Dixie Chick members make debut at SXSW
NEW YORK ñ Even though the Court Yard Hounds are a new group, they are hardly your typical baby act. The duo is derived from one of music’s best-selling bands ó the Dixie Chicks ó and their self-titled debut album is already among the spring’s more anticipated releases.
Yet sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison are finding themselves working much like every other fledgling group, as they try to establish an identity that will shine despite the oversized shadow cast by the Grammy-winning, multiplatinum Chicks.
“Sometimes when our manager calls me and says certain things, we go, ‘Oh God, we’ve gotta do that?” says Maguire with a laugh.
“(But) some of the starting over is actually fun. We missed it along the way. When I look back at some of the Chicks stuff, it’s the early stuff we did where we kind of giggle and go, ‘You know what? Those were the good old days,'” she adds. “We’re feeling kind of those butterflies in our stomach once again.”
The butterflies will be present on Thursday when they make their stage debut at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas ó an industry showcase for nearly 2,000 acts, from eclectic, esoteric bands to legends. Among the expected highlights of the festival, which runs from Thursday to Sunday, are performances from Spoon, the Stone Temple Pilots, Estelle, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, Smokey Robinson and more.
There’s also a planned tribute to Miles Davis and celebrity chef Rachael Ray’s annual cookout and showcase, featuring acts like Neko Case and She & Him (M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel).
This year SXSW, which also holds a film and interactive festival around the same time, will have greater diversity of acts from other countries, said its creative director, Brent Grulke.
“We’re seeing many more acts from Latin America now, South America, than we’ve ever seen before,” he said. “We have a couple of bands from Iran, which is notable from itself, and obviously we have artists like Smokey Robinson performing.”
Another new duo will make their SXSW debut ó Broken Bells, the new group formed by super producer and Gnarls Barkley member Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and the Shins’ James Mercer. Mercer said SXSW is a utopia for music aficionados.
“Not everyone is as big a music fan as Brian and I,” he said. “But when you go to South by Southwest, the whole town is taken over by people like you.”
Maguire and Robison decided to unveil their new group at SXSW, at the intimate club Antone’s, for all the reasons most artists come to SXSW.
“It’s turned into such a great springboard for music and so many influential people come and listen to music,” said Robison. “You’re looking them in the eyeballs, and you’re in the trenches, which we feel like we’ve returned to the trenches somewhat to launch this new band.”
But it’s also home for the two sisters, who are from Texas; Robison lives in San Antonio, while Maguire lives right in Austin.
“It feels really comfortable having the first one where I live, in a club where I go hear bands,” she said. “So many times I’ve gone to hear bands and thought, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to be on that stage.'”
SXSW will mark the first time they will be center stage since the Dixie Chicks took off more than a decade ago, when it was Natalie Maines singing lead, flanked by Robison and Maguire playing their string instruments, usually banjo and fiddle. With the Court Yard Hounds, Robison will be singing lead.
While the Chicks haven’t broken up, they haven’t made any new music since their Grammy winning 2006 album, “Taking the Long Way.” Both Maguire and Robison grew restless, and after Robison penned several new songs after her divorce, they decided to form a new group while the Chicks remained on hiatus.
“We have the ability to go off and do the stuff for the Court Yard Hounds and really fulfill that part of what drives us and not feel like we have to pressure Natalie to be working if she doesn’t want to work,” said Robison.
The sisters aren’t sure when Maines will return to the Dixie Chicks, but they do have her blessing; she’s heard the music and the three recently hung out together with Maines, who lives in Los Angeles.
Whether the Court Yard Hounds will attain the kind of multiplatinum success the Dixie Chicks had remains to be seen. But Robison and Maguire aren’t even sure they want that for this band. For now, they are liking things a bit more low-key.
“With the chicks, to leave the house, it’s just a big undertaking,” Robison said.
“It’s kind of like we recreated this monster, and it’s a beautiful monster at times. But it’s harder to activate. This time, it’s a little bit more …
“Mobile!” interjects Maguire, as they both laugh.
Dixie Chick members make debut at SXSW