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Grammy Winning Country Singer Debuts New Book

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Country singer / songwriter Rory Feek loves life on the farm. In this idyllic setting he’s raising his four-year-old daughter, writing, performing again, and preparing a one-room schoolhouse for his little girl and others. In his latest book, Once Upon a Farm, Rory reflects on life without his beloved wife and singing partner, Joey, who died of cervical cancer in 2016.

Scott Ross:  “Once Upon a Farm: Lessons in Growing in Love, Life, and Hope on a New Frontier.  The new frontier is where you're going now? Where you are now?”

Rory Feek: “Yeah. The new frontier for me is sort of life going on without Joey.”

SR:  “You're a songwriter, but you haven't been writing songs. Why?”

RF: “Well, I just haven't really had any desire to write songs in a number of years. I've been writing books and I've been writing a blog and-and that's actually/ filled me, you know, creatively. I feel like even writing these stories in a blog or chapters in a book, it feels like songwriting. “

SR:  “Are you afraid of it or –“

RF: “No, I've just been –  I've been doing a bunch of other things (laughs)! So I haven't had time and I actually, I just haven't had any real interest in writing songs these days. I might down the road.”

We talked in the garage that the Feeks had turned into a recording studio and concert hall years ago. When Joey got sick, Rory stopped singing and performing for a couple years. In the fall of 2017, he decided it was time to get back on the stage.

SR: “You've come back to singing alone, and with your daughter, Heidi?”

RF:  “Yes. Yes.”

SR: “Is that a strange experience for you now?”

RF: “It is. It's a little strange but it's also familiar at the same time. I didn't have to go far to start singing again, we just walk across the driveway and it's right here.  This was the last place that we sang together in the Fall of 2015 and so the Fall of 2017 I decided to get back on stage again. It was, you know, surreal in one way because I'm just used to being on the stage with Joey – but in another way , it was very familiar.  Like it was almost like we stepped off the stage yesterday, and now I'm stepping back in. Your fingers knew what to play even after two years, and your mind knew the lyrics of the songs and it just felt really comfortable. And so I've just continued doing it. So we do one weekend a month here. Next weekend there'll be 300 people here on Friday and Saturday nights and-and we'll be on stage telling stories and singing songs …”

Before meeting Joey, Rory was a divorced single dad raising Heidi and her sister, Hopie. Parenting alone for the second time, he says he hopes to do a better job.

RF: “I feel like I didn't train them that well.  I had a lot of my own life that I was living out in front of them, making a lot of mistakes in front of them, and they watched them.  And so I was 33 really before I started turning my life over to Christ and really trying to be a different man.”

After 12 years of marriage, Rory and Joey had their only child, Indiana.

SR: “I wanted to ask you about her name.  Where did the name ‘Indiana’ come from?”

RF: “Indiana is from my wife.  She was born and raised in Alexandria, Indiana, home – home of Bill Gaither. And so when we had the baby, we wanted to name her Indiana, and we call her Indy most of the time.”

SR: “And she is a Down Syndrome child.”

RF:  “Yes, she is. She doesn't know she is, but she is. She just has really pretty eyes.”

SR: “Now you're doing this without your wife – dad all on your own. That's pretty challenging stuff.”

RF: “It is challenging, but I was a dad on my own before. One of the things that was particularly tough is when we found that the—all the chemo and the surgeries and the radiation wasn't working and it looked like things were not going to go well. And we had come back home and we decided to discontinue treatment we were in the back behind the house on the back deck and Joey was really upset, but she wasn't upset because it looked like she wasn't going to be here when the baby's growing up and be here with me, she was upset because I was going to be a single father again.
And that was – that was tough. But I told her, I said, ‘I'm perfect. I already know how to do it. I was a single dad for 12 years.’ I’d like to think I’m a better dad now than I was then. Tryin’ to be. But it is a challenge but it just feels like life; do you know what I mean? It’s lonelier because I wish that we could share in every beautiful, amazing moment with the baby. But it's - it's okay.”

As he travels this new frontier in his life, Rory rests in the fact that he will never really be alone.

RF: “And my belief in God is just as strong or stronger through what's happened. And also, the belief that I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I still believe He's still giving us a great story.”

When Joey died, fans sent Rory their condolences through cards, letters, and money. He decided to use it to build a one-room schoolhouse on his farm for Indy and other children.

RF: “And so we took that $100,000, we got a bunch of people in the community together, we had an old fashioned barn raising, only it wasn't a barn, it was a schoolhouse.  So that's pretty amazing. And so now the plan is Indy's going to go to school – it's going to be a preschool the first year, so there'll be a dozen little ones in there.”

SR: “Special needs kids? No? Or just any –“

RF:  “Yeah, just any kids. And some might have special needs, some might not.  It's – but it's not a special needs school. It's just a—it's just a school. And then hopefully next year when Indy's school age, it'll be multi-age. So it'll be much more like a one-room schoolhouse from 100 years ago.

Rory says the project isn’t only about his family, it’s about bringing the community together.

RF: “My blessing I want to be other people's blessing.”

SR:  “Yeah, a shared life, right?”

RF:  “Yeah. Yeah, life is way better shared.”

Guest Name / Person Interviewed or Featured in Article or Video: 
Rory Feek
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