Dixie Chick sisters unleash the Hounds
Court Yard Hounds’ Martie Maguire and Emily Robison also of Dixie Chicks fame.
Dixie Chicks bandmates and sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire kept their musical side project, Court Yard Hounds, a secret from everyone.
Even their fellow Dixie Chick ó the country-pop trioís lead singer Natalie Maines, who is still taking a break since the group went on hiatus in 2007 after sweeping that yearís Grammys.
ìWe kept it under wraps for a while,î said Maguire, 40, seated beside Robison, 37, in Toronto recently. ìWe didnít tell anybody ícause it was at my house. We thought, ëWe can kind of do this in secret,í and see how it goes and take little baby steps. (Natalieís) dad (musician Lloyd Maines) played on it and at that stage they were still demos.î
Ultimately, they both say, Tuesdayís release of Court Yard Houndsí self-titled debut just allowed Maines to continue her sabbatical.
ìI think it took a lot of the pressure off,î said Robison. ìIt was just a good way for us to be able to fulfill our want to be creative and not put pressure on her and still keep the Dixie Chicks intact.î
Thereís even a Dixie Chicks greatest hits compilation, Playlist, coming out June 1. And Maines, for the record, got the hear the Court Yard Hounds album over New Yearís and her favourite song is the duet with Jakob Dylan, See You in the Spring.
ìWhat (Natalieís) not ready to do is the whole cycle,î said Maguire, who is married to Mainesí sisterís husbandís brother and lives in Austin, Texas, with their six-year-old twin girls and 21-year-month girl. ìWe donít know what to sing about right now. We donít know what to write about. We had such a big last album and it really made a statement for us and it was very cathartic.î
The Dixie Chicks found themselves embroiled in a fight with the Conservative right after Maines made some remarks against then-President George Bush during a London concert on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The resulting backlash was reflected in the groupís 2006 song Not Ready to Make Nice off their album, Taking the Long Way.
The impetus for Court Yard Hounds came because Robisonís creative juices were cathartically flowing following a 2008 divorce from country singer Charlie Robison. The couple has three children ó boy-girl twins, aged five, and a seven-year-old son.
ìWe were bored; we wanted to be creative,î said Robison, who lives in San Antonio. ìSo I was writing. (Martie) was working on a fiddle album (of instrumentals) at the time but I started sending her some songs that I was writing and she threatened me with my life if I gave them away. So we then started talking about doing something together.î
That something turned out to be an album of singer-songwriter-style, pop, folk and country-tinged tunes not unlike something Shawn Colvin or Sheryl Cow might offer up.
Amongst the songs about the end of Robisonís marriage are tunes about new love, so itís no surprise Robisonís boyfriend, Martin Strayer, co-wrote many of the songs with her and is in the band.
Robison also sings lead vocals on all but one song, which could have been a scary prospect for the multi-instrumentalist who had previously only been used to singing harmonies with Maguire.
ìI think that was another fun part of this album was just taking steps into the unknown,î said Robison. ìThings we hadnít done. I mean weíve been harmony singers our whole lives and so blending has been the name of the game and so to get out of that and try and find your own voice has been my challenge.î
Robison continues, ìPeople have asked us, ëAre you intimidated to follow up the success with the Chicks?í and itís so not about that.
ìTo me, itís kind of like a clean slate to just be able to go do something else and to be able to have fun ícause weíre never going to be able to top what weíve done in the past.î
Court Yard Hounds ó sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, whose day job is as two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks opposite Natalie Maines ó have a summer tour of wineries and festivals which kicks off June 18 in Telluride, Colo., and includes dates on Lilith Fair.
But they will also be part of the Dixie Chicksí stadium tour with the Eagles, which kicks off June 8 at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The only other Canadian date is June 22 at Canads Inns Stadium in Winnipeg. Keith Urban is also on some of the U.S. stops.
ìThat was kind of a no-brainer,î said Maguire of touring with the Eagles. ìWeíre really excited. We couldnít say no to this opportunity, really. Stadiums. The Eagles. Keith Urban. This is great.î
What Maguire wasnít sure of was whether there might be some onstage collaborations.
ìThey havenít asked. Weíve done that before. On the Vote for Change tour, we came out and sang Wide Open Spaces and Take It Easy and theyíre really, really open about collaborating. I donít know if this is going to be the show to do it.î
Dixie Chick sisters unleash the Hounds