Justin Davis was enamored with the idea of a match when deciding what to name the country duo he had formed with fellow Belmont University student Sarah Zimmermann. They were, indeed, a matched set. From the first time they performed together, as freshmen music students picked at random for an impromptu performance, playing one-on-one became more than just two guitarists making music together. They named their group Striking Matches.
“There was something about being with Sarah and us singing together that really created something that otherwise wasn’t there,” Davis said. They’d sung with others before, but it was nothing like what happened when their voices joined in harmony. They’d written with others, as well, but there was something unique about penning songs with one another. Though both are lead guitarists and practiced singers, they’ve found a way to share ax duties in a balanced way and sing not duets, but full harmonies made with two voices.
They are a striking match, Davis admits, though he shies away from the “cheesy” double entendre.
“I liked the sound of striking matches,” Davis said. “It’s expressive and sounds exciting.”
Still, like a match dragged across the right surface the right way, a transformation takes place when Zimmermann and Davis perform together. And if it’s fire they’re making, then the flame is spreading thanks to a recently released EP and the promise of big exposure on a hit TV show.
Striking Matches released its self-titled EP, produced by Grammy winner Luke Wooten, early last month. It’s the first recording the unsigned band has put out, and already they’ve noticed their fan base stretch beyond listeners who came to know the band through its live performances.
“People that weren’t coming to shows – because that was the only way that we could get fans, was if they saw us live – now they’re just showing up out of the blue saying they found us on iTunes,” Davis said. “That’s well beyond our reach originally and that’s really, really cool.”
That reach may well expand in the coming weeks, as ABC’s “Nashville” has picked up two tracks from the four-track Striking Matches EP. Later this season, the tender love song “When the Right One Comes Along” will be given a nationwide audience on the new drama about musical stardom in the country music capital.
It’s been about three years since their chance first performance as students. Since then, they’ve traded the classroom for the stage, playing shows both in Nashville and on the road.
“I’m sure at some point we’ll finish,” Zimmermann said when asked about the band’s not-quite-student status, “but the iron was hot and we’re doing what we came to town to do.”
Tonight, they’ll be opening with an acoustic set for John Hiatt and The Combo at The Birchmere; part two of the back-to-back engagement kicks off tomorrow evening.
Though the recent buzz that surrounds Striking Matches is cause for celebration for Zimmermann and Davis, they’re looking ahead to what this young project can accomplish next: recording a full album, playing more shows, and just sharing their music with listeners.
“Your latest song is your best song, always,” Davis said. “You want to keep going and move on to the next project and say ‘yes, I’m proud of the EP, but what’s next?’”
• For more information about Striking Matches, visit strikingmatches.com.