The Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines sparked an enormous wave of backlash for the band back in 2003 when she told a London audience that she and bandmates Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer were "ashamed" then-president George W. Bush "was from Texas." As a result of the offhand comment, the trio's music was pulled from radio stations, people burned their albums, and the country music industry essentially turned its back on them. Also, the women began receiving death threats, and Maines told Bustle that she had to move because of the response.
"I didn't feel safe living in the center of Austin anymore because people knew where I lived," she said. "So I moved 40 minutes outside of Austin." Maines reflected that shortly before her comments, The Chicks had performed the national anthem at the Super Bowl. "We were America's sweethearts. We were so patriotic. Then just a few weeks later, the controversy happened," she recalled. "The first month was an emotional whirlwind. I wanted to bury my head in the sand. I wanted to stay in Europe forever, but Emily's personality was more like, 'We gotta get back to the States and fix this.'"
When the band returned to the U.S., they embarked on their Top of the World Tour, which Maines noted was "ironic." "Because we were not on top of the world," she said. "But it was one of my favorite tours of my career. We stayed very insulated and had people around us, protecting us and sheltering us so that we could do our job and not get overly stressed out or worried. And we already had the craziest, loudest, Taylor Swift-volume fans, but on that tour, it was just three times louder. I felt more connected to them than I'd ever felt before."
The Chicks' "controversy," as Maines calls it, is still referenced in country music today — in Taylor Swift's recent Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, the pop star explains that she stayed silent about politics for so long because people told her, "You don't want to be like the Dixie Chicks." "And I loved the Dixie Chicks," she said in the movie. "I was shocked at how many people were telling her not to [speak out]," Maines said of Swift. "I would have never had a boardroom of people [telling me] if it's OK for me to do something. I would give them the finger."
Darius Rucker recently told NBC News that what happened to The Chicks is "the dumbest thing," citing the backlash as an example of how "one sentence could end your career in country music." "Look at the Dixie Chicks," he said. "Biggest things in the business, they say one sentence, every station stops playing their music. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life. It wasn't about their politics; it was about their music."