Heidi Newfield: A voice for female country music outlaws
From being lead singer of award winning group, Trick Pony, to now out on her own, Heidi Newfield has brought an outlaw female side to country music. Newfield joined the ranks of several female country artists to break the mold of typical playlists for country radio. With her hit single, “Johnny and June,” fans easily related to that one of a kind love sung by a one of a kind voice. With emotion in all she does, Heidi Newfield takes to the stage and prepares the crowd for a good time. She is currently on the Country Throwdown Tour, which recently stopped in Cincinnati, Ohio. You will find her on the Outlaw Stage, as well as popping up on the main stage as a guest artist with a few of the acts. In Cincinnati, the highlight of the tour stop was when she and Jamey Johnson brought down the house with a rocking rendition of “Are You Sure Hank Did It This Way,” complete with harmonica and fuel intense playing by Jamey’s band, the Kent Hardley Playboys.
Heidi is not afraid to step outside the box in her singing, songwriting, and performing. During the Cincinnati stop, I had the chance to catch up with Heidi Newfield on her concerts, future plans, and a new single coming out.
When Johnny & June was released, it was met with success and recognition from peers. You felt that story and it portrays well in the song. What were your thoughts when you originally released it?
I wrote that song so that’s number one. You hope and pray that a song like that comes along. From the moment I wrote it with Stephony Smith and Deanna Bryant, we walked out of the room and felt like we had something special on our hands. I walked up to my producer, Tony Brown, and managers and said “hey listen to this demo, we just wrote it and demoed it.” I said that this was my first single to come out of the gate. This is the one I want to lay down the tracks for. We all just agreed and that doesn’t happen very often. When you release music, you often times got people with a different opinion of what it should be. In this case, it was unanimous and that’s the single. I’m very proud and I will be very proud to sing that song until the end of my career. It’s just an honest to goodness sincere song that came from my heart. I had the good fortune of knowing the Cash family rather well. Johnny and June were very kind to me so that song kind of felt like an ode to them.
After breaking free and setting out on your own, do you feel that you have become a role model to other females in the music business?
That is a very interesting question. I would say yes and no. I’ve been in this business a long time. I’ve certainly paid my dues from growing up on a ranch in northern California to coming to Nashville when I was thirteen. I was going back and forth and then coming out right out of high school. I’ve always been really lucky in knowing what I wanted to do. Fortunately I have parents that were very supportive. So as far as a role model goes, I believe in role models. I believe that I like to color outside of the lines a little bit. I’m kind of that outlaw style than anything for the girls then some others as far as the contemporary side of things. I pull a lot of my influences which are really traditional country, delta blues, southern rock, and others. There’s a little less pop in my stuff than others. I’m not scared to drink a cold beer on stage or a big flask of Crown Royal up there. But as far as a role model goes, I think just being real; being really who you are and not putting on any airs is what I think people are searching for. I know I am in my music I want what’s real. So yes, I do believe I hopefully earned that right.
You’ve had the award nominations and success with your musical talents. What keeps you grounded and level?
Oh gosh, my raising keeps me humble. I was raised on a farm. Being raised up on a working ranch where everyone had to pull their weight, there was no slacking. We didn’t sit around a tv or video games. We had stuff to do. We had chores to do and responsibilities and it really formed a lot of work ethic early on. I think when you are raised up right from good people then you always go back to that. My momma always told me that it’s so easy to be nice to people. It’s actually takes effort to be mean. It is so much easier to be nice and trying to treat people with respect. I think I was just raised right.
With the Country Throwdown tour in full spring, do you have any plans for after the tour?
We’ve got a summer single coming out and about a fall release date for the album. I’ve been in the studio working on that when I’m not out on the road. We should be putting that single out. There will be some radio tour involved, along with some shows mixed in. People can get online on my website. We’ve got some really fun interactive stuff going on with the website. It’s kinda a little crazy stuff, so it’s really cool. We’re putting really candid stuff as well as the tour dates and things like that. So I’ll be mixing up the road, the studio, and radio stuff and just keeping really busy.
So far with the Country Throwdown, what has your experience been like?
I have had a ball. This is really cool to be part of something that’s coloring outside of the box as far as tours go. The folks that started the Warped Tour, they are really professionals and know what they’re doing. I’m loving that they started the country thing. It’s a different concept with the alternate stages going back and forth. You are teaching the country fan to walk over here and then back over here. I think it’s the coolest thing ever. There’s a lot of camaraderie and lot of laughter and sharing time. We’re having a really good time. I think it’s going to be a huge success. I’m proud to be part of the first year cause I have a feeling we’re going to grow something great here.
Listening to the fan reactions, it has been positive, even with the rain in Cincinnati.
You know it poured down and I haven’t seen it pour down that hard in a good while. It poured like that right after my show while signing my merchandise. Those people just stayed put. There were about a hundred people in line just absolutely soaked. And they just kept coming and just kept adding and were just troopers. It goes to show the loyalty. It’s a big old party. They’re fitting three days worth of festivals into one day, which is really cool. So it’s worth taking a day off and the ticket prices are reasonable. You come out and have a big old time. So a little rain isn’t going to stop us.
Fan Fair (CMA Fest) is coming up. What are your plans for this year?
I will be on tour with this so I’m actually going to miss Fan Fair this year. I’ve always been a part of it and I’ve always done a big fan club party. Last year I performed on the Riverfront stage and LP Field and my fan club party. We’ll make it up to the fans this year. It’s about building and even though I won’t be there this year, we’ll do some other special things throughout the year.
This tour is somewhat a mini-Fan Fair in a way with the music and getting to meet artists afterwards.
Absolutely. Any tour the more people you get in front of, the better. It’s just a big party out here and we’re having a good time. I just got off stage with Jack Ingram and we’re collaborating. I’ve been out with Jamey Johnson almost every show. We just hang out and have a good time sharing music.
With the recent Nashville floods, were you affected in any way?
We were so lucky. Our place was unaffected. We had a few a little minor things with wet ceilings and so forth. It really wasn’t really major damage. We were very very lucky. But I will tell you what, all around us the water was coming up. I was on the road and watching on tv. We were glued to the Weather Channel. Even though we were not affected, I was calling home to check on our neighbors. My husband was in another state and I was in another state doing a benefit. We knew it was bad but when I drove home from the airport and I saw where that water had risen up to. It was the worst flood in Nashville history, but now we’re all pulling together. It’s times like these that you seek the heart and soul of what Nashville is really all about. The whole community has pulled together from the church community to the music community. It’s amazing how much people pull together to help others. We will continue to be a part of that effort as well.
Talking to friends, they ask “how can I help” and I respond by saying that visiting Nashville helps out more than just one person, it helps a community.
It doesn’t matter how small the donation is, it could be $5. People stop at Starbucks and spend more than that, nothing against Starbucks. It doesn’t take much to help.
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Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website with over 20 years experience in music journalism, concert planning, photography, and promotion. Jessica is a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the 2019 Leadership Kentucky BRIGHT Class and a recipient of the Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award. Listen to her each week on WFKY on Friday mornings for the Nashville News Roundup.