No longer chasing the mainstream, married traditionalists talk new album, their TV show and a new addition to the family
This is proving to be quite the memorable year for husband and wife duo Joey + Rory. Their popular RFD-TV series is performing well, as is their weekly radio program on Nashville's WSM-AM. The duo has just released a brand new disc, "Made To Last," and their Inspired DVD collection has just debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Music Video Sales chart. Add in last week's win for Mainstream Country Duo / Group at the ICM Faith, Family, and Country Awards, and it would seem that things couldn't get any better for the traditional duo. But wait a minute, it can -- Joey is expecting a child in February!
"That's an incredible thing in the middle of our lives that we didn't expect that we are just thrilled about," Rory Feek said with a smile.
Billboard caught up with the couple moments before one of their popular "Farmhouse" concerts, held on their property near Columbia, TN.
Joey Feek reflected on all the career milestones they have enjoyed this year. "It's been a really great year. It started in 2012 with the TV show, and that really started changing the format and the path that we were taking musically – not really music-wise, but just taking it easy and being who we are. We have always embraced that, but realized that people really loved that," she said, speaking of their traditional-minded audience. "There's such a void there that people are missing out on. A lot of our audience tends to be the older generation who really longs for that music. We feel that has opened up an audience that we never had when we were doing mainstream country music. So the TV show and the exposure from it allows people to see so much deeper into your life. We share so much of our life from the farm, the traveling, family, and the restaurant," she said, speaking of their Marcy Jo's Restaurant just a couple of miles from home.
The couple have converted their barn into a sound stage – where they perform twice monthly, and film their TV series. It all makes for a perfect fit, says Rory.
"We've been blessed to have a neat career for both of us later in life. Neither of us expected it, so when it happened, we got to experience some mainstream success, but also some mainstream platform vehicles like lots and lots of radio touring, award shows, and all of those things that you dream of."
After hitting the top-30 with "Cheater Cheater" in 2008, the couple kept releasing new music to radio, but the changes in the musical climate pushed them into another direction. "After doing it for about four years, with the kind of music that we play, it just didn't feel like we could succeed because country music was evolving into something that was different from what we play. If we were really going to have a chance to succeed on the radio, we felt like we needed to change our music and do something different than what we were doing. We didn't really want to do that, but we were spending so much time doing that and it didn't leave a lot of time for family or home life. So, we made a decision to come off of the road and find our own path. Sometimes, a lack of success in a certain area creates the opportunity that you were meant to do."
"Made To Last" is full of songs that epitomize the family values the couple represent – especially on the gorgeous "I'll Sing For You," which Joey says was written years prior. "That was a song that Rory wrote years ago – before we considered having a career together. He was thinking more along the lines of maybe a Tim and Faith. Everybody has a career, and you have peaks, then they come off of your career at some point in time. Rory reminded me of it, and brought it out one day. I really didn't think I would be able to sing it well. We started doing it, and it was so clearly directed and written for us. All of those years pass, and neither of us ever dreamed that it would be a song we would be singing. But, it's so appropriate for what we do."
Personally and professionally, things seem to be at an all-time high for the couple, and Rory sounds like a man well pleased.
"We've kind of taken the expectations off. Our mantra is ‘High Hopes and Low Expectations.' You're not going to get disappointed because you are already so blessed. If we touch a life, make somebody cry or laugh, that means a lot to us!"