Music Interviews
1:46 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Natalie Maines On Motherhood, Eddie Vedder And Leaving Country Music

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 3:22 pm

Natalie Maines is a small woman with a really big voice. Flanked by Emily Robison on banjo and Martie McGuire on fiddle, Maines powered the Dixie Chicks to some 30 million records sold. And then came the collapse — after what the band calls "the incident."

It was 2003, just before the Iraq War, and on stage in London, Natalie Maines said that she and her bandmates were ashamed to be from the same state as then-President George W. Bush. In a flash, country radio turned on the Dixie Chicks. The group was effectively blacklisted; angry fans smashed their CDs. Later, it had to cancel concert dates when tickets didn't sell.

Maines decided to take time off from recording to be with her husband and two young sons. She's back this month with her debut solo album, Mother — and it's emphatically not country music.

"I knew I didn't want to make a country record, just because that's not really what I would have ever made as a solo artist," Maines says. "I loved Martie and Emily and what they did on their instruments, and I loved what we created and how we sounded together. But as an overall genre, country music was never where I would have guessed I would have been."

Maines recently spoke with NPR's Melissa Block. Hear the radio version by clicking the link on this page, and read more of their conversation below.

You had such huge success within the sphere of country music and well beyond it, too. That's sort of where you really made your mark. Did it always feel like an uneasy place to be for you?

Not in the band, but maybe in the industry. I had preconceptions of what country music, or what country music fans, were like. Really, politics never even became an issue until I made the comment — so it just really wasn't on my mind that I had to, you know, relate to everyone in my field on a political level. They explained that to me later, I guess. I didn't get that manual.

They didn't hand that out in country-music school?

[Laughs.] No, no.

Did it feel, when you started putting this album together, that you were reinventing yourself? Or was it really more like going back to who you thought you were all the time?

Yeah, that was more like what it was. For me, this is definitely the most representative of who I am as a solo artist.

Tell me about what made you choose the Eddie Vedder song "Without You."

Well, I mean, I love Ed. And I've always been a Pearl Jam fan, since I was in high school. But, really, when I became a die-hard Eddie Vedder fan was when he put out his ukulele album [2011's Ukulele Songs]. I am obsessed with that album. ... It's just so beautiful — the lyrics, the melodies. I could have done any song off that record, I guess. That song in particular, I just was hearing the groove that could be behind it. It's very romantic. I always think [about] his wife, how she must feel knowing her husband writes these beautiful, romantic songs about her.

You also do a cover of the song "Mother," written by Roger Waters; it's on Pink Floyd's The Wall. Another interesting choice.

That one we chose kind of early on. I had gone to see Roger Waters play The Wall [live]. It just struck me that I had to do it, and what it would sound like if we did it. I thought it could be really interesting for a girl to sing that song.

It's such a creepy song; what do you think about this "Mother"?

She is creepy. But aside from creepy ... are you a mother?

I am.

I know for me, when I had my first baby — something goes off in you. I'm a way bigger worrier than I ever was before I had kids. And, you know, the stress and anxiety that can go along with motherhood, I have had to battle that. So on one hand, I understand this mother wanting to build walls around her children. But I try to sing it more from the perspective of, "You can't do that."

How scary is it to go out on your own, after so many years with such a successful band and two women who you were really close with, musically and personally?

It's different. It definitely was scary in the beginning; I think I'm getting a little more used to it. On stage, it can feel a little naked to not have them on either side. It's definitely strange, after 15 or more years, to not have them on my right and left.

I was thinking about that. You were always in the middle and they were sort of the pillars, right next to you.

Tall, skinny pillars. I don't miss that. [Laughs.] I don't have to be the short, chubby one in the middle.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

She is the lead singer who powered the Dixie Chicks to some 30 million records sold: Natalie Maines, a small woman with a really big voice. Flanked by sisters Emily Robison on banjo, Martie McGuire on fiddle and, oh, those harmonies.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WIDE OPEN SPACES")

NATALIE MAINES: (Singing) ...wide open spaces, room to make her big mistakes. She needs...

BLOCK: But then came the collapse, after what the Chicks call the incident. It was 2003, just before the Iraq War. And on stage in London, Natalie Maines said the Dixie Chicks were ashamed to be from the same state as then-President George W. Bush. In a flash, country radio turned on them. They were effectively blacklisted. Angry fans smashed their CDs. Later, they had to cancel concert dates when tickets didn't sell.

Natalie Maines decided to take time off from recording to be with her husband and two young sons. But now, she is back with her first solo album. It's titled "Mother," and it's emphatically not country.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SILVER BELL")

MAINES: (Singing) Silver Bell, Silver Bell. Yeah, that's the name of the old motel. You were traveling and then you fell down on the bed at the Silver Bell.

MAINES: You know, I knew I didn't want to make a country record, I guess, just because that's not really, I mean, what I would have ever made as a solo artist. I loved Martie and Emily and what they did on their instruments, and I loved what we created and how we sounded together. But as an overall genre, country music was never where I would have guessed (Laughing) I would have been.

BLOCK: Huh. Did it feel - I mean, you had such huge success within the sphere of country music and well beyond it too. But, I mean, that's sort of where you really made your mark. Was - did it always feel like an uneasy place to be for you?

MAINES: Not in the band, but maybe in the industry. I mean, I had preconceptions about what country music or what country music fans were like. Really, politics never even became an issue until I made the comment. So it just really wasn't on my mind that I had to, you know, relate to everyone in my field on a political level. They explained that to me later, I guess. I didn't get that manual.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: They didn't hand that out in country music school?

MAINES: No, no.

BLOCK: Did it feel, Natalie, that when you started putting this album together that you were reinventing yourself, or was it really more like going back to who you thought you were all the time, all the way through?

MAINES: Yeah, that was more like what it was. For me, this is definitely the most representative of who I am as a solo artist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WITHOUT YOU")

MAINES: (Singing) I'll keep on healing all the scars that we've collected from the start. I'd rather this than live without you.

BLOCK: Tell me about what made you choose the Eddie Vedder song "Without You." This is Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam who wrote this.

MAINES: Yes. Well, I mean, I love Ed, and I've always been a Pearl Jam fan since I was in high school. But, really, when I became a diehard Eddie Vedder fan was when he put out his ukulele album, and I am obsessed with that album.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Why?

MAINES: It's just so beautiful - the lyrics, the melodies. I could have done any song off of that record, I guess. That song in particular, I just was hearing the groove that could be behind it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WITHOUT YOU")

MAINES: (Singing) I'll shine when you shine, painted pictures on my mind. Sun sets on this ocean, never once on my devotion.

It's very romantic. His wife - I always think, well, his wife, what she - how she must feel knowing her husband writes these beautiful, romantic songs about her. That's sweet.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Huh.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOTHER")

MAINES: (Singing) Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb?

BLOCK: You also do a cover of the song "Mother," written by Roger Waters. It's on Pink Floyd's "The Wall."

MAINES: Yeah.

BLOCK: Another interesting choice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOTHER")

MAINES: (Singing) Mother, do you think they'll like this song?

That one, we chose kind of early on. I had gone to see Roger Waters play "The Wall." It just struck me that I had to do it, and what it would sound like if we did it. And I thought it could be really interesting for a girl to sing that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOTHER")

MAINES: (Singing) Hush now, baby, baby, don't you cry. Mama's going to make all of your nightmares come true. Mama's going to put all of her fears into you. Mama's going to keep you right here under her wing. She won't let you fly, but she might let you sing. Mama will keep baby cozy and warm. Ooh, baby.

BLOCK: It's such a creepy song.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: What do you think about this mother?

MAINES: Well, she is creepy, but aside from creepy - are you a mother?

BLOCK: I am.

MAINES: I know, for me, when I had my first baby, just something goes off in you where you - you know, I'm a way bigger worrier than I ever was before I had kids and...

BLOCK: Sure.

MAINES: ...you know, the stress and anxiety that can go along with motherhood, I have had to battle that. So on one hand, I understand this mother wanting to build walls around her children. But I try to sing it more from the perspective of: You can't do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOTHER")

MAINES: (Singing) Mother, did it need to be so high?

BLOCK: I'm talking to Natalie Maines about her new solo album, titled "Mother." How scary is it to go out on your own, after so many years with such a successful band and two women who you were really, really close with, close musically and personally?

MAINES: It's different. It definitely was scary in the beginning. I think I'm getting a little more used to it. On stage, it can feel a little naked to not have, you know, them on either side. It's definitely strange, after 15 or more years, to not have them on my right and left.

BLOCK: Yeah. I was thinking about that. I mean they really, you know, you were always in the middle, and they're sort of the pillars right next to you. And it must be...

MAINES: Tall, skinny pillars.

(LAUGHTER)

MAINES: I don't miss that, either.

(LAUGHTER)

MAINES: I don't have to be the short, chubby one in the middle.

(LAUGHTER)

MAINES: I could get blow-up dolls made and put them up there. No, you just - you get used to it or get over it or something.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'D RUN AWAY")

MAINES: (Singing) I can take a hint from you.

BLOCK: Natalie, it's been fun to talk to you. Thank you so much.

MAINES: Thanks for talking to me.

BLOCK: That's Natalie Maines. Her new album is titled "Mother."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'D RUN AWAY")

MAINES: (Singing) I'd run away with you, baby. Yeah. I'd run away. I'd run away with you, baby. You said a couple of things to me. You said a couple of things that show your face and how many ways.

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.