RETURNING TO THE FLOCK

The Dixie Chicks emerge from a messy legal turmoil with personal triumphs and a benchmark album

Story by Larry Holden

Imagine a newsstand jammed with newspapers, all screaming out true-to-life Dixie Chicks headlines - natalie's lil' slade goes varoom! ... emily paints nursery blue, worries about belly/dobro connection ... martie gets irish re-hitch, puts off baby ... dixie chicks stay in sony nest for barnful of bucks ... unruffled chicks return -- and rock the coop!

In the past year, the Chicks -- Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire -- have made front-page news while putting their own twist on the old saying, When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Industry naysayers crowed when the mega-talented trio took their record company to court, certain it was a career-ending move. How wrong the tongue-waggers were!

Now the gals are back, with a legal settlement netting them a more lucrative contract and a multimillion-dollar advance. Plus they're again making musical waves with a gutsy new album, Home, powered right out of the box by "Long Time Gone," the fastest-rising single of their career!

"A lot of people have the misconception that we were out of the limelight and not working because we were in a legal battle with Sony," notes Natalie. "In actuality, that time away was very planned. We'd been working nonstop for five years and felt like we deserved some time off. I was pregnant and having Slade. And Emily got pregnant, too.

"All of us needed to be with our families, find our new houses in Texas and do that sort thing. It was a great time, and it was almost like the Sony lawsuit just fit into the plan."

The Chicks definitely made lemonade during their time off -- in fact, they squeezed out so much personal and professional nectar that they could've bottled the beverage and marketed it with Long Time Good labels. In this first major interview since their self-imposed media hibernation of almost a year, Natalie, Martie and Emily reveal all that was going on in their lives during their months out of the spotlight.

Now, about those newspaper headlines ... Natalie's lil' Slade goes varoom!

"Jackson Slade, now 17 months, is motoring around nonstop," laughs Natalie. "And he's obsessed with motorcycles. He does his hands like he's on a motorcycle and runs around going varoom, varoom."

And her active son imitates his proud papa, actor Adrian Pasdar, when he goes for "nothing but net" with his imaginary basketball. "Slade walks around pretending he's just shot a basket -- and he's got a good follow-through!"

The young "jock" doesn't like typical kid stuff on TV. "We've tried to get him to watch cartoons," confesses Natalie, "but the only thing he'll watch is ESPN. He's fascinated with sports and balls of all kinds."

So who does Slade most look like -- Natalie or Adrian?

"Me," she proclaims. "He's a blondie!"

And who does he most act like?

"Adrian and I are both high-energy people and we're both performers. Slade's a high-energy show-off who loves to be the center of attention!"

Slade definitely takes after his musical mom. "He bops to music and dances really funny," declares Natalie. "He's very musical."

"In the song 'The Wheels On The Bus Go 'Round And 'Round,' " she adds with a motherly smile, "there's a verse where the bus driver says, 'Move on back, move on back.' When Slade hears that, he motions 'move on back' by pointing his thumb over his shoulder."

Emily paints nursery blue, worries 'bout belly & dobro connection

"My due date is Nov. 14," notes Emily. "We're having a boy. Most likely his first name will be Charles, after Charlie," referring to her singer/songwriter hubby, Charlie Robison. "But we could call him by his middle name, which we haven't decided yet."

Emily has decided about the new nursery. "We're remodeling our home and the nursery is being worked on right now. I'm excited about it, and I'm waiting on my nursery furniture."

Her pregnancy has gone very well. "Even so, it's a roller-coaster ride," she confides. "You go through periods of testing, which are nerve-racking. But he's healthy, so I just say my prayers every day."

Emily's also praying she can figure out how to play her instruments as her stomach expands. "I've got to work out playing around this belly," she laughs. "I can probably play the banjo 'sidesaddle,' but not the Dobro. I might have to get a special stand made for it.

"We have a show on Oct. 19 at the Texas State Fair - three weeks from my due date. I'm sure I will be quite the spectacle for the fans who come out!"

Pick up the whole article in the current (9/3/02) "Newsstand Issue" on sale now!

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