Maddie & Tae admit they often feel a bit more inhibited when playing to smaller crowds, but that certainly didn't seem the case at a private concert Saturday night in Germantown, Maryland.
The award-winning duo exuded both confidence and humility during their hour-plus long show at Northwest High School, where they celebrated winners of the Starkey Hearing Foundation's "Listen Carefully" campaign. Backed by their band and with both singers on guitar, Maddie & Tae's hour-plus set was highlighted by soaring harmonies on hits including "Fly" and "Sierra." But their vocals were rivaled by audience members who made the event a full-fledged sing-along — that is, when they weren't cheering at the top of their lungs.
The evening event was indeed a love fest between Maddie & Tae and their teen fans. "We don't feel like these celebrities," said Maddie Marlow just before the show. "We still feel the same old way."
That sentiment seems sincere. Perhaps that's because Marlow and Tae Dye are completely guileless as they talk about their boyfriends, songs, pets, gardening and high school experiences — including making peace with the high school bully who inspired "Sierra." They were right at home mingling with contest winners and other teens at the show, under a horseshoe arch of blue, white and orange balloons.
"We are not far removed from this," said Marlow, standing near student lockers after greeting fans. "I remember being in high school and trying to absorb the knowledge that people in the public eye had to give. When I prayed this morning, I hoped that someone in the audience [today] would be inspired by our story, our music or a lyric. That's what this is all about."
Allowing fans to see their personal lives can be scary, they admit, but it's vital. That's why the singers document so much of it on social media.
"That is one of the biggest things being in this industry, having all of your life out there. Everyone knows your business," says Dye. "We have to remain role models. That is what it is all about for us to stay positive and to stay loving for our fans."
Supporting non-profit causes such as Starkey Hearing Foundation is another way they do so. The public charity works to increase awareness of hearing loss that impacts 360 million people worldwide, including 32 million children. The organization has pledged to provide more than one million hearing aids to people by 2020.
Hundreds of teens submitted videos to the foundation's "Listen Carefully" promotion. Students who submitted winning videos and their parents were flown to Washington, D.C., for the Maddie & Tae concert and other celebrations.
Maddie and Tae say the Foundation's cause is one near to their hearts, because both have family and friends who have suffered hearing loss.
"Everyone thinks, 'I should protect my eyes with sunglasses and protect my skin with sunscreen,'" says Dye. "It's also really important to protect your hearing. We have gotten really [conscious] of that."