Striking Matches are making noise with Nothing but the Silence, their long-awaited debut album that arrives in stores this week.
— strikingmatches (@strikingmatches) March 23, 2015
After months of promotion and performances across the country, band members Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmerman are unpacking their suitcases and spend a few days in Nashville. But they’ll still be working – there’s a hometown show at 3rd & Lindsley on Thursday night (March 26) followed by their 43rd Opry appearance on Saturday.
“We’ve lived with these songs for so long and it’s easy to forget that some people have never heard some of these tracks,” says Sarah Zimmermann. “So it’s exciting to get the feedback and all that – it’s like Christmas.”
CMT.com sat down with the guitar-driven duo in the I.R.S. Nashville label offices to talk about moving to Nashville, their television counterparts and their dedication to a good cup of joe.
Watch the video for “Hanging on a Lie,” then read a Q&A below the player.
CMT: I understand that you met in a guitar class at Belmont University, but before you moved to Nashville, what did the city represent to you?
Zimmermann: For me, I think I always thought of it as the mecca. I always knew I wanted to end up here. I didn’t necessarily know what I was going to do when I got here. I just knew I was going to play guitar. (laughs) But it also seemed so far away. I grew up outside of Philly, which is not that far away. It’s a 13-hour drive, so it’s not bad, but it seemed like this almost unreachable thing growing up. Then when I finally got here, it was like, “Oh, that wasn’t that hard! Here I am!” And then when I couldn’t afford to leave, I just stayed forever.
Davis: Yeah, it always has that mystical thing in your mind. Even people who have never been, or only know of it, they see it in a similar way that we used to. And probably still would if we didn’t live here. You build it up to something larger than life and there’s a reason for that, of course. It absolutely backs that up. Your perspective changes when you experience it firsthand.
How old were you when you gravitated toward the guitar?
Zimmermann: I was 10 when I started playing, and Justin has pictures when he was like (gesturing at the armrest) this high.
Davis: It’s always been around. When I was smaller than a guitar, it was kind of propped up on me. I was always fascinated by it for some reason. I probably got serious about it at a certain age but I don’t remember. … I played drums, bass and keys for a bit, and just being a musician, you experiment. Then I thought, “No, I want to play guitar.”
How did you get interested in country music?
Zimmerman: I remember being 11 or 12 and I found a Dixie Chicks record in my mom’s car. It was Fly, their second record. I just fell in love with it, and from there I started getting into everything from modern stuff to Patsy Cline. So I feel like I grew up with it. That was the first CD that I ever had on repeat. I couldn’t stop listening to it. So that’s how I got in.
Davis: Being from Georgia, I just didn’t have a choice. (laughs) It was what was on the radio. My parents would bounce between county radio and oldies – Otis Redding, Petula Clark, Sam Cooke. And then swap back over to country radio. I grew up when Alan Jackson was really happening. But whatever genre it was in, I tended to gravitate toward the guitar players. Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed are big country influences, then Lindsey Buckingham and Mark Knopfler in the rock world. They had so many similarities – Fleetwood Mac and Dire Straits had such elements of country or folk.
You wrote all these songs with some of Nashville’s best songwriters. Was that something you wanted to do when you moved here?
Zimmermann: I think we did — and we didn’t know it.
Davis: We had always written songs just because we felt compelled to, and at the same time, we didn’t know that you could just do that. We didn’t know that you could come here and be a songwriter. We thought, “Oh, every one of those songs that artists sing, they wrote themselves.” So I don’t think we ever endeavored to be songwriters. We just wrote songs because that’s what we did.
You’ve had a lot of songs placed in the show Nashville, even in the early episodes. I was wondering if they patterned the characters of Scarlett and Gunnar after you.
Davis: They did some, yeah. We explained to them the story of “When the Right One Comes Along.” We wrote it, and the first time we ever played it out was at the Bluebird Café. We were really nervous and it was a big place to try out songs. … Once we told them that, I think they wrote the scene around it. And when it was performed on the show, it was set at the Bluebird and they were making a moment out of it. It’s cool to see fiction mirror reality.
With so much going on, do you still find time to just hang out?
Zimmermann: We try! When we’re in all these different cities, we try to find the local coffee shop, or do little things like that.
Davis: That keeps you sane. If you start going like, “Get up, work, hotel, bed, wake up, go …,” you start to burn out a little bit because you’re not living anymore. You don’t even know where you are. It doesn’t matter where you are. Cities make it easy because there you can walk to a lot of things and there’s a lot of stuff happening. When you get out to the rural areas, it’s a little more of a challenge to find the local stuff.
Zimmermann: But there’s almost always a hidden gem.
Davis: Yeah! And that’s part of the fun – trying to find it.