Q&A with MATRIMONY
Jimmy Brown, one half of the driving force behind the lovely and intense Charlotte-based band Matrimony, of whom the other half is his wife, Ashlee Hardee Brown, was kind enough to respond to an email interview that delves into the story of how Matrimony was formed, the band’s song writing and creative process, and looking forward to a year or touring and performances at SXSW. While the band (since its inception) has been largely represented by Jimmy and Ashlee Brown, the music has taken form with the help of Shae Wooten, Jordan Hardee, and Alex Watson. Matrimony’s budding sound and success nods to the ever-growing community of talent in Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as its members’ impressive past experiences in music and performing in other bands. Shae Wooten has graced the stage and studio with John Mark McMillan; Jordan Hardee plays with the recently spotlighted Paper Tongues crew; Alex Watson and Ashlee Hardee Brown have been a part of the band Flagship (Watson is still an active member); and Jimmy Brown, a Charlotte transplant from Belfast, Ireland, hails from the band Airspace.
The Blue Indian (Beth Yeckley): How did you and Ashlee come to know each other and was it the music that brought you together as a couple, or was it being together that drew out your musical chemistry?
Jimmy Brown: I used to play in a band with Ashlee’s older bro and after a week long 24/7 recording session he said I should ‘talk to his sister’. The first time we met we wrote a song called ‘All I Want’. We decided to form a band together because we wanted to get married and so we realized if we do music together we will always be together. The chemistry has always been there between us.
BY: When were the songs off of the EP written? While you were dating or while you were married?
JB: We wrote the EP while we were dating/engaged.
BY: What prompted you both to leave your respective bands, work on solo projects, and then create Matrimony?
JB: I was on tour for about 5 weeks and we hated being apart and as a result we were forced to face the question of ‘is our music more important than our relationship?’. We thought/think our relationship is more important. That being said, music is our gift and we’re extremely devoted to writing songs and touring and I guess we’re just fortunate that we gel so well musically. It’s one of those things that came about very naturally, one thing lead to another and here we are in Matrimony ;)
BY: How much of the inspiration/ ideas/ unpublished songs you wrote solo are being used in Matrimony?
JB: One (Flee or Fight).
BY: Is the song writing process shared equally, or does one person have a greater hand in writing the music and the lyrics?
JB: Ashlee and I wrote the EP; she would have her song roughly 90% complete and I’d help her with arrangement ideas or some parts and she’d do the same for me. Nowadays we are more of a band much less of a songwriting duo and so we’re developing our songs with the whole band but lyrics will still predominately be written by myself and Ashlee.
BY: Some of your songs are two parts… we get extra tangents (“One Last Dance” and “Who Is Your God”) that are surprising and welcomed just when we think the song is over. Are these transitions/additions planned? Or do they reflect the nature of where your music organically goes when you’re recording/writing together?
JB: Good question! As a rule we try to find the sound that’s in us—tag on parts seem to be something we like, in the words of Gary Lightbody, ‘if it looks like it works and it feels like it works then it works’. We never saw the parts you mention like a different part, more just a part of the overall landscape of the song.
BY: Why an EP and not wait for a full-length album?
JB: We just wanted to get something out there so we could let people know what we’re doing. We just really needed a starting point.
BY: When can we expect to have a full-length album?
JB: No plans for a full length right now but there’s talk of a few singles in the next few months…
BY: How has the network of artists and bands in Charlotte helped to fuel your success with Matrimony?
JB: Charlotte has a good amount of great musicians, songwriters and producers; there’s a real community here and it has been instrumental in the development of us musically. We all have played in each others bands and from time to time we turn up unannounced at bars at all hours with our gear just cos we want to jam together. In terms of people hearing about our music I really have no idea how the word has spread so quick… I’m honestly shocked at how many people know who we are cos we’re still in the very early starting stages!
BY: Is Matrimony a full-time gig now, or are you working other jobs/ projects as well?
JB: it’s getting very close to being a full time gig, we all either play sessions, produce, write or do one off gigs to make ends meet.
BY: What are some of the bands you’d love to tour with in the next year or two?
JB: KOL, Johnny Flynn, J. Tillman, U2, Laura Marling, Shit Horse
BY: I know you’ve talked about your recognition as a musician in your hometown of Belfast. What has been the reception of Matrimony there?
JB: They love Matrimony, our first show was sold out!
BY: You’re headed to SXSW this year, who are you looking forward to catching live?
JB: I haven’t had a chance to look at the lineup yet but I’m sure I’ll stumble across some gems that I’ve never heard of.
And as a bonus, take a listen to Hannah Marney’s phone convo with Jimmy of Matrimony: