The Chicks explain why they dropped 'Dixie' from their name
The Grammy-winning trio says they'd been wanting to lose the word, but now was the time
The Grammy-winning trio the Dixie Chicks have never shied away from speaking their minds, and they recently made another bold move: they removed the word "Dixie" from their name. Now they are simply the Chicks.
Given that bands rely almost entirely on name recognition, it's a significant change — but the members felt it was a necessary one.
The move came after sweeping shifts that have followed weeks of anti-racism protests across the United States and around the world, spurred by the murder of George Floyd and other incidents of racist violence.
WATCH | q host Tom Power's full interview with the Chicks:
"We've been wanting to drop Dixie for a while," says Chicks co-founder and member Martie Maguire in an interview with q host Tom Power.
"It's been feeling a little bit uncomfortable, just knowing what that word in the States conjures up for people, and that maybe it's hurtful to a group of people."
The term "Dixie" is a named used to refer to the Southern United States that seceded in 1860 and 1861 to form the Confederate States of America, among them South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, as well as Missouri and Kentucky.
The origin of the term is uncertain, but some believe came from the name Jeremiah Dixon, who was a surveyor of the Mason-Dixon line, which separated free states from those that allowed slavery.
Others say it stems from the word "Dix" which appeared on $10 notes in Louisiana, in keeping with the state's French influence. The bills were known as "Dixies" by Southerners, and the French-speaking parts of Louisiana became Dixieland.
The group formerly known as Lady Antebellum also recently announced they were dropping "Antebellum" from their name — it's a term that references the pre-Civil War South — and would simply become Lady A.
According to the Chicks, when they first adopted the name in 1989, they didn't intend to reference the Confederacy or any of the politics that surround it.
"That wasn't intentional, when we picked the name. We were children, basically, teenagers, and we were the Dixie Chickens and then shortened it to Chicks and got a lot of flack about being Chicks," says Maguire.
"But it was definitely time to drop the Dixie."
Still, there was one wrinkle: a New Zealand band was already using the name the Chicks. But before long, the American group and the New Zealanders had hammered out the details and come to an agreement.
"It happens with lawyers talking to lawyers and lawyers talking to managers, so we have not spoken to them," says lead vocalist Natalie Maines, who joined the group in 1995.
"But we were told that they were big fans, luckily, and that they were happy to coexist and to share that name. So hopefully next time we're in New Zealand, we will get to meet them."
In 2003, the group created a firestorm when, at a show in London, Maines stated their opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and said she was "ashamed" of the fact that then-President George W. Bush was from Texas.
The statement led to widespread boycotts by country fans who supported the Iraq war, and their songs were immediately removed from playlists at thousands of country radio stations. The band members also received death threats.
All but abandoned by the country music industry, the Chicks decided to forge a new path.
'It was very freeing'
Recently, Maguire played a documentary about that time for her daughters, who were confused about the anger and hate being directed toward the group.
"We're all raising our children to speak their minds and have an opinion and be kind, so they didn't get it," says Maguire.
"It feels like that could have happened 50 years ago, but it didn't. It's quite recent in our past. But we all feel like it was a blessing for our career, for us personally," she says.
In the documentary, Maines also notes how freeing it was when the controversy happened, because all of a sudden she could cast aside any opinions of her and make whatever kind of music they wanted — and be clear on what they stood for.
"I think we didn't realize that people thought we were a certain way because we played country music or were on country radio," says Maines.
"We felt like people liked us because we were honest and we didn't always say the right thing, or the best thing for press or media. And so it was really surprising and it felt gross that people thought we would not be pro-choice or for women's rights or peace and love," she says.
"So it was very freeing to just go, "Oh OK, so you liked us, but actually you didn't like us because you thought we were this other thing. So now if you like us, then it's for true reasons, which just felt a lot better."
'It makes the album so much deeper'
The band says the whole situation would likely be different today, given the influence of social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, which didn't exist at the time.
Now the band has returned with a new album, Gaslighter, and in keeping with the band's strong stances, it includes a song called March March, which features lyrics like, "Standing with Emma and our sons and daughters / Watchin' our youth have to solve our problems / I'll follow them so who's comin' with me" and "Tell the ol' boys in the white bread lobby / What they can and can't do with their bodies / Temperatures are rising, cities are sinkin'."
The song started out as something completely different, explains Maguire, and went through multiple incarnations as well as input from outside producers.
"I'm just glad we stuck with it and found the right thing for this song," she says, pointing to the growing Black Lives Matter movement. The band also released a video for the song featuring footage from protests throughout U.S. history; at the end it simply reads, "Use your voice. Use your vote."
"Thank God we had the song. It makes the album so much deeper."
— Written by Jennifer Van Evra. Produced by Kaitlyn Swan