Click on each Chick to see their biography.
There's old country.
There's new country. Then there are the Dixie Chicks.
Natalie Maines, Martie Seidel and Emily Robison
have taken the Texas-bred sound of a fiddle, banjo, dobro and crystal-clear vocal
harmonies into whole new territory. They are the rare act that comes along a few times in
a generation that is destined to shake things up, rewrite the rules and become the new
The public has certainly noticed. The Dixie
Chicks' first Monument album Wide Open Spaces has become the biggest selling album ever by
a country duo or gr1oup - racking up some 6 million sales by the time their second album,
Fly, was completed. The tremendous sales only demonstrates that while the Dixie Chicks
have established themselves as a true country music act, they have also won over audiences
outside the country genre. In a music field routinely known for selling to the
conservative 30 and over crowd, more than 60% of the Dixie Chicks sales have been to
consumers under the age of 25. Their concert audience is as likely to be comprised of
entire rows of young women in their early teens and twenties as it is to include middle
age couples and entire families complete with pre-teen girls dressed like their musical
idols and singing every Dixie Chicks' song word for word.
"I think that
they're really talented and they're definitely some really smart kids." - Lorrie
The press has certainly noticed. Publications
from Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and People to Harper's Bazaar, In Style,
Seventeen and TV Guide have documented how the Dixie Chicks are bending the music world to
their will and making country music more 'hip' than ever. With the wrap-up of 1998,
numerous national publications named them the "Breakout Act of the Year" and
recognized Wide Open Spaces as one of the "Best Of" albums of the year. USA
Today credited the Chicks with single-handedly returning the banjo to country radio and
Rolling Stone summed it up when they called them "the badass queenpins of
country." At a time when much of the press on country music has lamented the
'sameness' of the sound and the artists, no less than the Los Angeles Times conceded that
"the Dixie Chicks are the perfect antidote."
The music industry has certainly noticed. The
Dixie Chicks' fellow musicians and industry peers, in particular, have overwhelmingly
acknowledged their contribution. In a year's time, they have been honored with two Grammy
Awards (Best Country Album and Best Country Vocal Performance Duo/Group), two Country
Music Association Awards (Group of the Year and the Horizon Award), plus three Academy of
Country Music Awards (including Album of the Year), one American Music Award and two TNN
Music Awards. On Nashville's Music Row, where the unspoken business strategy often seems
to be "if we can make it work once, we can beat it to death," the music industry
has obviously been taking notes. It's likely not a coincidence that almost every record
label in Nashville has signed a female trio since the Dixie Chicks exploded on to the
scene. But clearly what makes this act work is not just that they are a female trio. The
difference is this: There simply is no other act in any musical format that sounds like
the Dixie Chicks.
The Dixie Chicks came out of the chute with
enough sass and confidence to adopt slogans like "Chicks Rule" and "Chicks
Kick Ass." Months later, with chicken foot tattoos on their feet signifying their No.
1 singles and gold and platinum successes as well as a vast array of awards, it appears
that they were right from the beginning.
So how do the Dixie Chicks follow up? The
obvious temptation would be to stick with what's worked and produce more of the same. But
that safe approach to their art just wouldn't be what made the trio unique in the first
place. When the three got together to plan their second Monument album, Fly, following the
status quo is exactly what they did not want to do. This time, instead of contributing one
song on their album, the Dixie Chicks wrote or co-wrote five new tracks. But more than
that, they were determined to push the envelope and themselves as far as they could go in
terms of instrumentation, production, vocals and - above all - spirit. The end result is
an album that shines with artistic growth on every level.
"We didn't want to remake Wide Open
Spaces," says Emily, "so we had to go back to that nothing-to-lose feeling. I
definitely think we've grown. It's been a couple of years since we recorded Wide Open
Spaces and I think that shows. We're not as scared to let the harmonies come through or
take extra time to have an awesome solo. The only rule this time around was that there
were 'No rules'."
Natalie agrees, "We didn't want to be
afraid to try something different. So we didn't go into it scared. We went into it
thinking that we're just going to make the album we want to make and if people like it,
great. If they don't, we wouldn't be happy about that, but at least we made the album we
wanted to make. The three of us sound better together and have become even better friends
and that makes for better music. We grew as writers and all of our abilities just grew
from playing so much and being around each other so much."
You can hear the band's confidence from the
opening bars of the album. It doesn't start with a guitar lick or even a vocal hook, but
with an Irish jig, played by Martie's fiddle, which melds into the first track and the
first single "Ready To Run." And then, within a few lines, you can hear
something else, the sound of personal independence that is a constant theme throughout the
The songs on Fly are all about women defining
themselves their way. While they long for and cherish true love, they will look for it on
their own terms, thank you very much. "Stand By Your Man," it's not.
excited about what they're doing. They're playing their instruments, and they're playing
very well." - Earl Scruggs
In Natalie and Emily's song "Don't Waste
Your Heart", the woman straight out tells the man trying to snag her that "It's
funny how the girls get burned, but honey as far as I'm concerned, the tables have
turned." Another Natalie/Emily contribution, "Sin Wagon," notes how
"He's lived his life now I'm gonna go live mine" before proceeding to live a
wild night on the town arriving on a 'sin wagon'. On "Ready to Run" which Martie
wrote with Marcus Hummon, the woman in the song fully realizes that she should be ready to
settle down but instead decides "all I wanna do is have some fun/What's all this talk
"The album mirrors our lives," says
Natalie. "If we're all happily married and we settle down and have kids, we'll have
an album that reflects that. We're going through a lot of stages in our lives right now
and that's what we relate to, think about, talk about and write about."
One song that is sure to have journalists
writing and politicians pontificating goes even further. "Goodbye Earl" is a
surprisingly upbeat-sounding tune about a woman called Wanda who is repeatedly beaten by
her husband Earl. Eventually, she and her best friend Marianne decided that the only way
to stop Earl from hurting Wanda anymore is to take Earl out of Wanda's life - terminally.
"It's pertaining to wife-beaters, not men
in general," says Emily, reassuringly. "It's not putting the finger to guys.
It's putting the finger to abusive guys."
Besides, the music on Fly is really universal.
Women will identify and men will get a great glimpse into how many of today's young women
feel but the songs are not gender specific emotions. As Martie explains, "Just about
everyone can relate to songs about needing the freedom to chase your dreams or dealing
with a broken heart or falling in love or even just wanting to be a little wild and crazy
every now and then."
She adds, "Women today are stronger and
healthier than ever before but that can make male/female relationships better. When you're
younger so much of life revolves around men and male acceptance that it's hard to know who
you are. Then you reach this point in your life where you discover girlfriends provide so
many things that you forget about men a little bit. We're all three, married or not
married, focusing a lot on female relationships and singing songs that reflect our
confidence as women. It's not a negative thing because you have a better relationship when
you don't depend on the man in your life for your whole identity."
It can be a little intimidating for a man when
coping with female stardom on the level the Dixie Chicks have attained. "Men have
definitely got to be strong to deal with it, and to have their own exciting thing going
on," says Emily. But none of the band is complaining about the pressures of success -
they can all remember the alternative.
For years, the Texas-trio booked their own
dates, hired equipment and carted it to and from gigs themselves. Originally performing on
a street corner in Dallas, the band's combination of bluegrass, cowgirl music and western
swing earned them $300 in their very first hour and soon led them to barbecue joints,
corporate gigs (including private parties for Ross Perot), and regional nightclubs. Early
stints even included a nursing home, the produce section at a grocery store and a funeral!
With 10-years of paying their dues, there's nothing they don't know about empty rooms,
indifferent audiences and flea-bitten motels. "We'd all three stay in the same room
and flip a coin to see who'd sleep with Emily because she's a cover hog," jokes
Natalie. "Even when we got our own rooms we were still in sleazy motels - the kind
that have the little machine by the bed to drop quarters in and make the bed shake."
Nowadays, things are different. "Our lives
are very weird and un-normal," says Natalie. "But it is fun. We get a lot of
perks now that we didn't get before but I don't think money is that important to any of
us. None of us have made any extravagant purchases. Where I used to have to count my money
all the time, now I just know I can eat the $5 M&Ms out of the hotel mini-bar and it's
okay." Which leaves just one question: Why is the new album called Fly?
"It's the whole Chicks thing. We've kind
of earned our wings," relates Martie. "The first album was like the mama bird,
the record company, pushing us towards the edge so we could learn to fly. And now we're
doing it on our own. We've always stood up for what we believe in. But now we have more
confidence and ability to soar and fly. Our career has really taken off. Natalie was
flying from a situation she didn't want to be in. Emily's flying to a better place with
someone she loves, and I'm experiencing the musical flight that I've waited so long to
take. When I said to the girls, 'What about Fly for the title of our album?' we started to
see how many references there were to flight, birds, or wings in the songs. There are so
many meanings to it. It was like a sign."
But this is only the beginning of the Dixie
Chicks' musical legacy, and their legacy of shaking things up. To some of the more
conservative members of the Nashville community, there is something scary about the way
the Dixie Chicks relish the opportunity to bust every convention going. (They even kept
their picture off the cover of Fly just because everyone would have expected such a
'visual' act to put it on). "We're doing what we want to do. We're playing what we
want to play. We're looking like we want to look. We're saying what we want to say. In
other genres, that's ok but in country, the attitude tends to be more 'I'm just happy to
be here,' responds Natalie.
"I have been
the world's biggest Dixie Chicks fan ever since I first saw them." - Buck Owens
But anyone who thinks the Dixie Chicks might
mellow with time and fame has another thing coming. As Natalie proudly declares, "I
have a feeling that if we're around for 20 years, there will still be things we do that
It's a safe bet, however, that the thread that
will run constant through the Dixie Chicks' career will be that Chicks will continue to
rule. And they'll keep kicking ass!