Country duo Maddie & Tae's Maddie Marlow and Taylor Dye were only 18 when they started making their debut album Start Here.
Now, they're 24. So they're a little older, a little wiser, but still every bit the prolific and gifted singer-songwriters they were five years ago when they showed their true colors with their first song, "Girl in a Country Song." And that's what you'll hear when you listen to their second album The Way It Feels -- due out Friday (April 10) -- named after a line in the song "Bathroom Floor."
I had a chance to talk with them, quarantine-style and completely socially distant, about a few of the stand-out tracks, the albums they have loved, and what they've learned from tourmates Dierks Bentley and Carrie Underwood.
CMT.com: It's been almost five years since your first album came out. Times are different. You're different. So is it safe to assume it was different making this album as full-grown women?
Maddie & Tae: Yes, because I think there's a new found confidence. After you do something one time, you kind of get the gist of it by the second time. But this release just means so much to us. Because there was a point in time when we didn't really have a record label, we didn't have a record deal. For a minute, we did think, "Maybe we don't get to release music ever again, maybe it was just a one-time thing for us." And of course, that's not what we wanted. We've worked our whole lives for this. So you just have to come out on the other side and know that persistence does pay off and sometimes you just gotta trust the journey. So we're celebrating this album extra hard.
And the subject matter really changed between the two albums, too. Again because of where you were then and where you are now. In 2015, you had a song "Sierra" about the quintessential mean girl in high school. Now you've got you've got a song about finding love and getting married, "Trying on Rings." That kind of pivot alone makes this whole album seem so mature.
It definitely feels more mature. I feel like the blessing during all of that crazy time was that we got to live and kind of grow up. And when you go through something that challenges your emotions, you learn from it, and you can come out on the other side better and stronger and wiser. That is what we did with that time. We really dove into our music and truly as we were growing up, we were just loving ourselves and letting ourselves be where we're at. A lot of what you hear in the lyrics is the confidence of, "Alright, we're grown woman now. Let's talk about how in love we are with our people. Let's talk about how hard it is sometimes to wake up and be confident. Like, let's talk about it all."
I get that, and I hear that. With "Die from a Broken Heart," you showed a side of you that was very vulnerable. Did the success of that heartbreak ballad surprise you?
There's this whole stigma that ballads don't do well, and that's just totally been proven wrong for us. Being realistic really wins at the end of the day. That's what people want to hear. As music lovers ourselves, that's the music that we gravitate towards. It's really special when you tell your story, and then even more special when you're getting to speak for so many different people with the same story. Our fans have made it a gold record, and it's trying to get to the top 20 on radio, so we call it our little song that could.
Wait. That's not a No. 1 song? I don't even understand that.
Us too, girl. Us too.
I think there's a lot of potential for No. 1s on this whole new album. But first I want to ask about the decision to cut “New Dog Old Tricks," written by Laura Veltz, Jesse Frasure and Emily Weisband. It's the only outside cut on this album or the last album. What was it about this one song that made you feel like it was worthy?
“New Dog Old Tricks" had kind of just been popping up in our lives and following us around in so many ways. We'd first heard it about four years ago and we loved it. We thought it was so fun, so sappy and just so great. But at that time it really didn't fit what we were doing. Then we kind of had to go through life and gain more confidence to really feel like we could own it ourselves. And then we were in a pitch meeting with Universal, and they played it and we were like, "Oh my gosh, we remember this song. It is so fun. And it actually fits where we're at right now." We thought we could sing this because we've been through this. Even though we didn't write it, it truly felt like something we would say. And if we could've written it, we would've.
Another song I want to know all about is your collaboration with Dierks Bentley on “Lay Here With Me." Tell me everything.
We wrote that one with two of our good friends. And we wrote it just for us. But the more we listened to it, the more we thought it'd be cool to have a male character on the song. So we reached out to Dierks to see if he would be interested. He was so kind and he loved the song and he wanted to do it with us. He came in and put a vocal on it and we were so excited. He took time out of making his own record. I think he was actually in the studio that day, and left to come over to (producer) Jimmy Robbin's studio. That was such a cool moment to be in the same room with Dierks as he's working his magic on one of our songs. I mean, he was one of the first people to take us out on tour. We'd never even been on a tour until his Sounds of the Summer tour in 2015. He opened his arms to us and was so gracious and taught us so much. It's a cool way to kind of nod at someone who has been a champion for us since the beginning.
Songs like that, and really every other song, make me love this new album from start to finish. The radio singles, the deep cuts, and every other track in between. And that's not always the case for me. When you think about the albums you grew up on, which ones did you love like that?
The Dixie Chicks Fly record. I was obsessed. And also, I mean for years and years, Lee Ann Womack's Call Me Crazy. Just solid gold. The whole thing.
Is that the one with "I Think I Know"? I love that whole album, too.
Yes! (sings) I think I know what killed Keith Whitley, and I wasn't just the whiskey.
Last question. Now that the Carrie Underwood tour is behind you, what ideas are you stealing from her?
So many. I really loved her VIP experience. She did a really great job of that. She just made it really special, but also so seamless for her and for the fans. The way she had the room set up was so beautiful. We also love that within with her set, she would do the big crazy songs like "Church Bells" and "Two Black Cadillacs," and then she would bring it down with "Temporary Home" and "See You Again." Those little acousticy moments of four or five songs she put together were so cool to see. Because that showed her dynamic abilities as an entertainer.
Next up for Maddie & Tae is a packed summer and fall on Lady Antebellum's Ocean 2020 tour.
The Way It Feels track listing:
“Everywhere I’m Goin’” (Maddie Marlow, Taylor Dye, Josh Thompson, Jimmy Robbins)
“Bathroom Floor” (Marlow, Dye, Josh Kerr)
“My Man” (Marlow, Dye, Dave Barnes, Jordan Reynolds)
“Tourist In This Town” (Marlow, Dye, Barry Dean, Robbins)
“Drunk Or Lonely” (Marlow, Dye, Deric Ruttan, Forrest Whitehead)
“One Heart To Another” (Marlow, Dye, Jonathan Singleton, Ruttan)
“Trying On Rings” (Marlow, Dye, Laura Veltz, Robbins)
“Write A Book” (Marlow, Dye, Veltz, Kerr)
“Water In His Wine Glass” (Marlow, Dye, Jon Nite)
“Ain’t There Yet” (Marlow, Dye, Dave Barnes, Ben West)
“Lay Here With Me” (feat. Dierks Bentley) (Marlow, Dye, Kerr, Dave Barnes)
“Friends Don’t” (Marlow, Dye, Nite, Justin Ebach)
“Die From A Broken Heart” (Marlow, Dye, Singleton, Ruttan)
“I Don’t Need To Know” (Marlow, Dye, Adam Hambrick)
“New Dog Old Tricks” (Veltz, Jesse Frasure, Emily Weisband)