ACL Interview: The Chicks’ Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer Talk Social Media, Hometown Feelings, and Plans for a Multigenerational Zilker Debut

“It’s always fun, but nerve-racking, to be back in Texas”

ACL Interview: The Chicks’ Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer Talk Social Media, Hometown Feelings, and Plans for a Multigenerational Zilker Debut
Image courtesy of the Chicks

The mystery of the missing Texas dates on the Chicks' 2022 tour found a happy resolution: headlining both Fridays at ACL Fest. Finally live-staging 2020 comeback Gaslighter, first record in 14 years and post-Dixie-drop, the Texas trio makes a long-awaited hometown return. A quick Zoom found Emily Strayer home in San Antonio, Martie Maguire visiting her twin daughters in Burbank on late-morning Pacific time (“I just got here. I let them sleep in, and I’m gonna take him to dinner tonight.”), and lead singer Natalie Maines out with a scheduling conflict.

The sisters told the Chronicle of plans for an onstage family reunion at ACL Fest. Alongside Maines’ son Slade as touring guitarist, the bandleader’s father, Lloyd Maines, joins especially for ACL – bringing three generations of Maines together. Formative Chicks influence and producer of 2002’s Home, Lloyd released his first solo album in September. Maguire’s daughter Eva also flies in on violin, after a break from Chicks touring for college in California.

“[Eva] asked her professors if she can come home to play ACL and our hometown, Dallas, where Emily and I grew up, and Houston,” updates fiddler mom Maguire. “So, I think her teachers are going to let her take a pass and play that whole week with us.”

Austin Chronicle: Headlining ACL, and your first time playing the festival – how does that feel?

Martie Maguire: It’s huge. It’s my hometown. I’ve lived in Austin since about 2001. It’s crazy, because I’m gonna recognize so many people in the audience. My girls have teachers coming to see us, so it’s a little nerve-racking, playing for people that normally don’t see what you do. But, love it. I don’t know why it’s taken this long. Probably because we take, you know, decadelong hiatuses. But finally, finally, we’re here.

“I don’t know why it’s taken this long. Probably because we take, you know, decadelong hiatuses. But finally, finally, we’re here.”– Martie Maguire

AC: Your last Austin show, in 2016, had Trump on screen in devil horns and Planned Parenthood reps on-site. What have you been able to express on this tour?

Emily Strayer: Our artistic director, Seanne Farmer, is amazing and just great at telling stories through pictures. So, behind us on a lot of the songs are things that correlate, like “March March” is a little bit political. It’s mainly just the imagery that’s behind us, kind of like the Trump horns, but you’ll have to see it. It’s very much her collagelike style.

AC: Kacey Musgraves, also playing ACL Fest, has spoken about gender inequality on country radio. What’s it like to see a conversation you helped start continue on?

MM: Especially in that genre, I think people have been starting to feel, for a long time, like they can be a lot more outspoken when it comes to all kinds of things – political or not political, or [about] the industry. And [Kacey’s] actually at the top of my list that I want to see at ACL. Love, love her …

That’s just the way it should be. Artists have historically used their platform and music and artistry to talk about things that matter to them, and they think are important to the world. So, I love seeing it, even if it’s something I don’t necessarily agree with. I think it’s healthy and good for art to always be that neutral zone, where you can express how you feel.

ES: Maren Morris does a good job of that – walking that tightrope of really saying what she thinks and just kind of laying it out there. It’s like, take it or leave it. I wish more artists were like that.

AC: Your 2006 documentary talked about people hiding behind computers. How do you handle social media?

MM: We all three handle it differently. Natalie has completely removed herself from not only social media, but email. I’m so jealous, because I hate how many emails I get. But Emily gets sucked into people DMing her and commenting, and that can be good and bad. I just ignore it all. I don’t really read comments. You know, I’m too sensitive. There are people out there just trolling to troll and being mean, and I don’t like when people are mean.

ES: I get more sucked into, like, home interior remodels than anything having to do with us. I think Twitter’s a really mean place. I thought I was off for like three years, but our management informed me that it didn’t take, so I’m on there, but haven’t done anything. I feel like Instagram is happy people being creative, for the most part – animal videos, kitty cats. My daughter rides horses, and there’s this guy who’s a horse chiropractor. Watching how he does adjustments on these humongous animals is so fascinating. I went down a rabbit hole with that this morning.

AC: Last ACL, I saw Martie play with Calder Allen. Are you fans of any other newer Austin artists?

MM: I knew of [Calder] because he’s my godson, and his mom’s one of my best friends. Gosh, I feel so out of touch. I’ve let my kids rule the radio and Sirius XM stations for the last 10 years, so I’m listening to Tame Impala when my daughter’s in the car, because she loves that band.

ES: Well, that’s what’s so great about Austin City Limits. I went last year. I had 14 teenagers in my care, and it was exhausting. But it was like, “Oh, I’ve kind of heard of them, but I hadn’t heard them live.” That part was fun, discovering people.

MM: Now Shooks, Charlie Sexton’s son [Marlon]’s band, are great. I remember I was disappointed Shooks was playing across ACL the same time I was playing with Calder. We’ve played Shooks in the dressing room and really enjoy it.

AC: How do y’all feel about fans wearing vintage, pre-name-change shirts to shows?

ES: It’s not like we’re gonna try and erase the past or anything like that, it’s more about just trying to move forward. That’s fine. People make their own T-shirts, too, which can be hilarious. There were these guys in the front row who remade the Entertainment Weekly cover as a T-shirt, and it looked like they were naked. But no, we’re not gonna try and rewrite history.

AC: Earlier this year in Billboard, Natalie teased “possibly an album that’s all songs of a songwriter we all love.” Does that mean Patty Griffin covers?

MM: Maybe … We need to get less busy to think about recording any record. We’re pretty full-plate right now. But yes, we did have an idea for another album, but we can’t disclose it yet.

AC: Does touring Texas again bring up any old feelings?

ES: It’s always fun, but nerve-racking, to be back in Texas. When we announced the tour, we couldn’t announce any Texas dates, because they hadn’t been put on sale yet. People thought we weren’t gonna be playing Texas and there was a lot of pushback. So, there’s a lot that goes on even before we get onstage, as far as expectations and this and that. But I’m just so proud of the show that I feel really good going into all these, especially in our hometowns.

The Chicks

Friday, 8pm, American Express stage

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ACL Fest 2022, The Chicks, Martie Maguire, Emily Strayer, Natalie Maines, Lloyd Maines, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris

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