Twelve years ago, when I got down on one knee and asked Joey if she would take my name, she said yes. A few years later when she asked if I would take her name… I almost said no. In late 2007, we had been married for five years. Joey was an aspiring singer and nothing was happening with her music. She had opened our little family cafe Marcy Jo’s about a year earlier with my sister Marcy and was keeping herself busy working there every day waiting tables and baking. Part of her wondered though if her dream of a career in music was ever going to happen. Instead of being frustrated, she poured herself into the restaurant and came home each day with a new-found sense of pride in something special that she had been part of creating. It was a neat thing for me to watch happen.
I had been a songwriter since I came to Nashville in 1995 and had been blessed to have a number of my songs recorded (some of them even hits) on the radio. Joey was the singer and I was a songwriter. We never once considered singing together. But then, as the year came to a close, that all changed.
I was asked to write a song with a friend of a friend. It was a random writing appointment on a random day, like many others I’d had over the years. But when John came to our farm to write on that Wednesday, he was wonderful. We instantly hit it off and had a great time. Around lunchtime, we took a break and went to Marcy Jo’s and I introduced him to my wife Joey. And somewhere in the midst of his lunch special, he must’ve seen something that Joey and I never saw. About a month or so later, he called and asked us to meet him at a coffee shop in Nashville. So we drove to town and over coffee, John explained that besides being a songwriter, he was also a band leader for tv shows and that CMT was about to cast a new television show that was looking for America’s next great country music duo. And then he said, “I think you guys are it.” That took us by more than a little surprise. We explained to him that we didn’t sing together, that Joey was a singer and I was just a songwriter. And besides that, we didn’t have a television at home and the last thing we wanted, was to be on one. He said, “trust me, what you guys have is special. It’s the real thing.” He explained to us that this show was being done by the folks who make American Idol and that he knew the producers and could help get us an audition. But we would need to get them something on DVD to the show’s producers that showed us singing together. As we left the coffee shop and walked hand-in-hand back to our truck, Joey asked me if I would do this with her. I wanted to say no. I almost did. She knew that one of my biggest fears was being on tv or in front of people in a setting like that. I was comfortable writing songs or sitting on a stool at the Bluebird Cafe singing, and was happy just being a behind-the-scenes songwriter. Plus, I was 42 at the time, I wore overalls, and didn’t really know how to sing harmony… I was pretty sure I was going to be one of those guys that gets made fun of and exits the show heartbroken. But I also knew that if we got on the show, the world might get to hear my wife sing, and even if I was humiliated, but they kept her on the show, it would be worth it. So I looked at my bride and smiled and said “yes.” And just like that, we became Joey+Rory.
My cousin and best friend Aaron (who lives in Denver and is now our manager) came to visit us a few days later and he and I decided to make a DVD that didn’t just show Joey and I singing together, we thought it should tell a little bit of our story. So he and I went to BestBuy and bought a little hand-held video camera. Then the next day, we filmed Joey opening up the restaurant at 4 am and serving customers, and me feeding our cow and chickens and writing a song, and of course, Joey and I singing together. Then, though I’d never done it before, I put it all together on my laptop in iMovie and burned a DVD. Joey dropped that DVD, along with a roll of pecan sticky buns from the restaurant, off to the producers of the show. This is the video that we made.
Flash forward to 2014. I’m sitting in our farmhouse, and Joey’s feeding the baby next to me. I’m thinking about all that’s happened in our lives since that day…
– We got an audition for and were cast on the show “Can You Duet” on CMT. We went all the way to the finals and performed in front of millions of people on tv.
– We signed a record deal, had a hit song on the radio, made music videos, and sold tons of records.
– We performed on the CMA, CMT, and ACM Awards, and even won one, and have toured all over the world singing together.
– We’ve met most of our country music heroes and played the Grand Ole Opry dozens of times.
– We’ve created and made our own weekly television show at home for the past two years that I write and edit.
– We have a beautiful newborn baby girl together and time off this year to cherish this moment in our lives.
If you would have told me back then, that that one decision would open the door for all of Joey’s dreams to come true (and dreams that I never even dared to dream also), I wouldn’t have believed you. I had no idea what would happen. I only knew that I was scared and nervous, and wanted to say no. In my mind, it didn’t add up. So for once, I didn’t use my mind, I used my heart and just said yes… and that made all the difference.