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- Posted on Jul 5th 2010 4:00PM by Shelley White
Court Yard Hounds may currently be touring their debut album across North America, but the country duo is no stranger to music industry superstardom. Sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire are two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks, but this time around, they're doing it for themselves.
While they are adamant that the Dixie Chicks are by no means broken up, this side project is shining a light on the two members who were rarely in the spotlight, even before Natalie Maines started dissing Dubya. Spinner spoke to the Hounds' Robison and Maguire about the difference between three and two, growing up Southern and the pressure of a Dixie Chicks follow-up.
Why did the two of you decide to release an album as Court Yard Hounds?
Robison: I was at home writing songs and Martie was in her studio doing a fiddle album, and every time we would call up Natalie and ask, 'Are you ready? Are you ready?', she was just like, 'No, no, I just want to do my garden.' Martie and I are just not built that way, being creative is what makes us happy. But we didn't want to put pressure on Natalie. And to be honest, a lot of the songs I was writing were very personal and I didn't necessarily see them as Chicks songs. I saw them as something else, maybe pitching them to other people. But I started sending songs to Martie and she was like, 'Don't pitch that, it's too personal, we need to keep it for ourselves.' So that started the talks about maybe doing something just the two of us, which we had never done before.
Emily, many of the songs on the album touch upon your divorce [from country singer Charlie Robison]. Was it therapeutic to write these songs?
Robison: I had a lot of alone time, so it was more about having the opportunity to write. And in terms of subject matter, I think I had a lot to say because of what I was going through.
Maguire: She broke my heart. [To Robison] I think I get more choked up hearing the songs than you do because I guess you had longer to deal with it and that's what makes the songs special to me, too. It's nice to have such a strong connection to the music.
How did it feel just having the two of you in the studio?
Robison: We've always had this triangle with Natalie, so it was definitely different, and for awhile we felt like something was missing in the room, sort of like an arm is missing. And then, it just started having a life of its own, and now I think I've forgotten a little about what the dynamic is with the Dixie Chicks -- I guess we'll have to figure that out again.
There are bound be a lot of high expectations for a new Dixie Chicks album. Does the Court Yard Hounds project allow you to avoid that pressure for a while?
Maguire: I think when you're coming off five Grammys and an album that was so packed with emotion for us and was such a statement, it's kind of hard to find that next thing to say as the Dixie Chicks. So I think we're waiting on that, and it will present itself at some point. Then we'll go back in and do something. But until that time, we're not willing to force it. We've never paid that much attention to what people were expecting or thinking, or thought, 'We have to put an album out because people think we should.' It's just never worked that way for us, so we'll just have to wait and see.
As the Dixie Chicks, you went back and forth between pop and country music, but caught a lot of flak for it. Now so many successful artists are straddling the line between country and pop: Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum. Do you think you paved the way for them?
Maguire: No, to me there's always been that pop vs. country thing. When we were coming up in the ranks Shania Twain had number one hits. I remember her being so criticized and so beloved at the same time, and thinking that struggle is good. Country music has always tried to survive, and they tend to hold on tightly to their own. And I understand that, especially coming from bluegrass music. When we were a bluegrass band and we got electric bass, whoa! Hate mail! There were festivals where you couldn't plug in, they would not hire a band that were electrified in any way. So that's always been there.
Is it okay to be a grown-up and a mom in the music industry, which is so much about youth?
Maguire: Well, gearing up for going on tour I was like, gotta lose the muffin top! You just want to look your best and it gets harder and harder. But I think the industry has changed, I don't think people are as age-conscious now as they were before. There are so many artists that are still so hot and that are in my general age range, so I always think, "She looks great, what's she doing? What products does she use?"
Robison: I do wonder sometimes, are we talking mommy talk too much?
When you look back at the criticism and backlash you faced following Natalie's comments about George Bush, do you feel stung by the media and the part they played?
Maguire: Not by the media in general, it depended on who you were talking to. We felt like the media outlets and the artists that were backing us gave us such an outpouring of support. At the Grammys it was so emotional, after the show we were all bawling and crying because we felt like we had a really tough couple of years and the support at that moment was off the charts. Looking back, we really are glad it all happened, because it was a time in our history where I think a lot of people will look back and think, that was a really strange time. And I hope when my girls are old enough and can watch the documentary, they will see that it's wasn't OK what happened to us.
And lessons get learned and you move on, things change...
Robison: You hope.
Maguire: Yeah, we hope that it's water under the bridge. But we grew up in the south in a very progressive family, we've always battled the way people think about certain things. A lot of times I look at my neighbour and think, "Why do you think that way? That's so closed-minded." But I feel very fortunate we had parents who taught us to be open-minded. And that's a comfort that we know who we are, and that's all that matters.