The Dixie Chicks on turning their bad times into ballads

New music from the unapologetic Dixie Chicks
New music from the unapologetic Dixie Chicks 08:12

They might be known more for burning bridges than toeing the line. The Dixie Chicks – lead singer Natalie Maines and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer – are one of the biggest female music acts of all time, with 13 Grammys, and tens of millions of records sold. And now they're getting ready to run again.

Correspondent Tracy Smith asked, "What you think it is? What is the bond between you? How does it work?"

"I don't know; it is so lucky," replied Maines. "I like so few people, it's amazing. It's meant to be.  It just really is meant to be. We don't have to try."

The Dixie Chicks: Emily Strayer, Natalie Maines and Martie Maguire. CBS News

And at the moment, they're just weeks away from releasing a new studio album, the first one in 14 years.

"It took a lot of living to have something new to write about," Maines said.

And then what brought them back to the studio? "Teenagers," she laughed.

Besides raising children, they worked on duet and solo projects, but that only made them realize what they were missing.

Maines said, "Oh my God. When I had my one solo album, it was horrible. Like, I hated it."

Why? "I need these two. It was so … yeah, I've never felt more insecure in my whole life. It just is so comfortable to have a team, to have a group. Strength in numbers!"

Dixie Chicks - Ready to Run (Video) by dixiechicksVEVO on YouTube

And since their last album, they've all needed a shoulder to cry on: All three have been through divorce, but they say that the failed relationships just added fuel to their creative fire. 

And this is the result: "Gaslighter" is the title track from their new album. The name is a reference to the 1944 movie "Gaslight," where a manipulative Charles Boyer tries to convince Ingrid Bergman that she's lost her mind.

Dixie Chicks - Gaslighter (Official Video) by dixiechicksVEVO on YouTube

Smith asked, "What does that word mean to you, 'gaslighter'?"

"Manipulator," said Strayer. "Like, just making you feel like you're crazy. And your reality is not clear to you because they're just manipulating you so much. And I think everyone has a little gaslighter in their life, right? I know mine!"

But aside from the personal drama, the Dixie Chicks' story is the stuff of music legend.

The group formed in 1989 as a bluegrass band, but they barely made a ripple until they replaced their lead singer with newcomer Natalie Maines.

Dixie Chicks - Landslide (Video) by dixiechicksVEVO on YouTube

Maguire said they clicked right from the beginning.

Strayer said, "We kind of put Natalie through a test run. And so, when we heard her sing, we're like, 'Okay, we know she can sing. But will we like her?'"

They liked her all right, and within a few years the Dixie Chicks went from a small-time band to a hit-making, Grammy-taking music machine.

But in 2003, just before the Iraq War, they were on tour in London when Maines made a remark about President George W. Bush: "We're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."

What happened next was ugly: their record sales plunged, their radio airplay dried up, and the biggest female group in the world was in effect cancelled.

Seventeen years later, Strayer said it was a blessing. 

Maines said, "It was a freedom. To me, I hated that I was dragging two people through, like, what I said, was affecting other people."

Smith asked her bandmates, "Did you feel like you were being dragged through it?" 

"No. Not at all," said Maguire. 

Strayer said, "No, 'dragging' isn't the word. It's more like we were all in the middle of it." 

Dixie Chicks - Not Ready To Make Nice (Official Video) by dixiechicksVEVO on YouTube

But they channeled their pain into music, and three years later, they were back with a new album – and a new attitude. Accepting the Grammy for Album of the Year for "Taking the Long Way," Maines said, "I'm ready to make nice!"

Smith asked, "So, the last album that you guys released won every Grammy that it was nominated for. How do you top that?"

Maines said, "I mean, it's fun to win, but it's not what's important, if this album or this cycle is a success, is if we won awards."

"Maybe that's why you get 'em. It's like when you're not lookin' for a boyfriend, [that's when] they're beating down your door, right? Isn't that how it works?" said Smith.

"I have been looking for three years, but it's not happening!" Maines laughed.

Truth is, the focus now is more on records than romance.  And at the moment, one of the loves of Maines' life is Emmylou Cricket, one of her many rescue dogs.

Smith asked, "What has that done for you to be involved in this?"

"Think it's been good for me to focus, now  especially since my kids are grown, it's nice to have things to take care of. I like nurturing and mothering. So they're a good, fun distraction. And if you're going through something rough, they always put a smile on your face.  So, that's been good."

The new album comes out May 1, and there's a tour in the works. Once again, the Dixie Chicks have turned their bad times into ballads, and along the way, they've found freedom.

Smith asked, "Do you feel like you care less now than maybe you did 17 years ago?

"Absolutely," said Maines. "You just feel like, 'Oh, okay. Well, everybody's gonna hate us, hopefully, has already hated us. And so, you got nothing to lose.'"

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Story produced by John D'Amelio. Editor: Steven Tyler.