Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Maddie & Tae countless times over the past six years. While we’ve talked at great lengths about their Nashville journey and the ups and downs of label deals, one of my favorite features on them was 2019’s Songs That Defined the Decade for Billboard. We discussed their breakthrough hit “Girl In a Country Song,” which they wrote seven years ago on St. Patrick’s Day. Below is an excerpt of our chat.
When Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye sat down with songwriter Aaron Scherz on St. Patrick’s Day 2014, they had no idea they’d be creating history and giving a voice to females within the country genre. The single they wrote together, “Girl In a Country Song,” was a bold track that called out country radio and the men on the airwaves for painting women the exact same way: as an accessory in their truck with cut-off jeans and nothing to say.
Throughout the tune, Maddie & Tae call out contemporary hits by Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, Brantley Gilbert, Tyler Farr and Blake Shelton, all of which featured stereotypical supermodel-like women in their songs and videos. While it ruffled some feathers — with FGL’s Brian Kelley telling the Chicago Tribune, “I don’t know one girl who doesn’t want to be a girl in a country song” — Maddie & Tae never apologized for the truth heard within their lyrics.
“There was no reason for us to apologize and we totally understood that some people were offended, but to us it wasn’t for the men,” Dye explains. “It was for the women. It was to empower women. It wasn’t to bash men.”
All writers for Big Machine Music at the time, the three collaborators considered pitching the song to other artists. But when Maddie & Tae performed it at a Tin Pan South showcase later that year, it became obvious that it was best suited for them.
For Maddie & Tae, “Girl In a Country Song” remains a timeless statement on the importance of there being diverse portrayals of women in music and entertainment.
“There’s this role [women] got in these songs where we’re supposed to look this certain way,” Marlow says. “There’s this one type of woman that’s shown in every single video and it’s like, ‘Well, what about the petite girls? What about the curvy girls? What about girls that have their own job and aren’t just trying to ride some dude’s coattails?’ It just wasn’t representative of all women and so it was cool to get to say, ‘Hey there’s more to us than just looking beautiful. We run companies, too.'”
Watch the video for Maddie & Tae’s No. 1 hit “Girl In a Country Song” below. For more of my interview with the duo, visit Billboard.