Joey Feek Shares Inspiration Behind ‘If Not For You’ in 2006 Interview

In an interview from 2006, Joey Feek shares the inspiration behind the songs on the newly-released posthumous album 'If Not For You.'

Written by Chuck Dauphin
Joey Feek Shares Inspiration Behind ‘If Not For You’ in 2006 Interview
Joey Feek, Photo by Frederick Breedon IV/WireImage

Some country music fans might be wondering about the recent release of If Not For You, a solo album from the late Joey Feek. Of course, millions of Americans fell in love with Joey and her husband, Rory, as the duo Joey+Rory, watched as their career blossomed, and mourned when she lost her battle with cervical cancer last March. But, you might not know the “Joey” story before “Joey+Rory.”

Well, the album consists of recordings that the singer made before she embarked on the duo career with her husband. The two had been married for three years when she went into the studio (with Rory co-producing) to record an album, which was originally titled Strong Enough To Cry. Released under her maiden name of Martin, the album never saw a widespread release, and was only available at live performances or on their website.

Thankfully, the music – and Joey’s legacy – continues to thrive with this beautiful new release. In 2006, Martin made the media rounds to promote the solo album – and her comments are from that time period, but about the album that was finally released to a wide audience just recently.

It’s obvious from listening any to Joey’s album – or her music with Rory – that country music was something that was very special to her. She explains that it’s all she had ever heard growing up in Alexandria, Indiana.

“Country music has always been a part of me,” she recalled. “I was raised on it. My mom and dad played the old style of music. Dolly Parton and my mom are my biggest influences. That’s all I knew growing up, and of course, as you get older, you get around other music – but we didn’t have radio or TV much, so what we had was self-reliance from my parents. Whatever they sang, whatever they played was what we heard. It just kind of carried out to my adult life, and that was the only thing that I could really sing. I think it chose me, rather than me choosing it,” she confessed.

One track from the album that Joey was especially proud of was “Strong Enough To Cry.” She admitted at the time that she put all of her emotions into the lyrics of the song. Some artists might not want to make such an investment, but she said that’s what made country music a genre that she respected as she did.

“I think that’s why it’s appealing to those who are true country fans. They speak to your heart. They speak to you about life experiences that most people have experienced. If they haven’t yet, they will in the near future or sometime in their life. I think that’s how people mend. I think that’s how people relate, and sometimes, it’s the only thing that gets you through. I know it’s been that way with me with some of the old Dolly songs, and Patty Loveless. That’s been a fuel for me to get by, and try to come out on the other side – that, and a lot of prayer.”

A deeply personal song to her from the album was “Nothing To Remember,” which was inspired by the love story she shared with Rory.

“That song is super special to me, because the time that we wrote that, I was dating a gentleman, I wrote the song with Rory Lee Feek, who at the time I had known only briefly. I had these feelings toward him, and was really impressed with what he was doing. We couldn’t put anything into works because we were in these relationships at the time, but we wanted to write it down to at least record it that this event did happen – these were the feelings that we have for each other. If nothing else happens, we’d always have those. That’s what transpired the song, and we recorded it. Then, a few months later, my relationship ended with the person that I was dating, and his did too. We got together, and started spending some time together. A few months later, we were engaged – and then three months later, we were married. So, the song actually came to life, and it had a turn in the other direction. It was a beautiful moment because those were the emotions that we had, and I’ll remember those each time I sing them – I’ll remember where I was when I wrote that, and what I was going through, and the feelings that I had towards Rory. Those are all even stronger today,” she said in 2006, smiling.

The album closes with the tender “Old Paint,” which allowed the singer to share her passion about horses, which were an integral part of her background.

“After I graduated high school, I went to work at a vet clinic. I did primarily the large animals, and bred horses and cattle. I rode some cutting horses, then I moved down here to Tennessee, and worked around the walking horse and quarter-horse industry. I got a job working for a vet clinic, and stayed there for about four years. I gave it up to do music full-time. I have been around them all my life, and it’s led me to some interesting people and some interesting stories. I think they’ll always be a part of my life, We don’t have any right now, but I’m starting to rope a little bit, and I enjoy riding.”

She said the animals were so easy to love because of their tender and gentle nature.

“Horses are so large. They are beautiful creatures. They can be intimidating, and they know if you’re intimidated. They can read you so well by your emotion, and what you’re going through – kind of like a dog. For some reason, horses are very intuitive. I think that everyone has a love for them to some degree. I grew up loving them, and had a few and lost a few. Now, I’m horse-empty, but they are still a big part of my life.”

If Not For You is now available at all digital retailers.