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SWEET LITTLE PONY INSPIRES BIG DREAM.

Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

It all started with a white pony named Laddie.

That was the inspiration for the poem that led to the song that led to a whole lot of excitement for a 10-year-old aspiring country singer from Monroe.

"Laddie was a sweetie," said Maty Eitner, co-writer of the song "Sweet Little Pony of Mine." "I remember trying to get him to trot and he went so fast .... he made really good apple sauce with his mouth."

To call Maty's song a hit would be premature, but to say the sentimental country tune has potential, an underground following and a rich story behind it is no exaggeration.

It's a story about city life, country life, dying, cross-country friendships and the Internet. But more than anything, it's a story about Laddie the pony and Maty the girl.

Maty's transition from fifth-grader to country songwriter began in September shortly after her family relocated from Springfield to Monroe in search of a more peaceful life. It was a chance for Maty to have her own pony, and the family built a fence on their 4-acre plot to house Rony the pony and Billy the miniature Shetland.

"From the time we moved out here everything changed," says Maty's mother, Bobbie Orre-Eitner.

That's when the family learned that Laddie, the 23-year-old pony that Maty rode while growing up, had gone blind and would probably have to be put down. The family had also just lost a dog and Maty's grandmother was sick with cancer and didn't have long to live. Her mother figured it was a good time to talk to her daughter about death, and talking led to writing, which led to poetry.

"It was just a way of saying goodbye to Laddie," Maty says.

Her poem about the endlessly loyal "pass-around pony" who taught all the children to ride first appeared on her MySpace.com Web site. The networking site is popular among musicians, and it proved to the be the perfect place to post the tribute, which appeared under the words, "A Poem to my Best Friend Laddie."

"You never asked anything from me just maybe an apple and shade under the old tree," the poem reads. "Old saddle new saddle you didn't care, you were just so happy to be standing there."

Ironically, Laddie didn't have to be put down. Still, Maty's poem continued to spark interest and draw visitors to her site. She appealed to some of her MySpace friends to help her write a song based on the poem. The plea captured the attention of David James, a Chesapeake, Va., country songwriter who was taken by Maty's story.

"Here's this 10-year-old telling me how this pony taught her a lot about life," James recalls. `The way she talked about the pony and the way it taught her lessons about being patient ... I e-mailed her and said, `Maty, I'm going to write a song.' '

To help grease the songwriting process, Maty sent James 17 pages of notes and photographs of her and her pony. James, an animal lover who grew up with horses, connected with the material immediately. He says he did not have much difficulty writing the song.

"You're a small pony with the biggest of hearts / 21 years and you still know your part," the lyrics of the song read. "Barrels and fences and you always came through just fine / You're the one and the only, sweet little pony of mine."

James shared the songwriting credit with Maty, but the story didn't end there.

Working with Nashville producer Lee Gibson, James hired demo singers Jordyn Shellhart and Megan Conner to each record the song. Shellhart, an 11-year-old singer from Franklin, Tenn., cut a pint-sized version of the song and Conner, a Nashville singer originally from New York, recorded an adult version of the tune.

"I was kind of surprised that (the song) came out so good," Maty says.

For now, she and James are in a holding pattern. Before they can expect to get radio play for their song, it needs to be recorded by a big-name country star. In the meantime, Maty is using her online network of friends to promote the tune. An Internet radio station, which adopted her as a "little sister," has been playing the demo and visitors to Maty's MySpace page can hear it there.

MySpace.com has been a common thread for almost everyone involved in the creation of Maty's song. She and James still have never met in person and almost all of the connections behind "Sweet Little Pony of Mine" were made on MySpace.

The popular site, which is free to join, has been the subject of much controversy. Some schools have banned the use of the site after cases of online harassment and bullying, and many parents have raised safety concerns about a site that allows kids to post personal information for all the world to see.

But those in the music business say MySpace is an invaluable tool that allows musicians to promote their music and network.

Maty's mother says constant supervision is the key to using the site safely. She monitors all of her daughter's correspondence and says the site has been instrumental in making connections.

"This whole song happened on MySpace," Eitner-Orre says. "It's a little scary, now everybody knows where she lives. It's fun, though."

Maty and her mother will be traveling in June to Nashville for the CMA Music Festival, aka Fan Fare, where they hope to garner more publicity for their song. It's possible Shellhart will perform the tune, which could draw the attention of a big name singer. James also plans to pitch the song to Disney.

He believes the song and the story behind it could be of interest to the entertainment conglomerate.

"I knew that if it was done right, it would be a good song," James says. "Poems don't always make good songs, but I guess the nature of the subject ... country music and a pony (helped)."

To hear Maty Eitner's song go to www.registerguard.com/maryeitner.

CAPTION(S):

Maty Eitner pets Rony, one of the ponies at her family's Monroe home. Ten-year-old Maty has written a poem-turned-country song that is a tribute to a pony she loved named Laddie. T h e p o w e r o f p o e t r y
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; Maty Eitner, 10, hopes her song becomes a hit
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 3, 2006
Words:1061
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