The Chicks’ Divorces Taught Them to Write Real Life: ‘The More Specific You Are, The More It’s Universal’
The Chicks are kicking off their self-titled amphitheater tour this month, and in addition to fan-favorite hits from throughout their lengthy career, they're putting a live focus on their 2020 album, Gaslighter.
Lead singer Natalie Maines has said that she took inspiration from her then-recent divorce from Adrian Pasdar to write the project, and indeed, its songs spell out a clear and specific story line of betrayal, break-ups and vengeance: From the album's title track to its tea-spilling "Tights on My Boat" to "Sleep at Night," an angry call-out for a cheating partner, the Chicks are never afraid to get lyrically specific in this album.
"I definitely wanted to be very blatant and literal with this one," Maines says in a new interview on The Kelly Clarkson Show, in response to a question from show host and singer Kelly Clarkson — who is currently going through a divorce of her own — about how she navigated writing honestly about her experience while also navigating her roles as a parent and as a public figure.
"I wasn't beyond all the emotion like I am now," the singer continues. "And then there's the stress of, 'Oh my gosh, now my kids are gonna hear this.' Now my son is on tour with us. He's in the band. And I'm like, 'This is kinda weird!' I'm always checking, 'Are you okay? Are you alright?'"
But despite those awkward moments with her fellow artist son, Maines — and her bandmates Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire, both of whom have been through divorces, as well — have learned that writing inauthentically isn't an option.
"There's no way around it. When you write falsely, it doesn't work," Strayer points out. "You have to be real. It's weird: The more specific you are, the more it's universal to other people."
Heartbreak is a universal experience, and the more they talk about their own, the more the Chicks have realized that other people go through the same thing. All three of the bandmates have been through divorces, with Maguire and Maines even going through divorces concurrently, and the two now joke about the fact that they leaned on each other during that time.
"I remember when you first came down in the studio in Nashville and said, 'Guys, I just wanna tell you, I'm getting a divorce,' ... I remember thinking, 'Well, I'm getting a divorce. Now she says she's getting a divorce. Now I can't say I'm getting a divorce,'" Maguire recounts. "I was feeling like everybody was gonna judge me because I thought I was first."
But once the two bandmates and friends realized they were in similar spots, it helped normalize the process for them both. "We were divorce buddies," Maines says with a laugh.
The Chicks' tour launches June 14 in St. Louis.