Originally published in the September 27, 2010 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
Here’s how an overalls-wearing songwriter and an exotic small-town beauty found instant romance and a lasting partnership.
Joey Martin Feek is too well-grounded in her religious beliefs to accept any notion of “psychic” powers. But you have to admit that there was some invisible force at work when she walked into a songwriters night at Nashville’s famed Bluebird Cafe about ten years ago.
The aspiring singer from Indiana, known then as simply Joey Martin, quietly took her seat at the Bluebird to view the night’s in-the-round performance. One of the writers taking part in the show was Rory Lee Feek, who had enjoyed some songwriting success with Collin Raye’s “Someone You Used to Know” and other tunes.
Joey had moved to Nashville from Indiana in 1998 but was mostly unfamiliar with many of the songwriters in town, including Rory. But that changed in a literal heartbeat. “He was singing all these great songs and I just really thought he was amazing,” Joey says, still smiling at the memory. “He was who he seemed to be through his music. I just fell in love with him right there. I said to myself, ‘That’s the man I’m gonna marry someday,’ even though I did not know one thing about him.”
Call it starry-eyed craziness, but Joey’s instincts soon became full-fledged reality. The two married in 2002 and now share an onstage life as the Country Music Association Award-nominated duo of Joey + Rory. On this particular day as summer winds to a close, Joey and Rory are standing on the stage at the most appropriate of places, the Bluebird Cafe, reminiscing about their unique and written-in-the-stars romance.
“I moved here in 1995 to write songs,” Rory begins as he kicks back in a chair. “Actually, I wanted to be an artist but realized that my real gift was in songwriting.” Rory met the esteemed and legendary songwriter Harlan Howard and scored a publishing deal with his company.
Like most Music Row tunesmiths, he tested out new material at various writers nights around town. “And this is where our paths first crossed,” Rory happily recalls, pointing to the Bluebird’s stage. “I was playing in the round and Joey came to a show.”
But eye contact was the only connection they really made that night. “I just could not stop looking at him,” Joey softly remembers. “And then, at one point during the show, he introduced his daughters [Heidi and Hopi] to the audience. They were both cute as a button but it also broke my heart because I thought, ‘Well, he’s married. He’s got kids. Yep, all the good ones are taken.’ So I figured that was it.”
Cut to a couple years later and another writers night at a small venue outside Nashville. Rory was on the bill and, by no mere coincidence, Joey was again in the audience. Through some friends, Joey had discovered some life-changing news. “I learned that Rory was not married and had been raising his two daughters by himself,” she says. “That just made me love and admire him even more. So, I went to the show just to see if all those feelings I had for him that first night two years ago were still there. I just had to find out. The next weekend, I came again and we finally met. He said he would love to send me some songs.”
At that, Rory gently chimes in, “Well, I said I wanted to play you some songs. I found out that she was asking about me and I wanted to see her.” Rory and Joey had their first date on Nov. 7, 2001, though not at some romantic restaurant or trendy hideaway. “We went to a CMA Award watching party at [publishing company] Famous Music in Nashville,” Rory smiles. “There were all kinds of people there and we sat and watched the CMA Awards show together with the girls. It was just a fun time.”
The two started dating seriously by the following February and from there, the story can be told in two-month increments. In April of 2002, Rory proposed. On June 15, they were married—true to Joey’s prediction. “People want to say that it was ‘psychic’ or something, but I don’t really believe in that,” she says. “I believe that everything is in God’s hands. That’s who we trust our lives to.”
Since their wedding, Rory has gone on to write “Some Beach” by Blake Shelton, the CMA Award-nominated “A Little More Country Than That” by Easton Corbin and a host of other hits. Joey released a solo album, Strong Enough to Cry, but eventually lost her record deal.
In 2008, the nation fell in love with the happy couple as they competed on the first season of CMT’s Can You Duet as Joey + Rory. They seemed an odd pairing at first. Rory, with his ever-present overalls, came across as the traditional country boy while the dark-skinned, model-thin Joey could have easily stepped out of a fashion magazine. But their remarkable chemistry and natural charisma caught on with the show’s viewers, and though they finished third in the televised contest, they still managed to land a record deal in the process. Their 2008 debut single, “Cheater, Cheater,” peaked at No. 30 while their album, The Life of a Song, fared even better, clocking in at the No. 10 spot. This past year, they took the Academy of Country Music Award for Top New Vocal Duo and have just released their follow-up album, which bears the logical title, Album Number 2.
“It’s been amazing how music has played such a part in our lives,” says Rory. “It took some twists and turns, but like Joey told me that first time we met, ‘I knew I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with you.’ And now, years later, we’re beyond happy. It’s just been so wonderful.”