Music News

Pony Up

After her nanosecond turn on The One last summer, I'm sure the last thing in the world that Aubrey Collins wanted to be thought of was a one-trick pony. Funny thing is, if everything pans out with her current endeavor, that's precisely what she'll be.

In a manner of speaking.

Last August, as you might recall (Beatdown, August 3, 2006), Collins failed to become The One after she was mercifully booted from the dreadful, ill-conceived ABC reality vehicle, which itself was given the hook after just a handful of episodes. Fast-forward five months. The show is now a memory (although if the network brass had their way, I'll bet they'd just as soon we forget the whole damn thing, thanks), and Collins is preparing to hit the road as a card-carrying member of -- uh-huh, wait for it -- Trick Pony.

You know, the country band. Drawing a blank? Yeah, me, too. But after conferring briefly with Señor Rhapsody, I'm happy to report that Trick Pony seems to be a perfect fit for the sassy little lass from Little Town, who first gained attention in 2002 as a fourteen-year-old sensation-in-the-making. Trick Pony specializes in neo-country with an edge; Collins is a country gal turned rocker chick with edge to spare. The Curb Recording artists need a new centerpiece to replace Heidi Newfield, the raspy-throated, blond bombshell of a lead singer who recently left to pursue a solo career; Collins, meanwhile, can stop traffic in her own right and sports a set of pipes that are bound to win over even the most ardent Newfield fans while helping the Tricksters reach an entirely new audience. Moreover, she's always been on her own -- so any solo aspirations she might have are far less likely to hamstring the Pony in the near future.

It must have seemed like a match made in heaven to Collins's producer, Trey Bruce, when he heard from his buddy, Trick Pony bassist Ira Dean, that the act was hunting for a new singer. Bruce said he knew just the gal, and Pony guitarist Keith Burns wasted little time tracking Collins down.

"I came down to Nashville and met them, and we started hanging out and writing," Collins recalls, "and the next thing I know, we're talking about studio time and touring." Certain that they'd found their new thoroughbred, Dean and Burns offered the spot to Collins almost immediately. "It was kind of all of a sudden," she allows. "You know, here I am on the fifth of December thinking I'm going to be living in L.A. for the rest of my life. And on the 31st, I literally packed my suitcase and haven't seen L.A. ever since."

Collins and company spent last month in Cashville, writing and recording six new songs; this week, Trick Pony kicks off a month-long tour. The hyper-accelerated pace of the whole thing makes Britney Spears's first marriage and subsequent annulment seem like a painfully drawn-out courtship.

"It's weird," Collins says. "When I walked in the door, the first time I met them, it felt like I'd already known them for years. Then when I moved here on January 1 and we started going into the studio, it was honestly like we've been friends all of our lives. So it's not really like we have to build chemistry, because it's already there. Inevitably, though, we do need to learn about each other."

Sounds like the novelty hasn't worn off completely.

"We're in the honeymoon stage right now," she admits with a laugh. "And as soon as we get on tour, reality will slap us in the face."

Ah, reality. When people stop being polite and start getting real? Not so much. As it turns out, that reality bites. "The worst part of being on reality television is that it's not reality," Collins says of her time on The One. "They make a story up, and then they feed you bullshit and make you believe what they want you to believe. They're looking for drama, and they'll make it up if they don't have it. And that's exactly what they did. They made me look like a complete imbecile."

Not exactly. The producers actually made Collins look more like an unscrupulous trollop with a penchant for fancy-haired, goofball pretty boys. And that, she says, was the worst part of the experience. "I was literally being fed bullshit through a camera," she recalls, referring to the alleged relationship with Nick Brownell that the show blindsided her with. "That just sucked, because I had to swallow everything live as they told me.

"I wanted to leave as soon as I figured out how I was being portrayed," she continues, explaining that her words were being parsed into misquotes. "There were times -- I'm not stupid; I lived in L.A; I knew exactly where I was; I could've called my mom and said, 'Mom, pick me up' -- that I packed my bags and was walking out. They'd stop me and say, 'It's okay; you won't be perceived as this person this week.' I said, 'Okay. If you guys are telling me the truth, I'll stay.' They were like, 'Yeah, we're telling you the truth.' And of course, they were lying deliberately to my face. So it was such a relief when I got voted off. I was like, 'Thank the Lord. Somebody is looking out for me.'"

Still, as relieved as Collins was about being removed from the show (and as validated as she must have felt when it was summarily canceled), her stint on The One took a toll on her self-esteem and left her with trust issues she hadn't had before.

"It was so hard for me to get back on the stage," Collins confesses. "I remember this one night, I had a show in Sturgis. I couldn't even bring myself to get on the stage. My mom was like, 'You've got to do this, baby. You know this is where you belong. I love you, and I'll be standing off the stage.' I was in tears. I was scared because I didn't know how people were going to look at me. Then when I got up there, everything went away. All my fears went away. I realized, 'This is where I belong. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.'"

That which does not kill you and all that, right? "You gotta take the bull by the horns and just ride the sucker," she affirms. "If you don't, you're going to get thrown off instantly. And so far, I've held on pretty tight in terms of getting things done. But I really want this. So I'm going to continue pushing myself to perform at their level."

Upbeats and beatdowns: This past weekend, I caught what turned out to be the Heyday's tenth show (in Beatdown last week, I'd guessed the act had played under fifty). Wow, are those kids green. Speeding through the songs, they emanated such nervous energy that at times I felt like I was watching a high school talent show. Still, I have high hopes for them. With time, their musicianship should catch up with their songwriting -- and then look out!

Tifah, on the other hand, turned in a stellar performance as polished as it was enchanting. With her jet-black pigtails and black plastic frames, Tifah Al-Attas, the band's namesake and leader, has a quaint, Mary Katherine Gallagher look that belies her majestic voice. Her mates, meanwhile, exhibit masterful dynamic sensibilities and have a commanding on-stage presence.

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera