Joey+Rory's Joey Feek Lived the Life She Sang About: An Appreciation

Joey Martin Feek
Fred Hayes/Getty Images

Joey Martin Feek and Rory Feek of Joey + Rory attend Music Cafe - Day 7 during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival at Stanfield Gallery on Jan/ 28, 2010 in Park City, Utah. 

Over the course of writing for Billboard for five years, and other publications for a decade prior to that, I've met a lot of people in the industry. Many of those meetings take place on what is called "media days," where artists set aside time to talk about their various current projects, whether it be their album, book, tour, etc. Most of the time, the artists are on nothing less than their best behavior. (Sometimes, that may not be the case, but you're not going to get those answers here!) There are times you wonder if you have talked to a person or a computerized sound bite.

If you ever spent time with Joey+Rory, the couple left you with no doubt where they stood. I have been fortunate enough to interview the Feeks on several occasions between 2010 and 2014. We've talked at record companies, concerts and even at their restaurant -- Marci Jo's -- as Joey took time between waiting tables. But in the fall of 2013, I had perhaps the encounter with them that meant the most to me, at their house.

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Rory's daughter, Heidi Feek, had just released a brand-new album, The Only, and the couple were celebrating the release of her project with one of their semi-monthly concerts at their farm, located just south of Columbia, Tenn. I was invited that night to interview Heidi, but we did it at their house, so I got the full tour. The couple was so proud and so thankful of the life they had been blessed with and would share those blessings with anyone they came in contact with -- local farmers and entertainment journalists included.

One of the things that struck me was there was no television inside their home. I guess that drew the lines of communication even deeper between the two. And if you were to ask them about their latest project, they would gladly talk about it, but Joey Feek would be just as likely to tell you about the plants that were growing in the garden, the food that she had recently canned and froze that day, or ask how you were doing. That concern was very much real. In the summer of 2013, I spent a week in the hospital following a surgery. In the mail one day, I received a card from the couple, but not just simply signed; it had a personal message from her that took up the whole card, before it was signed "With Love, Joey+Rory."

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When you look at an album or a DVD featuring the couple, it would be easy to put a space between their names and the plus sign. I did that, early on, only to be corrected (very nicely) very quick. It wasn't "Joey" and "Rory"; they were a team, perhaps one of the best examples of what being a true couple meant -- in the business or not. In an era where the divorce rate hovers at 50 percent -- this writer being part of that stat -- their pure devotion to each other was truly inspiring, right down to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 4. Perhaps Brandy Clark put it best when she tweeted, "I am saddened by the passing of Joey Feek, but inspired by the 'For better or worse' that she and Rory Feek have shown us all…."

In no way do I want to imply I was the only journalist they showed that love to; I am not alone in that distinction. But I felt compelled to write something not about the artists -- their music is well-known and will forever be -- but in a time period where people "talk the talk" about treating people well and loving each other, they more than walked the walk. They lived the life.

And that's what's important to me about Joey+Rory.