Joey + Rory – “That’s Important To Me”

Janet Goodman | November 4th, 2010

Joey + RorySongwriters: Rory Lee Feek, Tim Johnson, Joey Martin Feek

“We are 100% ourselves here,” says Rory Feek – one half of the husband/wife country music duo Joey + Rory – about their sophomore project on Sugar Hill Records, Album Number Two. So far, first single “This Song’s For You” fell short of communicating this Tennessee couple’s true homespun personae, coming off like a fan anthem with more of a Madison Avenue marketing agenda than a humble thank you. Now, their originally intended first single has been released: the sweetly personal, highly believable “That’s Important to Me” – a song that gives us an unpretentious peek into their hearts.

Joey Martin Feek, singing lead with clear-eyed, unaffected earthy tones, lists the things that matter most to her and her family, gently revealing values, yet never preaching them. It’s a soft sell, supported by Rory’s warm and low harmonies, as she tells us, “Not planning our day around the TV set/Paying our bills and staying out of debt/That’s important to me.”

Producer Carl Jackson paints a non-intrusive, near Norman Rockwell-like sonic backdrop of soft drum brushes, acoustic guitar, dobro and steel – light-handed musical embellishments that allow the vocal’s grace to stand front and center. Sounding like a throwback to simpler times, it’s the antithesis of what we’ve been hearing lately on radio: loud and over-the-top thumping pop choruses, flippant attitudes and me-first mentality. The singer shows her inner strength without strutting bravado, yet manages to pull it off without sounding like a saint.

Couplets give us glimpses of their hopes and home life: “Telling the truth and being real/Feeding my family a home-cooked meal” and “Believing our dreams will take us somewhere/Still being ourselves if we ever get there.” Add to that the smooth-as-butter harmonies and no-frills traditional country melody, it’s easy to hear The Judds’ influence on this one.

It could be said that musical integrity is a rarity these days, so when artists stay true to their authentic selves, it catches our notice; Joey + Rory do just that with “That’s Important to Me.” Lyrically taking shots at radio for what it’s not playing has been overdone now by the duo. They need to continue striving for the artistic embodiment of this song’s lyric line: “Opening the windows and letting in air,” and country radio should come around.

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  1. Thomas
    November 4, 2010 at 9:43 am

    …one more grain of sugar would have made it a hard to bear listening experience.

  2. Stewman
    November 4, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Song is a total snoozefest. its a slight variation of the “list” songs I’ve come to tune out.

  3. Ben Foster
    November 4, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I love everything about this song. There are plenty of ways it could have gone wrong, but they avoided the cliched course. Instead, it comes off as an open and honest statement of who Joey and Rory (as in Joey and Rory the couple, not Joey + Rory the musical duo), are as people. The arrangement, with all the dobro and steel, just sounds gorgeous, and it really brings out the pleasant earthy sound in Joey’s vocals.

  4. Jon
    November 4, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Good thing Stewman’s never heard “Heartaches By The Number.” “A slight variation of the ‘list’ songs…”

    Me, I’m curious to know what a “clear-eyed…tone” sounds like.

  5. Jon
    November 4, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Or “I Love” – another snoozy “‘list’ song.”

  6. Jon
    November 4, 2010 at 11:08 am

    And how on earth do writers who aren’t intimate friends of artists know whether the songs they cut reflect their “authentic selves” or are “honest statements” of who the artists are? Come on, people!

  7. Stewman
    November 4, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Jon how can you assume someone has never heard a song unless you’ve spoken with that person.

  8. stormy
    November 4, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Or how he knows whom writers are friends with.

  9. Jon
    November 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Point taken, Stewman; I assumed you were not so chuckleheaded as to have tuned out songs like “Heartaches By The Number” and “I Love” if you’d heard them, and I agree that there’s not really any good reason to have made such an assumption.

    @Stormy Do you think that Janet and Ben are intimate friends of Joey+Rory’s, either together or separately?

  10. Ben Foster
    November 4, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    And how on earth do writers who aren’t intimate friends of artists know whether the songs they cut reflect their “authentic selves” or are “honest statements” of who the artists are? Come on, people!

    I didn’t say that it definitely IS an honest statement of who they are, I said that it “comes off” as such. I don’t have to be an intimate friend of the artist in order to express how I personally perceive their work, or to say whether or not something sounds authentic to me. But if I filled your need for something to get snarky over, then it was my pleasure. And no, I don’t claim to be an intimate friend of Joey + Rory, though I have met them before.

  11. Noeller
    November 4, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    This may very well be a poignant and “real” statement of who Joey + Rory are, but it’s just such a statement of 1950s values that I have a hard time really buying into it. Is this a “Southern” thing that I just don’t understand, being up here north of the 49th?? Honestly, the statements made in here are so dated and staid, it’s hard to imagine that people still relate to this.

  12. AtlantaFan
    November 4, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    I like the message, however, it is a little sleepy for radio.

  13. Jordan Stacey
    November 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    well I relate to it…20 years old here so…

  14. Rick
    November 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    I’ve really liked this song since it first appeared on Joey’s solo album and this version is just as well produced. This is a song that expresses values that conservatives and “Tea Party” types embrace and champion, and which liberals find dated and corny. Noeller, considering how you feel about Christians I’m not surprised at all by your comments. This song embodies concepts atheist liberals just can’t begin to grasp…

  15. Barry Mazor
    November 4, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I know Rory just enough, personally and directly, to know that this pretty much does reflect who they are. He’s not particularly Southern, by the way.

    I do think writers can get at “intentions” sometimes–but it’s very hard. You need something like real interviewing and reporting, to connect claims to facts of a life, to the subject’s previously stated ideas, perhaps getting comments from those who know the person, to track his or her other actions and comments on the record. It’s done all the time. It’s called professional “reporting” or “biography writing”…quaint concepts possibly worth preserving.

  16. Jon
    November 4, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    I’m what Rick would call an atheist liberal and I understand the sentiments just fine, and so do plenty of people north of the 49th parallel, where I’ve spent lots of time in the past 6 years (in fact, the Night Drivers will be touring in Alberta and probably BC this coming January). Sorry, Noeller, but it’s like that, and that’s the way it is. You’re entitled to your reaction, but you’re not necessarily a spokesman for every e up there.

    And pay attention to what Barry says. Note that I didn’t say that the song doesn’t reflect Joey & Rory’s “authentic” beliefs, I asked how someone who didn’t know them could determine whether they were “authentic.”. One point being that the claim that the song did (or didn’t) reflect their actual beliefs was essentially irrelevant and therefore unnecessary and therefore ill-advised.

  17. Nicolas
    November 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I’m really glad they released this. Its looking as if its pretty close to charting, too, which is great since they’ve put out 5 singles and only one has charted thus far.

    I hope this can wind up a Top 40 hit eventually. And that they release “God Help My Man” next, ’cause its my favorite! lol =)

  18. Barry Mazor
    November 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    And I’d toss in that I’ve got no disagreement with what Jon about how much this being “their true beliefs” or not matters, from the standpoint of song quality. Maybe I wouldn’t want to lay out a strong viewpoint I don’t hold to myself, personally–but when somebody writes a song, the measure is how well people react to it, how effective it is, not it’s origin, or even–sorry–how “heartfelt’ it was in composition..Heartfelt may work for some–and may mess up others! In this case, as I was saying, I happen to know that it’s from the writer’s heart..if that’s the question.

  19. Noeller
    November 4, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Jon — at no point did I say I was a spokesperson for everyone. Thanks for putting words in my mouth, though.

    Definitely a song that I not only can’t relate to, I have a hard time believing that there are still people who think like this. Hmm — learn something new every day.

  20. Jon
    November 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Well, Noeller, you did say – twice now – that you have a hard time believing that anyone thinks like that, which basically means you have a hard time believing that anyone thinks differently than you, which basically means that you have a hard time believing you aren’t a spokesperson for everyone. That’s how logic and the English language work.

    And my point was that not only are there people who think like that, some of them are “up [there] north of the 49th.”

  21. Stormy
    November 4, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I’m a litle perplexed as to how one pays off bills while staying out of debt, because, without debt, how do you have bills?

  22. Razor X
    November 4, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    If you pay off the bills as soon as they come in, then you stay out of debt.

  23. Jon
    November 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    I’m guessing Stormy lives with her parents.

  24. Andrew
    November 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Debt is when you use somebody else’s money to pay for something(credit card, loan). Then you are in debt to them and you owe them money(bank,credit card company). Your monthly bills are not debt if you pay them off each month.

  25. Stormy
    November 4, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Your cable bill isn’t debt because they bill ahead of schedule and the same thing with rent. However, a mortgage is a huge debt and things like your electric bill and your phone bill are billed AFTER you use the service, which basically means you owe the company a debt for their services.

  26. Razor X
    November 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    All responsible adults have bills to pay. I imagine that even the filthy rich wait to pay for their phone, cable, utilities, etc until they are billed at the end of the month. It’s what’s known as short-term debt, and if it’s paid off when it becomes due, one isn’t considered to be “in debt.”

    A mortgage, on the other hand,is long-term debt, but there’s nothing in the song to indicate that the protagonists have a mortgage to pay.

  27. luckyoldsun
    November 4, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    I like how this blog sometimes becomes a law clinic; now it’s becoming a finance clinic.

    Razor–I don’t know if you’ll succeed in your efforts to educate Stormy, but keep trying.

    Stormy–By your exceedingly literalist logic, when you eat at a good restaurant–or Olive Garden, for that matter–you go into debt–because you don’t pay until you’ve already eaten the food. If you want to avoid going into debt, you have to eat at McDonald’s–where you pay before you get the food.

    But under common usage, if you pay when you get the bill–and before they start racking up interest–you’re not in debt.

  28. Jon
    November 4, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Stormy, have you ever run across the word “loan?”. How about “credit?”. Do you know what “borrow” means?

    When you are billed for a service, you’re billed for a service, whether you pay in advance or not. It is different from taking out a loan. Period.

  29. Ollie
    November 4, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Rick- I’m a proud liberal and this song expresses values that I and many other progressives I know “champion and embrace.” You may be unwilling to acknowledge it, but most liberals value their families, country and God just as much as “conservatives and ‘Tea Party’ types.”

    I strongly suspect that I reflect the views of a significant number of other readers when I request yet again that you stick to the music and refrain from indulging in gratuitous political commentary.

  30. Matt Bjorke
    November 4, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I can verify what Barry has said about Joey and Rory. This song is a slice of their worldview (I have asked the specific question in an interview).

  31. Jonathan
    November 5, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I like this song, too, but it can come off as kind of “soft” both vocally and production-wise. I don’t think it’s dynamic enough to become their first big hit but it is a welcome change from what most artists are releasing to radio today.

    This is the kind of song The Judds should be recording opposed to the questionable “I’ll Stand By You.” This is more in their vein and a song most fans would expect from them.

    I agree with the whole list thing as well — Joey + Rory love recording “list” songs! It’s time they do something different.

  32. NashvilleReality Check
    January 5, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    This song is absolutely who Joey and Rory are..its not some contrived Song about living the country lifestyle. It’s from the heart and real, filled with honesty and warmth with a beautiful understated vocal. Its the kind of song you don’t hear very often and wish you could hear more of on Country radio…instead of the lets get drunk and pickup a redneck girl, mindless stuff were subjected to. It’s not about politics (to those who define everything that way), its about simple things, things that are still important to millions of people(myself included)..and if you can’t relate that doesn’t make them any less valid. Rock on Joey And Rory ..someday you can leave this business with your character and integrity, intact…which says a lot about you.

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