Maddie & Tae Talk New Song, Ballsy Moves and ACMs

Before I’d had a chance to listen to Maddie & Tae’s “Tourist in This Town,” I had Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye tell me all about the story behind the new song.

“It’s all about how you feel like a tourist in your own town because you have to avoid the places you and your ex went to,” Marlow told me when we caught up before their Chicago show last week. “You have to relearn it. Because you don’t want to run into him, but you do want to run into him. You know?”

And while Marlow herself is not a tourist in her own town at all — she is engaged to be married to Jonah Font in November — Dye was going through that relearning process when they were writing the song. Like the song says, her ex turned her heart into a city on a map. “I was right in that ’Tourist in This Town’ phase.”

“I was too,” her best friend Marlow added, “because when your best friend has an ex, you just want to punch him in the face.”

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The two wrote the song with Barry Dean and Jimmy Robbins, both prolific Nashville hitmakers, and they told me that going into a songwriting session like that doesn’t scare them anymore. “Tae and I have been together for nine years,” Marlow said, “and we hold our own in writing sessions. I feel like we have earned our place in that room.”

That much is obvious when you consider that their debut hit “Girl in a Country Song” went to the top of the charts almost overnight in 2014. And the critical acclaim for their songwriting craft hasn’t faded since. That said, when Marlow and Dye throwback to that song, they are both a little shook.

“I didn’t realize at the time how ballsy ’Girl in a Country Song’ was until I was 23. Holy crap. How did neither of us know that? We were not afraid, we didn’t care what people thought,” she said of their 18-year-old mindset. “We were telling our truth, but looking back I’m like, ’Damn. We had bigger balls than most men.’” (The guy who stars in the video, David Spielberg, loved playing a part in Maddie & Tae’s debut.)

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The duo is currently up for the Academy of Country Music’s duo of the year award, but they aren’t sure they are going to win because the competition this year is so solid. Brothers Osborne, Dan + Shay, Florida Georgia Line and LOCASH are in the category with them. Marlow and Dye have a prediction — and a very healthy attitude — going in to the April awards show.

“I feel like we will have our year. But we both think this will be Dan and Shay’s year,” Dye told me.

“And we think that God’s got enough blessings for everybody.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.