April 30, 2010 / 11:51 PM / 9 years ago

Two Dixie Chicks hatch offshoot Court Yard Hounds

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Despite a combined sales total that tops 25 million albums and fame that can turn off-the-cuff comments into political firestorms, Dixie Chicks Emily Robison and Martie Maguire aren’t relying on their past achievements to drive sales of their new project, Court Yard Hounds.

The Dixie Chicks (from L-R) Emily Robison, Natalie Maines and Martie Maguire perform at the opening night of the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles October 18, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Instead, the sisters and their label, Columbia, say they’re treating the act — whose self-titled album is out Tuesday (May 4) — like a whole new entity. But some of the deals they’re striking would make many emerging acts green with envy.

Robison and Maguire first decided to record as Court Yard Hounds when Dixie Chicks lead vocalist Natalie Maines wanted to take more time off and they were itching to create new music.

“She knew our feelings about wanting to work, and to be honest, it took a lot of pressure off her. She appreciated not feeling like we were waiting around for her anymore,” Robison says. “We’re still the Dixie Chicks and doing things together, but until we get back in the studio, we recorded this new music, just the two of us. She was happy for us that we were able to find an outlet for the stuff that I’d been writing.”

The duo took its new moniker from a David Benioff novel Robison had been reading. “I wanted a well-worn name, one that sounded like it had been around for a while,” Robison says. “There’s an excerpt about talent and how it’s a fanatical mistress, how it can be with you at one point and then after a while it can leave you. It’s very relevant for our own lives as far as just taking advantage of when you are inspired and not letting the time pass you.”

The band’s summer will be spent on the road, touring as both the Chicks and the Hounds. The Chicks will be on tour with the Eagles, while the Hounds are doing Lilith Fair, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and other dates.

“There are a lot of acoustic elements. There are a lot of rock elements, a lot of country elements and a lot of folk influences for sure,” Maguire says of the group’s sound. “Emily just started sending these songs. She had been writing for about two years on a hiatus.”

The band unveiled its live show at the South by Southwest music conference in March. “I was a little bit nervous before we went into it because it’s so hard to play your hometown first,” Robison says. “Martie lives in Austin, and I live next door in San Antonio, but once we were onstage it was the right thing to do because we felt so welcomed and a groundswell of support.”

Maguire and Robison are working mothers, and the label is targeting such “mom blogs” as MomsLife.com. They have been doing weekly webisodes on a number of sites.

The duo will appear on “Good Morning America,” “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Show With David Letterman,” “The View,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” and other major TV outlets.

“Each day the girls do a TV show, we’re going to take a photo of what they are wearing and then their website is going to direct fans to iDeeli.com, a female online clothing store, where you can buy their look,” Columbia vice president of marketing Scott Greer says. “There’s the special of the day, and it can be bundled with the record.”

“We were definitely excited about that because we shop on sites like iDeeli.com,” says Maguire, who notes that fans often ask where they buy their clothing. “That’s basically how I shop now because Austin is not known for its great shops, and being busy moms, that’s how we find things.”

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