Jimmy Brown takes risks. Having played his home country’s music scene for years, the guitarist and singer/songwriter wasn’t getting anywhere. So when the Irish-born musician sensed the scene growing stale, and a friend offered him an opportunity, he left his home country for China. When a friend offered him the chance to join him on a business trip to the U.S., he jumped at that, too. That’s when he came to Charlotte. It’s a good thing he did.
In Charlotte, Brown continued to play guitar and hone his songwriting skills when he met local musician Jordan Hardee, who suggested Jimmy meet his sister. Ashlee Hardee was also looking to make it as a singer/songwriter in town, and the pair immediately hit it off. They were married in North Carolina in 2010, and Matrimony was born.
Originally just the duo, Matrimony eventually joined forces with Ashlee’s brothers, Jordan (drums) and C.J. (mandolin, banjo). The band claims that Matrimony is named not for the union of Jimmy and Ashlee, but of lyrics and music. Regardless of the reason, it’s working.
"Montibello Memories," the band’s 11-track debut album, was released in 2014 and features several nods to the band’s Southern roots, including “Southern Skies” and many songs that include banjo, dulcimer, mandolin and other infusions of Americana flavor.
Named for Montibello Drive, the south Charlotte street on which the Hardees grew up, the album has earned the band noteworthy buzz. HBO chose the haunting tune “Giant” for the closing scene of the Season 4 premiere of "Girls." After that exposure, Brown says, the band saw thousands of downloads. This, after Rolling Stone interviewed Jimmy in April 2014, referring to the new album as “lush folk-pop,” and Billboard released a web exclusive of the music video for “Southern Skies” in August.
Last fall, the band members ventured out on a three-week, 17-city tour of the Midwest and East Coast. They hit up small venues and larger ones, sold out shows and worked hard. They called it a success.
But all of the recent attention hasn’t kept the band members from their Queen City roots. “Charlotte is definitely my home,” Jimmy says. “I don’t plan on moving back to Ireland any time soon."
When they’re not on the road, the band finds inspiration at local coffee shops, such as Smelly Cat Coffeehouse (514 E. 36th St., 704.374.9656).
For happy hour, Jimmy says he and Ashlee like to visit Dean & Deluca Wine Room (6903 Philips Place Ct., 704-643-6868), the only such room the New York-based, high-end grocery chain offers in the U.S.
Brown also says the band still stops in for a song or two at some smaller local venues in town, too—some that helped Matrimony get its start. “We’ll go over to Smokey Joe’s and jam with some of our friends,” he adds. “I’ve never played the Milestone, and I’ve always wanted to.” The Milestone is a historic live-music venue in west Charlotte that has hosted mega-talents like R.E.M, before the bands have made it big. Regardless of the venue, Brown says, “We all love playing in Charlotte. … It’s a supportive city for us.”
For more on Matrimony and to see upcoming tour dates, visit www.matrimonync.com.