By Allison Stewart
Last year, Nashville duo Maddie & Tae released its first single, “Girl in a Country Song.” It took exception to the prevailing notion, advanced in countless bro-country anthems, that women are empty-headed, bikini-wearing man vessels who exist only to dance on tailgates and serve beer.
In an interview with the Tribune last year, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, bro-country’s greatest lights, claimed to be unfamiliar with the song, which he almost certainly had heard. “All I’m gonna say about that is, I don’t know one girl who doesn’t want to be a girl in a country song,” said Kelley. “That’s all I’m gonna say to you. That’s it.”
This frosty exchange did not escape Maddie & Tae’s notice. “I did see that comment and it didn’t really make sense to me,” says Taylor Dye sweetly. “He’s not a girl, so how would he know?”
“Girl in a Country Song” succeeded because it accurately read the national mood, everyone seemed to grow tired of bro-country at the same time, and because it was a catchy and funny song performed by two sunny, young blondes. They were permitted to tweak the Nashville establishment, which doesn’t take kindly to tweaking, because they clearly meant no harm.
Read between the lines in interviews with Maddie & Tae’s record label overlords, and it seems they expected “Girl in a Country Song,” which went to No. 1 on the country charts, would be a novelty hit at best.
Maddie & Tae weren’t sure it would even get that far. “We didn’t think the song was going to get released,” says Maddie Marlow. “That’s why we were so honest.”
Marlow and Dye recently landed an often-elusive follow-up hit with “Fly,” a lovely, harmony-heavy ode to female empowerment that sounds like a gentler version of something the Dixie Chicks would have done in the mid-1990s. (Maddie & Tae love the Dixie Chicks: “We’re kind of sassy ourselves, but they brought it to a totally different level,” says Marlow.) “Fly” is the highlight of their new, full-length debut, “Start Here.”