Country music duo Joey+Rory broke big after taking third place on the CMT series "Can You Duet" in 2008, and found even greater success with the release of debut album 'The Life of a Song' - which was fueled by the hit single "Cheater, Cheater.”
The duo (Rory Lee Feek handles the guitar and back-up vocals while his wife Joey Martin Feek handles most of the lead vocal duties) released their follow-up 'Album Number Two' in September, and have had continued success with singles "That's Important To Me" and "This Song's For You" - which features the Zac Brown Band. Both singles present a softer side to the duo and give a glimpse into their personal lives and beliefs.
In addition to enjoying success on the charts, Joey+Rory picked up the 2010 ACM Award for Top New Vocal Duo and have been keeping busy by performing at country music icon Don Williams' "Hall of Fame" induction ceremony as well as touring with the singer.
The duo has also enjoyed success in their songwriting careers with Rory penning Easton Corbin’s No. 1 hit “A Little More Country Than That.”
M&C was lucky enough to get Joey+Rory to take a few minutes from their busy schedule to answer some questions via e-mail about marriage, songwriting, country music and ‘Album Number Two.’
M&C: Part of what make you such a great duo is the natural chemistry you have with each other, the way you seem to be having a blast performing (even in videos), and the way your energy comes across in your music. Does it ever feel like an act that you have to do for fans?
Joey: We feel like none of this is an act. Whether it be videos to performing on stage to interviews; all of the aspects of the country music world and where we are at right now. We do this because we enjoy it and because we feel like we have a shot to connect with the fans at a deeper level.
M&C: Are you still enjoying the success that has followed you since your debut album ‘The Life Of A Song’?
Joey: We’re enjoying the success of it. It’s a little bit of change. The typical trip to the grocery story is a little bit of a change. The fact that we get to share in this together is the best part of it all.
M&C: As songwriters, a duo and a married couple, do you ever have trouble balancing where each aspect fits?
Rory: No we don’t have trouble balancing where each aspect fits because we don’t separate them. We are just people. We are just a normal married couple who happen to write songs and sing them together. Our music time is our personal time and vice versa.
M&C: What does your songwriting process involve and how do you select what makes it to an album and what ends up being cut?
Rory: I have hundreds and hundreds of songs and we go through those. Our friends who are great songwriters have hundreds of songs and we go through them as well. In the end, I always give my opinion but it’s Joey’s choice. My songwriting career is my choice, but this is Joey’s career.
The album we make is the album she wants to make. I want to default all of those decisions to her. She makes the final decision on all of it. I want this to be her career.
M&C: The video and the lyrics for “Play the Song” seem to take a couple of shots at the country music industry or the music industry in general. What are your thoughts on the state of country music right now – where several artists seem like they would be at home on the pop charts or rock charts?
Rory: I think it’s really suffering even if it’s having some success. I think that they blur the lines between pop, rock and country…you can’t tell what you are listening to anymore. For me, that makes me want to change the channel. It’s not in a good place even if it looks like it’s healthy.
That’s why we have that written on our guitar: “we miss country music.” It feels like most of our industry tries to push stuff to one edge of the envelope or to the other, that leaves the whole middle of the spectrum open and that’s where we come in.
M&C: Is there still a place for traditional country musicians and songwriters like yourself?
Joey: There’s a huge hole still where traditional music and values can have a place and needs to have a place. Easton Corbin just recorded “I’m A Little More Country Than That” and that’s about as country as it gets.
M&C: Do you think the blending of musical genres benefits the artist and gives more freedom to the songwriters?
Rory: I guess it does. I think one of the great things that we’ve learned is that artists are artists. The ones that are really authentic I think people will relate to no matter what. We’ve become friends with Kid Rock and he’s a long way off from this genre. But he’s authentic. And real. And that makes us have a lot in common with him.
M&C: Several of your songs (from “Cheater, Cheater” to “Daisy Dukes” and even Blake Shelton’s “Some Beach”) seem to have a lot of humor in the lyrics. Do you feel sense of humor is something needed in more country music – which has a reputation for sad songs about love and drinking?
Joey: I feel like everybody likes to laugh. I feel like some people, artists in general, take themselves too seriously. Since people do like to laugh, I feel like that makes them more involved when they hear it live.
It doesn’t have to always have to be a sad message but that’s also a huge part of country music.
M&C: When writing a song like “Cheater, Cheater,” are you ever concerned the lyrics could go too far or not be radio friendly for a traditional country music station?
Rory: We don’t feel like it goes too far, and we are not worried about that. That’s the point. You have to be honest. But we know we have to pay a price for that sometimes. Some stations didn’t play “Cheater” because they thought it went too far, but we are not concerned with that.
M&C: How much of your image and values go into your songwriting?
Joey: “That’s Important To Me” is a song all about our values and about the things that are really important to us in our life. Our image of course kind of speaks for itself.
We don’t veer off of what we look like and I think having that constant is important. Knowing who you are as an artist is extremely important in this industry because people are always telling you who to be.
M&C: As songwriters how do you balance what you record and what you write for other artists – such as the Easton Corbin hit “A Little More Country Than That.” Is the songwriting process the same when writing for Joey+Rory as it is for writing for another artist?
Rory: Well writing for us it’s still a fairly new thing. There wasn’t an “us” before. We could have recorded “A Little More Country Than That” but we didn’t know we had a chance to, so we were happy when it went to Easton.
When we write songs, we write based on Joey’s vocal range and what she would like to sing. The rest of the time I just write what I know. That might be perfect for us or for Tim McGraw, but I just write what I know.
M&C: Did you approach writing and recording ‘Album Number Two’ with the same focus as the first studio album, or did you feel a need to stretch your style? I have read you enjoy making music that you would like hearing. Was that the same approach to this album and do you credit that approach to making good music with your success?
Joey: In recording ‘Album #2,’ we really wanted to stay on brand as with what we did with our first album… recording great songs, having acoustic sounding instrumentation and using the same producer, Carl Jackson.
Rory: We definitely didn’t feel like we needed to stretch our style. We wanted to do more of what we were doing and share more of ourselves. I think that’s all we want to do is make the kind of music we love and want to hear. We think there are people like us that love what we do and want to hear the same thing.
If that means success then we are happy about it, but sometimes success seems subjective. It’s hard to tell the effect that you are making or not making. We are heading down a great path on the new album.
What we think happens when you follow the mindset that if you make music you want to hear, you feel good about it, you don’t have to worry about your decision…you know you’ve made the right one.
Joey: We did try other things though. Such as Rory taking lead vocals on one song, and recording duets together. We didn’t do that on the first album.
M&C: The lyrics to "That's Important to Me" paint a beautiful picture of life and seems to have a timeless quality to them. What is the story behind how the song was crafted? The song and video seem to be a snapshot of your life behind the music, but also fits anyone who is listening. Is the song a good description of where you are as songwriters, a married couple and a duo?
Joey: This song was written 7 years ago in Nashville. We’d only been married about a year and I think through the process of learning more and more about who we are and each other’s personalities it led us to finding out the things that were most important to he and I.
We wrote it in an hour. It just came out. So fast. This song is the cornerstone of who we are as songwriters, a duo and a married couple.
Rory: We were with Tim Johnson and were talking about what Joey would say or not say in a song. We were thinking about the things that she would say and they just came out in list form.
The song unfolded so fast. It was no effort at all. It took a long time for its opportunity to be released, but here it is and we are so excited about it. It’s perfect.
M&C: On “This Song’s For You,” the lyrics address some of the problems we face today (such as with the economy), and also traditional values (such as church and marriage). As songwriters, how important is crafting a song like this and what was your motivation for adding it to the new album?
Rory: Songs just fall out most of the time and that song showed up that way. I had written a bunch of it about 6 months before I sat with Zac Brown and we wrote the rest of the song together. There was no agenda; it just showed up.
He (Zac Brown), like us, feels like it’s really a big deal for people to take time out of their lives to come watch you perform and buy your album. That’s what the song ended up being about. I’m a big believer that songs relay a message.
Motivation for adding it to the record was after the fact. The album was done. We played it and everyone loved it. It was really everyone else’s idea. That’s why it’s the last cut and I’m so happy it’s on it. To remember that moment in time while we were out on the road with Zac Brown Band is special.
M&C: Is there ever a concern with song that not only entertains and touches the listener, but also makes a statement about who you are as songwriters and performers?
Rory: There’s never a concern for us. Maybe because we are artists, it may be different for publicists and such. If you only have three minutes, I really feel like you need to say something in a song and we feel like we say it.
M&C: What do you plan for further down the road and what can fans expect next?
Rory: My plans are to be there in attendance when my wife’s inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Joey: Honey! No that’s farther down the road.
Rory: I’m getting older! I need you to get on it. I will also be there when she is inducted as a member into the Grand Ole Opry.
Joey: We’ll you’ll be there with me at the Opry! Honestly, we don’t know what’s next. We know that we are really excited about this new album as well as the new single and video. We are excited about 2011 and just the possibilities that can show up.
We don’t really plan anything out we just show up and see what presents itself. We hope that this song, “That’s Important To Me”, affects people as it has affected us and really gets a shot for people to heart it and that it carries itself into whatever it is that we are supposed to be doing in 2011.