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The Dixie Chicks: Unrepentant and back on the road

Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Robison begin a brief Canadian tour Saturday in Vancouver.

It's been a decade since Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines uttered the shot at George W. Bush that was heard around the music world. At the time, she thought anger over her onstage pronouncement – that the Chicks were ashamed the U.S. president was from their home state of Texas – would blow over in a couple of weeks. It still hasn't.

The trio has not released an album since 2006's multi-Grammy-winning Taking the Long Way. But Maines released a solo album this year, Mother, and bandmates Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, who are sisters, teamed up for their side project, Court Yard Hounds. And the three are back together for a Canadian tour beginning Saturday in Vancouver. On her way up to Canada, Maines, who now lives in Los Angeles, spoke with The Globe and Mail.

What can you say about the impact those fateful comments had on your life and your career?

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It's hard to put into words, but I think it happened simultaneously with my kids getting older [they're now 12 and 9]. I think a lot of people think that going off of the road or not doing music for a while was something about the incident, but really it was just about being a mother. How the incident did change my life? I'm not as trusting of people any more. I think I just have a good perspective on life and what's important.

Is there really no connection between what happened and the fact you haven't put out a record together since 2006?

You can never say for sure, but I think it would be really hard with nine kids between the three of us. We live in different states. I know I'm not going to go live in Texas. But I will say I have no desire to make country music at the moment, and that's definitely because of everything that happened.

Do you think that might change? Do you miss it at all?

No, I definitely am happy with the direction I've gone musically with the solo stuff; it feels more true to where I'm at right now. But I never say never.

I see you getting into it with people on Twitter. How do you have the energy to do that after all you've been through?

If I'm travelling and in a hotel or on an airplane, that's when I have time to get into it with people. I am just fascinated by people who seek strangers out to say something horrible to them. It makes me laugh, honestly, because I just picture what that person's life must be like. And then if they've said something that I find very offensive or very ignorant, I definitely am snarky back to them. I can enjoy a good debate.

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You talked to Rolling Stone about being backstage at the Grammys on that triumphant night in 2007, and not being able to stop crying, and later saying 'I'm done.'

At the time, I really just didn't even know what I was crying about. I really was not connected to what was going on inside of me. It was more later on, in retrospect, realizing that somewhere inside me, I knew that that was the ending of a chapter for me. At the time I was telling Martie and Emily, 'I can't stop crying. I don't know why I'm crying.' And then I think I realized later that it was an ending for me in a certain way.

I understand that they were keen to do another Dixie Chicks album, but you weren't ready. Is that right?

You'd have to ask them. There have definitely been times over the past few years that they would have been willing to do a Dixie Chicks album and I just wasn't feeling it, for whatever reason. But since I started singing when I was two, music has always been very fun. That's the motivator. So even if I'm singing for myself, I'm pretty happy. Where the Dixie Chicks are concerned, things are very overthought at this point, for whatever reasons, and it just sort of takes the fun out of it. Not performing – I enjoy performing – but you're talking about recording an album. It takes a lot of effort. When we do something, we do it full on. I would never want to put out a half-assed record that we make 1,000 miles away from one another, back and forth. It's just not how I want to create music.

I'm not sure if you followed the Miley Cyrus-Sinead O'Connor feud over the past few weeks. What are your thoughts on strong female figures who do what you do and become role models for young women?

I think what draws people to music are all of the different personalities, and that's what music's supposed to be about. And we've always had our rebels. It makes me a little irritated that people come down way harder on the girls than the boys. There's been music shocking since the beginning of music, and the ones that shocked – Elvis, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Madonna, Prince – go on to huge careers. I was actually more disturbed by Robin Thicke in that [twerking performance] than Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus has youth on her side. I don't know what he's doing out there.

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O'Connor was trying to give Cyrus some advice from the perspective of being at the other end of a music career. Do you have any advice for young women who are beginning their musical careers?

I agreed with a lot of what Sinead O'Connor said, but I can understand why her approach would be ignored by a [20]-year-old girl at the top of her game in this business. It was entertaining to watch the back and forth, and I think Sinead O'Connor sounds like a wise person. But yeah, sometimes it's all in the delivery – which I know so well.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

The Dixie Chicks play Canadian dates beginning in Vancouver on Saturday at Rogers Arena

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More


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