On Wednesday morning, the Dixie Chicks returned with their first new single since 2006. The song, “Gaslighter,” touches on many of the elements that made the band superstars: gorgeous harmonies, earworm melodies, and lyrics that refuse to suffer the foolishness of a crappy man. We’ve missed the Dixie Chicks a lot over the past fourteen years, and a new single from the group occasioned a lot of listening around Texas Monthly—and a lot of speculation as to what its cryptic lyrics, such as “Cause, boy, you know exactly what you did on my boat,” could be referring to.
Staffers Cat Cardenas, Lauren Larson, Emily McCullar, and Dan Solomon assembled a roundtable discussion to chat about how it feels to have the band back, the song’s trip accompanying video, and what exactly the subject of the song could have possibly done on Natalie Maines’s boat.
Dan Solomon: It’s been like, almost fifteen years since the Dixie Chicks released new music, right? What do y’all think?
Emily McCullar: Well, I have listened to “Gaslighter” about two hundred times, give or take, since it dropped yesterday. So my behavior indicates that I like it very much. And when I’m not actively listening to it, I’m singing the chorus in my head.
EM: It definitely fits in the Dixie Chicks oeuvre.
CC: Gotta say, I really missed mad Natalie Maines.
DS: It seems like a lot of people did! I’m sure there are a lot of different kinds of songs they could have led with, but they picked this as the comeback single, and named the album after it. On a scale of one to ten, how mad do you want the rest of the album to be?
EM: Five? I love “Goodbye Earl” and “There’s Your Trouble,” but I honestly think the heartbreak Dixie Chicks songs have always been my favorite. I just want it to be COUNTRY. “Gaslighter” is a little more pop-y than I think I want. But then again, I keep listening to it, so it seems it’s exactly what I want in ways I don’t understand.
CC: The deeply petty side of me would say seven, but I’d agree with Emily. It’s been a weird time in the country landscape and, honestly, not much has changed since they were last on the scene with women not getting much airplay. So I’m ready for the Dixie Chicks to come back and school everyone on what country is—with songs about anger, heartbreak, and getting older.
EM: Oh, 100 percent to that last one. Also give me something sweet and slow like “Lullaby.”
DS: It would really be something if a lot of this album is about spilling secrets and naming names, in a way that’s totally earned given how deeply messed up the country music establishment was and is, and has been and will be—especially toward them but, like you say, pretty much to all women in the industry. Like, let’s start with ex-husbands and then talk Nashville radio execs. What did they do on her boat?
EM: Oh man, the more I look into Adrian Pasdar [Maines’ ex-husband] the more I love “Gaslighter.” I resent him for how much he has made me think about the television show Heroes [he starred in it].
DS: I confess that I didn’t know much about him or their relationship before this song. If this is the only way I’m getting my news on that, how accurate is what I’m learning?
EM: Well, they had a very contentious divorce process. They married in 2000 and signed a prenup. When they divorced he tried to have it invalidated, saying he had signed it under duress. Then he also tried to use a confidential clause from that very prenup to block Maines from releasing new music that could contain details about him. I can’t say the lyrics of “Gaslighter” are the full story (there are two sides, as they say), but some details do seem to line up.
DS: What did he do on her boat?
EM: That I do not know. Run lines for Heroes?
CC: I have a few theories, but I’d just like to say that I love that she made sure we all knew it was her boat.
EM: What kind of boat do you think it is? Where does she keep it?
DS: “My boat” is the sort of detail I listen to the Dixie Chicks for.
CC: It’s the peak of storytelling and pettiness!
EM: It would be sick if there was a song called “My Boat” on the album. A soft, slow jam. Folksy. Full of beautiful, three-part harmonies just singing about the joys of boat ownership.
DS: Would the video for that one be weirder or less weird than the one for “Gaslighter,” do you think?
EM: I don’t think any video could be weirder than the video for “Gaslighter.” I will never understand it. I think it was supposed to be empowering, but I found it stressfully overstimulating.
CC: I’m honestly afraid that I was hypnotized while watching the video and another song on the album is going to activate me Manchurian Candidate-style. For what purpose? I do not yet know.
DS: The military uniforms are very weird! They’re not just any military uniforms. They could have put them in fatigues or something. But these are, uh, very crisp. Like, did Leni Riefenstahl direct it?
EM: Yeppppp. Does not help that I have been watching Amazon’s The Hunters every night before bed.
Lauren Larson: Belatedly chiming in here with the results of a perfunctory investigation into The Boat Thing.
DS: Oh, thank gosh. What did he do? Did he poop on the floor?
EM: Is it just a reference to the 2012 film The Cat’s Meow?
LL: In February of last year, Maines’s ex-husband Adrian Pasdar apparently sought $60,000 in spousal support, according to court documents obtained by The Blast.
EM: Maybe he microwaved fish in the boat’s kitchen. Stinky!
DS: Definitely worth a diss track!
LL: Pasdar apparently also had a boat. Did they have two boats?
EM: The plot thickens!
DS: Was it, like, his and hers boats, but we know whose boats they both really are?
CC: But she says whatever heinous act he committed (potential fish microwaving included), he did on her boat!!!
LL: The boat was called The Nautalee, which is a cute nautical play on Natalie.
CC: OH MY GOD. I’m seasick.
LL: According to the Gainesville Sun, Pasdar hoped to sail The Nautalee across the Atlantic.
EM: Something tells me he didn’t pull it off. Typical Adrian.
LL: Wow, the boat seems to be a pillar of Pasdar’s identity as a Boat Guy. It seems his life, his love, and his lady was not Natalie Maines, but the sea.
DS: But what did he do?
CC: Perhaps his love was Nautalee, not Natalie?
EM: It’s crazy how much this song has ignited the resentment I didn’t realize I still felt for the television show Heroes. Once again the Dixie Chicks have helped me get to the deep down issues so I can begin to heal.
DS: Any final thoughts about the song?
LL: So catchy.
EM: Catchy. Hard to sing at karaoke, though, I would imagine.
DS: Need three friends to pull it off, at least.
LL: For the ahhhhhh-ahhhhhhh-ahhhhhhh.
EM: No way you hit the notes on “Gaslighter” without warming up first. And no one warms up before karaoke.