In the new edition of Music Week, we take an in-depth look at the return of The Chicks as the group prepare to release their incredible new album Gaslighter – their first record since 2006's Grammy-sweeping Taking The Long Way.
In our cover feature, Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer – previously known as Dixie Chicks – give a detailed account of the past 14 years, opening up about their relationship with country music, industry double standards, the infamous George W Bush controversy, the reasons behind their long absence, and their emotionally "raw" new record.
"Everybody pulled from their own lives,” said Maines of Gaslighter. “Writing this album was definitely therapy for me. Like with therapy, it feels really good now because it’s behind me. I don’t get emotional when I listen to the songs now, but it was an emotional process making the record.”
Here, in a previously unread extract of our interview, Phil Savill takes us further inside The Chicks' comeback campaign…
Just how big a comeback is Gaslighter in your eyes?
“The Gaslighter album is truly a brilliant body of work, which makes the 14 year wait totally worth it! The Chicks are on provocative form as ever, and the album speaks to important and timely themes, from the personal to the global. But it’s important to remember that The Chicks haven’t ever truly been too far away – they’ve maintained the touring schedule that has made them such a success story in the live sector, and of course, they featured on Taylor Swift’s most recent album. That being said, with the new album, the band are truly back with a bang, and it’s safe to say the world has taken notice!”
What tangible impact did coronavirus delay have on launching the campaign in the UK?
“Very tangible! We announced the album back in March with an original release date slated for May. As the world succumbed to coronavirus, a decision was made to delay the album, and sometime later, we announced the album would be coming in July. There had been no immediate plans for The Chicks to be in the UK around the album, but with the media world reacting to the restrictions by offering interviews via Skype or Zoom, it actually meant that promo looks that might not have been possible, suddenly were. The band being available for interviews is really exciting and means we can amplify the release even more effectively.”
It has obviously been a long time since the last album – what is your game plan to reintroduce them to the UK? What marketing activity can we expect?
“Fourteen long years, although as I said, the band have continued to be active, and have played to UK fans twice in the past six years – headlining the C2C Festival in 2014 and then as part of their monster world tour in 2016. Our marketing plan aims to continue to broaden the band out to new audiences, and it goes without saying that the themes addressed in Gaslighter will undoubtedly resonate with a wide audience, given the cultural relevance. With Jack Antonoff’s co-production duties on this album, and co-writes from the likes of Julia Michaels, we hope that The Chicks continue to reach new, and younger, listeners.”
Streaming didn’t even exist when they release Taking The Long Road – what is the plan to growing them on DSPs in the UK?
“Streaming is a major focus for us and our digital marketing activity in particular is geared towards cultivating a streaming audience. We have had great meetings with DSPs on both a global and local level about The Chicks and this album project, and hope to see even further uplift in streaming on the new album and the catalogue.”
Beyond their incredible music, the group also have a rich legacy of activism – is there a sense in which you think that has helped them reach new audiences?
“The Chicks have always been renegades, and we love them for that! The irony isn’t lost on us that the very things that made them some of the first victims of Cancel Culture in the US are the same things which make the UK embrace them even more. The Chicks stood by their beliefs and that unmoving sense of self is as strong as ever today. Their response to the Black Lives Matter movement, with the incredibly emotional video for the song March March is truly admirable, and goes to show how they use their music and their platform to stand up for equality, and to speak out on important issues. The media attention they receive as such definitely helps them reach different audiences, but it is absolutely not to be seen as a marketing ploy. We couldn’t be prouder to be part of the band’s legacy.”
Subscribers can read the full Chicks cover feature here.
Photo: Robin Harper