The trio formerly known as the Dixie Chicks — now just the Chicks — say in a newly published interview with the New York Times that they considered their name “stupid” and had long wanted to change it before doing so in June amid a national reconsideration of Confederate symbolism.
“We were literally teenagers when we picked that stupid name,” said Martie Maguire, talking about when the Dixie Chicks name was chosen in 1989, long before Natalie Maines joined the group, as a comical derivation of the Little Feat song “Dixie Chicken.”
“We wanted to change it years and years and years ago,” said Maines, adding, “I just wanted to separate myself from people that wave that Dixie flag.” The group’s third member, Emily Strayer, indicated that the decision happened spontaneously last month after she saw a Confederate flag on Instagram that someone had labeled “the Dixie Swastika,” at which point she thought: ““I don’t want to have anything to do with that.”
The switch involved a good deal of last minute changing of text and imagery for the group’s new album, “Gaslighter,” which was originally set to come out in the spring — and promoted with cover art and initial singles using the old name — before it was delayed till July 17.
The Times article does not completely rehash the group’s 2003 controversy involving a statement against then-president George Bush and a subsequent near-complete lockout at country radio. It does go into the last time the Chicks had anything to do with the mainstream country industry, an appearance at the 2016 CMA Awards with Beyonce.
Although the joint set was a splash in many ways, there was a backlash from many viewers not just about having the Chicks back into the fold of mainstream country, but about having Beyonce on the show. However much criticism of Beyonce’s appearance was couched in genre terms, given the number of pop performers who have appeared on the show without incident in other recent years, suspicions were widely voiced that the truer animus of the angry commenters was racial.
“They treated us very weird backstage,” Maines said of the CMAs appearance. Of the angry fusillade of messages from some viewers, Maines said, ““For them to disrespect (Beyoncé) that way was disgusting.”
One person who is not mentioned by name at all in the piece is Adrian Pasdar, who some of the songs on “Gaslighter” are said to refer to, including the already released title song. The article refers to him merely as Maines’ “estranged husband” and notes that there was a now-settled legal battle over whether the album’s lyrics violated a confidentiality clause in a divorce settlement. Times writer Amanda Hess says that “the Chicks have been markedly silent on any real-life sources of inspiration for the album,” presumably including silence in her interview with them. “Their lyrics, however, are talking.”
Maines explains the 14-year gap between albums (not counting solo and duo projects) by saying that at the end of recording 2006’s multiple-Grammy-winning “Taking the Long Way,” “I was tired. I just wanted to raise my kids.” (The group continued to tour in the interim.)
Producer Jack Antonoff describes the new songs he co-wrote with them as including “heartbreaking lyrics about betrayal and grief.”
But there is little grief in the zeal Maines takes in now being able to criticize Donald Trump on social media without fear of reprisal from a radio format they are beholden to. “I criticize the president … every single day!” she says with what the article describes as a “trademark Texas howl.”