Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott Jones, known collectively asSteel Magnolia, wowed viewers and judges alike as the winners of the second season of CMT‘s reality/singing competition, Can You Duet. As they celebrate the success of their first-ever full-length cd, I had an opportunity to chat with the Josh and Meghan about their time on Can You Duet, maintaining a relationship with each other on- and off-stage and the new album.
RAPID FIRE 20 Q with STEEL MAGNOLIA’S JOSHUA SCOTT JONES AND MEGHAN LINSEY
JONATHAN PINKERTON: First of all, congratulations on your latest single, Last Night Again and the January 11 release of your debut self-titled cd, Steel Magnolia. On the lead single, Last Night Again, and the rest of the album, you manage to perfectly share lead vocal duties. How do you typically decide who gets which lyrics?
MEGHAN LINSEY: It really just depends what is best for the song. We just do what feels right and makes the most sense.
JP: The accompanying video for Last Night Again debuted last month. The video takes place in a bowling alley. The video seems to play homage, not only to Olivia Newton-John‘s transformation in Grease, but also, mostly because of the bowling alley locale, there’s a nod to Grease 2‘s Score Tonight sequence, which may just be my warped gotta relate everything to pop-culture reference mentality. Who directed the video and what was the shoot like?
MEGHAN: Peter Zavadil directed the video and we really enjoyed working with him. This was the most fun we’ve had shooting a video for sure! It was fun to play two different characters (Good Sandy/Bad Sandy) and it was in a bowling alley–how could that not be fun!?
JP: Last Night Again is just one of the seven tracks you two collaborated on out of the twelve included on the project, right?
JOSHUA SCOTT JONES: Yeah, we feel really fortunate to have had the creative freedom that we did on this record. We’re both songwriters and that’s really where the basis of our sound lies. We really built the rest of the record around those 7 songs.
JP: Another song you guys co-wrote together is Edge of Goodbye, from what I’ve heard, it’s the first song the two of you wrote together. The song deals with a couple as they come to the realization that their relationship is over yet it’s the first song the two of you wrote together. A bit ironic, don’t you think?
MEGHAN: Yeah, we laugh about that all the time. And 5 years later…we’re still together! We started out very honest and I think that’s why we “work” on a personal and professional level.
JP: OK, so let’s not focus on an ending relationship. Your new album beings with Ooh La La, a tale of a burgeoning relationship from first sight. It’s one of my favorites on the project. If you had to,–and I guess now that I’m asking you to, you do–what would you each say is your own personal favorite track on the album?
MEGHAN: That’s way too hard to answer! We love all the songs or we wouldn’t have recorded them. They’re like your babies…
JOSH: They’re all so different but each one brings something special to the record.
JP: Let’s talk about when the two of you first met. Megan was hosting karaoke at a club in Nashville’s famed Printers Alley, wasn’t she?
MEGHAN: Yes, Miss Kelli’s in Printers Alley.
JP: You’d have no way of knowing this, but those days of you singing karaoke was also the first time I remember seeing you guys around town. When’s the last time you guys sang karaoke in a club?
JOSH: Not too long ago actually. We were out about a month and a half ago with our friend Whitney Duncan and her boyfriend. We wound up at Buckwild where Meghan used to work and we were singing. We hadn’t really sang karaoke in a year so it was a lot of fun!
JP: What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to either of you in a karaoke bar?
MEGHAN: Who knows man! Soooo many crazy things used to happen in those places. I do recall this one girl got livid with me one night because I didn’t get her up to sing fast enough. She threw a pencil at my eye! I think she may have had few too many cocktails.
JP: Back to the new album. As I mentioned earlier, you wrote seven of the 12 songs included on the debut album. Of the five tracks you guys didn’t write, you’ve enlisted some of the best in the business, including Chris Stapleton and Trent Willmont, who co-wrote your post-Can You Duet 2009 single, Keep On Loving You. Right outta the gate, a Top Five hit. What was that like?
JOSH: It was definitely surprising and exciting all at the same time. I think we felt like we really had a shot at this when our single did so well. You just never know. We felt really, really blessed.
JP: Of the other songwriters’ work included on your debut, you were nice enough to cut Homespun Love co-written by relative unknown, Keith Urban and his longtime friend and collaborator, Vernon Rust. All kidding aside, did you ever think you’d record a song written by Keith Urban?
MEGHAN: Ha! We weren’t planning on it, but when we heard this song we fell in love with it. It really filled a void on the record. It gave us something a little honky tonk and a little bit rockin. How could you go wrong with Keith Urban? He’s the best!
JP: Eggs Over Easy, which you co-wrote with Steffon Hamulak, is another of my personal favorites. Heck, from the title alone, I was lovin’ it. For those who’ve never even entertained the thought of writing a song, can you describe the feeling you get when you know you’re onto something?
MEGHAN: Songwriting is one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever known. When you’re able to create something and hear it back…there’s just no better feeling. It keeps us passionate!
JP: It’s been more than a year since you guys were named the winners on CMT‘s Can You Duet during it’s second season. It’s funny, I had taken my parents to a few of the tapings and had the opportunity to introduce myself and them to you both on a couple of occasions. I remember talking with my parents after meeting you both and having heard you sing during the first few episodes and we all agreed you guys would likely take the prize. Looking back on it, aside from a win, what have each of you taken away from your experience on Can You Duet?
JOSH: I think the show definitely prepared us for some of the things we had coming as artists. It was almost like a mini bootcamp. All the interviews, rehearsing and performing on tv have really come in handy.
JP: This is gonna eat up three of my questions, but let’s do it. A little word association game relating to your Can You Duet judges. I’ll say a name and then each of you give me the first word you think of that best describes your experience with them.
JP: Big Kenny?
JP: Naomi Judd?
JP: Scott Borchetta? (And yes, I realize he’s the head of Big Machine Records, your record label).
MEGHAN & JOSH: Smart!
JP: Your new project was produced by yet another major player in Music City, Dann Huff. Of working with you, Huff was quoted as saying your passion and devotion inspired him to be a better producer. Pretty high praise from one of the most acclaimed producers in the biz, don’t you think?
MEGHAN: He said that?? Wow! Dann is such a class act…and way too humble. It was such a blessing to work with him. We couldn’t have done this record without him. He had such a vision and passion…he gave us 110% and was very patient with us. He inspired us to be better!
JP: Having worked on that other reality singing competition, American Idol myself, I can’t interview anyone who’s seen the behind-the-scenes of that type of show without asking what advice you’d give to a young reader who is considering approaching the business this way?
MEGHAN: Stay true to yourself and the music. It’s easy to be “talked into” wearing this, or singing that…but you can’t give in too much.
JOSH: All you can bring to this business is what you do and do it well. If you focus on that, then you will stand out.
JP: Speaking of Idol….well, I was anyway….you guys collaborated with Chioma Eze and Tommy Henriksen on the song Rainbow. Idol fans might recognize Henriksen and Eze as the writers of former Idol hopeful Allison Iraheta‘s Still Breathing. Rainbow includes a faithful musical reference to Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz. I gotta know, whose idea was it to include that particular line in the song?
MEGHAN: I really don’t remember. I think it was either Josh or Chioma. That was such a special night writing that song. Chioma is like a light…you just can’t help but smile when you’re around her. Tommy is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. To write with those two is such an honor.
JP: I’ve about asked my alloted 20 Q, so I’m going to double up: What is the biggest blessing of dating your business partner AND what’s the most difficult aspect of being together in business and in your personal lives?
MEGHAN:It’s a blessing to get to do this with someone.
JOSH: To have that support and someone there who completely understands you and what you’re going through is incredible. Most artists aren’t that lucky.
MEGHAN:To answer the other part of your question, it has it’s difficult moments. Relationships are hard enough without adding the stress of a record deal and being on the road. We make it work because we really love each other and are friends first. We need each other.
JP: Alright, our time is almost up and we’ve come to the final question. With a new single, video and new album, Steel Magnolia is ready to blossom, pun intended. That said, what’s next for the two of you?
JOSH: We just take things day by day. That’s what we’ve always done and I think it’s what keeps us sane. We go out with Blake Shelton at the end of this month and will be doing dates with him through March, after that, we’re still waiting to see. We’re up for an ACM award so that’s really cool and we finally have a record out! What more could we ask for?
More about Steel Magnolia
Unless, like me, you live in Nashville and frequent karaoke bars, you probably got your first glimpse of Steel Magnolia‘s Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott Jones when they took top honors on the reality/singing competition series, Can You Duet. WIth their just-released, self-titiled, full-length cd, Steel Magnolia is set to wow us all over again. Just one week out of the chute, and Steel Magnolia‘s debut release is already sitting pretty at the#3 spot on Billboard’s Country Albums Chart and #7 on the overall Top 200.
Following their Can You Duet win, Steel Magnolia was signed to a deal with CYD judge Scott Borchetta‘s Big Machine Records, the record label home of Rascal Flatts, Jack Ingram, Trisha Yearwood and, of course, Taylor Swift.
While the self-title project is, as I mentioned, their first full-length effort since their CYD win, it’s not their first release. Just weeks after their 2009 CYD win, Steel Magnolia released a self-titled five-track EP, which included live covers of Dwight Yoakam‘s 1993 hit, Fast As You Can, and Tim McGraw & Faith Hill‘sINeed You (2007). Also included on the EP was Keep On Lovin’ You, which peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart, while the album landed just inside the Top 50 on theCountry Albums Chart and#33 on the overall US Heatseekers Chart. The track was also included on the 2010Valentine’s Day movie soundtrack, a collaboration between Water Tower and Big Machine.
Steel Magnolia followed the success of Keep on Lovin’ You with the July 2010 release of their second single, Just By Being You (Halo and Wings), which landed at a respectable#25 on the Country Songs Chart. In anticipation of their full-length cd release, Steel Magnolia‘s third single, Last Night Again debuted in December, 2010, and is currently hovering just inside the Top 50 spot on the Billboard Country Songs Chart.
In addition to initial commercial success, Steel Magnolia has also received critical and industry acclaim. In 2010, they received a total of nine nominations between the ACM‘s CMA‘s and CMTMA‘s, and it look like they’re getting 2011 off to a similar start with an ACM Top New Vocal Duo or Group nod already announced.
Just last week, Meghan and Josh dropped by the Opry Originals store in downtown Nashville for an in-store meet-n-greet with fans. On February 4, they might get a feeling of déjà vu as they take to the stage of Nashville’s famed Wildhorse Saloon. That’s right, you might say they’re returning to where it all began, seeing as how CMT‘s Can You Duet filmed Steel Magnolia‘s winning season at the downtown venue. For tickets to Steel Magnolia at The Wildhorse Saloon, or to check out other upcoming dates, CLICK HERE. For more about Steel Magnolia, CLICK HERE.