The Chicks talk name change, say they never felt canceled because of 'great fans'

It's been a time of big changes for Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire, who recently released their first singles in 13 years, their first studio album in 14 years and changed the band name they've played under for decades.

Last month, the Chicks announced they'd dropped the "Dixie" from their well-known musical moniker, and on Friday morning, they opened up to TODAY's Carson Daly about that meaningful move and their new music — and about whether or not they consider themselves to be pioneers of cancel culture.

"The name change we'd been kicking around for a while, feeling a little, maybe, should we say uneasy about the 'Dixie' part," Maguire explained.

In a statement they shared to their website at the time, the band wrote of the change, saying, "We want to meet this moment," meaning this time when the world's spotlight has turned to the topic of racial inequality and injustice — a moment that made a term like "Dixie," often associated with the Civil War-era South, easy for them to delete.

"With the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, we felt like, 'How could we not?'" Maguire added.

And while some might find the change jarring for an act that's earned 13 Grammys and sold over 33 million records under their old name, the Chicks know their fans will stick with them — because they always have.

After all, 17 years ago, the Texas trio faced an intense backlash that many now cite as one of the earliest examples of so-called cancel culture, when radio stations banned their recordings and critics prompted a band boycott after Maines spoke out against the Iraq war and then-President George W. Bush during a live show in London.

She told the crowd that "we're on the good side with y'all," making it clear they were against "this war, this violence," and that they were ashamed that the then-president of the United States hailed from the same state they did.

Still, today, they aren't so certain about being called victims of cancel culture.

"I think as far as the internet playing a role in canceling somebody, yes," Maines conceded. "But I also think, you know, for us, it didn't feel so much that we were canceled because, thank God, we had really great fans."

And those faithful fans stuck with them through it all.

"Playing music is something you can do no matter what," Strayer said, noting that it's impossible to truly be canceled. "We may have lost a certain contingency of the crowd, but our fans were still there for us. And it was, I wouldn't say it was easy, but I don't regret any of it to be honest."

Looking back now, the Chicks' outspoken nature makes them seem like innovators as it's no longer unusual for major acts in the country music industry and beyond.

"I think it's huge," Maines said. "And I think people are speaking out more, people who used to sort of do the 'just happy to be here — it's not my job to comment. I'm just here to entertain.' I've seen some of those people starting to speak out now as well. I think that's what music is for."

Now, after a lengthy break from recording, they're allowing their music to speak for them once again with their new album, "Gaslighter," out Friday, and recent protest single "March March."