A year ago, Joey and Rory Feek watched the Grammy Awards from home, even though they were nominated for best country duo/group performance. They lost to Little Big Town, and Joey, who was diagnosed with stage-four cancer, told Rory if they ever got another nomination, he should attend the ceremony, a promise he is fulfilling this year.
Joey died on March 4, 2016, at the age of 40.
“Now I am even more thankful that I am going because she did want me to go,” Rory said in an interview from his farm in rural Pottsville, Tennessee.
Joey + Rory is nominated for best roots gospel album for “Hymns” at the Grammy Awards, which will be presented Sunday in Los Angeles.
Although the couple started their musical careers on separate paths with Rory working as a songwriter and Joey wanting to be a singer, they found success onstage together when they appeared on the Country Music Television singing competition “Can You Duet?” in 2008. Their first album, “The Life of a Song,” was a surprise hit that same year.
They earned three nominations at the 2010 Academy of Country Music Awards, winning the Top New Vocal Duo of the Year award. In 2014, they took time off after Joey gave birth to a baby girl, Indiana. But soon after her birth, Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
“Hymns” was made as Joey was undergoing treatment. It was recorded in hotel rooms whenever she was feeling strong enough.
“It was hard for her, but it was a reprieve for her because she loved those songs so much,” Rory said. “In the midst of hard things she was dealing with, that was the thing she was really excited about.”
Thousands of new fans discovered the couple through Rory’s blog about their faith and the strength of his wife as they decided to stop her treatment. “Hymns” hit the top of Billboard’s country albums chart when it was released last February and was one of the top-selling country albums of the year.
Although Rory said he’s hung up his guitar and doesn’t write songs or sing anymore, he’s found other ways to tell their story. The blog led to a documentary that Rory filmed called “To Joey With Love” and now a book, “This Life I Live,” which will be published on Valentine’s Day.
In it, Rory tells the backstory of his life, including his mistakes as a young man, and how meeting a singer named Joey Martin transformed his life.
“Our first date was on Valentine’s Day in 2002, so that’s 15 years to the day,” Rory said. “This one will be special, too, because she’ll be with me and we’ll be sharing more of our story and she would love that. She would absolutely love that.”