Three years after speaking out against the president and angering many in the country western music community, the Dixie Chicks say they are wiser but still spirited and unbowed.
Their new single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," is about their struggle for self-expression.
"It would have felt very false to just kind of go, 'OK. Nothing happened.' And there is obviously this important issue that hasn't been dealt with, because we did go away to have kids, and I think a lot of people thought we were in hiding," said group member Emily Robison. "But we went away to have lives and let things settle down a little bit, and to come back out and act as if nothing had happened would have been strange to me."
The Dixie Chicks, the best-selling female artists in the country, were riding the wave of a giant album "Home" and a No. 1 hit "Landslide" when lead singer Natalie Maines said that she was embarrassed to be from the same state as President Bush at a London concert. It was the eve of the Iraq War, and the group faced a torrent of anger and backlash.
Martie Maguire said that the reaction to Maines' comment was "really absurd, really strange, and then when I think back to what she said: 'She's ashamed our president is from Texas.' It's like where is the hoopla? How does that make somebody so angry?"
"Aren't there much more important things than what a country singer thinks about the president?" Robison said. "It's just being caught in a moment when our country wasn't tolerant of those things."
Country radio stations pulled their music, and people destroyed their album, hounded their relatives, and tracked them down with death threats.
In an interview with ABC News' "Primetime" during the immediate aftermath, Maines tried to explain that her words were about fear of heading into a war that she didn't think was justified.
"It's not that I don't ever want you to clean things up and fix things. It's just why can't we find the chemical weapons first?" she said. "Just why tomorrow?"
Three years later, the president's poll ratings are at an all-time low. His tough-talking vice president had an embarrassing hunting accident in which he shot his friend and hunting partner.
The "Not Ready to Make Nice" video shows Maines writing on a blackboard that speaking without thinking is like shooting without aiming. Their lyrics, the Dixie Chicks say, are aimed at those who continue to hate. One line of the song asks, "How in the world could the words that I said send somebody over the edge that they'd write me a letter saying, 'I'd better shut up and sing or my life will be over?'"
"True," Maines said. "That's just honest. To sing the chorus brings tears to my eyes. I look angry, but I'm angry at the hatred and what it felt like to have that hatred on you."
In terms of the video's jab at Cheney, Maines said, "We thought we kind of hit two issues at once, showing that we're not that different."
The Dixie Chicks Answer Questions
The Dixie Chicks answered e-mails from "Good Morning America" viewers.
One viewer asked: "Do you feel, basically, that you have been vindicated and that the American public moved to your position?"
"This isn't a situation for an 'I told you so,'" Maines said. "It's just regret that more people didn't ask the questions, that everyone just sort of blindly followed, and I think it was out of fear."
Another e-mail asked: "If you could go back and do it again, would you?"
"I don't regret anything, and I'm so glad it happened because it reminded me of who I am," Maines said.
A third e-mail asked: "Did you lose some friends forever?"
"Sure. Emily always says it perfectly, that her Rolodex is a little neater and lighter," Maguire said.
"They're gone," Robison said. "They're gone."
"You really do find out who really cares about you, because at the end of the day it wasn't -- for good friends, it's not about what you do," Maguire said. "I mean, people go to jail every day, and their friends and family support them, right? And they've actually done something wrong. So it was interesting how quickly some people fled."
The Dixie Chicks have gained perspective on the ire they stirred.
"We've paid a small price," Maguire said. "We gained so much more if you think about people who have suffered for justice and the right to speak, and we're way down on the suffering list. But all of us feel personally that this has changed us for the better."
"I would not change a thing. I think when you're just kicked in the gut and you have to kind of take a few steps back, everything now is almost like, like that first album where you're just like, 'Wow, that happened really? Not everybody hates our guts?' So I think it's more exciting now, and I'm excited to play music again, and I think we're all very proud of this album," she said.