“We wanted to make an album that you celebrate to, that you cry to—that you party to,” says Maddie Marlow, discussing the first LP on Mercury Nashville she and her recording partner Taylor Dye are releasing in three parts, the second part Everywhere I’m Goin’ recently released on October 18, while the first part released in April 2019.
Maddie & Tae first broke out in 2013 with their PLATINUM-selling “Girl In A Country Song,” and the full-length that followed made good on the single’s glinting promise. Released in 2015, the whip smart Start Here cast a side-eyed glance at the high school cafeteria crowd—then just teens, it was a world they still knew well—and burned with the desire to break out, move out, and set the world on fire.
They enter a new realm on their boldly honest sophomore album, a striking record chock-full of stories of love, loss and redemption that sees a relationship through all phases from flirty beginnings (“Friends Don’t) into all-consuming love (“Trying On Rings”) and tumbling into woeful heartache (“Lay Here With Me” feat. Dierks Bentley, “Die From A Broken Heart”). Stand-out moments of strength include “One Heart to Another” and the swaggering kiss-off “New Dog, Old Tricks,” a winking, hip hop-inflected anthem that marks the first outside cut Maddie & Tae has recorded.
The ambitious three-part record roll-out arrived as Maddie & Tae were finishing recording— Tae estimates they’d cut 30 songs before the idea took shape—but once it emerged, the duo knew they had a big story to tell, with redemption ultimately trumping all.
As Tae quips, “It’s what we’re living right now!” Following the release of Start Here, Maddie & Tae found themselves without a record label. Their own, Dot Records, which operated beneath the BMLG umbrella, had shuttered. “We were confused about what our purpose was and what our future held,” recalls Maddie. “We felt on top of the world and it all came crashing down.”
They’ve since found a home at Universal Music Group on Mercury Nashville, and each say the experience pushed them creatively, ultimately making them better songwriters and, as the album’s first part reveals, building their confidence to new heights. “We were writing things that we had never written before,” says Tae. “We got deeper than we ever had—we were beating everything we had written a couple of years ago.” Critics agreed, noting Part One displayed “a more sophisticated side” (Associated Press) and was “their finest moment yet” (Esquire).
Maddie elaborates on the newfound perspective: “We had to figure out how to put the pieces back together. As an artist, so much of your self-worth is tied to what you do. We had to learn how to separate what we do from who we are. That allowed us to be able to make an album that we love and feel proud of. Now, it means so much more.”
Format superstar Dierks Bentley appears as the twosome’s first ever feature on the bleeding-heart ballad “Lay Here With Me,” which begs for a truce in the middle of romantic strife over bluesy electric guitars. The choice, they say, was obvious. “He’s like our hero,” says Tae. “He took us on our first tour and, honestly, he taught us how to be the artists that we are; how to treat our band and crew.”
Another remarkable cut comes in the form of the award-winning duo’s current single, “Die From A Broken Heart,” where a phone call home to mom is spooled into a shattering moment of vulnerability. “You feel for every character,” says Maddie of her attachment to the tune. “There are so many times where I call my mom and she has to be like, ‘You’re going to be okay.’” The heart-bending track has tallied over 85 million worldwide streams to date.
The banjo and acoustic guitar that defined Start Here never drift too far from the surface, but the new album also embraces modern production and a large swath of new sounds. Most notable is the warm tones of the organ, which Tae is currently mastering. But Maddie also recalls moments in the studio when the rhythm section found themselves banging on baking sheets, mini-tambourines, and triangles to get the right effect. “We like to leave room for some spontaneity!” she remarks, laughing. “Now the band guys are like, ‘Who’s going to play a baking sheet on tour?!’”
To oversee the new sound, Maddie & Tae partnered with producers Jimmy Robbins (Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini) and Derek Wells (Scotty McCreery) and, they say, an ability to collaborate defined their search. “We knew we wanted to leave a lot of space between instruments,” recalls Maddie of their sonic goals. “And we knew we wanted moments where it would be bluesy and gritty and gross, but still sexy.”
The team-up worked. “It was magical,” says Maddie. “It felt too good to be true, except it wasn’t.”
Both Maddie & Tae are equally enthusiastic when they think of fans hearing the entire set. “I’m so proud of how honest we were, and how specific we were,” says Tae. “The reason we’ve been able to connect with our fans so deeply is because we’ve let them into the nitty gritty of what we’re going through, the good and the bad. We aren’t afraid to talk about stuff that doesn’t feel good—things that are hard because what are we doing if we aren’t being real?”
Maddie & Tae are currently introducing their eagerly-awaited new music on the road as part of Carrie Underwood’s The Cry Pretty Tour 360 through October 31.