"I've set the bar pretty high," says Heidi Newfield of her eagerly awaited sophomore album, which she is currently putting the finishing touches on. The set doesn't have a firm release date yet, but she claims she's having "old-school" (as she terms it) expectations of the record once it's out--meaning, big stuff.
Such hopes are pretty much justified. Newfield, formerly of the former hitmaking trio Trick Pony, and fairly recently of her own solo outing, has not suffered much downturn in her career; a notable pause between her debut and follow-up records notwithstanding. After announcing she was going out on her own in 2006, the singer released her first album in 2008, spawing the gold-certified hit "Johnny And June."
"It was just a really amazing transition to go from Trick Pony to my first record, and to have that momentum built up...you can't buy that. It either happens or it doesn't," Newfield notes. "And when we had it happen, I felt so blessed and so thrilled that 'Johnny And Jean' had resonated with everyone and I felt very confident about backing that up."
However, the singer found herself forced to pause for a bit before tackling her second album. Newfield explains the gap between releases as being nothing more than label politics, stating that there was a bit of having to "wait in line" due to her record label's extensive roster. Although she notes that the time gap was a "staggering" experience--given that she'd had so much buzz built up from her last record--the downtime was spent in a positive manner.
"In that in-between time, there's a lot of creative work that happens," she explains. "In that 3-4 year period I've been writing like crazy, which has been a good thing. Lots of things in my personal life to write about--when you're going through tough times in your personal life...I'd find a pen in my hand, or some gadget in my hand, writing lyrics down. It really spurs on a lot of creative activity in your head, and a lot of emotions. That's always been a positive in a backwards sort of way."
Fans have had to wait a little longer than she'd like for new music, true, but in the meantime Newfield has whetted their appetites with the lead single from the project. "Why'd You Have To Be So Good," is itself a stark slate of emotion which Newfield says is universally applicable. "That song is such a big dynamic personal and powerful song. It's a song that you can make personal for yourself in any situation," she says. "If you've ever gotten your heart broken, if you ever lost somebody...if you've ever just gone through something tough and you're thinking back about the good times."
The song is accompanied by a clip that captures the feelings of darkness and light. "That's why we did the video in blacks and whites, because it's such a contrast. It's a song about hope, and a song about fear."
The story behind the single makes it even more poignant. When asked about the unlikely co-writer on the tune, Jeremy Popoff--a rocker who's best known for his tenure in '90s alt band Lit--Newfield explains that the song's storyline comes from Popoff's mother. "Something he'd experienced and his family experienced," she notes, but for those who aren't familiar with the story, it's definitely more than just "something." In 2005, Popoff's mother and stepfather were involved in a terrible road accident in which a drunk driver struck their motorcycle, resulting in his death and her suffering critical injuries, including the loss of a leg.
"His mother, who I've met actually, it was hard holding back all that emotion," Newfield relates. "Just knowing the backstory--losing the love of her life, and her becoming an amputee, and going through a lot of life changes. And still being able to look back at [her husband] and say 'God, it was just so good...' It's better to have loved and lost," she concludes.
Besides the emotional tug of the song's lyrical content, Newfield loves how the song plays back and forth between what she terms "Big 'Purple Rain' licks" and a traditional country sound. "But, this is really just one piece of the pie and there's so much more to this album," she demurs, adding that she believes the set will be something to talk about.
"We're not going to put it out until we absolutely have something to stir the pot," she insists.