When Striking Matches take the stage at Revolution Live in support of American Idol winner Phillip Phillips this Saturday, the bandmates' faces will likely be new to most of the crowd. But if the audience is familiar with the music of the hit TV show Nashville, they might already be fans.
Like Phillips, the Matches got their professional break making music on television. Nine of their songs wound up on the show Nashville during its first four seasons, including "Hangin' on a Lie" and "This Love Ain't Big Enough," both sung by Hayden Panettiere.
Nashville capitalized on the simultaneous revivals of interest in musicals and pop-tinged country music, but Striking Matches — also known as songwriting and guitar duo Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis — say their sound is more reflective of the evolving sound and growing eclecticism of the city they call home, and for which the series is named.
Zimmermann says though Nashville has historically been recognized as an incubator for country music, the scene has expanded over the past few years. "Now it's really becoming a hotbed of all different kinds of music — pop and alternative rock. It's really growing, which is really, really cool."
It's an ideal environment for a band that doesn't identify with one genre. "We just want to be considered musicians and songwriters, and genres are really limiting," Davis says. Their sound is decidedly alternative and rooted in solo-Clapton-style blues with a pop flourish. Their latest track, "Retrograde," begins with layered, robust guitar riffs, but its chorus flirts with radio-ready dance melodies.
"I think if we get people who listen to one specific thing to branch out, then that feels really good," he says. "If we can get them to expand their musical horizons and to listen to things that they wouldn't [typically] listen to... [we can] show them that it's OK. Music is fun all across the board."
Though the sounds of Nashville have diversified, that expansion has led to storied divides. Music journalists delight in writing about the division between the pop sound of Nashville's mainstream commercial artists and the city's rebellious indie underbelly. In turn, artists often deny such schisms exist. Striking Matches comfortably navigate both worlds, and they say perceptions of a warring Nashville are overstated. Both sides support each other, Davis says. "Nashville is a really friendly town and a really supportive artist community."
Striking Matches opens for Phillips this week in support of their latest EP, Shameless. The collection of songs is a followup to their critically lauded 2015 debut, Nothing but the Silence. The pair plans to release new music again later this year.