When Maddie Marlow and Taylor Dye burst onto the scene in 2014 with “Girl in a Country Song,” the duo were often highlighted as part of the next chapter for country music. That breakout hit, along with the biting “Shut Up and Fish,” helped to get them placed in the same category as Miranda Lambert, the Dixie Chicks and Carrie Underwood; namely, women who don’t take any shit. But with their latest project, Maddie and Tae wanted to show fans the other dimensions of themselves.
“‘Girl in a Country Song’ is definitely the side of us that’s confident, just like balls to the wall, fearless. We’re just going for it,” Taylor Dye tells Rolling Stone Country. “But there’s days where we feel totally weak, not confident. We don’t feel beautiful.”
Following the success of “Girl in a Country Song” and the release of their debut album Start Here, Maddie and Tae’s label Dot Records shuttered in 2017 and they were dropped from the roster. After a tumultuous few months, they were picked up by Universal Music Group. Those trying times culminated in 14 new songs, which were recorded with producers Derek Wells and Jimmy Robbins at Nashville’s Ocean Way Studios in just two days. The new project, according to Dye, is a “concept album” that was inspired by the ebbs and flows of the singers’ personal lives and careers.
“[The album] starts off with the ‘in love’ phase of a relationship which then goes into the heartbreak and the relationship calling quits,” Dye explains. “The end of the record is all about this girl just getting her power back and finding strength and confidence.”
The duo’s new project leads off with the single “Friends Don’t,” which explores the tension of an evolving friendship. It’s a plot line that wasn’t visited on their debut album Start Here, simply because it wasn’t an experience they could draw from yet. Now 23, both Dye and Marlow have a much deeper well from which to draw.
“We didn’t talk about love, heartbreak or finding someone that you truly care about on the first record,” says Dye. “But that was our lives over the past couple of years.”
As songwriters first and foremost, Dye and Marlow knew that they wanted to share their story with listeners by pouring it into their art.
“We wanted to grow gracefully with our fans,” Dye says. “We started writing about being in love, being young women and the uncomfortability of not really knowing what you’re doing with your life while trying to act like you do.”
That vulnerability also shines in the newly released “Die From a Broken Heart,” which follows the many calls made from a daughter to her mother as she looks for answers to a myriad of life’s challenges, from pesky wine stains to devastating breakups.
“We kind of pulled from the pain of the unknown and not feeling the most confident at that time to make it feel real,” Marlow explains. “We wanted listeners to feel the pain of a mom having to hear that her kid is struggling and the pain of the girl getting her heart broken.”
It’s a simple but powerful narrative that many women will find relatable, but one that isn’t heard as often as it should be. At a time when country radio rarely supports songs that share a feminine perspective, Maddie and Tae have opted to stay true to themselves and their story.
“Growing up listening to strong women who were able to show their vulnerable side was absolutely a game changer for us because we do the same. The reason we’ve loved country music since we were children was just hearing Shania Twain be sassy or hearing Lee Ann Womack be vulnerable,” Dye says. “They kind of set the bar for women being honest.”
Momentarily pivoting from the fiery confidence of “Girl in a Country Song” doesn’t show weakness; instead, it shows strength. As women in country music are fighting harder than ever to get their place on the charts, Maddie and Tae are set on speaking their truths without giving into the pressures of the industry.
“It’s really important, especially as a woman, to express that it’s okay to not feel okay,” says Dye. “It’s okay to feel broken. You’re going to get to that confident place, but just know where you are, embrace it and then just grow from it.”
Now that Maddie and Tae have dusted themselves off and started a new chapter — including an upcoming tour with Carrie Underwood — they have a new perspective on what really matters.
“Now I feel confident in who I am because my worth doesn’t come from applause or a number one song,” Marlow says, smiling. “It just comes from who I am as a human, my story and my heart.”