Striking Matches on Their Debut Album: ‘It’s a Huge Dream Come True, We Wanted This Our Whole Lives’
Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis met each other as freshman guitar majors at Belmont University in Nashville.
“I asked if she played any blues,” Davis recalls. “She whipped out her slide and just proceeded to leave everybody’s jaw on the floor.”
From that point on, Zimmerman and Davis started jamming, and eventually began to write songs together. On March 23, the duo -- under the moniker Striking Matches -- released their debut full-length, Nothing But the Silence, on the revered I.R.S. Records label.
Following the release of the album, we had the chance to chat with Zimmerman and Davis about how it feels to finally have this record out, what it was like working with T Bone Burnett, and what went through their head when Nothing But the Silence debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. Check out our exclusive interview below:
Let's get the pleasantries out of the way -- congrats on the new album!
Justin Davis: Thank you!
Sarah Zimmerman: Thank you, very, very much.
How does it feel to have it out?
Justin: Surreal, I guess. It's a relief, it's a huge dream come true. That sounds trite, but we wanted this pretty much our whole lives and it's finally here and it's finally out and it just makes us so happy.
How excited were you the day that it came out?
Sarah: It didn't really feel real, I don't think. We had been waiting so long to get to do it and when you plan and do all the things that lead up to it and it finally arrives, it almost doesn't feel real.
I would assume, playing a role in that surreality is the fact that it debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. on iTunes.
Justin: That was unbelievable, it was so cool to see.
What went through your head when you found that out?
Sarah: I couldn't believe it, in a good way. It was just like, "Seriously?"
Justin: Again, it just made us so happy. It was a little bit of a sigh of relief that people were getting it, and that's awesome. We couldn't have really dreamed of achieving that so soon -- we knew that we would probably work up to it, just like here in the states. It's something that we're working toward. To already see that immediate gratification, that was something that we never planned for.
Do you notice a difference in your fans in Europe compared to the states?
Justin: Sure, man. There are some differences. Mainly in the accent.
Justin: I think it's just interesting by the nature of it. U.S. fans, we have such a heritage here with our music, our country music specifically -- maybe it doesn't play such a role over in the U.K. where some are just stumbling onto country music for the first time. It's like they have a brand-new, open perspective. I'm not sure what causes it, but there are differences. They're not any better -- either one -- they're just a little different.
That's interesting, because here in the states, country music is arguably the biggest format around. Country stars are the new rock stars.
Justin: In the U.K., it's almost like an underground indie following, it's very cool. Some of them feel like they're the only ones who discovered it ... there's a little bit of that newness to them, which is really cool and fun to see.
Plus, with your music, you transcend the sound of mainstream country -- there's definitely Americana mixed in.
Justin: Definitely, yeah. Definitely.
I have to imagine that T Bone Burnett was able to help bring out that sound on Nothing But the Silence.
Sarah: Yeah, a little bit.
Justin: Yeah, I think that's why he was such a great match for us. Naturally, that's where our styles kind of went -- middle of the road ... it was a combination of a lot of different sounds and influences and T Bone really fit right in there with who we probably fit with best as far as a producer would be, and he just absolutely got it from the very beginning and it was very easy to work with him.
What was that relationship like with T Bone?
Justin: I assumed going in that I was going to be really nervous, because he's a tall guy -- always wearing sunglasses, a three-piece suit -- and his track record is so amazing and he's so highly revered in music. I thought I was going to be nervous, but he was really nurturing in how he acted in the studio. He made you feel like you could do absolutely anything and that was really neat to get to be involved with.
Were there ever times where you butted heads with him?
Justin: Going in, you fully expect that there may come a time where you disagree and you have to stand up for something that you really feel is important and I think we anticipated that, so it was really a surprise when there was almost no situation where we weren't on the same page and that we weren't all kind of thinking the same thing. Even when he wanted to have us try something new, we were just like, "Ok, we'll try it." We would try it and usually it would come out great. No one was afraid to admit that it was better, we all just wanted the best to come out of the project. It just worked really well and went over very smoothly.
With your hard-to-define sound, do you ever feel embraced by any one genre?
Justin: I'm not sure that there's been any one specific genre over the other; we've been grateful for it all. I think the country genre has been incredibly good for us. The Grand Ole Opry has been such a cool place for us, it's been the greatest honor for us and they've supported us and embraced us and the country fanbase has been cool, but other than that, in doing our dates with Train, where it's more of a rock and roll or pop audience, they completely embrace us, too. I'm not sure it's any one over the other, we've just been very lucky thus far that everyone has been very kind to us.
On your website, you write that you have a lot more to say. What do you think you said on this album, and why do you feel like you still have more to say?
Sarah: I think this record was a really good introduction to who we are as artists, as musicians, and I think we really got to -- in a sense -- speak with our guitars. We got to talk about heartbreak ... everything we write comes from a personal place. To talk about all those kind of things -- lyrically and musically -- we got to show that this is who we are. I wouldn't say that we left any stone unturned, but there's definitely more where that came from.
You can pick up Striking Matches' debut, Nothing But the Silence, on I.R.S. Nashville Records at this location, and make sure to grab their complete tour itinerary -- featuring dates through November -- at their official website.