Ever since mid-March, bewildered ex-fans and curious recent converts have clamored to know the naked truth about the Dixie Chicks. Was singer Natalie Maines' assertion that ''we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas'' an unfortunate slip of the tongue or a deliberate statement of defiance? Yes, they apologized -- but are they really, really, really, really sorry? EW sat down with Maines, fiddle player Martie Maguire, and banjo player Emily Robison on April 10 -- exactly four weeks after the fateful remark on that London stage -- for a magazine cover story. Here, exclusive to EW.com, are more of their candid thoughts from their first full interview since the controversy broke.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY You've always liked to speak off the cuff in concert. But after you said what you said, didn't you immediately have an inkling that this would unpleasantly surprise a lot of your fans?
NATALIE MAINES I was shocked that they were shocked, I guess. I didn't know people thought of me as conservative. I've never tried to hide who I am. People know us. They know that we're nice...
EMILY ROBISON ...that we're patriotic. It's not like we're sitting out there on a platform talking about political issues; that's not our thing.
MAINES I guess to sort of keep hope, I have to believe that it happened because of the state of the world and because of everyone's fear and because everything has been so misquoted and misrepresented. This is our first time to talk, and my hope is that when people see us again, they'll remember that we're not the monsters we've been made out to be for the last month.
EW Are you modifying your stage show because of all this?
MAINES I never understood the words to our song ''Truth No. 2'' -- I just liked it -- but now I get every single thing [songwriter Patty Griffin] was saying. So the video footage behind us for ''Truth No. 2'' during the tour hints of this. It's a basic statement of everyone in history who has been told to shut up. We were thinking you could show, in chronological order, Montgomery, Alabama, when black people first went to that high school, or the bus boycott, and then on through John Lennon and this and that. And Emily's like ''Y'all, are you sure? This is gonna seem like we think this is as important as those things.'' Now you look back at that and go, ''Yeah, well, you hoped it wouldn't have been!'' [They laugh.] It doesn't seem quite so farfetched and ridiculous anymore. I was watching VH1's ''100 Greatest Shocking Moments in Rock & Roll,'' and heard John Lennon saying the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. It was the first time I had ever seen that footage. It was like, Wow, it is the same -- boycotted from the radio, fans holding signs, the steamroller rolling over their records.... Ours are CDs now, and that's about the only difference in that visual.
EW It must have been tempting to immediately respond to a lot of things you saw happening like that in the last month.
MARTIE MAGUIRE It's been hard to keep our mouths shut because we're all big mouths. I wanted to get on the message boards and talk radio and reason with these people! Like that was gonna happen, when they're calling you the Dixie Sluts...
ROBISON Because there was a [controversial] statement made, then we must be sleeping around! It's hard for Martie, who is so concerned with what people think so much of the time. It's very interesting to watch her just go, ''Okay, screw me trying to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy.''
MAINES Yeah, we know when SHE'S pissed, it's bad.
EW It's pretty bold to be coming out now with ''Truth No. 2'' as the next single, since its opening lines sound like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
MAGUIRE It's probably not gonna be the next single [after all]. We don't know if the next song we put out is gonna be played, even if it's a sweet song. So [Sony] definitely doesn't want to put out something that is as in your face as ''You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth...''