Joshua Scott Jones and Meghan Linsey, the two members of new duo Steel Magnolia, have proven to be a hardy breed. After winning the CMT series, Can You Duet, in August 2009, the romantic couple landed a record deal with Big Machine Records and began adding fresh, new music to their songwriting catalogs.
It's been nearly a year and a-half since then, but their perseverance has paid off. The duo recently released their full-length, self-titled debut album, featuring well-received singles like "Keep On Lovin' You," "Just by Being You" and "Last Night Again." In this interview with CMT Insider producer Tim Hardiman, the two blossoming musicians discuss their long journey, each partner's best traits and the lessons they've learned along the way.
CMT: Can you put into words what the last 11 months have been like for you?
Meghan Linsey: It's hard to put into words because we've been just going and going and not stopping. Every now and then, we'll get to go to an awards show or play the Grand Ole Opry or do something really cool, and we go, "Wow!" You can't even believe it that you're here.
Joshua Scott Jones: Yeah, it seems like everything in the past 11 months has been so fast. Everything happened so quickly. It's like you get to put your head up out of the weeds every once in a while at an awards show or some kind of mile marker. You get so caught up in that moment, it becomes surreal being a new artist. You get to enjoy it after it's happened and you get to see what you've accomplished. I feel like with a record coming out, you know, it's been a long time coming. We've had it recorded since February, and January is the release date. I think it's going to be something that we'll be able to enjoy in retrospect, also, because having a record come out and hit the shelves nationally is a big deal. We've really been anticipating it, and we're anxious for the fans to get a chance to really hear the whole package of Steel Magnolia. We're really grateful.
What has it been like to put those songs on the shelf until January?
Linsey: We were so excited when it was done. Working with a producer like Dann Huff, it's like the sky is the limit. ... It was actually funny because we were supposed to release it in February, then we didn't really listen to it for a few months because it wasn't getting released. So, a few months later, putting it in your car and listening to it, it's like listening to it for the first time and getting excited about it all over again. And now we're just super-excited for everyone else to hear what we've been hearing.
Jones: So much work goes into making a record, and we've had a chance to work with so many great people on the record. Releasing one single at a time and not having your record come out, it's made me want to pull my hair out, waiting this long for it. But they say good things come to those who wait, and I feel like we've waited long enough.
Tell me about the history of "Last Night Again" and what it's all about.
Jones: Right after we'd won the show Can You Duet on CMT, we got to hit the woodshed as far as just writing material, looking forward for our debut record. And we got a chance to write "Last Night Again" with Hillary Lindsey. Anybody who reads credits for songwriting will know she's written such huge songs for Carrie Underwood and other great artists. We had a chance to go over to her place and write. The song came together pretty quickly. It's just a fun, flirtatious song about going out and maybe hooking up. ... It's more of a "chance meeting" -- we'll call it -- song between two people and the spark of a new relationship. It's a cool song, and we were able to really see it brought to life in the studio working with Dann Huff. He really brought it to life.
I hate to put you on the spot, but let me ask you this. Josh, what are Meghan's strengths? What do you dig about her as a performer?
Jones: The strengths about Meghan ... . Well, I gotta say that from the very first time that I saw her in Printer's Alley, just singing karaoke, she has such a strong presence about her when she sings -- and an undeniable X-factor. ... She has a glow about her that's really an attractive thing as a performer. I think that she's got that star quality. From the first time I saw her, I knew she was a star, and I thought, "Wow, man, if this girl doesn't have a record deal, this is a tough town." That was my first thought.
Linsey: That's so sweet. (laughing) ... Wow, I don't know if I can top that one.
OK, Meghan, same question.
Linsey: I think as far as Josh's strengths, definitely his songwriting ability is incredible. He's made me a better songwriter, honestly. Just the honesty and the real lyrics that he writes, he's such a real person. What you see is what you get. He doesn't really hide at all. I think that's really compelling as a performer. He puts it all out on the stage, and it's made me a better performer, too.
If you could name just one thing you've learned in the past year, what would it be?
Linsey: I hate to equate it to boot camp, but it feels like it. Just the whirlwind and the work and seeing everything that goes into it, I think it really puts everything into perspective when you're working this hard. We're in a duo together, so we have to rely on each other and lean on each other a lot of the time. It makes you thankful to have one another, even though obviously we're a couple. We don't always get along. We have our moments. But it is nice to have somebody who totally understands everything you're going through at the end of the day.
Jones: One thing I've learned from the beginning of this whole thing, you realize that you don't always have to be perfect. Initially, going into everything that we've done, it's like not every moment in your career of singing is a make-or-break thing. I've learned to relax a little and enjoy the moment of "being" -- performing and stuff like that -- instead of getting all worked up about it. I feel like we're still a new act, but I feel like after this year, like she said, it's like a boot camp. We can step back and take it in more and relax and enjoy what we're doing, rather than pull our hair out.