The Chicks Head Out on First Tour in Five Years: ‘I Am A Little Stressed,’ Admits Natalie Maines

The Chicks Head Out on First Tour in Five Years: ‘I Am A Little Stressed,’ Admits Natalie Maines

If things had gone according to plan, The Chicks would have hit the road during the summer of 2020 to support Gaslighter, the trio’s first album since 2006’s Grammy-winning Taking the Long Way.

We all know how that went, though.

But two years later lead singer Natalie Maines and multi-instrumentalist sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer are ready to make up for lost time. The Chicks Tour is ready to start June 14 in St. Louis, with 31 dates on tap before wrapping up Aug. 13 at The Gorge in George, Wash. It will mark the trio’s first time back on the road since 2017, and the first time touring as The Chicks after jettisoning the “Dixie” from their name in 2020.

“The band, they’re on Zooms together all the time listening to [Gaslighter] and figuring out, ‘What’s that?’” Maines says by Zoom from her home in Los Angeles, while Maguire and Strayer listen from Austin and San Antonio, Texas, respectively. Jack Antonoff, Gaslighter‘s primary producer, was slated to sit in on one of the band calls, too, to help identify specific parts and sounds from the album’s 12 songs.

“It’s interesting,” says Maines, who hasn’t seen Strayer in person since the spring of 2020 (she and Maguire took their children to Disneyland last July). “It’ll be fun. I am a little stressed. My son, who is in the band this year, is constantly stressed and practices all the time. I’m like, ‘Slade, really, I promise you, it’ s not gonna be as hard as you think. You already know the stuff better than us. Relax!’”

Strayer adds that The Chicks “were pretty deep into the planning process” in 2020 before the trek was canceled due to the pandemic. That, in turn, sent the group back to the drawing board for this year’s outing. “We kinda scrapped everything,” she says, “so we started from scratch. It’s been like planning two tours in two years, which is a lot for us. But for me the touring is the fun part of this whole process and getting to do set design and work out all the visuals that go along with the music, that’s one of the biggest payoffs, I think, for being an artist. So it is fun.”

Maines predicts that the songs from Gaslighter — which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart in July 2020 — will be performed faithfully during the shows. “Usually, the first time out on new material we like to hear it like we painstakingly recorded it and see if we can do it,” she explains. “After that we can get creative with it.” That leaves material from the previous four albums (since Maines joined the band) potentially more pliable, but Maines promises The Chicks are well aware of how familiar their fans are with those songs — and that they haven’t heard them performed live for quite some time.

“I hate when people get too off,” Maines acknowledges. “It’s no fun if you go to a concert you love to sing along to, and they’ve changed it all up. We keep that in mind. We want our fans to be able to enjoy it and recognize it and sing along. So it’s not about changing melody or anything. We’ve done ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’ like the album version for, I hate to count the years… so maybe you’d just do it more broken down or something like that.”

What may be at work, however, is a different connection the group and particularly Maines may feel towards the Gaslighter songs. Many of the album’s more personal tracks was inspired by all three members’ divorces — and especially Maines’ acrimonious divorce from actor Adrian Pasdar, during which he sought access to unreleased songs that he alleged might violate confidentiality clauses in the couple’s prenuptial agreement. Two years on Maines says that, “I definitely still relate and am definitely still in touch with all that,” but from a different perspective. “It’s not a three-hanky album anymore,” she explains. “It definitely is in the past, and it definitely was a lot of therapy.”

All three of The Chicks, meanwhile, say they’ve had feedback from fans that Gaslighter has helped them through their own divorces and relationship issues. And Maines is quick to note that “all of the songs definitely didn’t feel like they were about me,” including issue-oriented songs such as the single “March March” that resonate as strongly now – especially in the wake of the renewed Black Lives Matter movement and restrictive abortion and voting laws in the group’s native Texas and elsewhere — as when they were originally written.

“In the releasing of the album I remember being really hopeful,” Maines says. “I kept thinking things are gonna be different, not because of our music, but things seemed so bad. I just remember feel like, ‘Oh, the video for ‘March March’ is so empowering. It’s not gonna be like this. And it’s really disappointing to see that it’s maybe worse now. I thought that would be better.”

The Chicks say they’ve received overwhelmingly positive reaction to the band name change that accompanied Gaslighter, something they say they’d been contemplating for awhile. “I remember in the moment we couldn’t do it fast enough,” Maguire says, “but there were so many things we had to do in order to have the new name. We wanted to do it today because everything was so intense in the moment. We like to be in front of things, not a step behind, especially something that matters like that. We were like, ‘OK, if NASCAR’s doing this, we’ve just got to get on board.” Maines says there are still occasions where “I’ll read something in email that refers to a band bank account that says Dixie Chicks or something, and I’m like, ‘We’re not the Dixie Chicks!’ It bothers me to see that word now.”

The Chicks Tour is, understandably, taking up the trio’s attention right now, but there are also thoughts about what might be next. With their children older — Strayer has the youngest, at nine years old — they say there’s more time to write and plan and devote to music. There’s even “an album in mind,” one that “not necessarily requires writing,” according to Maines. “It’s possibly an album that’s all songs of a songwriter we all love — I’ll say that.” Another 14-year interim is unlikely, then. “Nah,” Maines says, “it’ll probably be more like…eight,” as her bandmates laugh.

The Chicks Head Out on First Tour in Five Years: ‘I Am A Little Stressed,’ Admits Natalie Maines If things had gone according to plan, The Chicks would have hit the road during the summer of 2020 to support Gaslighter, the trio’s first album since 2006’s Grammy-winning Taking the Long Way. We all know how that…