The Dixie Chicks Playboy Interview

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The Dixie Chicks were interviewed in the December issue of Playboy. Here’s a portion of the interview pertaining to their criticism of George Bush and the war:

Playboy: Natalie, when you went onstage that night in London, did you think you were about to rip into the president of the U.S.?

Natalie Maines: I don’t even remember. We had talked beforehand about how lame it felt to be doing shows on the eve of a war. I needed to acknowledge that we weren’t oblivious to what was going on in the world, just not to feel shallow. But I never liked to get serious onstage. I felt pressure to entertain, and people aren’t at your show to feel down. Now, when I watch the clip of my saying it, I see I’m trying to keep it lighthearted but still acknowledge that I’m not some flighty blonde. But no, I hadn’t planned out what I was going to say.

Playboy: Emily and Martie, what was your reaction?

Emily Robison: I had a physical reaction, like when you slip in the lunchroom and wait to see who saw you. Heat from the head all the way down, that’s what I felt. It was the president, you know? It was kind of like the feeling you’d get when you were called into the principal’s office.

Playboy: When did it become apparent to you that the Bush comment wasn’t going to slip by unnoticed?

Maines: When the AP picked it up. I knew we would be used to draw attention away from the things that were going on. I knew the far right and the religious right were capable of sabotage, so I wasn’t surprised by any of that. Our manager said, “It’ll blow over in three days tops,” but right then I said, “You’re wrong.” Still, there were daily shocks.

Playboy: Such as?

Maines: The Red Cross not taking our money. It went way beyond people not wanting to buy our record or play us on the radio.

Playboy: Were you afraid of the fallout?

Maguire: I wrote it off as being from stupid people–and you’ve got to ignore that kind of ignorance. But then I thought, Wait, the media is using this as their lead story? There’s a war going on! What are they trying to cover up? It just made me sick. And it made me think, Well, I guess we must be pretty big. Nobody ever informed us we were this big, but we must be for people to be talking about what the lead singer of a country band said in a smoky little club.

Playboy: Rock stars such as Bono and Neil Young have openly opposed the war. Was the difference that you were country stars?

Robison: To me, one of the big things we learned was how country radio could eat its own so quickly. There’s the whole struggle between pop and country and who’s going to cross over; they thought they were losing Faith Hill and Shania Twain. At the time, we felt we were sticking in there and waving the country flag, but everything turned so quickly. It put country music on the front page, and the radio people were kind of enjoying the limelight. They were doing it for their own purposes–not out of principle against what we said but because it was good entertainment.

Playboy: Were you surprised when Howard Stern came around and supported you?

Maines: I was very emotional and happy when he did. He hadn’t been nice to us, but he apologized because he was a Republican at the time and fell for all the links between Iraq and 9/11. He’s very honest about admitting that now. I love it when people admit they were wrong. He wasn’t apologizing for what he said; he was apologizing for being completely wrong.

Playboy: You’ve generated more controversy of late. In New York you dedicated the song “White Trash Wedding” to Mel Gibson a few days after his arrest. Was that one planned?

Maines: No, I didn’t plan to say anything about him. It never crossed my mind until I said it.

Playboy: As victims of attacks by the press, are you more sympathetic when someone like Gibson or Tom Cruise gets in trouble and the press runs wild with the story?

Maguire: People put what happened to us in the same category as those sorts of things, but it’s different. Those are character lapses or substance-abuse problems or whatever. This was not that. You can’t go to rehab for feeling a certain way.

Playboy: Americans seem to love it when a celebrity blows it and then apologizes.

Robison: It’s the redemption, the confession.

Playboy: How important was the timing of your remark, Natalie? If you were to say it now, with the president’s approval ratings and support for the war near all-time lows, would it be as big a deal?

Maines: It would be a blip. Nothing. They might talk about it on some morning shows. But that just makes me feel more justified that I didn’t do anything wrong.

Playboy: Do you feel brave for having spoken out at a time when most Americans supported going to war?

Maines: Some people call me brave, but I don’t think what I did was brave at all. I do think we’ve been brave since. Brave is Kanye West, after Hurricane Katrina, saying George Bush doesn’t care about black people. That was one of the greatest television moments of all time. I would never have said that. I’m a coward compared with him. It was so honest and sincere, and he knew what he was going to say. I would have chickened out. That was just so brave. And true.

Playboy: How much of the negative reaction came because you are women?

Maines: Some people say the anger was because we’re women, but I don’t believe that. I think it’s because we were country-music singers. If Tim McGraw had done exactly what I did, he would have gotten the same fallout.

Playboy: Martie, you have said the experience helped you find out who you are. What did you learn?

Maguire: That I was willing to lose everything for what I knew was right. It was what made me open my eyes to who I am and be proud of myself and my principles. In the past I had tried to micromanage everything to ensure that this career would last forever–that I could play music forever or at least until I couldn’t do it anymore. I was willing to put that on the line. I didn’t care at all. The light just went on. I went, Okay, now I know who I am and what I stand for, and it doesn’t matter what we lose along the way. People said, “You don’t question the commander in chief. You don’t criticize the president.” That went against everything I was ever taught, everything I ever believed about our country.

Playboy: Much of this is shown in the film Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing. What prompted the documentary?

Robison: It started three and a half years ago when we sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl. We felt we were at a point in our career when we could turn some day-in-the-life or year-in-the-life thing into a DVD or something for our fans. That was in January, and then, in March, Natalie said what she said. The second the shit hit the fan, it was clear this was about something heavier. We let it unfold on film, which is kind of scary because after about half a year you forget the cameras are there. Once we knew what the potential was, we took it a lot more seriously and let the cameras in when we ordinarily wouldn’t. We felt it was important to have the good, the bad and the ugly. Barbara Kopple, the director, caught the humanity of it all. We were so demonized–made into these traitorous sluts. People forget we’re also moms and wives and living a normal life outside this controversy.

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3 Comments

  1. 1
    Christopher says:

    I adore the Dixie Chicks.

    The really interesting thing for me is, while they’ve lost some of their country fans over their courageous remarks against the Mofo from Midland and his lethal Iraq war, they’ve picked up a huge demographic: gay men and gay women.

    Virtually all of my friends, from SF to NYC, from Seattle to Ft. Lauderdale, are now Dixie Chicks fans. I totally support them.

  2. 2
    Mari says:

    Hate them…
    I didn’t buy the first album to hear any political view, I got it to hear music.
    What I cant stand is that ever since they made it big they think that they are actually smart and that we care what they have to say… I care what they sing, not about their thoughts… They didn’t get popular for their politics….
    Second, there is such a thing as free speach. But the problem is they don’t know the difference between free speach and stupid speach….
    the comments on the Eve of a war were in very poor taste…..

  3. 3
    Jerry says:

    To Mari: What crap! I am a musician and I was fortunate to see the Dixie Chicks first breakout performance in Nashville and both my wife and I dropped our jaws. I said” They have it all! Lyrics, looks, charisma, they can sing great, the fiddle and banjo are killer AND OBVIOUSLY THEY HAVE WAY wonderful taste shown in the material they choose and create. Denigrating Bush was important and thoughtful at a time when he had most morons believing him. I say “morons” advisedly, since the facts were there — I KNEW he was lying and I live in Delaware.

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