By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
What we will not spend a lot of time doing today is retelling the story of the Dixie Chicks, their rise from local kitsch-bluegrass babes to international country-music stars and Dairy Council spokesgals. In fact, we will discuss that for all of one sentence, which could be placed anywhere in the story but which we may as well put after this sentence just to get it out of the way. The Dixie Chicks began in 1989 when one fiddle-playing lass teamed with her banjo-strumming sister, joined two friends, and sang for money on a street corner in the West End of Dallas, played area clubs, put out three indie CDs, kicked out the ladies who weren't sisters, added Lloyd Maines' daughter, Natalie, as lead singer, and in that incarnation put out two CDs --Wide Open Spaces andFly, respectively -- that sold 15 fuckingmillion copies and has won the current trio multiple CMA and Grammy awards during the past...the past two...
Sorry, can't do it. Almost got through it. If you don't know their story, I can't believe you're reading this. If you must have some chronological background on the Chicks, go get last Sunday's Dallas Morning News and read the band's bio -- at least, I think that's what it was -- that ran on the front page of the Arts section, Page 1C.
What we will do instead is answer four questions that everyone wants to know about the Chicks. In answering these four questions, exactly six other topics of interest will be brought up by Emily Robison. Emily -- c'mon, she's from here, we can call her Emily -- was known as Emily Erwin when she lived in Dallas, way back when she caught Poison and Bon Jovi at Reunion Arena, back when she used to fax her algebra homework in from the road. She plays dobro (the flat guitar-thingy) and banjo. She's the tall one, currently a brunette, married to Charlie Robison, the Texas singer-songwriter...good Lord, am I going to have to explain all this? Emily was lucky enough to draw interview duty as the Chicks prepare to play two sold-out dates at Reunion Arena this week. (I suppose you want concert info too. Check at the end of the story. I've got to get this train moving.)
Herewith, the questions. They will be printed in bold, so you can find your place should you need to check out the sex sits before coming back and finishing the piece. The points of interest will be noted with links to endnotes.
1. Which is true: that the Dixie Chicks sold out for fame or that the Dallas Observer is staffed with bitter, clove-smoking musicologists who are contractually forbidden to praise anything that goes platinum?
Emily, needless to say, leans toward the latter. She expounds thus:
"When I saw my phoner list, I was a little bit aghast that we would give the Dallas Observer an interview based on what [a local music writer] has written about us," she says. "Just how mean-spirited and back-stabbing the Observer has been about us. I think more lately he's just gotten into...it hasn't been about real things. It's just been mean-spirited, horrible personal attacks. And to me, I think Dallas has usually been pretty good, but the Observer kinda eats their own, you know? God forbid someone out of Dallas make it big and leave the city limits. I feel like the Observer is kind of an underdog rag that says, If you do have some success, we're going to tear you down."
"As far as the selling-out thing: Every point in our career, before we even had a record deal, was a point of growth. We started out bluegrass and swing, and, to me, we were going on sort of a gimmick. Which was fine to start out. But you don't want to be cornered into not fulfilling yourself musically, and when we found Natalie, we felt like we found ourselves musically. You know, and if people don't agree with us, that's their opinion. But to say that we've sold out -- I'm more artistically fulfilled now than I've ever been. I listened to country growing up as well as bluegrass, so who's to say that one is more viable than the other?"
2. Do sisters Martie Seidel and Emily Robison remember the time about two months ago when, at approximately 2 a.m. on a weekend, a very drunk "writer," on a bet, tried to high-five them while they were minding their own biz and playing pool at the Lakewood Landing -- and, as sort of a follow-up within a question, do you accept that writer's apology?
Her answer is self-explanatory.
"You know what, I don't remember, because I was probably as drunk as you were. So no apologies needed."
3. Your action flew outta your tube top during one show on this tour. Have you, Emily Robison, figured out how to keep your clothes on when you're onstage?
Before answering this, she laughs, albeit kind of uncomfortably, because, let's face it, journalists are creepy, and I'm asking about her boobs; you'd be a little weirded out too, no matter how cordial things had been to that point. Her answer was straightforward, though. "It's one of those things where you can never know what's going to happen, and you'd better darn be sure you're wearing the right undergarments -- or else they're going to get more of a show than you bargain for."