Striking Matches has a nearly cult-like following, carving out an indie-folk niche throughout Nashville and even landing several song features on ABC's hit Music City drama. The dynamic duo is the remarkably talented and self-proclaimed "guitar nerds" Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis, who have been gaining steady traction in the industry through backing of the Grand Ole Opry and a parternship with the CMT Network.
Recently, the traditionally electric musicians signed a major label record deal with Capitol Records’ new Nashville label, I.R.S. Records Nashville, something that actually came as a bit of a surprise. "Our fanbase had started growing in a way that we could see it, [especially] with the help of the ‘Nashville’ show and being on the Grand Ole Opry and how they gotten behind us," Davis tells NashvilleGab. "CMT is such an amazing partner, too, even without a label."
"We kind of had gotten used to being this little indie band that had some buzz," he says. "We kind of liked it that way. It was really more of the label presented itself to us. It was like ‘well, yes, this sounds great.’ It wasn’t us trying to beg for a deal. That’s sometimes how it’s done here, and it’s tough."
Zimmerman adds, "Now, we can [get to work] on this record. I think we’re even more excited now than we were that night."
Not too surprisingly, however, this was not the first deal that came their way. "A couple of years ago, we had some opportunities presented to us," Davis recalls. "It just wasn’t the right time. I don’t think we would have known then what kind of record we really wanted to make. I don’t think it was that we were smart enough to say no, but we just got lucky and had some really good mentors. ‘Maybe you guys should hold off for now?’"
"We’ve been trying to be really patient with everything," Zimmerman nods. "At the time, we knew it wasn’t the right situation. We’re happy now."
"I’m glad we didn’t. We might have been in a way different position," asserts her other half.
With the news still fresh in the headlines, Zimmerman admits to already starting the song selection process for the forthcoming debut record. "We’ve been starting to choose songs. We’ve got a lot of songs to choose from. So, I think we shrunk our list down to 28 songs on the record," she discloses. "We know a lot of the songs we definitely want. A lot of the songs we’ve been playing live and the fans have really responded to."
"It’ll be a Striking Matching anthology," laughs Davis.
"We’re kind of allowing fans to choose in some ways because if they come to us and they’re raving about certain song (and there’s enough of them doing it), then, of course, we’re going to want to put that song on the record."
With an independently released self-titled EP already under their belts, Davis is considering re-imaging some of those tracks for the new project. "Songs are funny that way. They grow," he acknowledges. "I think since you've recorded them, they’ve grown with us. If we did, it would be because we think [they’re] even better now. We want to be able to let people here that. There are a couple songs especially on the EP that come to mind that mean a lot to us."
The duo's song "Trouble Is As Trouble Does," in particular, was inspired in a seemingly uncoventional way. It began as a guitar riff, a more abstraction notion than a specific idea. Zimmerman recounts the song's early beginnings, "I remember sitting in my room and kind of came up with this guitar riff sort of out of no where. I was like ‘oh, that’s cool.’ I had written down ‘Trouble Is As Trouble Does’ somewhere on my desk and saw it. All of a sudden it started to riff on that and how that felt. I brought it to Justin. I was like ‘check this out. I have this cool guitar idea.’"
"I was blown away by the riff," Davis adds. "Any time we can play a lot of guitar, that’s a good start. We wanted to write something exciting that mimicked the guitar stuff going on. It mirrors that feeling you get when you’re growing up and sneaking out of your parents’ home or whatever, maybe getting into something you shouldn’t be. You have to do it to sort of live a little bit. Also, [it functions] as an introduction to what we do while we are maybe a little bit different from everybody."
He maintains that riffs are often the source of their inspiration. "We sit around and just kind of play with each other and riff off of each other. You can’t help but start inventing new things. A lot of times it’s just a cool groove or riff or something that inspires a song. Even a song that’s slow, “When The Right One Comes Along," that guitar riff, I had come up with that before we started anything on the lyrical side." [Take a listen above]
Earlier this year, Striking Matches had the opportunity to open for Hunter Hayes on a slew of dates, something they don't take for granted. "His fans are amazing, not only to him but we always felt so incredibly welcome. They’re so loud and eager for music," Davis says.
Of course, Zimmerman and Davis have toured the entire country this year, from east to west. Favorite city so far? "That’s tough. They’ve all been so cool. I really love San Francisco, though," Davis admits. "It was a place that had really good food and coffee and chocolate and scenery and amazing weather. [laughs] Chicago is really cool. Of course, it’s got one of the best country music venues in the country. Joe’s Bar is there. They’ve always been so incredible to us."
Legendary songwriter Will Jennings was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in October, and Striking Matches was on hand to honor the icon. "We had been asked to do it about three or four days before," Zimmerman relates. "We found out and I had to leave the next day for the weekend. I was going to be gone. We really had one day. We knew the song but then [we] had to actually learn it."
"When it was over it was like ‘holy crap. Check out what we just got to do.’"
Photo Courtesy of Striking Matches / Facebook