Dixie Chicks Get America’s Attention

The Dixie Chicks are featured in two national interviews this week, but nothing’s quite as revealing as the coverage in Entertainment Weekly. Click to see the full cover.

After weeks of relative silence, the Dixie Chicks’ interviews with the magazine and ABC’s Primetime Thursday are part of a national media campaign aimed at dousing a political fire that ignited following a March 10 concert in London. Lead vocalist Natalie Maines has since apologized for her comment that “we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

The Dixie Chicks address the controversy during an interview with Diane Sawyer on Primetime Thursday, airing Thursday (April 24) at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. As for the cover of Entertainment Weekly’s May 2 issue … well … suffice it to say that it has the potential to create additional debate about the Dixie Chicks.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the Chicks themselves came up with the idea to be depicted in the nude on the magazine’s cover. Written on their bodies are a variety of epithets — both favorable and negative — that have been tossed their way during the past six weeks. Martie Maguire says, “We wanted to show the absurdity of the extreme names people have been calling us. How do you look at the three of us and think, ‘Those are Saddam’s Angels?’”

“We don’t want people to think that we’re trying to be provocative,” Maines adds. “It’s not about the nakedness. It’s that the clothes got in the way of the labels. We’re not defined by who we are anymore. Other people are doing that for us.”

At the London concert, Maines made the statement about President Bush in introducing their most recent hit, “Travelin’ Soldier.” Maines recalls, “In every show that we did over there, we always sent that or ‘More Love’ out to the soldiers. That’s my biggest beef with this, that people have taken my frustration with the president [and confused it] with not supporting the troops.”

Maguire explains, “When Natalie was introducing ‘Travelin’ Soldier,’ she said how it’s not pro-war or a peace song, it’s just a straight-down-the-middle, what-happens-in-war song. And right after Natalie said what she said, Emily [Robison] got on the mike and said, ‘But you know we support the troops 100 percent,’ so that there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding. How convenient for the press to pick up what they want to pick up.” Noting that a U.S. ambassador attended their post-show party in London, Maguire adds, “He didn’t say anything and he wanted a picture with us, so he must not have been offended.”

The Entertainment Weekly interview also refers to the Dixie Chicks’ relationship with the Bush family at Texas Rangers baseball games. “Yeah, we used to go sing the national anthem at Rangers games,” Maguire says, “and they always had their box seats in front, and we’d talk to them.” Maines adds, “Because they’re people. If Bush was right here in front of me, I wouldn’t degrade him. I have a lot of questions that I would ask, and I wouldn’t back down from those. But I wouldn’t ask them with a lot of attitude. There’s no hatred in my heart.”

When asked about the long-term impact of the controversy, Robison says, “I think it will go down in history as a sign of the times. Will we bounce back? Will we end up not on country radio? I don’t know. But I do think it’s a sign of the times that everyone’s just being scared right now — scared to speak up, scared to question. But our country’s based on asking questions. Especially in a time of war. Especially when people’s lives are at stake.”

In the last response of the interview, Maines says, “I feel patriotic — and strong. We will continue to be who we are. People think this’ll scare us and shut us up, and it’s gonna do the opposite. They just served themselves a huge headache. [laughter] But that’s not a threat!”

Copies of Entertainment Weekly’s May 2 issue will begin arriving at newsstands this weekend.

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.