Dixie Chicks at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards
Photo by LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP/Getty Images
Ashley McBryde, Ryan Hurd & More Country Artists Look Back On Dixie Chicks' 'Fly'
The impact of the Dixie Chicks goes far beyond album sales and touring figures. Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer have had an undeniable influence on much of modern country music, and in many instances, they were the driving force behind many of today’s artists. GRAMMY nominee Ashley McBryde felt the power the three women from Texas could have when she was just 11 or 12, attending her first-ever concert.
"The Dixie Chicks' Fly Tour was my first major concert. We lived so far in the hills we didn’t get to go to many concerts," recalls McBryde. "I asked my mother if I could stand in my chair, and she said, 'Only for the first couple songs. Don’t block anyone, honey.' The crowd roared 'Dixie Chicks! Dixie Chicks!' I looked at mom and said, 'I want this, mom.' She said, 'What, baby?' I answered, 'An arena full of people screaming my name. And I’m gonna have it.' My mother smiled and said, 'I believe you will, my sweet girl.'"
"So the Dixie Chicks' success meant everything to me. They showed me that we can do the damn thing," she adds. "Fly was a flawless record. There's not a single track you can skip. And for girls like me, who listened to it on repeat nonstop, that sound, those harmonies, that sass and drive, it seeped into our own sounds. It endures because it helped shaped the next generation of artists."
McBryde is certainly not alone. The Recording Academy spoke with many current mainstream staples, Americana noise-makers and promising newcomers for a track-by-track commentary on select tracks and the importance of Fly on their own work and personal journeys.
"Ready to Run"
Carly Pearce: "Ready to Run" was an iconic song for me and one of the songs that I sang over and over. Growing up, I remember hearing it and thinking, "Wow, this is the kind of music I want to make." Also, no one sings like Natalie! The Dixie Chicks paved the way for women in country music, and I’m still inspired by their music today. I can only hope to inspire others the way "Ready to Run" and The Dixie Chicks have inspired me.
"If I Fall You're Going Down with Me"
Gone West (Colbie Caillat, Justin Young, Jason Reeves and Nelly Joy): We love the high energy vibe that is felt in "If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me," even though it's still very organically produced. The creative background vocals and hooky fiddle lines, as well as creative chord changes, truly takes the listener on a ‘falling in love’ rollercoaster journey. You can truly feel the girls emotions conveyed in every single word that's sung with conviction which is refreshing! Falling in love should be flirtatious and fun, which is exactly how this track feels to us.
"Cowboy Take Me Away"
Gwen Sebastian: I believe while the album was ahead of its time, it still maintains a classic approach on what country music stands for, which is realness in the lyrics. I can't but help to sing along to the infectious melody, and as a female, I have a tendency to fantasize that there's a ‘hero’ to take me away from the real world. I think every girl wants to be rescued every now and then. The band were ‘outlaws’ in their lyrics and melodies, yet were able to be mainstream which is a difficult thing to accomplish.
"Cold Day in July"
Ryan Hurd: I bought this album on vinyl for Maren [Morris] for Christmas, so we sat and listened through it again one night at home. It's timeless, and it’s familiar and still such a stunning piece of work. "Cold Day in July" is one of those songs that seems so obvious. It’s one of those "how did I not think of that" songs. It’s the kind of song that makes country music special and makes me so excited for their new project.
Runaway June (Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland, and Jennifer Wayne): It took a band as big as the Chicks to record "Goodbye Earl" and give it the personality it had. The song was ahead of its time, and I can’t imagine another band recording it and attributing as much as the Chicks had.
"Hello Mr. Heartache"
Cam: I love the throwback shuffle. It reminds me of country my grandparents would listen to, so it immediately earned a place in my heart. Casually talking to your heartache like it’s an old, unwanted friend is so brilliantly country, and to set the whole thing to dancing music, it puts humor and acceptance in it. For a teenager constantly overwhelmed by emotions, it felt real nice to have a name for that heartbreak process and be able to laugh and dance my way through it.
I was around 13 or so, at a big outdoor swim meet in the heat of summer in California and a friend started singing "Wide Open Spaces." I was like, "What is that?" They said, "You haven’t heard of the Dixie Chicks?," and started rattling off song titles and singing the hooks from hits. I went and bought Fly on CD and sat in my room, absorbing the music while pouring over each page of the album booklet. I loved the sounds, their voices, the lyrics, but I don’t think I realized till I was older that it was the confident delivery that was something I needed. No matter the situation (heartbreak, murder, not ready to get married), they sounded so unwaveringly clear about how they were feeling.
"Don't Waste Your Heart"
SmithField (Jennifer Fiedler and Trey Smith): Fly was such an iconic album! Being a duo that relies so much on harmony in our music, the Dixie Chicks were such an example to us both growing up of the importance of having voices that complement each other in a group/duo act. "Don’t Waste Your Heart" is such a dynamic song in the way that the single vocal transitions in to three-part harmonies at the top of the chorus and creates a true moment. The undeniable heart and angst in Natalie's lead vocal also really sets it over the top. We strive to create moments like that in every piece of music we record.
Mickey Guyton: Personally, when that song came out, I was quite young. "Mattress dancin'" was a new term for me. But what I love about this song is the fact that they were singing their truth. No one is perfect. We all have our vices. And they sang about it in this song proudly. I just loved them, and they were an amazing addition to all the amazing women I loved listening to growing up. In today's environment, however, I can tell you that they mean the world to me. The Dixie Chicks inspire me to live my truth. They were living their truth when it wasn’t necessarily the cool thing to do. They were standing for what they believed in when it was looked down upon. Today, I think that is badass, and I wish I understood the importance of what they were doing back then.
This album was about grown-ass women doing grown-ass things and dealing with grown-ass problems. People want real, and that is why they will always influence modern music. They were real. They said what everyone else was thinking.
"This album was about grown-ass women doing grown-ass things and dealing with grown-ass problems. People want real, and that is why they will always influence modern music. They were real. They said what everyone else was thinking."
Jenna Paulette: The Dixie Chicks have always been a huge inspiration for me. Being from Texas, I felt they were telling every Western girl's story. They were the voice of the country music I fell in love with. I know every word to the Fly album, I remember singing "Without You" at the top of my lungs in the middle of my favorite creek at our ranch and feeling like I had been through what they were singing about even though I was wayyy to young to know that kind of heartbreak. That album, top to bottom is one of the greatest country albums ever, it still challenges me to be a better artist and create music that resonates with people like it did with me.
"Some Days You Gotta Dance"
Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum: This song always puts a smile on my face and immediately makes want to dance. Several years after it was released, I remember singing this song on Nashville’s Lower Broadway making everyone in the bar do the same!
"Hole in My Head"
Aubrie Sellers: The Dixie Chicks made a career out of being daring. Fly as a whole was a dynamic statement of independence, pairing great songs with gutsy performances. Here were three women who weren’t afraid to grind some gears and stick up for what they believe in at a time when it wasn’t as trendy. Covering a song like "Hole in My Head" was a shake-up in a genre that sorely needed them, and for girls like myself growing up at the time, it was a battle cry to live a little louder and embrace your rough edges. Their affinity for great songs is what always kept me coming back for more, and this one was written by one of my all-time favorites Buddy Miller, the king of raw soul and unaffected songwriting.
James Barker of James Barker Band: I think there’s a whole generation of writers and artists in Nashville that were raised on this album in its entirety. The Dixie Chicks did such a great job of blending their musicianship with deep, but still very country, lyrics. They didn’t shy away from speaking about the negative sides of any situation, and this song specifically speaks about the down side to chasing your creative dream. It’s funny, because when I went back and listened to this song, after not hearing it for probably 10 years, it really opened my eyes. It was a bit of a "holy crap, that’s heavy" moment. Their portal of emotion is bang-on.
"Let Him Fly"
Jamie Lin Wilson: I got a guitar Christmas of 2000 after watching the Dixie Chicks' Houston show on the Fly tour. My cousin and I bought tickets on a whim, and a few weeks later she gave me my first instrument. To say this record had a profound influence on my life is an understatement. I sat in my room and learned every song I could in the key of D, since those were the only chords I knew. "Let Him Fly" is in the key of D. I remember sitting there, figuring out that picking part in the beginning, feeling like I had figured out a new language. I could play music. I never looked back. The songs of the Dixie Chicks inspired girls all over the world to pick up a guitar, to sing, to use our voices and be heard. I’m sure I would have found my way here eventually, but I’m so glad I made that drive to Houston that night.