ToC Critic’s Pick: Maddie & Tae, ‘Start Here’
On Start Here, the colorful, dynamic debut album from country duo Maddie & Tae, the two best friends are at their best when they’re stirring up trouble. Fans who fell in love with “Girl in a Country Song” will find plenty more to adore between imaginative ballads of love and heartache.
“Shut Up & Fish” is just plain amazing. Girls will relate to this song about a boy’s wanted, but poorly-timed advances, because they’ve been there. Men will find something to chew on as well because, well, they’ve been there. Suddenly you’re 15 again, with all the emotions, hormones and awkwardness.
“I was fishing, he was wishing we were kissing / I was getting madder than a hornet in an old Coke can,” they sing during this delightful romp. Spoiler alert: the boy’s lips get wet, but not in the way he was hoping for.
The anti-bullying anthem "Sierra" is as sharp as Taylor Swift’s “Mean” and just as personal. Maddie Marlow penned the song with Tae Dye and Aaron Scherz after being ruthlessly picked on by a classmate named Sierra. What? You’re surprised this duo names names?
Those highs are tempered by powerful emotional lows found during “Smoke” and “After the Storm Blows Through.” There is very little that’s vanilla on Start Here. “Right Here Right Now” is probably the most middle-of-the-road song, but fans who might feel they’re a little too old for this teenaged duo will find something to snack on during the first kiss song.
Sonically, Maddie & Tae cement themselves in the country genre with a collection of 11, fiddle and pedal steel-heavy arrangements. There’s more uptempo songs than you’d expect — how often has a debut album from a young female act been filled with 11, slow to mid-tempo, maudlin musings on love and heartbreak? Strong songwriting and a commitment to presenting a mix of emotions and sounds makes Start Here one to hold onto.
Start Here is an album title and an order. The ladies said they wanted something that reflected their album, but also them. With Start Here, they're saying, "Hi, nice to meet you. Come on in!"
"We told our stories in this first album and that’s exactly what we plan to do for the albums to come," the girls tell TooFab. "We want our fans to come along on this journey with us."
There have been two so far. “Girl in a Country Song” put this duo on the map in a big way, but "Fly" is proving they’re much more than a one-trick pony. It’s an important song with a lesson fans can stand behind. Here, the girls talk about the fun music video and two naughty butterflies:
Maddie & Tae have been writing songs for this record for years, and they say it tells their story. They're also best friends and neighbors, so there's little they hold back when the writing room door closes. Dye calls it free therapy!
In addition to the singles, highlights include "Sierra" — a song written about Marlow's real-life bully — and "After the Storm Blows" through, a song penned after the death of a good friend's father. "Shut Up & Fish" is another fan favorite. Every girl has been there, and if they're being honest, every guy past 20 will admit he's been that guy before, too.
Dann Huff and Aaron Scherz produced Start Here. It was Scherz who worked with the two teenagers for two years in his basement, cultivating their sound while working on stage presence, media training and songwriting. He is a good friend and mentor to the girls.
Start Here Track Listing:
1. “Waitin’ on a Plane” (Taylor Dye, Maddie Marlow, Danny Myrick)
2. “Girl in a Country Song” (Dye, Marlow, Aaron Scherz)
3. “Smoke” (Dye, Marlow, Scherz, Brad Tursi)
4. “Shut Up and Fish” (Dye, Marlow, Scherz, Pete Sallis)
5. “Fly” (Dye, Marlow, Tiffany Vartanyan)
6. “Sierra” (Dye, Marlow, Scherz)
7. “Your Side of Town” (Dye, Marlow, Blair Daly, Heather Morgan)
8. “Right Here, Right Now” (Dye, MarlowMatthew McGinn)
9. “No Place Like You” (Dye, Marlow, Jon Nite, Jimmy Robbins)
10. “After the Storm Blows Through” (Dye, Marlow, Scherz, Trent Willmon)
11. “Downside of Growing Up” (Dye, Marlow, Brent Anderson, Frank Rogers)
The Nuff Nuff Dance:
There’s this dance the girls do before shows called the “Nuff Nuff Dance.” They make all their bandmates do it with them. Grown men gladly put aside their pride to entertain the duo, and to make sure the show goes as planned. Check it out here:
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