Thursday, August 29, 2013 / 8:40 AM
Their faces and voices may ring a bell, but present and future fans of the Court Yard Hounds are probably much more familiar with the duo’s background harmonies than their lead vocals. Sisters Emily Robinson and Martie Maguire are founding members of the Dixie Chicks, but have always seemed more comfortable letting someone else sing out front. After the Dixie Chicks had been on hiatus for over a year, the two sisters were ready to get back to the studio. They formed Court Yard Hounds, released their self-titled, debut album in 2010, and seemed to find their place at center stage.
Though initially Robison started out writing again as a creative outlet, simply to create something new, she began to consider selling her songs to other artists rather than let them pile up, unused. She sent her songs over to Maguire to get some feedback, and Maguire quickly vetoed the idea. “I always run things by Martie because I know she’ll be brutally honest with me,” Robison explains, “But she said, ‘We can’t give these songs away, we gotta do something with them! Let’s start a band!’”
At first Robison resisted the idea, but eventually she gave in to her sister’s insistence. “She was a very big cheerleader for me singing these songs and all the rest,” Robison recalls. “It was little baby steps at first, but now we just feel like it’s old hat, and we love the band we have behind us, and we feel more confident in the respect that we just go out there and do it.”
Now, coming off of the release of their second album, Amelita, the Court Yard Hounds are excited to be performing at LouFest 2013. “I love these big festivals, because you can really garner new fans and educate people,” says Robison. “I’m not meaning that in a derogatory way, but it’s amazing how many people haven’t put two and two together and they don’t know who Martie and I are based on our past. We just opened up some dates with Zac Brown, and you could just see the wheels turning in people’s heads… they just don’t know.”
With the exception of some upcoming Texas shows, LouFest is the only Midwest show planned for Court Yard Hounds in the near future. With seven children between them, the sisters have to tour strategically to make the most of their time away. “The most fun for us is the live show, and it’s the hardest thing, too: to tour and get out there on the road, because it’s so cost-prohibitive to bring a big band out on the road,” explains Robison, “So, we really have to tour smart, and not bog ourselves down too much with, ‘Oh, we have to be on the road 200 dates a year.’”
The sisters also still perform occasionally as the Dixie Chicks, and they have plans for a brief Canadian tour in Fall 2013. Robison says, “We constantly try to mix it up, and I think for some people that’s confusing, like, ‘Which band are you in?’ but, why can’t we do both?”
Robison admits that there is something refreshing about having something new to write for. “There’s a lot of baggage with Dixie Chicks that makes it hard to have a fresh, open page and go, ‘Okay, what is this song gonna be?’ There’s just so much that proceeds that, whereas I feel like with Court Yard Hounds it’s just the freedom to write whatever the hell I wanna write.”
Despite the recent July release of Amelita, Robison hints that there’s still more to come. “There are a lot of things on the—I won’t say, ‘the cutting room floor,’ because we didn’t necessarily cut ’em because they weren’t as good.” She clarifies, “It was more like they just weren’t ready. Like, the last little bit of inspiration to finish the lyrics, or we didn’t have a vision for the production yet on it. So there’s lots of stuff, yeah, that’s still there in some form or fashion that we’ll probably go back to at some point.”
The release of the second album should also cement the idea that for the sisters, this is not just a temporary side project. “As far as new music, inspiration, and what I write for, [I’m] definitely geared towards Court Yard Hounds because I’m enjoying it so much and I enjoy the freedom to kind of be a new band.”
Court Yard Hounds play LouFest’s Bud Lite stage Sunday, September 8 at 2:30 p.m. For more info, visit loufest.com.
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