You might not know it by looking at her, but Becky MacDicken leads a double life.
By day, as director of government affairs for the Washington-based Tire Industry Association (TIA), Ms. MacDicken is an important industry expert on the minutiae of federal legislation and regulation, such as the rules emanating from the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act.
But by night and on weekends, you can find her wailing her heart out. No, not before a congressional subcommittee about the dangers of the final rule on tire pressure monitoring devices. Rather, it's in a country band singing about drinking, heartache and, of course, standing by your man.
``I knew I wanted to be a singer from the time I was about 12,'' Ms. MacDicken said. ``I don't know if there was any specific singer or event that made me decide that, but both my grandmother and my mother played church organ and piano, and I grew up with music. My parents have tapes of me singing Christmas carols when I was three!''
Ms. MacDicken satisfied her vocal ambitions in her youth by singing with her high school's jazz vocal ensemble; she also snagged the role of Golda, the female lead, in her high school's production of Fiddler on the Roof. Later, at Michigan State University, she followed in the footsteps of her father, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, and majored in political science. She also sang in the Michigan State University Collegiate Choir.
After graduation, Ms. MacDicken pursued her career in government affairs. She came to TIA (then still the Tire Association of North America) in early 2000 after serving five years with the House Small Business Committee and for varying periods with trade groups including the Tooling and Machining Association.
On the side, she and her husband Nathan sang first with a rock group, the Special Guests, and then four years ago joined a country outfit, the Ken Smith Band. ``When I started with Ken, I wasn't a country-music singer,'' she said. ``In fact, I didn't even like country music. But I learned to love it. Basically, I sing everything except opera and rap.''
Nathan has since left the Ken Smith Band and now sings Elvis songs and other oldies, both as a solo act and with his wife. Ms. MacDicken, however, has continued with Ken Smith and has recorded a few albums with the band.
It was her association with the Smith group, in fact, that led to the recording of her first solo album, All My Roads, last year.
``Ken has his own recording studio,'' Ms. MacDicken explained. ``He came to me and said, `As my payment to you, since I haven't paid you much money, let me record and produce a solo CD for you.''' The songs on the album, she added, are all favorites of hers from singing with Mr. Smith.
Some people might think that singing and government affairs-like whiskey and shotguns-don't mix too well. But Ms. MacDicken said she's always found that her two vocations complement each other well.
``At the end of a busy week, to go off and do a performance somewhere is great therapy,'' she said. ``I haven't had to miss a performance yet!''