In the beginning, the Dixie Chicks really didn’t want to cap their banner year with a network special — if for no other reason than that it had been done before. “We normally don’t like to do things other people do,” explains singer Natalie Maines, calling from a recent tour stop in Knoxville, Tenn. Besides, she continues, they had grander designs for documenting their marathon eighty-five city “Fly” tour. They were thinking along the lines of a full-fledged documentary — a film.
“We just wanted to capture this thing that is our first headline tour that will never be again on tape,” Maines says. Problem was, time began to run out, and nobody ever came up with a “really good idea for it.”
“I don’t think following us on the road would be that interesting,” Maines concedes, “because we pretty much do the same thing every day, so that’d be a pretty short movie.” So halfway through the tour, when NBC came back to the Dixie Chicks to offer them a second chance, the trio bit. Their decision had something to do with good, common business sense — “You hear that a million people are going to see your tour, which is wonderful, but when you think that thirty million people could see what you’ve done . . . ” — and just as much to do with Andy Dick.
“We started thinking of different ways to do our special that other people haven’t done,” Maines says. “We decided to go with director Joel Gallen [a veteran of the MTV Video Music Awards], and we wanted some skits in it to break up the music, to kind of poke fun at ourselves and other people. Andy Dick agreed to be in the skits, which was unbelievable. Joel said he would, but we didn’t believe him — people always say stuff and then it’s like, ‘Well, I can’t get him, but I can get this up and coming guy . . .’ So we were pretty impressed that he could get Andy Dick.”
The skits feature Dick as a consultant hired by NBC to help turn the Chicks into “network special quality.” “Are you married to the name ‘The Dixie Chicks?'” he asks at one point. Other suggestions include losing the instruments and as much clothing as possible.
“We acted a little bit in our tour commercials,” says Maines, “but this is really the first time we’ve ever been in a room with a professional. The hardest part was not laughing at him. If he stuck to the script, I was fine, but if he ad-libbed anything, I just lost it.”
Despite the comic interludes, the heart of the hour-long Dixie Chicks: On the Fly special, which airs prime time Monday night, remains the group’s music, primarily the songs from the group’s Grammy-winning second major label album, Fly. “There’s about nine songs in there,” says Maines. “They came out and shot two nights in Washington, D.C. — Peter Asher recorded the shows.”
Earlier this fall, the Dixie Chicks let slip in numerous interviews that they wanted to release a live album before the end of the year. That plan has been scrapped for now.
“We still want to do a [concert-length] DVD,” says Maines, “but the live album didn’t happen. We were in negotiations with our label, and they didn’t move fast enough. Maybe we’re thinking down the line we’d do a live album of many tours, [but for now] I think we’re kind of past the live album idea. It’s one of those things where we’re making money on touring, we’re not making money on albums, so that’s going to have to change before we give up any more music.”
That means Sony — and fans — will likely have to wait until 2002 for a new Dixie Chicks album, because Maines says the group intends to take a year off. The tour wraps up in Ft. Worth, Tex., on Dec. 3, and they’re already counting down the days — perhaps none more so than Maines, who is expecting her first child, a son, in late March.
“Being pregnant, I’m starting to focus on something else, and it gets hard to stay focused out here,” says Maines. She says the pregnancy hasn’t slowed down her stage act, but her wardrobe did need an overhaul after the first four months. “Clothing’s starting to be a problem,” she admits. “We’re just now starting to get my wardrobe back together . . . I think all of these clothes will fit until the end.”
Maines says that she and the other Chicks, Martie Seidel and Emily Robison, will spend the year off settling into their new homes (all in Texas), “getting to know our honeys again.”
“We’re all just going to nest,” Maines says. “We’ll definitely write, because if everything’s worked out with Sony, we hope to go back into the studio next winter. But I think it’s a good year to take off — we’re not really going to be nominated for anymore awards, since the album’s not eligible. There’s singles and things like that that would be eligible for the Grammys and CMAs, but I cannot go to the Grammys because I’ll be too pregnant to fly.”