When Rolling Stone Country first encountered Maddie & Tae, they were a teenaged duo, so new to the spotlight that they hadn’t quite worked out the elegant dance of taking turns responding to interviewers’ questions. They’d only just released their clever, catchy inversion of a certain bro-country template, “Girl in a Country Song,”and were watching it begin to register at radio and ripple through the media — even the outlets that don’t typically give country music the time of day.
Just over a year later, Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye are old pros, dispensing familiar hugs and holding court at an intimate tea-and-cookies gathering of press types in the loft of a rustic-chic event space in Nashville. They have a Number One hit under their belts, a second single making its climb up the charts and an album, Start Here (out today on Dot Records), that veers from topical sass, instead painting a picture of powerfully confessional, youthful, feminine solidarity.
It’s no longer accurate to call them teens now that Marlow is 20 and Dye turns that same age next month. When the singing and songwriting partners sit down with Rolling Stone Country for a two-on-one interview, Marlow impishly suggests a new solution: “They can call us ‘the twenties duo.'”
When Kelsea Ballerini had her recent chart-topper, people talked about her ending the drought of hit debut singles by female artists. But if you broaden the category beyond solo acts, then you two got there first.
Maddie Marlow: Sometimes people don’t really consider us.
Tae Dye: Yeah, they just disregard that. I do understand that they’re thinking solo female. But we’re like, “Hey! We did it too!”
Marlow: We were so happy for Kelsea, because she’s one of our really good friends. Really hardworking, too. So that was cool to see.
We even love all the guys that we poked fun at in “Girl in a Country Song.” But there’s just been such a lack of female perspective and female storytelling. So we’re just happy that the playing field’s a little more even now, and you’re getting the guy’s perspective and the girl’s perspective. It’s not just one-sided like it used to be.
In interviews, you’ve been asked to explain what you were trying to do with “Girl in a Country Song.” And you’ve spent a lot of time either reassuring or clarifying that you do, in fact, like the artists whose songs you’re calling out. Why was it so important to get that across?
Dye: There was a lot of explanation that came with introducing “Girl in a Country Song.” Because a lot of people, their first reaction was, “Oh, you hate these guys and you’re just dissing everybody.” That’s not what we were doing at all. Our intentions were just to write a song that we were feeling, and that’s always gonna be our intention with every song we write. . . We were just very annoyed at how ladies were being treated disrespected, [like] they had no value. But yeah, there was a lot of explaining to do with that, because people just thought we were being mean, and we weren’t.
Marlow: There was the big elephant in the room. The way these songs were talking to women or portraying them was so stereotypical and not realistic whatsoever. We just happened to call it out before anyone else did. I think people appreciated the honesty. We weren’t really trying to poke fun at the guys; we were more poking fun at the trend. Now that the song did do very well, I think it just goes to show that people wanted that message to be said.