Editors’ Notes “Not that we had anything to prove,” Maddie Marlow tells Apple Music, “but so many years had gone by and we were in a completely new phase of life, and we just really wanted to make sure that we got that right and portrayed that right.” That’s how the Texas-born half of Maddie & Tae explains the care that she and her singing and songwriting partner Tae Dye took with their second album, The Way It Feels. They were still in their teens when they scored an unexpected hit with the amiably cheeky, and timely, tune “Girl in a Country Song” in 2014. After releasing their youthful debut full-length Start Here, then seeing their first record label shuttered, they seized the chance to step back and consider how they wanted to broaden their thematic territory and capture the contradictions, pleasures, and disappointments of young adulthood. Drawn to the challenge of sharpening time-tested country forms, they and their producers, Jimmy Robbins and Derek Wells, found subtle ways to weave contemporary rhythms into their naturalistic palette. Says Tae, “We were like, ‘Okay, if we want to do it and it feels right, then let's try it.’” Read on as they go through each track on the album.

Everywhere I’m Goin’
Maddie: “Most of the time when you write a song, you either have a concept or a lyric or you start with something like that, and then work around it. But with ‘Everywhere I'm Goin'’ I had like three or four different song titles in my phone, and Tae had a couple, but none of them really stood on their own. We kind of just mushed all these titles or lyrics that we thought were titles into one song and basically just wrote it from a really present place of being there with the person that you love and just being so grateful. That song was so relevant when we were on the Carrie Underwood tour, because when we were gone traveling around, it's like our favorite place is being in our living room with our husbands.”

Bathroom Floor
Tae: “Maddie was going through a little bit of personal family stuff the day we wrote ‘Bathroom Floor,’ and so we wrote a song for what she was going through, and we kind of got like all the sad, somber stuff out of the way, and then we still had a lot of the day left. So we're like, ‘Let's start something else.’ She threw out the ‘Bathroom Floor’ title, and Josh Kerr, my husband, just started making it really uptempo and sound really fun, because we knew that that's where the energy really needed to go. So we just wanted to have some fun and write an upbeat song, and we pulled from personal experience of nights that we were out a little bit too late and had too much fun. Sometimes you just have to put on some makeup, or at least just get up—at least try. If you just try to let yourself move forward, then you're good.”

My Man
Maddie: “Being married now, it's a different approach to love songs. We really wanted to have a couple songs praising your lover. Just being like, ‘You are so awesome and great,’ and there's no baggage. There's not all this messy stuff to get to the lovey part. It's like just a straight-up, awesome love song.”

Tourist in This Town
Tae: “That write was really fun, because Barry Dean and I were just kind of chatting about where we wanted the verses to go, and at the exact same time, Maddie's sitting right next to me on the same couch and she and Jimmy Robbins are working on the chorus. And so we both took, like, 10 minutes and just did our thing, and then 10 minutes later came back and had a verse and chorus laid out. And that hardly ever happens.”

Drunk or Lonely
Maddie: “I do feel like the tone in that song is like very confident. Like, she knows he's always 20 minutes late because he can't find his keys. She knows he never misses a hometown game. She knows all these things about him, and I think there's still that longing. She's like, ‘Man, I wish he could just get it together, because there was something good here.’ But, you know, it's the inevitable. He's either drunk or lonely. I feel like women, we're very detail-oriented, and that's one of our strengths, and I feel like this song kind of showcases that confidence in knowing the details, in picking up on little things. You know, just to make decisions based off of.”

One Heart to Another
Maddie: “It was one of the first songs that we wrote for this project that we mentioned being in bed with someone else, or someone drinking or someone smoking. It was very out there for us, lyrically. It was kind of the first strike that we felt mature enough and in a place that we can write about this stuff now. Like, we're not in high school anymore, and that's okay if we let our listeners know that. And it was a big moment for us to just write what we felt and not worry about what anyone else was wanting from us.”

Trying On Rings
Maddie: “‘Trying On Rings’ is the one that I have the deepest connection to on the album. A couple of years ago when my husband and I were seriously looking at rings, we went and tried on rings, and we both had the flashbacks back to when we were 15, 16 years old, dating in high school, me wearing his football number and things like that. We were honestly having a moment of surprise, like, ‘Wow, we've built something that has lasted this long and something that we're so proud of together.’ I actually walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of ‘Trying On Rings,’ because I was like, ‘There is no more perfect song than that.’ It is literally our exact story.”

Write a Book
Maddie: “We loved leaning in to the R&B and bluesy [elements]. We wanted it sonically to match how sexy and mature the lyrics are, and just pure craze of how your man could literally write a book and should teach everyone else how to treat a woman, because they're so good at it. I think one of the most memorable things of this entire project, and one of the things we'll always look back on, was just the confidence that we gained from writing these songs, particularly ‘Book’ and the sexier songs in that vein. It just really gave us a boost of ‘All right, we're women now.’”

Water in His Wine Glass
Maddie: “Someone in my family that I absolutely loved, they were really, really struggling with alcohol. I was really hesitant to share my story and to kind of say, ‘Hey, I know someone close to my family that went through this, and we all just hurt for them.’ You never want to see them go through that, and you just feel so helpless. That was a fact that we had never really dove into, so I was a little nervous. But songs are supposed to be written when they're supposed to be written, and I feel like there's something really, really magical and special about that song.”

Die From a Broken Heart
Maddie: “We didn't even realize how many stories and how many characters we were capturing in that one song until after the fact. There were moments when I was feeling for the mom; there were moments I was feeling for the girl. You feel for each character in the song, and we're really proud of that. Sometimes you don't realize how special a song is until you release it out into the world. I'm really proud that that's a single of ours that I think is going to be a career song for us.”

Ain’t There Yet
Tae: “‘Ain't There Yet’ is about leaning into whatever you're feeling when you're feeling it, which is a big lesson Maddie and I have learned over the past couple of years. I think it's just so important to let yourself heal in whatever way that is, and to give yourself grace. Cut yourself some slack. You don't have to move on immediately or feel better immediately. Just take it day by day.”

Lay Here With Me (feat. Dierks Bentley)
Maddie: “When we wrote it, we didn't hear it as like a duet. But then the more we listened to it, we thought, ‘Man, it'd be really cool to have a male energy tell the story as well, so we're kind of telling it to each other.’ We decided if Dierks was willing to do it, we thought his voice would bring such a really amazing character to the song. We wanted him to take that second verse to introduce his perspective of what it's like on his side of things, or his character. It just feels so full of energy and so much tension, so we just really dug into those three-part harmonies.”

Friends Don’t
Tae: “The moodiness in ‘Friends Don't’ is something Maddie and I both always loved. It's the way the track kind of contradicts the lyrics, the love song, but yet it sounds really kind of spooky and mysterious and moody. I think the topic, 'friends don't,' can come across maybe a little bit too cheery and cheesy. It's a real thing. If you're really into somebody and your heart's breaking to go to the next level but you're not sure if they feel the same way, it's very scary. So the track, I feel like, truly reflects the internal dialogue going on in your brain. I love jumping on the high part on the second verse and just kind of being all over the place. It was a lot of fun experimenting.”

I Don’t Need to Know
Tae: “It's almost like she's trying to convince herself as well. Like, 'I don't need to know, I don't need to know, I don't need to know,' trying to convince herself as well as anyone who's telling her. Because truthfully, there is some part of you that wants to know, but you know you don't need to, because it's not going to further your process of moving on at all. It furthers the anxiety that you feel when you're in that and all you want to do is move on. And anything that's going to hinder that, you just want to resist as much as possible. We really wanted to put lyrics to what that emotion feels like.”

New Dog Old Tricks
Maddie: “We had heard that song years ago, and we loved it, but we didn't feel like we could really pull it off. Whenever we transitioned to the new record label and this new project, we heard that song again in a pitch meeting with Emily Weisband and we were like, ‘This feels right for us at this time in our lives.’ We just wanted to do that song justice, because Emily Weisband had the most badass delivery on the demo. I remember I actually had to drink some wine to loosen up to sing that song, because it's supposed to be loose and fun and a little sloppy. It's the conversation where you're all up in this dude's face, so you have to have that confidence.”

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