Music and Marcy Jo’s: An Interview with Joey + Rory (Part One)
Don’t ever underestimate the authenticity of Joey Martin and Rory Feek, better known to the country world as the married duo Joey+Rory. The down-home family-first approach that the couple puts forth in their music and in their new RFD-TV series The Joey and Rory Show is as truthful as it comes.
In the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it community of Pottsville (about 45 minutes south of Nashville) is a refurbished 1890s mercantile store converted into a restaurant called Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse, which opened in 2007; this is where I met the couple for an interview. What other country singer would, like Joey, come out from the kitchen in an apron, a little flour on her elbow, and whip out a pad of paper to take our order as our waitress? This isn’t an odd-job to make ends meet. Cooking, baking and sitting down with a meal with friends are passions. And when you’re Martin and Feek, life is all about following your passions.
One of those passions also happens to include story-driven classic country music. In a market geared toward radio hits, the duo has taken the road less traveled. If it isn’t music that moves them, they simply choose not to listen to it, play it or write it. That authenticity has driven them to write off current modern country radio almost completely. The constant travel for radio tours took them away from their farm, their family, their friends and their restaurant. And while they still love to play for an audience, Joey was homesick when they were out on the road for too long. That’s where Rory pitched the idea of a television show. Loosely modeled after classic variety shows–even kicking off in black and white–The Joey and Rory Show was designed to bring the world into the duo’s life together. Rory converted an old barn into a soundstage and writes and produces the program.
Feek and Martin gladly spent an hour talking about their television show, new album His and Hers, and serving up delicious food. Here is the first part of the pair’s interview with Engine 145. Check back tomorrow for the second half, which includes more music chatter and a Marcy Jo’s recipe.
Ken Morton, Jr.: Congratulations on a fine third album and what is turning out to be a very fun television show. They both seem, at least on the surface, to really allow your personalities to show through quite a bit.
Rory Feek: It’s been fun to make. We do it all here with all of our people and we do it ourselves. That’s pretty unusual.
Joey Martin: In fact, before this interview, Rory was back at home doing the editing. We have an episode that’s due on Friday.
KMJ: Are a lot of friends and family involved?
RF: It’s actually just friends and family. The people that are doing the work with us are all friends and family that we’ve known for a long time. And they’ve never made a television show either. So we’re all learning this together for the first time. We’re all new at it and we’re having a great time. Everything is in our community. It’s not just a TV show, it’s an experiment of trying to do something different. So far, it’s been beyond everything we could have hoped for. The response has been terrific. The process has been harder than I thought. It’s actually a lot more than a lot. (laughter)
KMJ: You converted your old barn into a soundstage for the show, I understand. That had to take some serious effort, I would imagine.
JM: We did.
RF: Thomas is our handyman at the farm so everything we need done at the farm, he is able to do. He does everything. When we said we were moving my old cars out and converting the old barn into a soundstage, he just started working on it. We all started working on it. We insulated, drywalled and hung lights. It’s pretty spectacular. Our local air-conditioning company sponsors the show and they gave us huge amounts of air-conditioning and heating which we obviously wouldn’t have had before. It’s turned into a great space. We can now just walk across our driveway and make a television show. That’s pretty unusual.
KMJ: How important was it to do the show from home?
RF: I don’t think there was an option. We want to be at home. Part of the decision we made was to try and get off the road a bit and be at home more. If we were to do that, you need to have a way to grow your audience without leaving your house. We were just trying to figure it out. We had first shot a sitcom. It was going to be a weekly sitcom. It was all around our regular lives. Part of it was here with Marcy and Joey. It was more work and it was harder. But most importantly, there was no music involved. So we finally decided to change directions and just do what we do best. We didn’t want to get too ambitious.
KMJ: Your name is on the credits a handful of times including as a producer. Are you learning this all on the seat of your pants or have you had any training?
RF: I’m actually creator, producer, writer, editor…
RF: But I’ve been actually doing our music videos for awhile. I’ve been really into all of that stuff for awhile. And we have a friend named Dave who is the host of the show and the director of the show. He’s been a friend forever. He’s really talented. The guy who has been shooting our photography for all of our albums got pulled in and now he’s the DP (Director of Photography) of the show, setting up all the shots. It’s been really neat. And for me, even though I’ve not done it before, it’s been a great challenge to tackle.
JM: And he’s super good at it. The whole thing about editing is nothing but straight storytelling. It’s putting all these pieces together which totally parallels what great songwriting is. And that’s what he does so well.
RF: And she doesn’t want any part of it. I’ll be up early and doing all the planning for filming that day and she’s back on the back porch shelling peas that she picked from the garden that morning.
JM: As it should be. (Laughing)
RF: But, I love it. She’s not driven by any of it. She knows the work has to be done, so yesterday morning she was canning okra. I had to finish this one segment so I brought this camera in and filmed her doing what she does. And then I took it back to the barn and worked on it. And that’s how she likes it. And that’s how I like it because she keeps our life normal. And I try to make it extraordinary.
KMJ: How has the reception been from television viewers, fans and the cable station?
JM: It’s been amazing. I walked in to Marcy Jo’s this morning and this table over here had tears in her eyes to come and meet us. She’s in her 70s and it means so much to her that we’re showing that we’re real life people living normal lives with extraordinary circumstances that are placed in our life everyday. It means so much to people. The restaurant has shown it. I’ve been working here each of the last three weekends and 75% of the people through here are from out of state. They’ve never been here before. But they’ve seen us on RFD, think it’s a great show and drive up to six hours away. They’ll get up at 5 a.m. and drive six hours to come have breakfast. They’re not even sure we’ll be here or not. There has been record weekends at Marcy Jo’s in sales and lines out the door. In everyone’s career, you’ll have highs and lows. There are times when you’re peaking and everyone knows who you are. And there are times when you’re not nearly as popular any more. But we’re to the point where people are recognizing us more and more because of the show. It’s a neat feeling. The demographic that’s recognizing is really neat. It’s some of the older folks and it’s a neat feeling that they’re getting to know you a little deeper. It’s really about the music and the relationship between Rory and I as a husband and wife.
KMJ: You put on a Bib and Buckle Concert that’s held out on your farm for the general public once or twice a year. This is sort of an extension of that, no?
JM: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that was the first episode that we did, actually. With the show, we’re going to have to cap it this year. We only have so much parking. Our yard is only so big. (Laughter)
KMJ: There will be future seasons?
JM: Yes, first season is all done and we’re already shooting for the next season. We’re really blessed to have investors that believe in us so much. They believe in traditional country music and just miss it. For us, it’s just an outlet to share what we do. It allows us to share our music and, hopefully, fill a hole.
KMJ: There are some songs being performed on the show that you’ve written that weren’t originally cut by you and some songs that are being premiered for the first time on the show that haven’t previously been recorded. Is there a thought to releasing some of these songs as sort of a soundtrack to the show?
RF: Joey wouldn’t know the answer to that… yet. (Laughter)
JM: Well, it sounds like we are!
RF: We are for sure going to releasing a DVD box set of Season One. We’ve also talked about turning some of the songs of Season One into a soundtrack. We need to find out the details, but our goal is to have the songs from an episode immediately available on iTunes as soon as an episode airs. The recipes are the same way from the cooking segment. In the coming season, we’ll be digging into songs that people and performances that folks have never heard us sing. We’ll do “Chain of Love” and some of that next season.
KMJ: How do you choose the musical guests that are on the show each week?
RF: So far, we’re doing it off a short list of friends that we know and that we believe in. They’re people we’ve done stuff with for awhile. Some of the folks we did multiple songs on so that they can come back in Season Two. Like Bradley Walker, we want him to be part of Season Two. Leslie Satcher has written for us in the past and she’s going to be on the show. We’ve gotten tons of emails and mail from aspiring songwriters that want to be on the show that we don’t know and we don’t want to do that right now. There is so much talent just within our lives and our own circle.
JM: Like with Leslie, when you do one of her songs, you can just hope and pray that it turns out as good as her demo. She’s one of those gals that deserves a shot. And perhaps, due to circumstances outside her control, she doesn’t get that chance. But we believe in her. Rory always says that when you’re in the spotlight, that is your chance to grab somebody else and bring them into the spotlight with you. And that’s hopefully what we’re doing a little bit. We want to elevate those people we love and have people hear the music we love so much.
KMJ: We touched on it a little bit earlier, but talk to me about the importance of this restaurant in the show. It’s obvious that it’s a big part of you and your community of family and friends. You’ve waved to every single person that’s walked through the door. Talk to me about the role of Marcy Jo’s in the master plan of the show.
RF: What’s important is that it’s real. Every day, I will come down here and have breakfast with my sister. Saturdays, when we’re off from the road, Joey works down here. It’s a part of our lives. Our dreams coming true are also a part of Marcy’s dreams coming true. And she’s an all-out personality. To include her as part of the show was just an easy decision to make. This is truly a great location for people to come to eat. These people behind us drove an hour and a half to come here this morning. People drive 12 hours, seven hours, from all over the place. It would be one thing to drive all that way to meet us or see pictures of us on the wall. Forget all that. This is a great place to come. It’s a great experience.
KMJ: Has Marcy let it all go to her head yet?
RF: (laughter) Marcy is rough around the edges and she’s always upset because she wants to swear. She wants to smoke on camera.
(Marcy reluctantly nods in the background)
JM: We’re always having to stop. “Bleep.” “Marcy, you can’t say that.” “Bleep.” “Marcy, you can’t say that.”
RF: What’s important is to include the people around you in your moment–and then to keep it as real as possible. And it’s not the most well done thing in the world. There are plenty of professionals doing things really well-done. But people want to see authenticity and that’s really the only thing we offer… authenticity. We want to keep that.
KMJ: You guys finish each episode with a single song called “That’s Important to Me.” What’s the importance of that track?
JM: I think if people ask what is the song that is the cornerstone of what you are, “That’s Important to Me” is what we do and what we do with our music. We thought what a great way to end the show if we’re asking our viewers what is important in their lives. We wanted to remind folks of the friends and family and the important people in their lives just as we’ve show in ours. So we’ve pulled a couple lines of the song off for each episode.
RF: I think we spend our lives, even as we’re travelling and working and chasing our goals, constantly asking ourselves, “What’s the point?” You have to stop and take account of what really matters to you. Because if you don’t, you’ll lose those things. Or ten years will go by and you’ll have missed all the good stuff. It’s partly us trying to remind ourselves to do that and also a reminder for our listeners to do the same thing. Take account of what really matters to you. Instead of just entertaining, we get to stop and ask a profound question, too. Whether it matters to anyone, we have no idea.
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