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BY WENDY WILKINSON | PHOTOS BY KEN AMOROSANO | STYLED BY TIFFANY GIFFORD
Madison Marlow and Taylor Dye, known as the award-winning duo Maddie & Tae, turned a lot of heads after the release of their first hit single “Girl in a Country Song,” where they take a shot at ‘bro-country’ music. The now best friends first met in high school when they were both going to the same vocal coach. Dye is from Ada, Oklahoma, and Marlow from Sugar Land, Texas, but after performing at a showcase in Dallas, they became friends and decided they could make beautiful music together. Thus Maddie & Tae was formed in 2010 when the young performers were just fifteen.
Three years later, a successful debut album followed, Start Here, and the young musical phenoms thought they were up and running. But not so fast: Their record label collapsed soon after the album’s release, and it took another five years for the ongoing release of their new EP (extended play) which is being released in three parts—One Heart to Another dropped in April 2019, Everywhere I’m Going this past October, and the third part will hit in March 2020.
The music critics from Billboard to Rolling Stone have taken notice, the latter which had this to say about their new music: “ … which is anchored around their stellar vocal pairings and some of the tightest harmonies on Music Row.” So trending is the duo now, that Marlow’s November nuptials which took place at the Barn at Sycamore Farm in Arrington, Tennessee, was featured in People magazine with an image of the bride and her bridesmaid—who else but Dye.
What a difference four years can make. The record label fiasco could have been an insurmountable stumbling block for the emerging performers, but these ladies have talent and perseverance, as we discovered in our interview.
CG: Let’s start at the beginning. We’ve read that you met at a showcase in Dallas. Tell us a bit about that fortuitous meeting and how Maddie & Tae was born.
MM: We did meet at a showcase in Dallas when we were fifteen and I was going back and forth to Nashville writing songs as well, and asked Tae to go on a writing trip with me. When we started writing together, the magic began to happen, and then our deep friendship became the glue of our relationship. My inspirations were Taylor Swift, the Dixie Chicks, and Shania Twain, so I would journal and just constantly write, and by the time I was in seventh grade, I had learned enough to put together the lyrics and play the guitar for a simple song. But I have to say, it’s a lot more fun to create music with a partner.
TD: Being Maddie & Tae allows us to work with your best friend and we get to share our stories together as a duo, but we do have different perspectives and have been able to create an album from our lives. Our fans seem to love the diversity, and being the same age, we have grown up together, taken the journey of self-discovery, and learned to build confidence as performers.
CG: We’ve read that you ruffled a lot of feathers with your first hit single “Girl in a Country Song.” After watching the wonderfully amusing video where you poke fun at the stereotypes of young women who appear in country videos, with the men wearing short, cut-off jeans and come-hither looks on their faces; care to elaborate?
MM: For “Girl in a Country Song,” we felt that women were being represented in our genre in a very shallow, picture-perfect way. At the time we were just songwriters, and not singers or performers, and thought no one would be hearing “Girl in a Country Song,” so we decided to be as honest as possible, even making a list of clichés found in some country song. Little did we know …
TD: I think there is something about being young and a little naïve. It was a blessing to be so naïve, as I don’t think we would have stepped out like that if we were a few years older. The backlash was interesting. It stung a bit, but gave us validation and there was never any intention to be cruel to the guys; we wanted to shine a light on what was happening in the country genre at that time.
CG: Are you ready for a real moment of internal reflection Maddie & Tae? At nineteen, you had your first hit and then the bottom sort of dropped out with your record label unexpectedly going out of business. What were those next several years like for you?
MM: After three years with our record label, several huge hits, and a loss or two as well, in February 2017, they called and told us they were shutting their doors for good. We were completely blindsided, our world came crashing down, and those were really hard and character-building days for us. The thing that we had was our friendship and passion for the music. I wish someone had told us then that fear is not the end-all and sometimes you have to fall on your butt to understand what is important.
CG: Now you’ve signed with Universal Music Nashville, been touring and performing on stage with Carrie Underwood, and will be releasing part three of your new EP this spring. What is it like to experience this success while not yet 25, and how do you stay grounded with all the noise?
TD: I love your comment “with all the noise.” What really keeps us grounded is our deep faith, and Maddie and I also have very supportive families; Our parents sacrificed their weekends to drive us to and from Nashville. We also have great men in our lives who don’t let our heads get too big. We still come home and do the dishes and take out the trash, and that is something that Maddie and I hope people see in us. Yes, we love to be onstage but some of our happiest moments can be at home in our sweats with Maddie’s husband and my fiancé.
MM: Tae and I know what it’s like to be both at the highest high and lowest of the low points in our careers. Those times really created humble hearts and our egos went out the door when our record label shut down. We’ve experienced so much early on in our careers that there’s no place for big egos.
CG: What made you decide to release your second album as three separate EP’s? Tell us a bit about the third EP that will drop in March.
MM: This whole second album is based on our fears and picking ourselves up and moving ahead. Our story to tell was one of love, loss, and redemption and by the time the third EP is released, this whole story will be told. We decided on three releases so that every song we wrote for this project would have its own moment.
TD: The response to the new music is overwhelming in a good way. We weren’t sure what the reaction would be as we put out our first album more than four years ago and a lot of things have happened in between. This is validation for us to keep telling our story honestly.
CG: You’ve also had a very active touring schedule in 2019. What was it like to support Carrie Underwood on her The Cry Pretty Tour 360?
TD: When I think about 2019, all I think about is touring—and it really did span the whole year—but we are not upset about it. Going on the road with Carrie has made us 10 times the performers we were before touring with her. She treated us really well and this whole tour was a statement, as Carrie was the first superstar performer to create an all-female lineup and really created a lot of excitement with that tour.
CG: Tell us a bit about the men in your lives, as I know that you had a Thanksgiving wedding last year, Maddie, and that Taylor is engaged. How are your both able to juggle it all, especially with your robust tour schedule?
MM: What’s really important in my relationship with my husband, Jonah, who is going to school to become a nutritionist, is that we are in constant communication and I chose to be completely present when I’m with him. We’re not on our phones and are really focused on each other’s needs and having fun.
TD: I got engaged in September after dating for almost two years, and we plan to get married in spring of this year, so we have a lot of things to do over the next six months. We are so happy to have found each other and excited to start this new chapter together. My fiancé Josh is in the music business as a songwriter and producer, and we wrote songs together. That is how our love story began.
CG: It seems like through all your ups and downs, you have maintained not only a good working relationship, but very close friendship as well. How do both of these relationships work?
MM: Our work relationship is very collaborative and partner-oriented, and we don’t make decisions without both of us signing off on them. Our personal friendship is more like a sisterhood, as we have been working together for 10 years and there is an unconditional love that goes along with that commitment.
TD: We inspire and lift each other up! And it’s even more important that we get to travel the world to create lifetime memories together. WW