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 live 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’s 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, we recorded 5 outside songs that we didn’t have a part in writing. So we’re really proud of it. We didn’t put any 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, bonus. We didn’t plan on anything happening now.
We worked really hard, too, on the artwork because Rory’s such a hand’s on guy and 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 stuff and then instead of lyrics, Rory has put in the song-by-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 one microphone. 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 freak out. 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 word. So, again, it’s like from above, a magical song.
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?
Matt: Jimmy 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 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 to this place in 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 in trouble. I was in that relationship so I didn’t want to do anything wrong so I responded with “Sure you can mail these to my people’s offices.” And for him, it was very clear that I didn’t want to meet up with him.
A few days after that Rory was in the studio and, I rode with Tim Johnson to a show and asked him about Rory. So when they were in the studio and Tim brought up my name. 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 her home after a songwriter’s night last week and she was asking who you were dating. 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 contest 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 the moment I saw you I knew that you were the man I had 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 knew that you not married. 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 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.” So we talked for two and a half hours and in a weird way it was like we were soul mates. I introduced him to my dog, Rufus at my truck; we left and went our separate ways. So every once in a while he would check in and kind of sarcastically asking 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 he 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 in February 2002, I had it with that relationship, was dissatisfied with the way things were going so I ended it. So I called Rory and said, I ended my relationship with my boyfriend in Indiana. He said “Really?” He called the girl he was dating and immediately ended their relationship. That was February. 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 how we built the foundation or our relationship upon. We did things properly and wanted 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, 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 just running a round or something?
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. I’m one of five kids so it was how we ate food. We didn’t have stuff like cereal often since food was expensive, and my dad was a GM worker, mom made raised 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 but it was 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 from my mom. She always made these to die for angel biscuits that were to die for. 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 my 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 live in or near to the Nashville area, Joey and Rory are presenting a dinner and a songwriter show with the great Bradley Walker and songwriter Wynn Varble on October 18th. Click Here to find out more.