The Chicks eliminated the “Dixie” from their moniker and returned triumphantly with their eighth studio album, “Gaslighter,” fourteen years after their last release.
The trio — Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Strayer — were kicked out of the country music scene in 2003 after Maines publicly criticized George W. Bush during a London concert, and they don’t shy away from politics on their new album, taking aim at America’s political leaders’ incompetence and advocating for gun control. Maines’ marriage and divorce from actor Adrian Pasdar, which she describes with unsparing specificity, derision, and rage, is the most significant lyrical throughline in “Gaslighter.”
How Did They Meet?
According to People, Maines met Pasdar in May 1999 at band member Emily Strayer’s wedding to her first husband, Charlie Robison. On June 24, 2000, the pair married at A Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. Maines and Pasdar married for 17 years and split their time between Los Angeles and Austin and New York City. Jackson Slade, 19, and Beckett Finn, 16, are the couple’s two sons.
Why Did Natalie Maines Divorce From Charlie Robison?
Maines filed for divorce in 2017 due to “irreconcilable differences.” She asked for joint custody of their children, and the couple had a financial prenuptial agreement. However, Pasdar, who starred in the network TV series “Judging Amy” and “Heroes,” questioned the legitimacy of their prenuptial agreement and battled Maines over spousal support, alleging “poor” and eventually demanding that Maines pay him $60,000 per month. (In addition, he claimed Maines owed him $450,000 in back child support.) Maines was the primary “breadwinner,” he said in court, and he had sacrificed his profession to care for their children. Maines, on the other hand, argued that their prenup provided that her Dixie Chicks money was hers alone.
During their court struggle, Pasdar attempted to prevent Maines (and the Chicks) from releasing new music, claiming that something in their songs violated their prenuptial agreement’s confidentiality clause. However, by October, they appeared to have reached a compromise on their finances, though the terms of the settlement have remained confidential. Their divorce was finalized on Dec. 19 following a two-year court fight.
The (now Dixie-less) Chicks released the lead single and title track from “Gaslighter” in March, a blistering narrative in which the target of Maines’ wrath — perhaps Donald Trump, perhaps Pasdar, perhaps both — is referred to as a “lie,” “denier,” and someone who “broke” her. Maines sings, “Give me all my money, and you’ll cheerfully go away” (that rings more ex than Trump). “‘Cause, son, you know exactly what you did on my boat / And, boy, that’s exactly why you ain’t comin’ home,” one phrase in particular concerning a mysterious event on a boat spurred a furious internet search. There were a lot of theories: Maines was tossed overboard, or did she discover her ex-boyfriend was a pirate? While they were married in the mid-aughts, online sleuths discovered Pasdar had purchased a boat called the “Nautalee,” which he named after Maines.
The band had their first official interview for “Gaslighter” in April, while promoting the album with a cover story for Allure magazine. Maines, on the other hand, declined to comment on her lyrics, citing “ongoing legal disputes.” She danced around Howard Stern’s queries when he went fishing for divorce rumors afterward. “As far as romance songs go,” she teased the radio host, “in our thoughts, the way we lay it up on the record, it kind of takes you on a journey.”
Fans were quick to point out that many of the album’s lyrics traced the rough waters of a lost relationship when the whole album was released on Friday. On the fun kiss-off “Tights on My Boat,” the aforementioned boat mystery comes to the surface once more: Maines sings, “You can tell the girl who left her tights on my boat / She can have you now.” (She did say the “tights” element was made up.) The song also appears to make fun of Pasdar’s entitlement (“Hey, will your dad pay your taxes now that I’m done?”) and wishes him the worse (“I hope you die sweetly in your sleep / Just joking, I hope it hurts as you harmed me”).
Pasdar is shown as a cheater in “Sleep at Night”: “How messed up is it that my spouse’s girlfriend’s husband just called me up? / It’s so insane that I had to chuckle.” During the chorus, Maines continuously wonders, “How can you sleep at night?” while referring to her ex’s “double life” and “falsehoods.” Maines also discusses parenting after her divorce in “Sleep at Night.” “But then I think about our two boys trying to become men / There’s nothing amusing about that,” she says, not wanting her sons to inherit their father’s flaws.
Maines wrestles with how she should feel about her former on the ballad “Everybody Loves You,” asking, “Why does everybody adore you?” “Do they have any idea what I do?” she inquires. “It’s my body, and I’m trying to / Forgive you, but I don’t want to / It’s my body, and it despises you,” she says.
Maines pokes fun at his age in “My Best Friend’s Weddings,” saying, “In 20 years, 20 years, 20 years, yep / I’ll still be younger than you.” (Maines is 45, whereas Pasdar is 55.) “Highs and lows, we fought our wars with silence / I’d have called you out, but darling, I knew you’d deny it / After so long, I learned to hold my tongue / And now that you’re done, I get to compose this song,” she sings on “Hope It’s Something Good.” She does, however, add sarcastically that she hopes his new lover is “truly worth it.”
Maines’ final song, “Set Me Free,” is a heartfelt plea for the ex-boyfriend who has caused her so much pain: “If you ever loved me / Then will you do this one last thing? / Set me free, set me free,” she begs.