Music and Marcy Jo’s: An Interview with Joey + Rory (Part Two)
Missed Part One? Catch up here.
KMJ: You mentioned authenticity as an important factor to the show. The press release from Sugar Hill on your third album mentioned the same thing. What does authenticity mean when it comes to your music?
RF: When we started singing together, it was really just by accident. When we got out on the road as a duo, I really just played guitar and sang harmony for Joey. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do. Quickly, I started doing half the singing and she did half the singing. I’d do these funny songs or a couple of the hit songs. As a live act, both of our talents were on show the whole time, but our albums didn’t reflect that. On this album, we decided, “Let’s do that.” We wanted to share a little more of each other than do things one-sided.
And the other thing is that you can’t control all those outside influences or if something is going to be successful or not. So rather than spend any more time–and we’ve been surrounded by people that have said, “Spend time worrying about that,” and, “Try and grow that to a certain level and be like the others,”–we’re just going to let God sort that stuff out. Let’s just make a really good record. All of a sudden, it becomes nothing but perfect and fun all the time. When you add all those other things where it adds all those expectations or pressures…
JM: You have all these pressures where you can’t even control anyways. Does it really make a difference or not? What is it that we really want to say and how do we really want it to come across.
KMJ: At least from the outside looking in, Sugar Hill seems to be on board with that mission.
JM: They are. They’ve been really supportive of what our desires have been. We spent the first three years doing every single radio station, every single show the record company wanted. We quickly learned what was enjoyable, what was okay and what was less than enjoyable. And because of that, we learned what was important and what was not important. When this record came out, we wanted to really evaluate and say, “What direction do we want to go down?” And the one thing we knew we didn’t want to push was radio. Because we didn’t think we could. The type of music that we sing, the traditional sound that we use, what we look like, it didn’t fit. All of those things were a factor. We’ve tried and tried and tried and tried.
RF: Plus, we’re on an indie label with a little money and power to really do anything. It adds up to that you’re going to listen to the radio and not be on the radio.
JM: We said, “We don’t want to do that.”
RF: She really said that. (laughter) She said, “I’m not doing that anymore.” We were at the ACM Awards this last year, and Joey came to the conclusion that we didn’t want to chase that any more. She wanted to come home. This life is not what we want to do. And that’s not to say that you couldn’t have songs on the radio, but it’s just a different approach.
JM: We still love country music and we still believe in it. And we want to be part of it. We just want to do it in a unique way.
RF: Sugar Hill comes from a bluegrass background so they’ve only and always been about authenticity. Now, within the last couple of years, they’ve inserted some more commercial stuff. They have to combine those because labels that only worry about the artistic stuff aren’t here any more. But they’ve done a tremendous job supporting us and letting us do what we want to do. They know that us being authentic is just staying back and waiting for something to happen. Nobody works harder than us or is more creative than we try to be creative. I think we’re really good partners for one another.
KMJ: It might just be that it reflects some of my favorite tracks on His and Hers, but it seems like this album is slowed down in tempo a bit from the previous two.
JM: I think we just wanted to record our best songs, whether they be ours or somebody else’s. With it being His and Hers and splitting the performances, and Rory having an unbelievable catalog of songs, we knew had the songs we wanted to record. I told him, “You do six and I’ll do six.” I told him that “Josephine” and “Bible and the Belt” had to be on there. So he really only had four more to choose from. (laughter) It just worked out that way. We didn’t start by saying we need four to five up-tempos and three mid-tempos. We just let the music speak and had it be what it was supposed to be. We really didn’t worry about anything else.
RF: And we love ballads. We love ballads. So it isn’t nearly as ballad-heavy as we’d like it to be. We could easily to twelve songs that are all ballads. That’s what I love to hear my wife sing the most. It’s what I like to listen to the most. This record just kind of made itself.
KMJ: There are a couple of songs you recorded that were written by Tom T. Hall. What is it about him or those tracks that were important to pull in on this project?
RF: I’m a big Don Williams fan and a big Merle Haggard fan and Tom T. Hall and all those people that wrote all their own songs. Everyone considers me a storyteller. He’s famous for being a storyteller. I’ve loved those songs for a long time and those old country standards. I showed Joey those songs and I think she understood the sentiment, but I don’t think she knew how neat it was going to be. Even me, I thought we would do a good job, but the second we recorded it, all we could do was listen to it on repeat. It’s so good. Even our kids love those songs. It’s important to us to lift up the people that carried country music before us. We really admire Tom and that song just showed up at the right time. The one song is all about, “I am what I am and you just have to deal with it.” Luckily, my vices are things like old cars and guitars and…
KMJ: … Turning old barns into soundstages.
RF: (Laughter) … Turning old barns into soundstages. Stuff like that.
(Singing) “Your man loves you, honey.”
Before we left, Joey went back into the kitchen and brought out a recipe that she wanted to share with all of Engine 145’s readers. I can attest first-hand to its deliciousness. Do yourself a favor, pop in His and Hers on the stereo and bake up a batch of Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse Famous Angel Biscuits for your next meal.
5 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons yeast (or 2 packets)
1/2 cup very hot water
3/4 cup shortening
2 cups buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and sugar.
- Cut shortening into flour mixture with pastry blender or fork until evenly distributed.
- In a small bowl, combine hot water and yeast. Stir until well combined.
- Stir in buttermilk and flour mixture, until mostly combined.
- Add yeast to flour mixture and continue mixing with spoon or by hand until well combined.
- Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead dough until a smooth ball forms.
- Roll dough out to a one-inch thickness. Cut biscuits and place on a baking sheet with sides touching. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
- Leeann Ward: Thanks, NM. I like a good pop hook, to be honest. So, maybe I need to try it again.
- Barry Mazor: OK, Jim Z. That changes everything. I surrender.
- Jim Z: to call the Dirty River Boys an "Austin area band" is still incorrect. They are based in El Paso.
- nm: Leeann, you and I often have similar tastes in more-traditional country. And, to my ears, Sam Hunt's voice and lyrics …
- Barry Mazor: Matter of fact, as always--I did. The notes say the album was recorded & mixed by and at "The …
- Roger: Looking forward to picking up the Jamey Johnson Christmas EP - love all of those songs and can't wait for …
- Jim Z: that record was recorded in El Paso. (you could look it up) and other than appearing in Austin once in …
- Leeann Ward: Yes, I can always use more dobro in my life! Thanks for the Phil Leadbetter tip! I haven't been able to …
- Barry Mazor: OK, Jim. The record's more or less out of Austin. But I'm sure they're also good in El Paso...
- Jim Z: Dirty River Boys are from El Paso, Texas.