Maddie & Tae Talk Giving Back, Returning to the Studio With Renewed Creative Spark

Maddie and Tae
Ed Rode

Maddie & Tae pass out toys as Grand Marshals for the Santa Train.

For Maddie & Tae’s Madison Marlow and Taylor Dye, returning to the studio after a long hiatus and label switch has been reinvigorating.

The duo, now signed to Mercury Nashville, has been working on an album that will come out in 2019.
“It was incredible to get to be creative,” Dye says of the recording process. “ [Mercury] truly let us be ourselves. They told us, 'Just go in there and make a record that you're proud of.' We really feel like our opinions and our abilities and our strengths got to shine with this new home and in the studio this go-round. We can't wait to finally tell the whole story.”

Maddie & Tae broke through with their 2015 debut single “Girl in a Country Song,” which topped Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and was seen as a  playful response to the bro-country movement.  

It’s been more than two years since Maddie & Tae released new material, but earlier this year, their fans were rewarded with two new songs: “Friends Don’t,” which reached No. 42 on Country Airplay, and “Die From a Broken Heart,” which peaked at No. 48 on Hot Country Songs. "Both of them are good first tastes of the whole record that we’ve been working on,” Marlow says.

While “Die From a Broken Heart” might sound like it was solely influenced by a romantic breakup, it has much more to do with the duo splitting from their first label home, Big Machine/Dot.

“It was very intense. We only have known one thing for so long, and so it felt like we had the ground pulled from under us, and we had to pick up the pieces and basically start from scratch,” Dye says. “That pain that you hear is very real and included a lot of conversations with our parents, calling them in a crisis and crying and just needing advice. It does talk about a relationship, but it really does symbolize the pain that we felt with the career changes.”

Not only did they change record companies, but also producers, now working with Jimmy Robbins and Derek Wells. 

 “We wanted to try something different, maybe have a little more space, more acoustic-driven,” Marlow says. “We had such a great relationship with Jimmy and Derek individually. We knew that if we stepped into the studio with them, they would let us share our opinions and help them create the songs and create the vision that we had in our mind. These are our songs that we've written -- we wrote all of them but one -- and so when you're that close to music, you just really want it to come out the way that you've envisioned it the whole time.” 

Also up in 2019, the duo will have a highly visible spot on Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty Tour. “We are so excited because Carrie has been one of our heroes ever since she was on American Idol,” Dye says. “We just can't wait to be sponges and soak up all the knowledge that she has to offer.”

While they’ve been making music, the pair haven’t been too busy to give back. On Nov. 2, Maddie & Tae served as grand marshals for the Santa Train, which makes a yearly trip down the railroad tracks of Appalachia each holiday season to pass out toys, clothes and candy to those along the route.

The train, a partnership between CSX, Food City, the Kingsport (Tennessee) Chamber of Commerce, Appalachian Power and Soles4Souls, has run through rural towns in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee since 1943.

“We got to go and pass out toys and get to go visit these communities that are suffering from poverty,” Marlow says. “We wanted to go and spread some joy, and we got to be Santa's elves for the day. It was a fun day all the way around.”

Dye said getting to ride on the train offered them a chance to see a different part of America. “Normally on the tour bus, we're either just hanging out and not really paying attention to what's going on outside, but on the Santa Train we definitely got to see some beautiful scenery.”

With hundreds of volunteers on the Santa Train, Marlow was impressed with how well the day -- which starts at 5 a.m. -- flowed.

“It is a machine. There's like 200 volunteers on this train, and they're just constantly running around and getting food ready, getting coats, getting toys -- getting anything that these communities may need,” she says. “It was really inspiring just to see so many volunteers donate their time and effort and everything just to bring joy to these communities.”