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"I just don't feel like it's the Dixie Chicks' time," lead singer Natalie Maines told Howard Stern Friday (Jan. 4) on the shock jock's SiriusXM radio show. "I feel like things were tainted permanently. So, I struggle with going out on five Grammys or going out -- petering out."
Natalie's "tainted" comment was, of course, in reference to the media firestorm that happened after her 2003 statement that the Chicks were "ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." The George W. Bush slam, made during a Chicks' concert in London, changed the course of the superstar group's career. Fan backlash included everything from radio station bans to death threats.
"I moved from my house in Austin out to the country. It wasn't a good feeling," Natalie recalls of the hardships of keeping her family safe in the wake of the controversy. "My aunt is a newscaster in Lubbox, Texas, and she got a letter that said, 'Natalie Maines will be shot dead at their show in Dallas, Texas,' with the date of our concert. It was freaky to see that in writing."
The Dixie Chicks forged on with their sold-out Top of the World Tour that year, delighted to see that fans still packed every house, whether it be to show their support or just hear great music. But their following tour wasn't near as successful.
"I naively thought those same people would come again. It was not good," Natalie laments. "Our biggest fanbase was a country audience, and they weren't there. I don't trust it anymore. I don't want to put my fate in country music fans, I'm too stubborn."
Thus the 38-year-old Texas native will go back to her rock roots for her new solo album, Mother, due May 7. The project, produced by Ben Harper, is a long time coming, as Natalie never really wanted to be a country star until she was a senior in college and got the call from the Chicks about becoming their new lead singer. "Growing up, when people asked, 'What kind of music do you listen to?,' I'd say, 'Anything but country'," she admits.
The Dixie Chicks will play the Cavendish Beach Music Festival July 7 on Canada's Prince Edward Island. That will be followed by a July 13 headlining set at the Craven Country Jamboree, just north of Montana's Canadian border. Natalie is along for the two-stop ride, but isn't entirely happy about it. "I didn't want to do (the Canadian shows), because I want to focus all of my energy [on] this album. I'm not good at multi-tasking. I just wanted one touring cycle to just focus on this, but I was outvoted."
Still, Natalie corrected her buddy Howard for introducing her as "Natalie Maines ... formerly of the Dixie Chicks." "I'm still in the Dixie Chicks; we haven't broken up ... I love the Dixie Chicks; it's the most fun I've ever had in my life. It was like winning the lottery."