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'There's Your Trouble' takes country group to No. 1

July 30, 1998|By TERI JOHNSON

Dixie Chicks is making tracks in the country music business.

Before things started to take off, members Emily Erwin, Martie Seidel and Natalie Maines made a pact to each have a tiny chicken foot tattooed on their feet for every No. 1 record they achieved.

"We could never fathom ever having a No. 1," Seidel said in a telephone interview from London, Ontario, where the group was performing.

The three will be sporting tattoos at their gold record party Aug. 11.

Their single "There's Your Trouble" had just hit No. 1 in Canada, and the coming Billboard chart shows that the song has jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in the United States. Their album "Wide Open Spaces" was certified gold five months after its release.

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"We're getting scared," joked Seidel, 28, the band's fiddle and mandolin player.

Dixie Chicks, which derived its name from the Little Feat song "Dixie Chicken," is Sony's fastest act to turn gold. Sony chose the band to launch its reactivated Monument Records label, which previously had given legends such as Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson their start.

Dixie Chicks, featuring Maines, 23, as lead vocalist and Seidel's sister Erwin, 25, on dobro, banjo and acoustic guitar, is the highest debuting country group since 1991.

The band has opened for country superstars George Strait, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Emmylou Harris, toured Japan and Europe, played at the Grand Ole Opry and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and done a McDonald's commercial.

But the country musicians attracting so much attention are no newcomers.

As teenagers Seidel and Erwin toured together in a bluegrass band called Blue Night Express for six years.

The sisters helped found the band that would be known as Dixie Chicks in 1989, when they and two friends started playing for tips on a Dallas street corner. After they earned more than $100 the first hour, it was clear they wouldn't have to be waitresses that summer.

They soon were in demand in Texas, and they recorded three independent albums before Maines joined the group in 1995.

"We know what works and what doesn't," Seidel said.

Their stage show is a melting pot for a variety of different styles, from bluegrass to Irish tunes.

Dixie Chicks will perform Sunday, Aug. 2, at Rocky Gap Music Festival at Allegany College in Cumberland, Md. The band includes four others besides Erwin, Seidel and Maines.

They're doing about 250 shows this year, and they're usually on the road for 30 days and home in Dallas for about three days.

Girls ages 6 to 15 are their strongest audience, said Seidel, who calls herself the mother of the group.

She said they identify with the song "Wide Open Spaces," which describes a young girl's need to find a dream and a life of her own.

"We get hundreds of e-mails a week, and we read every single one of them," Seidel said.

Receiving messages such as "You make me want to practice" make them realize the young audience members are listening, Seidel said.

"We want to be role models," she said.

Fans are interested to learn that Seidel and Maines both are married, and that Seidel has a 4-year-old stepson. Kids send them a lot of pictures they have drawn.

"Everything is on a very personal level," Seidel said.

Erwin, Seidel and Maines started working on their second album the day "Wide Open Spaces" came out, and they plan to start recording in August.

Their three-part harmony continues offstage, and they really rely on each other, Seidel said.

"We feel we're the only people we can trust as far as our careers. It's nice to have other people you know you can count on," she said.

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