In the new edition of Music Week, we take an in-depth look at the incredible return of The Chicks.
For our cover feature, Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer – previously known collectively as the Dixie Chicks – reveal all about Gaslighter, their highly-anticipated first album in 14 years, out July 17 via Sony/Columbia.
In the feature, Maines, Maguire and Strayer open up about their emotionally "raw" new record, their relationship with country music, industry double standards, the infamous George W Bush controversy, and the reasons behind their long absence.
"Everybody pulled from their own lives,” said Maines of the lyrics on 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.”
“We took a long hiatus and didn’t know if we had anything to say,” Maguire told Music Week. “We didn’t want to just do it to do it. It made sense for us to take that long break, but this was an itch we needed to scratch, and we did have something to say collectively. It was perfect to do it now.”
Gaslighter sees the group join forces with co-producer Jack Antonoff and a host of top pop songwriters. The group are hopeful it can help challenge perceptions of their music.
“One misconception that I feel is a little annoying is that people just put us in a country category just because that’s what they know about us,” said Maines. “We could make a hip-hop record and it’d still be ‘country’! I feel [Gaslighter’s] a pop record. There are moments that would fit on a country station – we have the harmonies and we have banjo – but yeah, I wouldn’t call it a country album.”
Reflecting on the George W Bush controversy, Emily Stayer drew attention to the double standards that exist in country music when it comes to artists expressing their opinons.
“You know what makes me really mad? When people go, ‘It’s like when Ozzy Osbourne pissed on the Alamo and he’s known for that forever,’" laughed Strayer. "It’s nothing like that! We didn’t piss on something, we gave our opinion. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard… There’s a history of dissent and saying whatever the hell you want to say in country music. But it’s all men. It’s cool when you’re a guy, but with ladies it’s like, ‘Stay pretty in the corner’. That’s still happening today.”
While the group have spoken about feeling alienated from country music in recent years following on from the Bush controversy, Maines says she’s been heartened by a new generation of female stars who took inspiration from the group, including Maren Morris and Taylor Swift. Maines went on to reflect on the scene in Swift’s 2020 Miss Americana documentary where she holds a meeting with her team about endorsing Democrat political candidates and reflected on the pressure that even modern artists endure when it comes to speaking their minds.
“I’m so glad she is taking that stance,” said Maines, saluting Swift. “But it was just a different world. We would never be asking our management, ‘Can we be ourselves?’ Or, ‘Can we be all of ourselves?’ She’s definitely being herself, but she was holding this thing back that is a part of her. It’s so brave and so awesome that she did it.”
Subscribers can read the full Chicks cover feature here.
Photo: Robin Harper