Need To Know: The Court Yard Hounds


By Dustin Fitzharris

Since the Dixie Chicks are not afraid to speak about politics, let's talk about a political figure. What do you think of Sarah Palin?
I don't agree with her beliefs or politics at all. But, the girl has got balls. I don't think all the criticism is well-founded. I think she's attacked pretty harshly. In that respect I feel for her; especially as a woman. I still feel like it's not an equal playing field in politics. Look at what's happening with our Supreme Court justice nominee [Elena Kagan]. I don't know if she would be so scrutinized if she was a male nominee.

The Court Yard Hounds are being treated as a brand-new group and not just two members of the Dixie Chicks who are making new music. Why was it important to go with a new name?
That's so funny you say that. The Dixie Chicks are myself, Emily, and Natalie and that will forever be. We didn't have a career before Natalie. We may have been a band, but we had no success. We attribute our success to Natalie. The three of us have a very tight bond. We also didn't want to dismantle the Dixie Chicks. I don't know when Natalie is going to want to be back in the public eye. I know she's really enjoying being out of the scrutiny.

How is the Court Yard Hounds music different from the Dixie Chicks?
I feel like I know a Court Yard Hounds song, as opposed to a Dixie Chicks song. When Emily was writing the songs [for the album] she didn't feel like they were Dixie Chicks songs. I think that's because when we write for the Dixie Chicks, it's Emily, Natalie, and myself in the room. Emily and I were constantly trying to adjust our writing to make it something Natalie could sing and own. Even when we were writing 'Not Ready to Make Nice,' we were always thinking, 'Does this sound like something Natalie would say?' Now, I'm thinking, 'Can Emily own it?'

When Natalie said she wanted to take time off, you were nervous, saying, 'This is what I know. What will I do? I don't have a college degree!' What were you afraid of?
I was fearful on a lot of levels. Not that I would have to sell everything and move into government housing, or anything.

Then what was it?
First of all, I turned 40 last year. That's frightening on so many levels as a woman. Then, I just did not have an outlet for creativity. In this industry, success can be so fleeting. At the end of the day what we desire the most is longevity. We don't feel like we need to constantly be in the public eye or winning awards, but we definitely want to be relevant on some level in the music industry. If you're not playing music, you just feel like time is ticking away.

Didn't Cher help you overcome your worries about turning 40?
She almost brought me to tears. My birthday wish was to go see her in Vegas. I've got a few connections, so I was able to go back and meet her. I've been a fan for so long. Meeting her face to face was such a thrill. She could tell I was kind of down and when she said, 'OK, who is turning 40?' I said, 'A reluctant me.' She took me by the hand and walked me into the back hallway. She talked to me for about five minutes, which seemed like an hour, about how she felt a psychic premonition that I was going to have the best year of my life. She said it was the best year of her life. She referred to meeting the love of her life and making two of her favorite movies she ever made. That was life-changing for me. I felt like I had a whole new outlook after that.

So, Cher saved the day?
She totally did!

How concerned were you about the Court Yard Hounds having a successful album?
I felt like we were coming off of so much success that it almost leveled the playing field. We thought people would say, 'They've got a lot of guts to start over' and maybe see that we really were doing it for the love of playing music. I think it is a gutsy move.

First of all, it's a gutsy move on Emily's part because she knows that she's going to be compared to Natalie as a singer. Natalie is a powerhouse singer. It's almost like you can't even touch that. So, you just do what you love and hope people will like it. We were really happy to start over and know that we were going to be playing in smoky clubs. Our manager kept trying to scare us out of doing it. He kept telling us how it really does mean starting over.