About Striking Matches
Two gifted singers, guitarists, and songwriters teamed up to create Striking Matches, a Nashville-based duo whose music is a fresh combination of country, blues, rock, and pop, with an approach that respects roots music traditions while making room for new musical thinking. The group offered up a lean but lively sound that often focused on acoustic instruments for their first album, 2015's Nothing But the Silence, but on subsequent releases, such as 2017's Shameless and 2018's Retrograde, they took on a more contemporary approach, embracing pop and R&B production tropes and adding electronic flourishes.
Striking Matches were formed in 2007 by Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmermann; Davis was born and raised near Atlanta, Georgia, by parents whose tastes leaned toward classic rhythm & blues, particularly Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Otis Redding. Zimmermann, meanwhile, grew up just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where her father repaired musical instruments and encouraged his daughter in her musical interests as she began studying clarinet and violin in grade school. Zimmermann picked up the guitar when she was in the fourth grade, and was powerfully influenced by the Dixie Chicks, whose success and musical skills convinced her women could succeed in the male-dominated music business.
In 2007, Davis and Zimmermann were both new students at Nashville's Belmont University, and met while taking a guitar class; the professor randomly paired up students, and Davis was suitably impressed with Zimmermann's talents as a blues soloist. The two continued to work as a duo, and before long they were writing songs together; they made their performing debut at the prestigious local club the Bluebird Cafe. In 2012, Striking Matches made their recording debut with a self-released five-song EP that showcased their gifts as songwriters, vocalists, and instrumentalists. That same year, noted songwriter and producer T-Bone Burnett was hired to help coordinate the music for an upcoming television series set in Music City, appropriately titled Nashville. Burnett and his team were impressed with Striking Matches, enough so that eight of their songs were used on the hit show, creating a powerful buzz for the duo both in the United States and the United Kingdom. They also won a loyal following in their adopted hometown, making regular appearances on the Grand Ol' Opry's weekly broadcasts. When noted indie label I.R.S. Records was revived and opened a Nashville office, Striking Matches were one of the first acts they signed, and the duo's first full-length album, Nothing But the Silence, produced by T-Bone Burnett, was released in March 2015.
Nothing But the Silence was well-received, but I.R.S. closed their Nashville office the following December, which put Striking Matches in limbo. The group made the move to Capitol Records for the 2017 EP Shameless, which found them adding prominent R&B and pop accents to their music, without skimping on their harmonies or blues-infused guitar work. (Adding to their pop leanings, a follow-up single featured three dance-friendly remixes of "Shameless.") In February 2018, Striking Matches dropped another EP, Retrograde, and the title track became a major success, played over three million times on major streaming services. Those fans who missed the more rootsy sound of Striking Matches' early releases welcomed their next release, Acoustic, which featured unplugged performances of "Shameless," "Ghost," and "Medicine." In December 2018, the duo celebrated the holiday with a seasonal single, "Melted," released through the Lightning Glasses imprint, and a bluesy five-song EP, Morning, followed in May 2019. The duo gave fans a wide-ranging look at their eclectic influences, including a greater emphasis on their pop influences, with a trio of EPs: two were released in 2019 -- Morning and Noon -- with the final installment, Night, issued in 2020. ~ Mark Deming