Chicago Sun-Times: Steel Magnolia Blossoming into Powerhouse Musicians

via Chicago Sun Times

Just over 11 years ago, a downstate Illinois rocker by the name of Joshua Scott Jones walked through the doors of Joe’s Bar, looking to book a gig for his new jam band. Little did he know that he would be back there more than a decade later to headline as a member of one of country music’s most talked about new duos.

Merging Jones’ rock-hard vocals with Meghan Linsey’s soulful country twang, Steel Magnolia has been on “quite the ride” since breaking into the country music scene just two years ago. The pair’s first blockbuster hit, “Keep on Loving You,” set the scene as it climbed into the top 5 on the Billboard Country Songs chart, becoming the fastest-rising single by a male/female duo in country music history.

Out on tour in support of their self-titled debut album and new single, “Bulletproof,” the pair says their upcoming stop at Joe’s Bar on Sept. 3 will give them a chance to play a far more intimate venue compared to the stadium shows they have been playing with country music heavy-hitters such as Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley.

“I love the freedom that you have in the smaller venues to talk to the crowd, and offer a bit more of an acoustic set,” explains Linsey, who officially announced her engagement to Jones earlier this year. “We just love getting up there onstage, no matter how big or small that stage might be.”

Linsey and Jones come from a long line of current country music hitmakers that initially found success over the reality television airwaves. Originally meeting at a Nashville karaoke bar, the two won CMT’s “Can You Duet?” and were quickly signed to the powerhouse label of Big Machine Records, home of country artists such as Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts.

“You see Miranda Lambert (‘Nashville Star’ third-place winner) or Carrie Underwood (‘American Idol’ winner) out there and the success they are enjoying,” says Linsey, a blond-haired bombshell who grew up in Louisiana. “And sure, you have to shed a lot of skin out there in the reality show arena, but you also come out of it with a ton of national exposure and a loyal fan base right from the start.”

With “Bulletproof” beginning its climb up the charts and an upcoming tour with country queen Reba McEntire starting in October, Steel Magnolia has every reason to be smiling. Yet, they admit it can get hot under the glare of the spotlight as a new artist coming out of Nashville and a real-life couple who are currently in the midst of wedding planning. Indeed, they’ve encountered their share of critics who wonder if the cozy twosome can continue their current chemistry onstage and off.

“Raw emotion and raw passion… it’s really special when you find that with someone,” says Linsey. “Of course it can be tough to go out on the road and bust it out onstage night after night, but the chemistry between us is something we have without really trying.”

“I think there is a pressure to always make diamonds, but success is all in the way you handle it,” adds Jones. “At the end of the day, we want to make good music, connect to our fans, and create an unforgettable experience from the stage.”

Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.