Emily Erwin was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts but was in the northern suburban town of Addison, Texas on the edge of Dallas. Emily began playing the violin at age seven, and the banjo at age ten, afterward learning all the string instruments she could find.
Years later, her sister Martie 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.
Emily responded by mastering the five string banjo, by reading books to teach herself the chord progressions. From 1984-1989, Emily, her sister and schoolmates Troy and Sharon Gilchrist toured in a teenage bluegrass group they named the Blue Night Express. The sisters were said to have an "almost obsessive" interest in busking at small venues and attending bluegrass festivals. After Martie graduated from secondary school at Greenhill School with Emily still completing her studies, both remained active in the bluegrass scene.
Today, Emily plays banjo, dobro, guitar, bass, mandolin, accordion, and sitar. In addition, she sings backup vocals.
The sisters formed The Dixie Chicks band in 1989 in Dallas, Texas, and was originally composed of four women performing bluegrass and country music, busking and touring the bluegrass festival circuits and small venues for six years without attracting a major label.
After the departure of one bandmate, the replacement of their lead singer, and a slight change in their repertoire, the Dixie Chicks soon achieved commercial success, beginning in 1998 with hit songs "There's Your Trouble" and "Wide Open Spaces".
As of 2012, the Dixie Chicks had won 13 Grammy Awards, including five in 2007 for Taking the Long Way—which received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year—and "Not Ready to Make Nice", a single from that album. By May 2013, with 30.5 million certified albums sold, and sales of 27.2 million albums in the U.S. alone, they had become the top selling all-female band and biggest selling country group in the U.S.
Robison stood by lead vocalist Natalie Maines when the controversy over Maines' remarks about U.S. President George W. Bush while in the U.K. Back in the U.S., Maines' criticism was not well received. Nevertheless, even when her home was trashed, and plenty of editorials were predicting the end of the Dixie Chicks' successful careers in music, Emily remained loyal to Maines, as did her sister and Dixie Chicks member, Martie Maguire.
In January 2010 Emily and Martie formed a side project called the Court Yard Hounds, with Robison as lead vocalist. The band released an album in May, 2010.
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