Smooth Hound Smith talks touring with the Dixie Chicks, playing for diverse crowds and more
Every wedding-planning process has hiccups. Not all of them are as huge as a major North American tour just weeks before the big day.
But so far, everything looks good for fiances Zack Smith and Caitlin Doyle of the roots-rock act Smooth Hound Smith. They're getting married this fall, not long after a long run of dates opening for the Dixie Chicks.
“The wedding’s almost done, actually,” said Smith, calling the morning after a show in Virginia Beach, Va. “Caitlin did most of it.”
“Yeah, we got it planned before the tour,” Doyle added, “so we didn’t have to worry about it on the road.”
Good thing, because the Dixie Chicks’ first nationwide tour in a decade is a pretty big opportunity for the Nashville duo, who play a raucous mix of rock, blues, rockabilly and Americana. After Shazamming a Smooth Hound Smith song at a concert, Chicks singer Natalie Maines reached out to the band on Twitter, and they’ve since become friends. It’s a dream come true for Doyle, a huge Dixie Chicks fan for more than a decade.
When the Dixie Chicks play Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Friday (click here for details), it’ll mark Smooth Hound Smith’s first trip to the Sunshine State — although they might start making this a regular stop.
“It’s funny, because just last week, my mom, who has been living in L.A. for four years, just sold her house and is moving to Tampa,” Smith said.
Before the show, Doyle (vocals and percussion) and Smith (everything else) talked about the Dixie Chicks, protest music and more. Here are excerpts.
It’s been a long time since the Dixie Chicks have gone out on a tour like this, but have either of you seen them before?
Caitlin: I’m a huge fan. I grew up in California, so they didn’t come to California until they got bigger. I saw them in 2003.
Does this feel like a completely different experience? A lot’s happened for them since then.
Caitlin: Yeah. They were selling “Free Natalie” shirts, you know, that whole stupid scandal. I think it was on the same tour, maybe. So there were people protesting, and attendance was not super good. But this is a completely different experience, obviously. The crowd is all about seeing them again.
Zack: It’s like the crowd’s been waiting for it for a while, and a fair amount of these shows are selling out, too. Everyone knows all the lyrics and seems just rabid for more Dixie Chicks.
Caitlin, you said you’re a huge fan. Zack, were you neutral on the Dixie Chicks? Were you a fan?
Zack: I have some memories from my childhood where I had maybe one or two of their CDs, and my mom was kind of into it, but I was never a huge, huge fan. But now we see them every night, and I love all their songs, and I know a lot of the lyrics.
The Dixie Chicks were one of those groups that came along and did something new, which was hard to do within the Nashville establishment, especially at the time they were doing it. What effect do you think that’s had on the past 20 years of music?
Zack: It’s easier to look back 15 years and say, 'Oh, this sort of started that trajectory...’ They had a rootsier sound back then, and you definitely see that as a trend in country music now. It kind off split off, the way that I see it. There’s the country music that uses hip-hop beats and is referential to urban culture; it’s basically pop music with a banjo. And then there’s this rootsier side that’s still pop-country music — the Dierks Bentleys and guys who play their instruments — and so I think it almost spawned a new offshoot of country, in a weird way.
Caitlin: They broke out of the country arena, I would say, because of the whole thing that they said about Bush. (Maines) had an opinion and she spoke it, and their fan base shifted. They lost all of the country people that didn’t want them to have an opinion, and were put off by anyone talking bad about the president. They lost those people. But then they gained this whole other fan base of people that heard what happened and were like, “Wow, okay, I need to check these chicks out,” and then fell in love with the music. Like all my dad’s Baby Boomer hippie friends, they’re like, “Dude, the Dixie Chicks, man!” (laughs)
Can you tell that in the audiences of the shows so far?
Zack: The breadth of different fans that they have is pretty wide. It’s pretty mind-blowing. There’s a lot of moms and daughters, and a lot of really young kids, and there’s older people, and there’s country fans, and then there’s rock fans, and there’s kind of a weird rockabilly contingent as well. It’s bizarre, but it’s really cool to see everyone come together. That’s what makes the Dixie Chicks cool — it’s country music, but they put on a rock show. There’s all these influences bundled up, and whatever speaks to you, you can pull that out of it.
Caitlin: And just good music. They’re just good musicians, all of them.
-- Jay Cridlin