Singer Joey Martin Feek, of the wife-and-husband duo Joey + Rory, died Friday (March 4) in Indiana of cervical cancer. Doctors had told the 40-year-old singer that she was not likely to live beyond last Thanksgiving.
Her husband, songwriter Rory Feek, confirmed the death in a blog in which he issued periodic bulletins about her declining condition for several months.
Joey Martin was born in Alexandria, Ind., on Sept. 7, 1975 and showed an early interest in singing.
“When I was a little girl, my mom and dad and I would travel around to local venues and perform for different functions,” she told CMT.com. Later on, she joined a band that “really wasn’t on a professional level” but at least enabled her to perform regularly.
Modest though these beginnings were, Martin moved to Nashville in 1998 with the goal of becoming a recording artist. At first, she supported herself by working for a veterinarian clinic that specialized in treating horses.
Around 2001, Sony signed Martin to a recording contract and selected veteran producers Paul Worley and Billy Crain to oversee her first (and, as it turned out, last) album for the label.
None of the material she recorded for Sony was ever released, partly owing to executive changes at the label and partly due to Martin’s unease at the demands made of a young female artist.
While recording the album, she met and soon after married Rory Feek, then known chiefly as a songwriter. Capitalizing on the hiatus in her career, she opened and helped operate a restaurant with Feek’s sister in Pottsville, Tennessee.
Following her venture with Sony, Martin released under her maiden name the solo album Strong Enough to Cry.
In 2008, Feek ventured beyond his comfort zone as a songwriter to join his wife in competing on the CMT talent competition series, Can You Duet. Although they came in third, their sound was sufficiently compelling to earn them a contract with Sugar Hill Records. This led to their first of several albums together, The Life of a Song, and later to a stage show based on their rural home life, A Farm House Christmas.
Their other albums are Album No. 2, A Farmhouse Christmas, His And Hers, Inspired: Songs Of Faith And Family, Made To Last, Country Classics: A Tapestry Of Our Musical Heritage and Hymns That Are Important to Us.
In 2010, Joey + Rory won the Academy of Country Music award for top new vocal duo and a year later the ACM trophy for top vocal duo.
Rory Feek brought two grown daughters to the marriage, and in 2014 the couple celebrated the birth of their first child together, a daughter, Indiana. That same year, Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
In 2016, Joey + Rory’s recording of “If I Needed You” was nominated for a best country duo/group performance Grammy.