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Country Music Provocateurs Maddie & Tae Come Out Swinging

Maddie Marlow, left, and Tae Dye, of Maddie & Tae, pose for a portrait at Love Shack Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, Aug. 27, 2015.
Maddie Marlow, left, and Tae Dye, of Maddie & Tae, pose for a portrait at Love Shack Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, Aug. 27, 2015.

The country music duo Maddie & Tae took on gender stereotypes in their first platinum single, "Girl in a Country Song,'' and now they are targeting another overused effect in today's country music: electronic drum machines.

"Fake drums,'' said Maddie Marlow, clenching her fists in mock anger. "I hate the fake drums. Those need to go away!''

Country's young provocateurs came out swinging last summer with their on-point criticism of lyrics that portrayed women as simply objects of desire in cutoff jean shorts and bikini tops. Now that they've got everyone's attention, Marlow, 20, and Taylor "Tae'' Dye, 19, have much more to say on their debut album, "Start Here,'' out on Friday.

The two songwriters from Texas and Oklahoma met at age 15 and found inspiration in the other female artists known for starting trouble in country music, the Dixie Chicks. But they never expected "Girl in a Country Song'' to ever get played on radio, much less make them the first female duo to have a Top 10 country song since 2007.

They wanted to follow up with a song that would be just as powerful, but also a true representation of their harmony-laden melodies and original lyrics.

"We were just trying to be machines to put out something that would live up to the first single,'' Dye said. "And then finally we were like, 'Let's stop lying to ourselves and put something out that we believe in.' It doesn't matter if it's fast or slow.''

"Fly,'' an acoustic guitar-driven song about spreading your wings through adversity, is currently No. 14 on Billboard's Hot Country chart.

"Of course there's pressure ... if you don't have this slamming up-tempo [song] that has a little rap thing in it, then it's not going to make it on country radio,'' Marlow said. "We are saying something and we're not backing down. This is the message. This is what we want to say.''

Country star Dierks Bentley first heard of the duo on "Girl in a Country Song,'' but it was their live show that persuaded him to give them an opening slot on his "Sounds of Summer" tour along with Kip Moore and Canaan Smith.

"There aren't too many female duos out there like Maddie & Tae, so I think they are really refreshing and intriguing for my audience,'' Bentley said via email.

Their debut album has plenty of witty moments, like their biting sendup of a mean girl on "Sierra,'' and a warning to an ex to stay away on "Your Side of Town.'' But they also amp up the emotion with their layered vocals on "After the Storm Blows Through.''

While their youthful exuberance comes across as raw and unfiltered, their passion for the music is clear.

"Every song means something,'' Marlow said. "Every song tells one of our stories, or a story together.''