Announced Monday morning (3-25), country music duo Maddie & Tae will finally have an album of new music to peddle come April 26th when a 5-song EP called One Heart To Another is released via Mercury Nashville. It has been a long, arduous journey for Maddie & Tae after getting caught up in the shuttering of Big Machine’s Dot Records imprint in early 2017. This left the duo label-less, despite owning a #1 Platinum-selling song in “Girl in a Country Song,” a Top 10 Gold-selling single in “Fly,” and a record that debuted at #2 in the country charts and has since sold over 100,000 copies.
The good news is that Maddie & Tae landed on their feet when they were signed to Mercury Nashville in June of 2017. At that point, it had nearly been two years since the release of their debut album, Start Here, and they had already been working on their sophomore record. But since then it has been a waiting game for a new release.
Mercury Nashville has released a couple of new songs from the duo, including the radio single “Friend’s Don’t,” which did moderately well, but stalled at #33 on the airplay charts. The song “Die From A Broken Heart” has been a sleeper hit for the duo without any radio play, spending ample time near the top of iTunes charts, and receiving over 6 million streams on Spotify so far. Maddie & Tae also released a new song “Tourist in This Town” on March 1st.
Perhaps we should be happy that nearly four years removed from their debut, and nearly two years since signing to Mercury Nashville, Maddie & Tae will finally receive a proper release of new music. But despite what some will tell you about the new way music is consumed in the streaming era and EPs being a fine alternative, they’re never considered for awards, and are often relegated to 2nd tier of releases by the media, the industry, and the public, especially in country music where the album concept is still respected. They’re also very rare for established artists in the middle of their career.
But there’s a deeper reason why the release of this Maddie & Tae EP feels inappropriate, and more of a stop gap than a proper album. It’s because their long-awaited sophomore album that they slaved over for years and have been waiting well past their time for a proper release date is a concept record that was written and recorded to be heard as a cohesive experience.
“So, it’s like a story,” Tae Dye told WYRK nearly a year ago, when they first announced the new album was on the way. “Basically, through the whole record, it’s going to start at the beginning of a relationship, and then it’s gonna go into the ‘in love’ phase, then the ‘breakup’ phase, just like it always happens. And then, at the end, it was really important for us to have that redemptive moment … I think anyone is going to be able to relate because you can go through heartbreak in all different settings, in all kinds of friendships and relationships.”
Some or all of the 5 songs that are being used to populate this EP aren’t meant to be heard autonomously, but as part of a bigger conceptualized narrative, with the songs equaling something greater than the sum of their parts as opposed to being worn out by listeners before the concept record even arrives. Also, a 30-day lead time between when this EP has been announced and when it will be released is not a lot of time to ramp up promotion and anticipation.
There are some good reasons to release an EP from Maddie & Tae right now. They are about to embark on a tour opening for Carrie Underwood beginning in May, and it would be nice to have a new piece of merch to schlep at shows, along with new songs to perform that concert goers can then stream. But how many times have we seen artists with long-awaited records receive EP releases instead, and only to never hear the entire LP? We’re still waiting for the debut record from Mickey Guyton.
At the risk of sounding alarmist, the information about the new Maddie & Tae EP parallels Mercury Nashville pulling support from their single “Friends Don’t” which only succeeded moderately, and which probably should have been replaced by “Die From A Broken Heart” when it was shown to be the more resonant and well-received song.
Yes, it’s great that Maddie & Tae finally have a new release on the way. And hopefully this is just to tide fans over for a full album rollout later this year. But Mercury Nashville has had plenty of time to get this finished record out to the masses, and the importance of the album concept, especially for conceptualized albums, should be respected since they often find greater favor with critics, award voters, and the listening public.
Maddie & Tae are an important duo in mainstream country music. If the new album fails, then it fails. But it should be given every opportunity to succeed, as opposed to being piecemealed out and receiving half efforts behind the promotion.
Here’s hoping Maddie & Tae’s second record sees a proper release in the spirit in which they wrote and recorded it, and soon. We’re watching, Mercury Nashville.