Maddie & Tae Were Almost Sweet Aliana

The Busking Days That Built Them

Sometimes, what may seem like an overnight sensation didn’t always just happen overnight.

Sometimes, it takes a little dues paying and street busking and some pretty bad band names.

The last time Maddie & Tae were in Chicago, we talked about the things that happened right before their rapid rise to fame with their debut hit “Girl in a Country Song.”

First, there was the busking that Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye did when they got to Nashville.

“We played a Nashville street corner, right in front of the Hard Rock,” Marlow told me. “We parked at the Hilton, which was $15. And we made $30. So my $15 had to pay for the parking.”

But even though their net income was at the barely-breaking-even point, their learnings were high.

“We played for two hours, and every time we played our song ‘Waitin’ on a Plane,’ we’d make a lot of money,” Dye said. “So we played it six times that day.”

That song is now the first track on their debut album, Start Here, due out on Aug. 28.

Marlow and Dye co-wrote that song, along with the other ten tracks, and told me they were really proud of that.

“In high school, there are people who live for high school. But Tae and I both wanted bigger things. We both knew what we wanted to do, and had goals we wanted to reach, so we went after them as young as we possibly could,” Marlow explained of how like-minded to two of them are.

“Most kids our age didn’t understand that. We met at 15, and we started talking, and it was rare to find someone at that young age who is passionate like you,” Dye added.

Because they were so young, though, they got their start calling themselves Sweet Aliana.

Before they settled on that name, Dye said they’d go through paint swatches to find inspiration.

“That’s how desperate we were to find a cool name,” she said, “like Pearl Iris or Ivory Moon.”

“Sweet Aliana was the worst band name ever. For us now, we’re like, ‘This is the most childish band name.’ And our music wasn’t childish,” Marlow said. “Then right before we got our record deal, we were like, ‘You know what? I think we should just go by our names. Because our music is very honest and transparent.’ It was hard for us to go by something other than our names. Maddie & Tae just fit us so well.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.