Dixie Chicks open up about controversy that changed their careers 17 years ago

One comment made onstage in 2003 changed everything for the trio — taking them from the top of the country music world to a 14-year break.
/ Source: TODAY

In late 2002, the Dixie Chicks were on top of the country music world, and their album “Home” had gone platinum — several times over.

But what a difference a few months made for the trio from Texas.

On a London stage in March 2003, one quick and politically pointed comment from frontwoman Natalie Maines changed everything.

"I wanted the audience to know who we were and what we were about," Maines told Allure magazine when she and bandmates Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire sat down for a cover interview in which they opened up about the controversy that almost ended their careers.

Back then, with an American-led invasion of Iraq on the horizon, Maines told the English crowd that “we’re on the good side with y’all,” making it clear they were against “this war, this violence.” She then added that they were ashamed that the president of the United States came from the same state they did.

That last part, criticizing the president while on foreign soil, ignited a passionate response from many country music fans and even the genre’s radio stations, which, by and large, were supportive of then-President George W. Bush at the time.

The Dixie Chicks pose during a news conference Feb. 20, 2003, in New York.AP

“I do not like when artists get on their soapbox — it's not what people are there for,” Maines explained to the publication. “They're there to listen to your music." However, "the politics of this band is inseparable from the music.”

At least, it became so after that touchstone moment. Death threats, radio bans, boycotts and bulldozed CDs tried to silence the women. But they came back in 2006 with another album, “Taking the Long Way,” and it was an unapologetic hit.

However, it also marked a hiatus from studio releases that lasted until their new album, “Gaslighter,” due out in May. A single of the same name was released earlier this week.

So it all begs the question, looking back now, do they have any regrets? Would Maines have done anything differently at the mic that night in 2003?

“Oh, that's an interesting question,” she said. “I have no regrets, but the responsible part of me doesn't want to put people through s---.”

People, as in the bandmates she shares a stage with.

"I feel like you might've said something smarter or different," Strayer pondered.

"Well, I always wish I had said something smarter!" Maines shot back. "But when I think back, it's like that movie ‘Sliding Doors,’ right? Where would we be today if I hadn't said that? That's interesting. I really don't know if I would take it back."

Because, after all, just look where they are today — together, performing, still outspoken and back to releasing music.