Steel Magnolia — A Day in the Life
Steel Magnolia have come a long way in a short time. It was just a little over a year ago that the couple won CMT’s ‘Can You Duet.’ Since then, they’ve scored a CMA Award nomination, two hit singles and an opening slot on one of the hottest bills of the year, Brad Paisley‘s ‘H20 World Tour.’ But on this particular day, as they whirl around a friend’s kitchen cooking up some breakfast on a rare day off back home, it’s fairly obvious that all the fame and success hasn’t gone to their heads one bit.
The steel in Steel Magnolia, Joshua Scott Jones, is obviously just as at home in the kitchen as he is onstage, having spent several years working as a chef at local Nashville restaurants like Watermark and Mafiosa’s, and this morning he and partner Meghan Linsey are whipping up a favorite: an egg white omelet filled with peppers, tomatoes, fresh basil, and onions — although he’s currently rethinking the onions — which are making him cry.
“Wow these things are pungent!” he says, as Meghan helps gather ingredients for the task at hand. Though the two have perfect harmony on and off the stage, a love of the kitchen is one thing the duo doesn’t particularly share. “I’m the sous chef, that’s my job,” exclaims Meghan, as she watches Josh meticulously chopping up the red peppers and cherry tomatoes. Grabbing a bottle of cajun seasoning, she urges, “You should use this because that’s where I’m from,” hinting at her Louisiana upbringing.
With her blonde pin-up looks and sweet, sunny disposition, Meghan seems to be the perfect complimentary spice to Josh’s quiet, intense demeanor. She jokes that she’s a master at making toast, while her beau is quietly focusing on the eggs he is cooking over easy. The two have a song about that very dish, and they sing a little of it as he demonstrates the decadent way to cook them using leftover bacon grease. “This is your brain on drugs,” he says, laughing, staring at the cooking eggs, as Meghan watches intently. “Oh I’m not trying this,” she says, a mystified look on her face.
The kitchen is beginning to smell amazing as Josh sautes the vegetables and mushrooms in some extra bacon grease and begins preparing an impromptu sauce to top the omelet. “We would definitely have an omelet restaurant if we opened one,” says Josh, who says Italian is his favorite type of food to eat.
“Do we have any ranch dressing?” Josh asks, as he begins mixing up a concoction for the omelets. Using ranch as a base, he adds in some hot sauce, a little fresh lime juice, and voila! instant topping sauce that adds a southwestern flair to the omelet. “You gotta use the old snout,” he adds, as he sniffs the sauce to make sure his mixing proportions are just right. Drizzling the sauce over the omelets, he surveys the plates with a half smirk. “I don’t know if I’d eat this or not,” he says, laughing. Meghan grabs her plate and digs in, knowing full well it will be more than edible. “This is the part I’m good at! Mmmmm … very, very good! I think I’ll keep you! We should have our own cooking show, don’t you think?”
Whether in the kitchen or trading verses onstage, the two are very much a team in the best sense of the word. Their new single, ‘Just By Being You (Halo And Wings),’ could definitely describe their relationship, and Meghan recalls falling in love with the tune the first time she heard it.
“I heard that song before we started making our record and I fell in love with it and it just fit. It’s an honest love song, and I think people can relate to it. It’s about going off and being yourself with the one person you can truly be yourself with.”
Watching these two in action, there’s no question they’ve settled into both their personal and professional partnership well. They met over three years ago while Meghan was working at a local karaoke bar, and have basically been together ever since, finding their professional groove when they teamed up for the ‘Can You Duet’ competition that launched their career. Those days seem light-years away now that they’re a successful country duo with a major label recording deal, but in spite of their immense talent, the two seem to take their success and good fortune in stride. In fact, on this sunny Wednesday, after enjoying a leisurely breakfast, they decide to hop in the car and head downtown to visit some old haunts and friends and relive some memories now that they’re enjoying a little success.
First stop is the Wildhorse Saloon, the site where ‘Can You Duet,’ was taped. As they enter the club mid-morning, they are approached by several fans recognizing them instantly and wanting autographs, and they gladly oblige. Getting recognized doesn’t seem to faze either Josh or Meghan, and they treat each fan who approaches them like an old friend, chatting eagerly and posing for pictures with each and every one.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve known everybody anyway,” explains Josh. “I was a street musician for a little while, so I’ve always just felt like people are all just pretty much good people. It’s normal for us.”
“Being on the Brad Paisley tour has definitely helped get us out there and meet the fans more, and it’s been a great experience all the way around,” adds Meghan. “The show was definitely a good platform for us to launch our career. That really helped, too. It’s funny because in Nashville this is the most we’ve gotten noticed, usually in Nashville people don’t say much ’cause they live here. I guess we’re just so new, I don’t notice it so much.”
As they stroll around the club and walk up onto the same stage where it all started for them, the whirlwind of the past 12 months begins to sink in and the memories flood back.
“I think the most nerve-wracking moment for me was the night we were singing Tim [McGraw] and Faith [Hill]’s ‘I Need You’,” recalls Meghan. “They put me in this size zero dress and they sewed me into it I guess, because the straps were coming down, and I got onstage and got ready to sing and realized I couldn’t really breathe! That was one of the most nervous times in my life and the most scared I ever was on the show!”
“‘Can You Duet’ was our first on-camera experience and you can definitely tell,” she adds. “As episodes go by we get a little bit better, but I think on the first one you can tell we were super, super nervous. We learned a lot!”
They debuted their now-hit tune, ‘Keep On Lovin’ You‘ during the show, and found it was a good place to road-test some of their self-penned material. “There’s more pressure when you’re doing original material, especially on a national TV show,” says Josh. “With cover songs, it’s been done before, and you’ve got something to go by and you know people like songs that have been popular. But when you start playing your own material, you’re more aware of what you’re doing.”
Being a real-life couple as well as business partners poses its share of challenges, no doubt, and Josh and Meghan got some sage advice from one half of another well-known duo during their time on the show, which proved to be incredibly helpful.
“We were at Naomi Judd‘s house, she was one of the judges on the show, and Wynonna wasn’t on tour that week and they were talking about how they didn’t get along off the stage but the minute they got on the stage they put that aside and put on a good show,” recalls Meghan. “Which I think is good to know when you’re in a relationship and doing this. If you spend 24/7 with anybody, you’re gonna fight. It’s not always perfect!”
“Unless it’s your dog,” Josh chimes in, laughing. “But yeah, it was good to know that we’re not the only ones, that we’re normal.”
Both Meghan and Josh quickly acknowledge that the show prepared them for stardom and being in the limelight much better than anything else could have, but looking back they seem amazed at how quickly the time has flown since those first weeks at the Wildhorse.
“Being on the show on this stage in front of a national audience was like homework … it prepared us for a lot of things we’ve done and accomplished over the last year,” says Josh. “And it’s amazing how fast time has flown since the final episode, but it’s good to be back here and take it all in and go over memories.”
“It seems like a whole different lifetime! But at the same time it feels like it’s just flown,” adds Meghan. “I can’t even believe it. We’ve just been so busy and kept our head down and kept going, going, going for a year straight and hadn’t really had a chance to stop and look back, so it’s cool to come back and kind of relive it and think about it — wow, we really did that!”
With a CMA nomination for Vocal Duo of the Year under their belts now and their debut single clocking in at over a million downloads and counting, they definitely have a lot to be proud of and reflect on from the past 12 months. And they’ve had some starstruck moments of their own over the past year bumping elbows with some of their own musical heroes at awards shows and events.
“Miranda Lambert came up to us at the ACM Awards and said she’s a big fan, and I got choked up and lost my cool for a minute,” admits Josh. “She said she had us in her iPod and listens to us all the time and she’s a big fan. And I was just floored, ’cause I’m a huge Miranda Lambert fan!”
After visiting the Wildhorse, Josh and Meghan decide to head across the street to say hi to some old friends at the Buck Wild Saloon, where they filmed the video for ‘Keep On Lovin’ You.’ On the way over, Josh spies a new store across the street, Abernathy Road, and pops in to check out the store’s collection of vintage leather goods and accessories. The store is chock full of curiosities and interesting vintage-design goods like leather saddle bags, belts, and even flyswatters, though Josh quickly eyes something much more intriguing in a corner.
“This is what my mom used to use on me when I was little!,” says Meghan, laughing, as she picks up a leather flyswatter. As she and Josh browse, the store manager informs us that every U.S. president since Reagan has had that very style of flyswatter, and that Warren Buffett is partial to one made out of alligator skin from Louisiana.
Josh however, has his eye on something that kills a much bigger pest, as he twirls a replica of an antique Schofield pistol like the one Jesse James would have brandished back in the day. After practicing his quick-draw a few times, he quickly lays down $120 for the pistol and walks out with his new purchase.
“I’ve got some scores to settle,” he says, after playfully twirling the gun. “No, I’ve just never been in here before and I wanted to see what they had. I just thought it looked cool. I walked in and saw that and thought, why not? It’s an impulse buy. It’ll be a paperweight if nothing else! It’s a replica of an old Schofield pistol like Jesse James and Wyatt Earp would have used, a Civil War pistol.”
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Now that they’re armed and dangerous, Josh and Meghan decide to relive a few more memories by having a beer and singing a little karaoke a few doors down at Buck Wild. Having gotten her start at a karaoke club right down the street, Meghan is right at home on the tiny open-air stage, and quickly walks up to the screen to scroll through the selections and find a song to perform. Without a trace of ego or a star-trip in sight, she steps up to the mic and launches into a jaw-droppingly beautiful rendition of ‘Crazy‘ that would make Patsy Cline proud. As tourists pass by on the street outside, she nails the bluesy ballad effortlessly, then steps offstage unassumingly, sliding back onto a barstool as though she were just another patron.
As he watches Meghan perform her song, Josh admits there’s definitely a method to performing karaoke. “Oh it’s all about the mood of the audience and the crowd. You have to feel it out. That’s the great thing about karaoke … it’s your show, right? She has her money song where she’ll really sing some big, bluesy ballad to show off for when they pass around the tip jar.”
Josh’s turn is next, and he elects to tackle a Waylon Jennings tune, ‘Luckenbach, Texas,’ as the club owner looks on smiling. Both he and Meghan are later asked to sign one of the columns in the club, a small reminder that these are indeed rising stars about to rocket through the country stratosphere. Any question of how down to earth these two really are is answered when Meghan joins one of the club’s regulars back onstage in the nearly empty club for a rousing rendition of the Johnny and June Carter Cash classic ‘Jackson.’ Meghan is all smiles as she makes her way through the song and steps off stage and back into her other life as a budding country superstar.
And with that, she and Josh bid goodbye to their buddies at Buck Wild and head home to pack again for the next leg of the Brad Paisley tour, where they’ll sing again tomorrow night — though on a stage that’s much more elaborate, with lights that are much, much brighter, and to a crowd that is thousands of times larger — but with just the same passion and enthusiasm that brought them from a karaoke club down on Nashville 2nd Avenue to the rising country stars they are today.