Exclusive: Behind The Scenes with Joey+Rory (Part 2)

In part two of Roughstock's Interview, Joey discusses their album, how her relationship with Rory was formed and briefly about another passion, cooking and baking.

In Part one of Joey+Rory’s story, set at Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse,  the couple discussed how they came to be a duo as part of the CMT series “Can You Duet.”  When watching the show, their passionate love for each other resonated through the screen. Viewers were witnessing true soul mates go through a shared dream together.

The couple’s love not only shone through on the screen but their love of each other and life shines through at their farm as well.  It’s an old 1870’s farm with very friendly geese and dogs following Joey’s ever movement.  It’s the setting where Joey and I discussed their album, a few songs on the album, the couple’s unbelievable love story and the forming of Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse, where Joey gets to exercise her passion for baking and cooking.

Matt Bjorke, What are the goals for "The Life of a Song?"

Joey Martin: I think the goal has already been met in a lot of ways. Because we were so proud of what we were able to record and put down.  It will be there forever.  We got to choose the songs we wanted to choose and we recorded fI’ve outside songs that we didn’t have a part in writing.  So we’re really proud of it.  We didn’t put any (sales) number goal on it for its first week of release or anything like that.  More than anything, we’re just proud of what we created. We were thankful to be able to work with Carl Jackson, our producer. We were so proud and thankful to have him come on board so willingly.  So from here on out everything is just extra: a bonus.  We didn’t plan on anything happening (once the album was released).

We worked really hard, too, on the artwork because Rory’s such a hand’s on guy, is computer savy and detail oriented.  It’s a 12 page booklet, with so many pictures, pictures of our life that are in the CD cover.  It has our thank-you’s and then instead of lyrics, Rory has wrote the cut by cut on each song so you get a sense of why we recorded the songs.

Matt: How does it feel to hear stories and interpretations of songs like “Rodeo” where it can be interpreted to be something other than rodeo? 

Joey: Rory started writing that song with Cory Batten and I love the rodeo and am a horse person.  We have some really good friends who are in the rodeo, bull riders, so we got to thinking one day about the abuse it takes on your mind and your body, not only yourself but the addiction that they have to that rush that they get, just like a performer on stage, a lot, as you said, can be used for about anything. How do you share the love with a relationship.  So I think you can insert any situation for the rodeo.  For example the road life, entertaining and yet you have a responsibility to your marriage. We get the best of both worlds since we’re chasing our dream together, at the same time.

Matt: “Heart of the Wood” is such a simple story and is presented in a great way, just you and Rory, no studio trickery…

Joey: That song is a really special song because, when I was looking for songs for my solo album, Dan DeMay sent me a disc with 21 songs and that was the last song on it and it caught me.  I love the story behind it, because we’re very faith-filled.  We believe that we’re here for a purpose and the way that song has a twist on the end, how Jesus gave his life for us.  It just spoke to me in ways, I just balled.  So, we wanted to make sure it was a special track on the record that wasn’t like anything else, so people would stop and pay attention.  We recorded it in one take on set in a studio facing each other with one guitar.  It was a special moment.

Matt: “Loved The Hell” had me thinking about the power of love and how people in my own life loved the hell out of people enough, unconditionally.

Joey: That song speaks a ‘higher language.’  It’s kind of condescending because you have the word “hell,” ‘loved the hell’ and yet it has a twist on the end, that’s a religious or spiritual twist. One day we played it at a church and I thought the minister was gonna faint. We didn’t ask for permission, we just sang it but I said, if you just listen you’ll understand why we are playing it.  It’s like Johnny and June.  June loved Johnny so much.  It’s the way God loves us. Even though we constantly let him down, he still loves us.  So for us, that song was beautiful, we had no idea how it was gonna end when we wrote it, we wrote it from the first line. So, again, it’s like from above, a magical song.

Matt: The title track on the album says it all about songs.  Do you think it speaks to a human nature about wanting to want to make a difference during our time here on earth?

Well, first off, Jason Matthews (and Rebecca Lynn Howard) wrote that song.  We're huge believers in Jason Matthews.  I found that song before Rory did and brought it to him and I said, 'honey, we've got to cut that song. This song is unbelievable' And coming from the point where Rory's a songwriter and it was all he's mostly ever done in music city, for that to be like a tribute, singing his praises as a songwriter. And Really, that's what we are, our songs will live forever, we'll die but and our voices will go away but our songs will always be here. Johnny's songs are still here, all the greats...

Matt: Jimmie Rodgers….

Joey: Yeah, Tammy Wynette, all those people.  So for us, it was written for us. Because I’m just a singer and without the right songs my voice would be nothing, otherwise it’s just music.  If it doesn’t mean something to you it’s just there. With Rory being a songwriter, it’s icing on the cake for us.  It was one of the last songs we found and after recording it we got to thinking that it had to be our title track.  Because we’re so song driven, everything we do is so based on the words of the song and how they’ll make an impact on people.

Matt: Was it love at first sight with Rory, for you?

Joey: Oh yeah, completely. He didn’t know it.  It was one of those things I had moved to Nashville and he was at the first songwriter’s night that I went to. I just fell in love with this guy; I thought  “he’s the kind of guy I’m going to marry” and then he introduced his daughters that night, they were with him, and I was so bummed and literally thought “all the good ones are gone.”  Because I thought he was married, due to having two daughters.  I always remembered what he wore, what he looked like, what he sang that night, it was right before “Chain of Love” came out.

A couple of years later I was working for a horse veterinarian as a vet technician and one of them lived across the street from songwriter Tim Johnson, Rory’s friend, and now business partner.  He asked me to go with him to a songwriters night. I asked who’s playing and he said “Tim Johnson and Rory Lee…”  I stopped dead in my tracks and asked “Rory Lee who wrote ‘Chain of Love?’ he said “yeah,” I said “OH, I love that man, he’s the man I would marry if he weren’t already married,” and the Dr said “He’s not married, he hasn’t been for a long time.”  I said “what about his daughters” and the doctor said, “oh, he’s raised them from babies.”  And that made me love him more.  I decided “I’m gonna go, I need to see if my emotions from two years ago are still there.” So I was all excited and I ran up the stairs in this little café in downtown Mt. Pleasant and I saw him and thought “oh it’s over.” I was gone.

Matt: Sounds like a movie…

Joey: Our love story is like a fairy tale, there are so many sides to it and so many things that I don’t have enough hours in the day to say everything about it.  After the show he would invite people over to his office there in Mt. Pleasant and we went over there and hung out and I had a deal with Sony, as a solo artist, at the time and was looking for songs.  He said ‘hey, can I pitch you some songs.’  I said sure and gave him my phone number.  But I was leery of him at the time because I was in a real serious relationship with a guy back in Indiana.  But for some reason I was really drawn to Rory.

He called me a couple of days later and said, “Hey this is Rory, I’d love to pitch you a few songs.”  Nashville is a friendly town and usually when being pitched songs you go to their offices, and listen to the songs in person.  I knew I had feelings for him and was very vulnerable. I was in that relationship so I didn’t want to do anything wrong so I responded with “Sure you can send them to my PO Box.” And for him, it was very clear that I was not interested.

A few days later, Rory was in the studio with Tim, and Tim said “Rory, I’ve got two words for you…Joey Martin. Rory said “Joey Martin? That girl hates me.  I’ve obviously made no impression on her what so ever.”  Tim said “I don’t know, my wife and I were taking back to her truck the other night after the songwriters night and she was asking who you were seeing.  So maybe you should call her one more time.”

So that night Rory called me and left a message on my answering machine and said, “Joey, this is Rory, I’m at home and its 9 o’clock and I’ll be up for a couple more hours and if you want to call me, here’s my number.”   It was a little past 9 when I got the message and I called him and the very first conversation we ever had I said, “Rory, this is Joey and I have to tell you why I’ve been cold and distant to you.  I saw you play at the Bluebird two years ago and at that moment I saw you I knew that you were the man I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. At the time I thought you were married and had babies and was really disappointed. I watched you perform a few weeks ago and learned that you weren’t married and had raised your girls as a single dad.  I love everything about you; the way you walk, how you hold yourself, what you sing, what you stand for, everything about you.  But, I’m in a relationship with a really great guy and we probably will end up getting married.  But I just had to tell you that if the situation was different and I wasn’t in this relationship, you are the guy that I would spend the rest of my life with.”

It was gutsy for me to say but I just had to say it because I can’t hide things like that and I thought he deserved the explanation on why I was distant to him.  So he said “really, let me get this right; I was your destiny but there’s this other guy that you’re gonna go on and marry?” so I said “yeah.”   “Wow, so now that I know that we’re not gonna have anything going on, can we at least meet for coffee.” I agreed and we met at this truck stop a few miles from his house and had coffee and talked for two hours.  It was like I was starring into the eyes of my destiny.  After our visit, he walked me to my truck to meet my dog; we left and went our separate ways.  So every once in a while he would check in and kind of sarcastically ask me how my relationship with my boyfriend in Indiana is going and I would tell him.  So it was just funny.

And then a couple months go by, and we wrote this song called “Nothing To Remember.” It’s on the “Strong Enough To Cry” album and it’s basically about the feelings that we had for each other that were so undeniable. If the situation were different, I’d want to experience this kind of love, then not experience love at all. Then by early 2002, I had it with that relationship, was dissatisfied with the way things were going so I ended it.  I called Rory and said, I ended my relationship with my boyfriend in Indiana and if you’d ever like to spend any time with me, I’m available.   He said “Really?”  He called the girl he was dating and immediately ended their relationship.  That was in February of 2002.  In April we were engaged and in June we were married.  So it was very fast track. There were just so many signs pointing to us being together.  It was really all God. And that’s what we built the foundation or our relationship upon.  It was important to us to be faithful to God and to be role-models for the girls (Rory’s daughters) who were 13 and 15 at the time we got married.

It was a really, really neat experience.  So here we are six years later, living this dream and doing it together and having a ball.

Matt: It probably makes it sweeter…

Joey: Oh, all the sweeter.  Right after I got married, I left Sony because they aren’t fans of me being married, especially to Rory.  Sony was also going through a restructuring at the time.  It was devastating at the time and I though my one shot was gone but we kept working and writing songs and I think the reason it didn’t happen until now was so God could have us do this together.

Matt: Have you heard “Cheater, Cheater” played on the radio while listening to the radio or just running around?

Joey: No we haven’t heard it yet, at least not without being in the actual studio but we did see the video on CMT.  It was added it Labor Day weekend and we turned on the TV and five minutes later it came on, and we freaked out with the ‘oh my gosh! We’re on TV!”  I don’t know what’s gonna happen when the Overstock.com commercials come on (they started airing on October 7, 2008.

Matt: About Marcy Jo’s, I know you’re partners with Rory’s sister Marcy.  Is cooking another passion?

Joey: Yeah, I’ve always loved to cook and bake.  and it was expensive to feed all of us.  My mom was and is still an incredible cook.  When she’d come home from the grocery store, we could always count on it being the same thing…flour, sugar, salt, yeast, butter, etc.  You know all the staples. My dad was a GM worker and mom raised us kids along with a huge garden and would can stuff and that was our food for the winter.  She cooked all the time.  It wasn’t like she taught us how to cook, we just learned by being around it so much, kind of an instinct.  So as I got older, I loved to cook and bake cookies and stuff but I really loved making bread. When we got to opening the restaurant I thought “what if we were different and baked all of our bread?” So if you’re ordering breakfast you get fresh bread.  The biscuits are made using my mom’s recipe called Angel Biscuits. Marcy always wanted to own a restaurant and, me, I’ve never worked in a restaurant. But for her, it was a way to help her dream come true so I said I’d help her while we I was working on mine, music.  The baking side fulfills something I love to do.  I miss not being there as much as I used to be but It’s great to come in and see our friends and neighbors and see the restaurant create this sense of community.

And there you have it.  Getting to speak with kind, generous people like Joey and Rory is like getting to talk to longtime friends, so it’s only natural that they’d be able to create a genuine place for their community to gather.  They are real.  What you see on TV isn’t faked.  What you read here isn’t embellished at all.  What you see is what you get.  It’s that real-life realness that guides them in their daily lives and it’s what guides them in their musical ventures as well.  I can’t think of a couple that doesn’t deserve their shot at having a hit songs and albums more than Joey and Rory, although I suspect that they could, given their generous caring nature.

If you're in or around the Nashville area, Joey+Rory have invited friends Bradley Walker and Wynn Varble to play in the round with them on October 18.  For more information click the image below.