aren’t greedy. They have co-writing credits on only seven of the album’s 14 songs. Other writers include David Lee Murphy, Matraca Berg, Liz Hengber, Sherrie Austin, Sharon Vaughn, Anthony Smith, Billy Dean, Jeffrey Steele and Kim Tribble.
Trick Pony have had a busy summer, Newfield reports. “We have been crazy, touring all over the country, kind of reintroducing ourselves to the fans and to radio. Actually, not as much to the fans. The fans have been, I’ve got to say — and to our surprise — so supportive. They never left our side, even when we weren’t right there in the midst of things.
“But radio is sort of a revolving door. This minute, a program director is here, and four years later, he’s moved over to this station across the country. So we needed to go back out and introduce ourselves [to the radio people] and make sure they were aware that we weren’t going anywhere, that we were here to stay.” The band also played its share of fairs and festivals and opened for “everybody from Tim McGraw to Keith Urban.’”
It took the three a while to settle on a title for the album, Newfield says. “We talked about all kinds of names, of course. But we wanted it to be one word that just sort of stood for what we are, like a brand [or something that would] hit people in the face. We started talking about our live show and how we describe [it as taking] people on a ride. … So we said, ‘That’s a great title for the album. Let’s call it Ride.’ And we all agreed on that.
“Then we were sitting on the bus one day, and I looked at Keith and Ira and said, ‘You know, I think Ride should stand for something. I think it should be an acronym.’ So we started coming up with these ludicrous, ridiculous things. I think we had — at the time we were going through the record label change — ‘Ridiculed, Insulted, Depressed and Emotional.’ We thought that was pretty funny. But Keith was sitting there, and, out of the blue, he goes ‘Rebellious Individuals Delivering Entertainment.’ Ira and I just looked at him and said, ‘That’s damn good.’”