Maggie Rose is one of country music’s rising storytellers. She has penned powerful ballads revolving around all types of love: unrequited, wasted and vengeful.
Now she has a story of real love.
The 28-year-old singer-songwriter, known for such songs as “I Ain’t Your Mama,” “Better” and “Looking Back Now,” approached Play It Again Music Publishing in Nashville to co-produce her second album in early April 2014. The record was never cut, but it was there that Maggie met Austin Marshall, the company’s executive vice president, whom she recognized from his brief appearances on the TNT unscripted series “Private Lives of Nashville Wives.”
They both had moved to Nashville several years earlier to pursue their careers on a larger scale. Maggie Rose, better known around Washington by her real name, Margaret Durante (her stage name is a family nickname, plus her middle name), grew up a “very good Catholic school girl” in the sleepy suburbs of Potomac, Md.
Maggie developed a passion for singing at an early age and was a member of her church and school choirs. She shied away from performing secular music until she was 15, when a family friend encouraged her to join a Bruce Springsteen cover band. In 2007, music mogul Tommy Mottola, who was passed along an album of her original songs, contacted her and advised her to move to Music City.
At 19, she dropped out of college and relocated to Nashville to become a full-time country singer.
Austin, who is a percussionist and vocalist, moved to Nashville in 2011 from Missouri to expand his music career, on both the creative and business sides.
At first sight, Austin was smitten with Maggie. “I thought she was super attractive, very confident, well-spoken and extremely smart,” he says.
But Austin was hesitant to date another music insider, especially someone with whom he had a working relationship. “Right before I met Maggie, I promised myself I would never date a music recording artist ever again,” says the 32-year-old music executive. “Boy, was I wrong.”
Maggie wasn’t looking for a musical romance either, having recently ended a three-year relationship with a fellow artist. “I’ll just be real: Some people were dating me for the wrong reasons. They were interested in dating a pseudo-celebrity. I’m pretty obscure, still, [but] there were weird motivations for some guys,” she says. “Dating another musician is not something I would recommend if you are a musician unless you find a perfect synergy.”
Nevertheless, Austin wanted to get to know Maggie, friendship or more, off the clock, and would frequently invite her to after-work gatherings and events.
His persistence paid off when Maggie agreed to go with him and friends to Cinco de Mayo celebrations at Soulshine Pizza Factory in Nashville. Both felt an instant chemistry and, after a night of barhopping and reveling, they shared a kiss.
“This sounds so cheesy, but Austin and I ended up talking the whole night,” Maggie says. “It was the joy of discovering that, ‘Oh, my gosh. This entire time I’ve been hanging out with this hilarious, awesome person.’ ”
The next day, Maggie left on tour and the two began texting. Every morning, like clockwork, Austin would start Maggie’s day off with a fact about the town she was visiting, such as the town’s motto or nickname.
“Every day, every city. He didn’t miss a beat,” she says.
More than just a crush developed and, after she returned from touring, they were inseparable. A few weeks in, they told colleagues about their relationship and became an official item.
In June 2014, Maggie invited Austin to visit her family in Potomac for a golf tournament at Congressional Country Club, where her father is president. But when she and her band unexpectedly got called away to play a gig in Minnesota, Austin was left to spend the entire weekend alone with her folks and sisters.
“Talk about baptism by fire!” Maggie says, laughing. But Austin fit right in and sent Maggie constant updates and videos of him hanging out with her family.
“Everyone was independently texting me and telling me just how much they loved him,” Maggie says. “I got stamps of approval from literally everyone who was important in my life.”
A week later, after they had both performed at the CMA Music Festival, they exchanged “I love yous” on the balcony of Maggie’s condo overlooking downtown Nashville.
“I think our love of music and all the things that go into it — the business and creative sides, the heart and passion — has strengthened our bond,” she says.
As their romance deepened, so, too, did their working relationship. Austin now works with Maggie directly through the songwriting and publishing process.
“We’ve made each other better people, but also our careers have blossomed by having each other,” Austin says. “We feed off of each other.”
Last year, for example, Maggie wrote 144 songs, for herself and other artists. Austin reviewed and critiqued them all.
“I get to come home or go to the office every day and play a new song for Austin that I would be incredibly vulnerable playing for anybody else,” she says. “It makes me so much more confident as a creator and a producer of music to always have an opinion that I truly value and trust.”
But when it came to a proposal, it was anything but just the two of them. It was March 21 of this year, when Maggie was playing a sold-out concert at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in front of family, friends and fans. Maggie, used to performing the duet “River Road” with her bass player, was stunned when Austin approached the stage, microphone in hand, ready to sing.
After an energetic performance, Austin hugged her and dropped to his knee. An overwhelmed Maggie nodded yes. “I’m smiling so big, just thinking about it right now,” she says. “The whole place was laughing, standing and clapping. It was just a big party.”
On June 4, the pair exchanged vows in front of about 230 guests at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Parish in Potomac. Music was, unsurprisingly, a focal point of the ceremony and the reception at Congressional Country Club. The couple’s first dance was to Frank Sinatra’s rendition of the classic “Fly Me to the Moon,” which segued into the faster-paced Huey Lewis tune “Power of Love.” For the father-daughter dance, one of Austin’s groomsmen, Nashville songwriter Dallas Davidson, sang “She’s All Yours,” a song written with Maggie. Austin then performed a rendition of Joe Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and he and his new bride sang “River Road.”
A honeymoon will have to wait, as Maggie is touring and promoting the first half of her recently released EP, “The Variety Show, Vol. 1.” And on June 11 and 12, she’ll be singing at the CMA Festival, where, two years ago, she performed and then professed her love for Austin.
“I actually don’t know where I would be right now if he hadn’t met me. . . . I have never enjoyed music more than I am now, and I think it’s largely because I am enjoying it with Austin,” Maggie says. “We are so lucky that we get to work and share in everything that we do together.”