Country Spotlight: Steel Magnolia

January 11, 2011 at 11:11 am , by

SM_WP02_800x600You know it’s a good day at the office when multiple staffers report getting the chills and having the hair on their arms stand up during a guest musical performance. So far the count is up to three thanks to Steel Magnolia’s Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott Jones, who stopped by the LHJ offices yesterday on the eve of the release of their self-titled debut CD. The album is a fun, fresh-sounding collection of addicting tunes featuring their trademark powerhouse vocals, which have just garnered them a second ACM Top New Vocal Duo or Group nomination. (Fan voting begins on Thursday, January 27, at VoteACM.com.)

“We wanted to make a record that people would leave in their player for six months. To have on repeat,” Jones says of the debut record (in stores today), which is the result of a multifaceted relationship formed years ago with Linsey when they were both solo artists in Nashville. The duo penned the song “Edge of Goodbye” with a mutual friend and had started performing it together at writers nights when Steel Magnolia began to blossom. “People had to tell us, ‘You guys are great together. You should be a duo,’ ” Linsey remembers. “We were just, like, huh? I don’t think you ever think about that as a solo artist. You really have to push your ego aside and [think about] what’s the best thing for the music and the sound.”

The switch in career focus from me to us was admittedly tricky for Jones as well. “I had to check my ego, man,” he says. “I had my own band and I had to kind of swallow a dose of, okay, she makes things sound a lot better. She makes things better for me. In a duo or in a relationship, if you’re really going to make things work you have to start putting the other person first. When two people can come together, agree to do that and start working toward the same goal, that’s when the magic starts. It’s a real blessing that we found a sound—our sound—together.”

“It’s funny,” Linsey adds, “now I can’t even imagine being on stage without him. I’d feel naked. It’s a weird thing.” Weird, maybe. Entertaining, definitely. Their nabbing the second season title of CMT’s Can You Duet is a testament to that. And you can also watch their performance at LHJ and judge for yourself.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LKAI6Rsj7M

Continue on after the jump to read about everything from the surprises you can expect from their live shows to their dream musical collaborations, the one thing that really drives Jones crazy and what he says you should never underestimate about Linsey.

SM_WP01_800x600LHJ: I’ve loved you guys since I first saw you on Can You Duet. If I’d purchased journalistic stock in the word “chemistry” back then, I could be retired by now because every review or story about you guys talks about how intense your chemistry is. So help me out: How would you describe your energy on stage without repeating the word “chemistry”?

Meghan: That’s a good question! I think we definitely have a connection that goes beyond obviously just being onstage. We have a lot of things connecting us: We’re a couple and we’re on the road together, we live together and we perform together, so I think that’s a lot of it. We were together before we did music so it’s not really a forced thing. It’s very organic and it just made sense that we would sing together.
Joshua:
I guess it just works. Hmmm, other than using the word “chemistry” …
LHJ
: See how we struggle on this end?
Joshua:
We go together pretty well. When we started singing together, it’s not like we had to practice a lot. The songwriting for us—we haven’t always gotten along when we’ve worked together. It’s interesting. But when we step on the stage it kind of works out.
Meghan:
I think if we can find common ground when writing a song, we know it’s going to be good because we have such different ideas a lot of the time. So for the both of us to agree on something, it feels like maybe more people will relate to it.
Joshua: See, and when I can’t formulate a sentence, she can.

LHJ: On Can You Duet, you’d told judge Naomi Judd and guest Wynonna how you struggled offstage creatively but then it clicked when you performed. So it’s still the same pattern for you two?

Meghan: Honestly, I think we’re so busy that we don’t really fight a whole lot. Obviously we’re both very passionate about music and our career. And I think there are definitely little arguments here and there. The thing about us is neither one of us holds grudges at all so we get over it pretty quick. At the end of the day I think we’re really close. We’re best friends and we just have a different connection.

LHJ: I wanted to get a little backstory on a couple of songs on the CD. Let’s start with “Eggs over Easy.”

Meghan: That was a pretty easy song, honestly, funny enough. We were just at a friend’s house one morning cooking breakfast and we didn’t plan on writing a song but Josh picked up a guitar, started playing and we all kind of chipped in. It wrote itself, pretty much.
Joshua: We just started spouting out things that were going on in the room: “Cooking you breakfast / on a Sunday morning.” Our friend was, like, “How do you want your eggs?” And we said, “Over easy.” And so we started doing that, and the dogs were lying there begging. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and just lighthearted fun. It’s funny because that was just kind of album filler going into making the record but it seems to be one of the songs that everybody continues to ask about.

LHJ: And how about “Glass Houses,” the song, Josh, that you wrote by yourself?

Joshua: You want the real story? No, I can’t give that much information, man. It’s too early. That’ll be for the Behind the Music. I’ll just say it’s a song about self-sabotage. I’m sure everybody’s been there, where you continue the same behavior over and over and it never works out. It just becomes self-sabotaging. And it can be addictive. It’s about not being good to yourself.
Meghan: We were both really surprised that it made the record, to be honest with you, just because it was such a serious song. It doesn’t sound like anything else on there. It’s very stripped down and it sounds almost like an old Merle [Haggard] song. Honestly, when he first played it for me, I had no idea that he had written it. I thought it was an old Merle song.
Joshua: We’d played it for [Big Machine Records head] Scott Borchetta and he’d heard it a few times and he was, like, “Why do you guys keep playing this song? Whose song is it?” So that was cool. It has a classic feel to it. Nothing wrong with that.

LHJ: So what can fans gearing up to hear you live out on the road expect? Any surprises in your show? Unexpected covers?

Meghan: We put a lot of traditional country in our set, which I don’t think people really expect. We get a lot of pop references in reviews and stuff but we’re actually very country at heart and very old-school. Both of us have a lot of different influences. We do “After the Fire is Gone” [Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty]. We do [breaking out into song] “Take the ribbon from your hair …” We do “Jackson.” We do a lot of old-school duets.
Joshua: We do classics. Old country music. They’re just great songs.
Meghan: There’s so much feeling in them, too, and so much soul. I think a lot of the base of our sound is soul so we love doing that kind of stuff.
Joshua: Then we do the late 70s rock. We just learned an Eagles song. We do Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” There’s a good mixture with our stuff thrown in. We try to keep a set list going where we have the crowd always wanting more and right there with us. We spend a lot of time going over our set list and we put a lot of energy into a live show. People walk away, I think, sometimes surprised. We want to smack people upside the face from the get-go.

LHJ: Any artists from a different genre you’d like to collaborate with?

Meghan: Tom Petty, man. That’s for sure. Josh has been playing Tom Petty songs around the house for two days now and they’re all good. Every single song, you’re like, “I love this song, I love his voice.”
Joshua: You don’t realize how many hit songs that guy has until you sit down … it’s really crazy.
Meghan: And Bruce Springsteen!

LHJ: Has fame been a hard adjustment for you, now that you’re probably getting recognized?

Meghan: It’s not hard, just different. You’ll be running through the airport trying to catch a plane and somebody wants a picture. There’s always that trying-to-look-good-all-the-time thing. That’s kind of hard sometimes.
Joshua: It doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been a real people person.
Meghan: He could mess up his hair and put on a t-shirt and look good, though, because he’s a guy!
Joshua: I think it’s cool and I love putting the energy out there and having people respond to it. That’s what the live shows are all about. The only thing is that I have a bit of a temper when I can’t find things. It really drives me crazy to lose my keys or something like that so if I want to throw a fit, I have to look around because I can’t be talking that way in public. That’s the only thing for me is restraint. I don’t want people thinking, because they see me in a bad mood, “Oh, well, he’s this way all the time.”

LHJ: What’s the one thing that, after all this time together, still amazes you about one another? Good or bad.

Meghan: I think Josh is so himself all the time. He just is Josh all the time. He’s a very real person. That’s initially what attracted me to him too. I never met someone so outgoing and so truly themselves.
Joshua: I think what I love the most about Meghan and what still gets me is that she still gets embarrassed by me …
Meghan: Sometimes!
Joshua: … and has a reaction.
LHJ: When you do what?
Joshua: Just whatever. She turns into her mother, I think.
Meghan: Hey! [Into the tape recorder] In a good, endearing way. I love my mom, so I’m cool with it.

At LHJ, one of our columns and longstanding mottos is “never underestimate the power of a woman.” Josh, how does that apply to Meghan?

Joshua: Never underestimate Meghan’s power to be generous and put other people first. And it’s just nice to have a woman in your life. For me, because I’ve been reckless, there are times when she’s so sensible and levelheaded—when I’m not.
Megan: That’s a good answer. I’m cool with that. It’s true!
Joshua: Never underestimate the underlying coolness of a lady.

LHJ: Last question to Meghan, since this is Ladies’ Home Journal and you have such a cool personal style: Any favorite designers or makeup picks?

Meghan: I love Michael Kors and Marc Jabobs. I kind of mix everything together. I love H&M and Forever 21 too.
Joshua: It’s like a crockpot of fashion.
Meghan: I’ll go into Target or a vintage store, Goodwill. I kind of just throw a lot of different stuff together. And for makeup: lashes. Lashes are important. They make a big difference!

9 Responses to “Country Spotlight: Steel Magnolia”

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