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MADDIE & TAE
TELL THE TRUTH

Maddie & Tae impaled country music with their bro-country-skewering “Girl in a Country Song,” the plucky stereotype sendup with the role-reversing video that’s registered over 26 million Vevo views; the track hit #1 and was just certified platinum. They attracted attention from The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly and Letterman.           
Coulda been a mere moment, but this pair of songwriters, who got a publishing deal at 15, a record deal to launch Scott Borchetta and Chris Stacey’s Dot Records at 18 and an Academy of Country Music Duo of the Year nomination at 19, are more than one-hit wonders. As the follow-up “Fly” hits the Top 10 and Dierks Bentley’s Sounds of Summer Tour wraps, they launch Start Here this Friday 8/28 with an NPR First Listen, major promotions with every radio chain, a Radio Disney Virtual World Tour flyaway to Epcot and enough street-week activities to drop an 18-year-old. Good thing they’re 19 and just-turned-20; they can do all that and help HITS’ aging Neobilly goddess Holly Gleason cross the road.


You guys hit the format like a ton of bricks with “Girl in a Country Song.” Were you surprised?
TAE DYE: Yeah. From the very beginning. We played it in a publishing meeting Scott Borchetta was in, and suddenly we didn’t just have a record deal, we had a single being rushed to Country radio.

MADDY MARLOW: And you know, it was a fun song. We told some journalists we were joking, meaning we were making jokes about all the stupid things guys say about girls in these songs. Next thing you know, people thought we were saying that we were just kidding.

Yeah, I heard a lot of people saying you guys didn’t own it.
MM: We had a media trainer tell us to say we were kidding’ because they were worried people would be mad at us. I don’t think anyone thought it would take off like it did—but we didn’t say anything everyone else wasn’t thinking.

TD: Honestly, who could be one of those girls? They’re so perfect and hot and just grateful to be in the truck! And anyone who knows anything about us knows we’d want to be driving that truck! MM: Besides, Taylor and I both have a lot on our minds, we have personalities and we like to get out there and mix it up. “Let’s go fishing.” “Let’s make music.” “Let’s go see what life’s all about.” Way better than sitting in some guy’s truck in a bikini top and cutoffs, right?

You two like telling the truth, don’t you?
[Laughter.]

Look at “Sierra,” about a mean girl; “Shut Up and Fish,” about a couple of city guys who didn’t get you bait your own hooks; or “Your Side of Town,” about a trash-talking not-quite boyfriend.
MM: Well, those things happened! We write about our lives, and people aren’t always who you want them to be—or think they are. It can hurt your feelings or make you crazy, which is why we write songs about this stuff.

TD: We get it out. But what’s funny is how many people come up to us in meet-and-greets who say the same thing happened to them, and whichever song made them feel better, and we can all feel a lot less alone. That’s why we became songwriters.

The notion of loneliness and being on your own is also a theme.
MM: Tae and I left our families at 17. We’d been coming to Nashville since we were 15 for various publishing opportunities, and there’s a lot you don’t know until you’re on your own. When you’re in an apartment and a pipe breaks and your dad isn’t there to fix it, that’s a pretty alone feeling.

Ann Powers, NPR’s pop music critic, talked about the authenticity of being your age and writing these songs in your First Listen introduction. Is that something you think about?
TD: Maddie and I started writing songs because we didn’t hear any songs that were about things we felt or were experiencing. Some of it is because there are so many guys, and some of it is because it’s people who’re in their 30s writing about what they remember, instead of “This just happened; we need to get it out of our system.”

MM: We were really lucky. When we were 15, people like Aaron Scherz didn’t just write with us, they listened and treated us like what we were saying mattered. You hear about artists sitting in rooms and not contributing; everyone we wrote with not only expected us to pull our weight, they let us lead. And we are what we are—two girls growing up pretty normal with a very crazy job!

Should I ask who your influences are?
MM: Well, when I was five, I saw Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” video, and I’d stand in front of the TV, begging it to come on again. I didn’t want to go to kindergarten until I saw it. Something about that made me want to be a songwriter, and I’m not sure I even really knew what that was.

TD: But there are so many! We love the Dixie Chicks for the energy, the way they were so aggressive and country. Shania, Dolly Parton, Miranda for her truth-telling, Patty Griffin for the way she writes and sings. It’s probably more like who don’t we like—and we’ll never tell!

You’re on the Dierks Bentley Sounds of Summer Tour. He’s someone who has mainstream success but remains credible.
TD: We were so excited when he asked for us because of that. No one is more respected—he goes off and does a bluegrass record, but then comes back with big country hits. We want that.

MM: Yeah, give us our fiddles and mandolins, banjos and steel guitars. Turn ’em up! He proves you can do that. Then he gets up onstage and just holds those people with the music. It’s so much energy, but it’s all going to the same place—to the songs. Watching him every night has been a real lesson.

So you guys want to be big mainstream superstars?
MM: Absolutely. Girls deserve artists who are singing their lives too. They should have people playing the arenas on their own tours to come see. And they should have music as aggressive and country and radio-right—otherwise, the radio just sounds like one thing.

TD: We knew what we wanted to sound like, the country-ness of it. Thankfully, [producer] Dan Huff got it, respected it and knew how to get it. He comes from the rock world, so that aggressive sound is something he does. When he applies it to a banjo or a fiddle, it’s in your face. It’s been a while since country music had some of that, so we wanna put a whole mess of it on the radio. We’re those kinda girls.

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