Maddie Marlow and Taylor Dye never intended to hit a nerve when they sat down on St. Patricks Day and wrote “Girl In A Country Song.” Merely expressing their own reaction to the reductive tilt of today’s BroCountry, the pair and co-writer Aaron Schwerz shamelessly skewered its Xeroxed stereotypes; “Girl” was as much a lark as it was ever “meaningful social commentary.”
Yet the response was so instant and intense, there was no denying it. NPR’s “All Things Considered” cited Maddie & Tae for “turning heads in different ways with their very first single,” Rolling Stone cited them as one of “10 New Artists You Need to Know” and David Letterman couldn’t get the plucky duo to New York fast enough. Even elevated cultural think-tank The Atlantic marveled, “Cheekily appropriating much of the sound of modern country, the two young women directly quote well-known bro-country lyrics and titles...”
No one was more surprised than the natives of Sugar Land, Texas and Ada, Oklahoma. Still in the studio tracking overdubs for “Girl,” they signed their record deal before Dan Huff had even finished four sides on the sunshine’n’moxie pair.
But there’s so much more to Maddie & Tae than the song that is either a feminist declaration, an echo of Janet Jackson’s rebuke “I’ve got a name, and it ain’t ‘Baby’,” or this year’s feel-good finger-wag to dumb boys. NPR’s lead pop critic Ann Powers agrees, “Maddie and Tae are more. They’re songwriters, powerful harmonizers, and in the video for ‘Girl In A Country Song,’ natural comediennes.”
Like a lot of young women, Maddie & Tae grew up on the Dixie Chicks’ full-tilt acoustica. Both dreamers who knew what they wanted early, the pair met at 15 through their vocal coach and came to Nashville for “a summer camp publishing deal.” They met Big Machine’s SVP of A&R Allison Jones – and fate stepped in.
In 2013, it was decided. The pair relocated – and never looked back. Publishing deal in hand, they were immersed in creativity, seeking a voice that was both authentic and truly their own. The duo knew by speaking their truth, their uniqueness would set them apart.
As Marlow told Rolling Stone Country, “Our whole project revolves around keeping it real and being honest. We didn’t filter anything, because we felt like when it comes from an honest place, the truth will resonate so much better.”
For Maddie & Tae, their wings are in the music. What they feel, how they live, what they dream – this is where they rise. One need only listen to the tumbledown hoedown “Your Side of Town,” that’s all high jinx and higher spirits as they pair warn off a no-good man for the last time, to understand.
Even in the hardcore throw-down, all bucking backbeat and bee-sting guitar, there is a romp and a plucky audacity that shows these young ladies have no interest in letting anything break their spirits. Just as importantly, they fear no fiddles, no banjos, no steel guitars, even as they have bulked up drums that crash and guitars that slash and sting like the big boys.
While Rolling Stone observed, “Cheekily appropriating much of the sound of modern country,” there is so much more to Maddie & Tae than that. Independent thinkers, strong livers, hardcore dreamers, the pair are reaching for the sky – and winking at us all while they do it.
Sometimes, it’s the freshest faces and brightest sounds that pull us in. For Maddie & Tae, who embrace real country, it’s that merge of what’s right now and what they love that sets them apart and captures our imaginations in the best possible way.