Emily Robison is an American songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and a founding member of the multiple Grammy Award-winning female alternative country-rock band the Dixie Chicks.


Emily Robison was born August 16, 1972 Emily Burns Erwin in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Parents Paul Erwin and Barbara Trask moved the family to the northern suburban town of Addison, Texas on the edge of Dallas Texas, where she was raised with her two older sisters, Julia and Martha. Her parents were both educators and nurtured the growing interest that both Emily and Martha (later nicknamed Martie) shared, and together both sisters became proficient on several instruments while in elementary school. Robison began playing the violin at age seven, and the banjo at age ten, afterward learning all the string instruments she could find.[1] Martie, speaking years later in their documentary 2007 Shut Up and Sing joked that Emily was better than she at the fiddle, and because she wanted to keep the fiddle as her instrument, she forced Emily to learn something else.[2] Emily responded by mastering the five string banjo by reading books to teach herself the chord progressions.[1] Jane Frost, Director of the Patsy Montana Museum and the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas, remembers watching the sisters mature, teaming up with schoolmates Troy and Sharon Gilchrist. From 1984-1989, the foursome were touring in a teenage bluegrass group they named the Blue Night Express.[3] After Martie graduated from secondary school with Robison still completing her studies, both remained active in the bluegrass scene; Martie, (still known then as "Martha Erwin") won 2nd Place in Winfield's National fiddle Chmpionships in 1987, and 3rd place in 1989, while she attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, performing in the school orchestra there.[4]


Formation of the Dixie ChicksEdit


Emily is a multi-instrumentalist, who plays the banjo, dobro, acoustic guitar and electric guitars, papoose, mandolin, accordion, and sitar. In addition, she is proficient in vocal harmony.

In 1989, after years of attending bluegrass festivals and busking where they could, Emily joined her sister Martie, guitarist Robin Lynn Macy, and bass player Laura Lynch. The four took the name the Dixie Chicks after a song by Lowell George of Little Feat, "Dixie Chicken", playing what was predominantly bluegrass and a mix of country standards. Frost, again, recalls being privy to the discussion that the four women had about a the possibility of a successful career as musicians together. Martie felt they could do well. Robin said,".. It's going to be a 'hot' band," to which Emily responded, "I give it six months, and if we aren't making money by then, I'm out of here!".[5]

Robison was shy, and the youngest. She had enjoyed playing throughout school, but was at an age where she was already entertaining thoughts of working hard to be accepted by the United States Air Force Academy.[6]

Plenty of regular festival attendees remembered the foursome. In 1989 when festival promoter Bob Redford, at the Walnut Valley Festival found he had an open slot on stage six, Santa Fe Trails Productions' Leo Eilts was asked if he knew of a band to fill the space, and suggested the Chicks. Upon learning of what he believes was their first paid performance, Eilts says, "Laura promptly threw up". However, the women did play—backed by himself and another musician for moral support.[7] The young women began to take to the road in earnest.

The newly formed Dixie Chicks released the first of three independent albums on the independent label, Crystal Clear Sound. Thank Heavens For Dale Evans showed the women in "cowgirl costumes", which they wore in appearances, from busking on street corners, (mostly in the Dallas area) and was released in 1990, followed by Lil Ole Cowgirl, in 1992.

A New DirectionEdit

By 1993, the band had evolved into a new direction. Macy left the group for a "purer" bluegrass sound. Lynch, thrust into the position of sole lead singer, was replaced by the sisters in 1995 with singer composer Natalie Maines after the group was unable to garner anything more than local interest [8]

After Natalie Maines assumed the position of lead vocalist, the band was revitalized. Maguire said of their music, "It's very rootsy, but then Natalie comes in with a rock and blues influence. That gave Emily and I a chance to branch out, because we loved those kinds of music but felt limited by our instruments." [1] The "new" Dixie Chicks took to the road, and were scouted and signed by Sony's Monument Records in 1996.[9] A single "I Can Love You Better" was released in October 1997, and reached the Top 10 on American country music charts, while the new lineup recorded the rest of their debut album. The finished result was released on January 27, 1998. Although it was the fourth album for the "Dixie Chicks", most fans now consider it their first, primarily because it was their first major label release, and because with Maines, the band's look and sound changed significantly. Newcomers to Dixie Chicks music are often unaware of the band's history. This first album for the current band added a widespread audience to their original loyal following, entering the top five on both country and pop charts[10] with initial sales of 12 million copies in the country music arena alone, taking the record for the best-selling duo or group album in country music history.[11]

Big Country music took note of the Chicks, awarding them the Horizon Award for new artists in 1998, which, according to CBS News, is "given to someone expected to have a long, successful career".[12] By 1999, the album won the new line up their first Grammy Awards as well as acclaim from the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music, and other high profile awards. The album yielded five singles ranking in the top ten in the American Billboard charts, and of them, three became number one hits.

Early commerical successEdit

After surprising even their own record label with the overwhelming popularity of the debut album of the new trio, the band moved on to produce another rare RIAA certified diamond with their new album, Fly, in August, 1999 having sold over 10 million copies. The Chicks are the only female group in history to have earned two RIAA Diamond Awards.[13] As of 2007, Wide Open Spaces has sold more than 30.5 million copies, a "quadruple platium" album.[14] With Fly, both albums ranked so high in sales by 2000, that even as of 2008, the Dixie Chicks are not only the highest selling female band in U.S. history, but they have albums that continue to place in the list of the 50 best-selling albums in American history.[15] Fly again won Grammy awards and honors from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, and a humbling amount of honors from a variety of other sources for their accomplishments.[12][16]

While the addition of Maines freed the bandmates to explore more musical genres, it lacked the bluegrass that the Erwin sisters had loved. After the commercial success of their first two albums with Sony, the band wasn't long in approaching their label about fairer compensation. As the band wrangled with Sony, finally getting a record imprint of their own, "Open Wide Records",[17] and a slightly better contract, they wrote songs with less emphasis on drums, with a less commercial sound, closer to their roots.[18] One song, "Lil' Jack Slade" is an instrumental, and two songs from folksinger Patty Griffin are covered. Lloyd Maines had experience with producing records for other country music bands (as in the case of Joe Ely's band), and they produced the album, Home together.

Controversy and public opinionEdit

Although Maguire and Robison often appear quiet and demure compared to their animated bandmate Natalie Maines, the trio have stood united on controversial subjects almost since they joined as a band, even when their opinions have had the potential to serve them harm more than to accomplish their goals. When Sony worried that their name might offend Northerners and Feminists, they were unmoved. They took a hit from some fans for the song, "Goodbye Earl", on their album, Fly a song using black comedy to portray the predicament of a battered woman, and her revenge: the remorseless murder of her husband with the aid of her best friend.[19] In 2005, Maguire, Robison and Maines joined with a host of 31 other recording artists, including Dolly Parton, Christina Aguilera, Yoko Ono, and Mandy Moore supporting relationships of all kinds, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity on a double disk release entitled, Love Rocks, with their song from the album Home called, "I Believe In Love".[20] They participated in each stage of renegotiating their contract after Fly according to Maguire, including teaming up with other female rockers; Courtney Love and Aimee Mann with a lawsuit addressing the inequities in the industry.[21]

Some of the largest (and most personal) examples that have made the Dixie Chicks so controversial, however, include Maguire and Robison's support of Maines' 2003 criticism of United States President George W. Bush's choice of a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, which lost the band an estimated half of their audience in the United States. That same anti-war stance also led the American Red Cross to refuse a donation of $1,000,000.00 because of their controversial political standing. Other concerns include controversy (particularly between some Christian sects) in the Southern bible belt concerning IVF, (both Maguire and Robison were unable to conceive without it), support for stem cell research (all three women have had grandparents suffering from alzheimers; Maines co-wrote a song called "Silent House" with Neil Finn of Crowded House about her grandmother's memory loss), mobilization to review the case of a prisoner on Death Row (whom Maines believed to be innocent), and the band's support for liberal causes, including those for Gay and Lesbian rights. These stances have made them extremely controversial, but they agree that they prefer to have an audience who appreciate them for who they are, and are unwilling to mince words just for financial gain.

See also: Dixie Chicks political controversy

Personal lifeEdit

On May 1, 1999, Emily married country singer Charlie Robison.[22] During their courtship, Martie wrote the romantic hit song, "Cowboy Take Me Away" for her younger sister. Emily's name was changed after their marriage to Emily Robison.

Infertility, conception and motherhoodEdit

The Robisons have three children: Charles Augustus, called "Gus", born November 11, 2002[23] and twins Julianna Tex and Henry Benjamin born on April 14, 2005.[24] All three children were conceived via invitro fertilization. They reside on a ranch near Medina, Texas, northwest of San Antonio, Texas.

Robison has been forthcoming about the fact that she and her husband used IVF to conceive their three children, saying "we were under the naïve assumption that once we started we’d be pregnant the first month. When it didn’t work that way, I was in shock,” She had mild endometriosis, “but nothing that would have kept me from getting pregnant.” Older sister Julia and other family members never experienced infertility, and thus it came as a shock to her sister Martie Maguire that she also experienced infertility, using Clomid and other options before at last using invitro fertilization to successfully conceive twice as had Emily. Both discuss the difficulties of planning for a family while touring, but are acutely aware of their good fortune with choices that other women would find financially prohibitive.[25] The Dixie Chick song they wrote, "So Hard" tells of Robison's and Maguire's view on their struggle.

Discography Edit

See also: Dixie Chicks discography

Awards Edit

American Civil Liberties Union

  • 2006: Bill of Rights Award[26]

American Music Awards

  • 2003: Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group
  • 2003: Favorite Country Album - Home
  • 2001: Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group

Country Music Association Awards

  • 2002: Vocal Group of the Year
  • 2000: Album of the Year - Fly
  • 2000: Entertainer of the Year
  • 2000: Vocal Group of the Year
  • 2000: Music Video of the Year - "Goodbye Earl"
  • 1999: Single of the Year - "Wide Open Spaces"
  • 1999: Vocal Group of the Year
  • 1999: Music Video of the Year - "Wide Open Spaces"
  • 1998: Horizon Award
  • 1998: Vocal Group of the Year

Grammy Awards

Juno Awards

  • 2007: International Album of the Year - Taking the Long Way

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Malkin, Nina [1] (Retrieved 31 December 2007
  2. Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing
  3. Gilchrist, Sharon (Retrieved 12 February 2008)]Faraway Hills
  4. Walnut Valley Association 1987 and 1989 National fiddle championships in archive Retrieved 2 March, 2008
  5. Frost, Jane. 15 July 1999. Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS, Early 1980s The All-Inclusive Dixie Chicks Page
  6. Clark, Renee (accessed 23 January 2008)[2] Can the Dixie Chicks make it in the big time? Local Heroes (Transcribed from) Dallas Life Magazine, Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1992]
  7. Eilts, Leo (June, 1999 The Dixie Chicks at Stage Six
  8. Dickerson, James L. (2000) Dixie Chicks: Down-Home and Backstage. Taylor Trade Publishing, Dallas, Texas. ISBN 0-87833-189-1.
  9. Brooks, Robert The Dixie Chicks All Inclusive Timeline 1990
  10. Smith, Chris The Vancouver Sun "100 Albums You Need To Own" (Retrieved 4 January 2008)
  11. Ankeny, Jason Dixie Chicks Biography (Retrieved 30 January)
  12. 12.0 12.1 (accessed 2 February 2008) Dixie Chicks Riding High
  13. Country Music (Retrieved 20 April 2008)
  14. RIAA Certification Website (Retrieved 4 March 2008)
  15. Willman, Chris Rednecks & Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music By Chris Willman, 2005 pg. 21-23 ISBN 1595580174
  16. Awards list from Dixie Chicks Fans site (Retrieved 7 April, 2008)
  17. Leggett, Steve
  18. Hermes, Will NPR Music All Things Considered (Retrieved 20 April, 2008)
  19. Quelland, Sarah MetroActive Music: Whistlin' Dixie Who knew the world's most controversial band would be three gals from Texas?
  20. 2005|1|28 Love Rocks Retrieved 25 May, 2008
  21. Sharp, Kathleen The Boston Globe
  22. [3] Emily Erwin Marries Charlie Robison
  23. [4] Dixie Chick has son
  24. [5] Robison has girl and boy twins
  25. [6] Emily Robison's Fertility Struggle
  26. News Release. (12 December 2006) ACLU/SC Honors Dixie Chicks, 'Crash' Oscar Winner, Top Music Executive, and Courageous Navy Lawyer ACLU. Accessed 20 July 2007.

External linksEdit

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