Rory Feek Honors Late Wife Joey & Moves Forward as an Artist With New Album, ‘Gentle Man’

by Matthew Wilson
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Rory Feek didn’t know if he would ever perform music again. One half of the musical couple Joey + Rory, the music died the day his wife, Joey Feek, 40, passed away from cancer in 2016.

Every day for five years, Feek has navigated life as a single father for their daughter, Indiana, 7. Should he garden, or did he only enjoy the hobby because he did it with his wife? Would he enroll Indiana, who has Down syndrome, in home school or public school? Should he try recording music again? Feek didn’t know what kind of musician he was without his wife of 13 years by his side.

But his new album, Gentle Man, is both a tribute to the memories of his wife and a step forward for himself as an artist.

“I’ve never been a recording artist before,” said Feek to Outsider. “I’ve never been a singer. I never thought of myself as a singer. I sang with my wife on our albums. But honestly all of those times, I felt I was in support purposely of her voice. And I loved it. [The albums] were never me. They were never meant to be me. They were meant to be us.”

Now, Feek is asking himself the hard questions: “What would you do if it was just you? It’s really the way my life is right now. How would you live if you had to live it by yourself?”

A Gentle Man

Rory Feek lives by the message of his titular song “Gentle Man.” His story is unique to him but something many listeners can relate to. It’s not easy picking up the pieces after a tragedy. But Feek’s faith and optimism continue to be driving principles in his music and life.

“You get the opportunity to share where you are in your life, the good parts, the tough parts, the whole thing. Art is just a way of expressing what you’re feeling and what you’re going through and working through it cathartically,” Feek says.

Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” has changed from commentary on the tumultuous ’60s into a personal rumination on grief. In Feek’s hands, “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” also becomes chasing after a childhood dream.

“As we get older, we’re getting called to go home,” Feek says. He’s now living on a farm similar to that of his youth.

The new album also features collaborations with Vince Gill (“Me & the Blues”), Ricky Skaggs (“Small Talk Cafe”), Trisha Yearwood (“Someone Is Me”), Alison Krauss (“Time Won’t Tell”), and more.

Rory Feek’s Love Letter to His Wife

“One Angel,” which features Joey’s idol, Dolly Parton, is the last track on the album. The song is a love letter to Joey and the bond they shared as he pours his love and grief into each verse.

“It’s a glimmer of hope. I think it means that Joey lived and loved well. That’s what that song’s about. To have Dolly Parton sing on it, it’s just a gift,” Feek says. “It’s just a beautiful gift. I’m in awe of the whole thing.”

Music is a legacy that Feek wants to leave behind for his children (he also has two adult daughters from a previous marriage). Most of all, he realizes that time is both precious and fleeting. And he wants to make the most of it.

“When your wife passes away and is buried in the field behind you . . . it makes you realize you never know how long you have. I’m highly aware of the fact this is for them. The things that I’m doing are things I’ll leave behind one day,” Feek says. “These are things I’m leaving for my children and my children’s children.”

Outsider.com