Dallas, Ditching Dixie and A Day On The Green: The Chicks Decades On

Subscribe to Forte Magazine


Dallas, Ditching Dixie and A Day On The Green: The Chicks Decades On

Photo by Nadine Ljewere
Words By Tammy Walters

The Chicks Instagram bio reads, “Superstars, renegades, innovators, heroes, villains, and moms. Hate not welcome here”.

Throughout their nearly three-decade career in their current formation, each of these plural nouns and their final statement holds true to their global phenomena story.

In 1989, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer started the bluegrass quartet, Dixie Chicks, in Dallas, Texas. After some reformation of shape, parting ways with bassist Laura Lynch and vocalist/guitarist Robin Lynn Macy, and onboarding Natalie Maines, Dixie Chicks really took flight, becoming the heralded country trio that they are today. 

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

It all began with Wide Open Spaces. The 1998 album saw all three singles, ‘There’s Your Trouble’, ‘You Were Mine’ and the titular track all reach the number one spot on the country charts. The album itself would open the group’s doors into the vast pop space, setting a record for the best-selling duo or group in country music history at 12 million initial copies sold, an RIAA-certified diamond standard. It saw them gain Grammy Award-winning status and significant recognition from music institutions including the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. 

The trajectory was fast for the three females, as they continued to back it up with 1999’s Fly, an album that introduced us to the revenge story ‘Goodbye Earl’, and a song that has amassed over 163 million streams, the revered ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’. 

It was after this rise that the first obstacle hit in the form of a dispute with their record label, Sony, where they had been withheld $4 million US dollars in royalties. Following a private settlement, the Dixie Chicks were awarded their own record label imprint, Open Wide Records, affording them more control over their creative process and finances; a win in the industry game and a platform for other female artists who had shared label experiences to take action. It was at this point in their career that the trio came into their own.

Perhaps one of the most famous covers in country history, Dixie Chicks took on Fleetwood Mac’s iconic ‘Landslide’, released under their third album Home. This Grammy-award-winning album was a point of perspective, deviating to less commercial routes and allowing the women to speak their minds addressing issues in the country music scene. Their outspoken nature continues and has become synonymous with their musical identity. In fact, so synonymous, it almost outshone their musical accolades.

This year marks 20 years since the public boycott, fandom backlash and attempted banishment of the Dixie Chicks. All of a sudden, Dixie Chicks disappeared and all because Maines told a London audience that the group did not endorse the war in Iraq and were ashamed of US President George W. Bush being from Texas. This occurred days before the 2003 invasion but had a lasting impact unshakeable for years later; both the war and the comment. Did Maines, Maguire and Strayer lose themselves to the controversy? Absolutely not! Remember their bio statement – these women are fighters. 

They joined the Vote For Change tour which raised money for political groups opposing Bush. Alongside Dolly Parton, Christina Aguilera, Yoko Ono and Mandy Moore they released Love Rocks in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. After cocooning on the songwriting front for three years, they came back with Taking The Long Way in 2006, fly-kicking the backlash with ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’, an anthem that continues to evoke empowerment.

Maines, Maguire and Strayer have done it their own way ever since, addressing points of contention head-on, driving their own narrative and educating people along the way. Amid several world tours and hiatuses, rallies, protests and turmoil exploded in the US. In direct response to these protests, the music documentary Sounds Like A Revolution was released, featuring interviews with group members unpacking their protest songs. The continuation of protests spilled on the streets of the States, with George Floyd changing the course of the band’s history.

On 25 May 2020, an African-American man, George Floyd, was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest made after a store clerk suspected Floyd may have used a counterfeit twenty-dollar. This sparked global outrage in the form of Black Lives Matter protests. After years of subtly shortening their name to DCX, this act of discrimination was the tipping point for the trio to officially change their group name, educating people that Dixie is a term associated with American slavery, with the Confederate flag described as “the Dixie Swastika” on social media in 2020. This was a term that they wanted no association with. 

Speaking to the New York Times they said:

“We were literally teenagers when we picked that stupid name,” said Martie Maguire of the name 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.”

And so the trio entered a new era as The Chicks. But it wouldn’t be an appropriate entrance without a song of political power. Releasing ‘March March’, The Chicks made way for their next chapter, welcoming with it their first album in 14 years, Gaslighter.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The Chicks (@thechicks)

The album co-produced by Jack Antonoff and includes collaborations with Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter, has been on the road for the last year played live by the three women and their children. Maines’ son has joined the band, as has Maguire’s daughter.

Chatting to Kelly Clarkson on the Kelly Clarkson show in 2022, Maines said, “It’s awesome. Slade is 21 and can play anything and Martie’s daughter will play with us,” with Maguire adding, “She plays piano and violin but will play mainly violin and maybe try some accordion. I will say Slade is just as good as anyone else in the band. It’s not a charity case, he is genuinely good.”

Now The Chicks will be bringing their tour to Australia and New Zealand thanks to Roundhouse Entertainment, Chugg Entertainment and Frontier Touring. For the first time in six years, following a sold-out national tour and a mammoth headline slot at CMC Rocks QLD, The Chicks will be joining the A Day On The Green family. 

Across nine dates they will bring their impressive sound and story to audiences including a pop into Geelong’s Mt Duneed Estate on Saturday 14 October. With Rod Stewart shaking the ground in March alongside the colourful Cyndi Lauper and Jon Stevens, and the cheekiest Take That member, Robbie Williams, heading out in November, A Day On The Green has built a reputation for bringing world-class talent to our backyard. The superstar status of The Chicks is no different. 

Just as they will make their sound explode in the open outdoor setting of Mt Duneed Estate, The Chicks have made their voices heard in the wide open spaces of the industry. They are superstars. They are renegades. They are innovators. They are heroes. They are villains. They are mums. And most of all they are change.

Get tickets to The Chicks at A Day On The Green here