The times have finally caught up with The Chicks. With Gaslighter, their first album in 14 years, the country trio formerly known as the Dixie Chicks seem to have met their moment in the current activist climate. It’s been 17 years since outspoken lead singer Natalie Maines, along with sisters Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire, brazenly risked alienating a large chunk of their audience—and lost the support of the country music industry—when she railed against George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq (controversial opinions at the time, especially for their conservative fanbase). Their last LP, 2006’s Taking the Long Way, doubled down on the politics, winning them an armful of Grammys but little notice from Nashville. Now paired with pop producer Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift, Lorde) and a who’s who of superstar songwriters (Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels, Teddy Geiger), The Chicks are still not ready to make nice. The incendiary opening title track is a trademark Chicks kiss-off that could as easily be addressing a jealous ex as the current US president. “March March” was inspired by a political rally that all three Chicks attended with their families, but its timely video draws a natural parallel between the song’s broad self-empowerment message and this year’s Black Lives Matter protests. The rest of the album maintains the personal-is-political bent, with universal messages of hope and self-help addressed autobiographically to the band member’s children (“Young Man”, “Julianna Calm Down”), their ex-husbands (“Tights on My Boat”, “Hope It’s Something Good”) and even themselves (“For Her”). “We were always thinking and writing about that stuff,” Strayer tells Apple Music, “but the news kind of caught up to what we were already talking about—whether it was the #MeToo movement or what's happening right now with Black Lives Matter. So it was coincidental in a way, but I think those things are cyclical. They might be the newest news stories, but they’ve always been here.” The Chicks spoke to Apple Music and reflected on the making of the album and the inspirations behind a few of the album's most memorable songs. Gaslighter Natalie Maines: “That was the first song we wrote with Jack Antonoff, who produced the majority of the record. I know I came in with the word ‘gaslighter’ and some lyrics in a notebook and wanted to write about gaslighting, but I'm sure it was Jack that thought of coming out cold with the chorus.” Martie Maguire: “I remember him loving that word and you having to explain what it meant. I was definitely impressed with him right off the bat. He would start playing and singing that word, and then having us record it. When we went to record it, it took like five minutes.” NM: “And that became the title track just because most Americans didn't know what that meant a few years ago. I learned about that in therapy. We never thought of any other title for the album, because it really is a buzzword now because of President Trump. It just seemed like the perfect word and captured this time that we're in.” Texas Man NM: “Wasn't that when Julia Michaels came over here to my house and sat with just like a tape roll? She just has an interesting way of scoring melodies. We'd just go through a tape, and just let her go. She'll go for like half an hour just vamping.” Emily Strayer: “Remember how we did vocals? It's literally the smallest closet.” NM: “My coat closet!” MM: “That song is about Natalie. We just wanted to get her groove back. It still hasn't happened yet, but maybe that song will bring that energy.” For Her ES: “The song is about speaking to your younger self and giving some wisdom. It was written with Ariel Rechtshaid and Sarah Aarons. We were with writers in this room, in this very dark, dingy studio, and I remember just feeling really drained. It was just so tired and gloomy. Wasn't it where Michael Jackson recorded Thriller? He had this booth built for Bubbles, with a little window. You could just imagine this chimp looking out the window. Sarah was hilarious, just so self-deprecating. She was just a joke a minute, she has such a personality, and her lyrics—it’s different to write with a woman, just to write those kind of female lyrics with another female.” NM: “She was a huge driving force behind those lyrics, for sure. And once she gets going, it's like a lyric train that you can't stop and you don't want to stop. By the time we left that session, we had loads of options, and we kept a lot of her lyrics but changed some as well, just so we could have a part in the song. Sarah Aarons did not need us.” MM: “And she was great writing for Natalie's voice, because she has such a strong voice and she can do these acrobatics. Not many people can keep up with Natalie's voice and have the same type of inflections.” NM: “But also—and I’m not saying this is what I am but—I loved her soul. She's a very soulful singer. It would be interesting to go back and listen to those original recordings, because she made a lot of soul in her voice and her phrasing and I definitely stole some of that.” March March NM: “We went to the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., with our kids. It was so impactful for me. That's the first time I've ever been in a march that large. And we weren't there as performers, we were just in the crowds, with my little girls on my shoulders. We took a lot from that, the energy of it. We didn't want it to be about one particular march, so on the verses we talk about different things that are important to us.” ES: “We were always thinking and writing about that stuff, but the news kind of caught up to what we were already talking about—whether it was the #MeToo movement or what's happening right now with Black Lives Matter. So it was coincidental in a way, but I do think those things are cyclical. They might be the newest news story, but they've always been there.” NM: “You don't need a group around you if you're on the right side of history. We wanted to empower people who stand up for what they believe. Unless you believe in racism, then sit down. [laughs] Know what's right, act on it, speak out, be an army of one; you don't need to be a follower or go along with a group if you feel strongly about what's right.” My Best Friend's Weddings ES: “It's my wedding—weddings.” NM: “Yeah, everybody kept calling it ‘My Best Friend's Wedding', and I was like, 'No, weddings.' That one's definitely got a lot of personal truths in it. There are three songs—'My Best Friend's Weddings' was one of them—that we consider the Hawaii songs, that we wrote in mostly Kauai. We spent three weeks in Hawaii all together making this record. We'd go from the studio to my house, and it was a family vacation for everybody as well. It was a lot of fun, and there's songs with ukulele, and if you have headphones, you can hear birds chirping and waves, and a rooster.” Julianna Calm Down MM: “I'll just say that that was one that Julia wasn't sure that she wouldn't want for herself, but once we heard it, we pounced on it. Unbeknownst to her, Natalie went home and rewrote all the verses to make them about our closest family, our nieces and our cousins. Originally it was called ‘Julia Come Down’—it's her talking about breathing, taking a moment, everything's not going to be so bad. But Nat flipped it on its head to make it a song about advice to our girls and our nieces.” NM: “When Jack told her that we had written on it and asked if we could have that song, she was like, ‘Oh yeah, they can have the verses and the bridge. But I'm going to keep the chorus and rework it.’ And I was just like, 'No, no, no!' We kind of tricked her out of it.”

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