Natalie Maines: A Passion for Music and Equality

Maines, who says she hates politics but is drawn to causes, including LGBT rights, talks about the feelings that go into her activism and her debut solo album, Mother.

BY Trudy Ring

May 07 2013 6:00 AM ET

Natalie Maines hates politics.

That’s a little surprising to hear from the erstwhile Dixie Chicks front woman, who has never been shy about speaking out on political matters. But she clarifies that it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about the issues.

“I hate politics as a business, but I am definitely drawn to social causes,” she says. And her passion for social causes informs her first solo album, Mother, which hits stores today.

The title track, a cover of the 1979 Pink Floyd classic, was first released on West of Memphis: Voices for Justice, the soundtrack to the 2012 documentary West of Memphis, about three young Arkansas men who were convicted, on flimsy evidence, of killing three 8-year-old boys in the 1990s. The men, who became known as the West Memphis Three, strongly proclaimed their innocence, and Maines was one of many who joined in efforts to free them. A plea deal finally resulted in their release from prison in 2011.

Another track, “Free Life,” is also connected to the West Memphis case. Maines performed the Dan Wilson composition at a rally for the West Memphis Three, and it became a favorite of the wife of one of the men.

The album’s 10 tracks are a mix of covers and originals. Besides “Mother” and “Free Life,” the covers include “Without You,” which Eddie Vedder performed on his Ukelele Songs album, and Jeff Buckley’s “Lover You Should Have Come Over.” Among the originals are “Come Cryin’ to Me,” which Maines wrote with Dixie Chicks cohorts Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, plus Gary Louris from the Jayhawks. The song had been intended for the 2006 Dixie Chicks release Taking the Long Way but was eventually rejected by the group as too rock-oriented for the album.

Mother has been characterized as more in the vein of rock and roll than the country sound associated with the Chicks. Maines notes that there’s a very singer-songwriter feel to the album as well, and while she says she set about making a recording very different from her Dixie Chicks work, it wasn’t something she had to think about. She chose the songs more than anything for the emotions they aroused in her. “It just feels very natural,” she says.

Tags: Music

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