Keith Burns, the guitarist for Trick Pony, is having the time of his life. He can't stop laughing as he talks by phone about his recent appearance in Country Weekly.
A photo spread of the group shows Keith in his Nashville-area home, stretched out in his bathtub, taking a bubble bath with a cigar in hand and a cowboy hat perched atop his head.
“My mom was so proud of that picture,” Burns says from his hotel room in Louisville, where the group was playing at the Kentucky State Fair later that night. “She said `I cried when I saw you in that bathtub. Son, you looked just like Burt Reynolds.' I peed my pants from laughing, I swear I did.”
Burns, Ira Dean, and Heidi Newfield have a lot to laugh about these days. After more than four years of toting a trailer around by van and playing up to five sets a night in honky-tonks around the country trying to get a record deal, Trick Pony is now one of the most successful groups in Nashville. Its debut album has been certified as platinum, album No. 2 was nominated for album of the year by the Academy of Country Music, and the group is preparing to release its third album early next year.
“I really think this is going to be the album of our career. On our first album, we played the songs live for six months before we recorded any of them. We're doing the same thing now. If people come out and see us, you're going to hear four songs that aren't even out yet. By the reaction, you might even get to help pick the first single.”
Area fans will have that chance tomorrow night when Trick Pony headlines at the Sandusky County Fair in Fremont. Emerson Drive will open at 7:30.
Seven years ago, Burns traded a high-profile gig with Joe Diffie and the 45-foot tour bus that went with it for a bunch of uncertainty and the van and a trailer.
It was in 1996 that Burns called up Dean, who was playing with Tanya Tucker, and asked him if he'd be interested in starting a band.
“I decided that now was the perfect time. I wasn't getting any younger. I thought what kind of act is not out there? I said a Fleetwood Mac, but country - two guys and a chick and all three can sing. It'd never been done,” Burns, 39, says.
The missing piece was Newfield, who was waitressing and parking cars at the time. She met Burns at a party that Burns' ex-wife was hosting. The resulting collaboration has produced hits “Pour Me” and “Just What I Do.” Trick Pony's high-energy and unpredictable shows are more often than not sell-outs.
“We love to go up there and play. That's the key for us. Once we get on the stage, we usually don't want to get off,” Burns says.
They've also been known to have a pretty good time off the stage. “We're kind of Montgomery Gentry with a girl singer,” he says, which brings him to a story about some recent tour dates with Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry. “Their manager told them to stay away from us or else it would be nothing but trouble. Our manager warned us not to go near them. Well,” he says with a laugh. “It was a good time.”
Simplicity seems to be a successful philosophy for Trick Pony.
“We want to sell a lot of records, make a lot of money, and give it all away,” Burns says before pausing. “I mean you can't take it with you when you die.” Then another funny thought hits him. “You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to hook up a U-Haul to my hearse, and it will say `Keith's money,' but there won't be a thing in there.”
Life's all fun and games when you're on top of the world.
Trick Pony performs tomorrow night at the Sandusky County Fair, 901 Rawson Ave., Fremont. Emerson Drive opens the show at 7:30. Tickets, $20 for grandstand and center bleacher seats and $15 for remaining bleacher seats, are available from the secretary's office at the fairgrounds or by phone at 419-332-5604.