POTTSVILLE, Tenn. — The country singing duo Joey Martin and Rory Feek should have been feeling job pressure on a recent morning.
As Joey+Rory, they were aware of the scrutiny that would surround the follow-up to their 2008 “The Life of a Song,” and its hit, “Cheater, Cheater.” As if to ward off stress, the couple would simply title the second disc “Album Number 2.” The album was released Tuesday.
But on that morning earlier this summer, Martin was slicing bananas and baking bread at Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse, a home cookin’ restaurant she co-owns with sister-in-law Marcy Gary in southern Tennessee.
Feek, dressed in traditional overalls, pulled up to the tin-roofed, wooden restaurant in his classic aqua-toned 1952 Oldsmobile — with its bold “Cheater” vanity plate. He greeted diners who wanted to hear about the couple’s recent shows.
The atmosphere was calm for the couple who won the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Duo of the Year award in April. Martin and Feek are comfortable with the intermingling of their songs, relationship and public image on “Number 2.”
“It’s not just singing songs off your record,” said Martin, sitting at a dining room table among country knick-knacks nailed to wood walls.
"It’s telling a story, telling funny things, things about our marriage and things about life, and the farm and Marcy Jo’s ... so it’s not just an album you’re listening to. That’s why it’s so important that we include those aspects of it."
Feek sat next to her, fiddling with a laptop computer through which he helps edit the duo’s videos. He’s a spouse who prefers studio work; Martin prefers singing.
"Joey is all about the moment on stage, that’s her favorite part," Feek said. "I’m all about everything but the moment on stage."
Martin broke into a hard laugh.
Feek continued, "I’m all about the drive there, the little towns we’re going to visit. The little local diners. I’m all about the journey there."
Martin finishes the thought: "We compliment each other."
They accept that they must share their lives with Marcy Jo’s diners as much as they have with fans through their website, www.joeyandrory.com
Feek acknowledged, "That is kind of how it is with our lives, as long as we share the truth and all of it, then we don’t have to wonder which part we’re sharing with anybody. We always just share everything. It also helps us as a marriage, as a married couple that we keep ourselves in check all the time and we focus on what’s most important.
"Album Number Two" is similar to "The Life of a Song" which sold more than 200,000 copies. The first disc had a bite to it, making light jabs at the record industry with "Play The Song’ where producers guide the duo in conflicting directions.
Feek said of the new disc: "It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, kind of like ‘Play The Song’ was, in terms of this just being the sophomore jinx and the new artist coming out with their next record. How it’s going to compete with the first album. Is it going to meet everybody’s expectations of what they’d like it be, or have you changed everything about who you are, about your image and thing likes that."Singer meets songwriter
In 1995, Feek, a divorced ex-Marine, relocated from Texas with his two daughters to write country music in Nashville. He had a No. 1 hit with Collin Raye’s "Someone You Used to Know," in 1999. Within a year, he co-wrote another No. 1, Clay Walker’s "The Chain of Love."
Also in 1998, Joey Martin moved from Alexandria in central Indiana to Nashville to become a singer. Since the age of 5, she had been performing with her parents at county fairs and festivals. She got a job in Nashville helping a veterinarian with horses.
One evening, she went to a songwriters’ night at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe. Feek was on stage with three other songwriters.
Martin recalled, "Everything that he said, I hung onto his words and the stories he was singing. Stories he told about his life and his kids and I sat there in awe and said to myself, ‘Oh gosh I don’t know who this guy is but I’m going to marry him someday’ because I felt that strong about him."
They’ve been married eight years. The couple’s plan was to promote Martin as a solo singer. But an acquaintance urged them to tryout for "Can You Duet?" a TV contest that aired on CMT in 2008. Martin’s attractive sincerity and Feek’s farmboy looks stood out; viewers seemed supportive of the married couple. They stayed on the competition until the last night, singing tunes intended solely for Martin. One of them, "Cheater Cheater," was performed when the show’s judges urged them to open up more. The topic of a woman taking another gala’s man is nothing new to country music but one lyric was novel.
"Did she use that line, ‘Your place or mine?’
While you danced with her real slow?
Tell me cheater, cheater, where’d you meet that no good, white trash ho?"
Martin said, "I knew ‘Cheater Cheater’ was a huge big ol’ hit, even with the ‘no trash ho’ line, I just knew people would respond to that, especially women.
The couple had first performed the song at a country festival, prior to "Can You Duet?"
As for the "ho" line, Martin noted, "People didn’t see it coming. They just cheered and they were, ‘Yes, finally, somebody saying what we really think, if that were to happen to be in that situation’."
"Album Number Two" will seem familiar to fans; the duo won’t mess with success. The first single is an ode to the working man and woman, "This Song’s For You," co-written by Feek while on a tour bus with Zac Brown.
Feek also steps into the vocal spotlight for a song about his father, "My Ol’ Man," with Martin singing harmony. Feek acknowledges his comfort level is increasing as a singer.
Martin said, "I had to kinda twist his arm to do it because he didn’t want to but I said you need to, people are ready to hear your voice."