The Matchsellers bring the rich American traditions of bluegrass and folk music to life. Consisting of Kansas City, Missouri's Julie Bates and Indiana native Andrew Morris, The Matchsellers have brought their infectious harmonies and high-spirited songs to fans both nationally and internationally, performing 180 shows a year. They are celebrating the release of their second album, Songs We Made Up, which KCUR hailed as a "rewarding surprise." We are very lucky to welcome The Matchsellers to Listen Local.
Please introduce yourselves. Where do you live and work? We are Julie Bates from Kansas City, Missouri, and Andrew Morris from Warsaw, Indiana. For the last three years we have lived on the road as professional touring musicians, though our hometowns serve as home bases.
What was your experience writing and recording your album, Songs We Made Up? What did you learn that you'll bring to future recording projects? This was our second full-length original album and we are very proud of it. Three years as professional musicians has helped us mature tremendously as song writers, instrumentalists, singers, and artists. We feel that this album expresses our musical point of view by preserving the humor, high energy, and grittiness of traditional string band music, though from a decidedly modern perspective. We were lucky for the chance to work with local musicians Matthew Hawkins on banjo and Chris DeVictor on bass, which really helped fill out the sound. We also recorded all the tracks live on a single microphone the way bluegrass was originally recorded, and we couldn't be happier with how it turned out.
You tour fairly often. What has been your most memorable experience on the road? We get this question all the time, and with three years of touring under our belts it's a tough one to answer. But a special experience for us recently was in New York City, where we attended a bluegrass jam led by our favorite contemporary bluegrass guitarist Michael Daves. We had no idea what to expect, or how open the New York players would be to outsiders like us. But they immediately welcomed us into the group and even nudged us up to the mic to lead a couple of songs, with some of the best players we'd ever met-- including Michael Daves himself-- surrounding us on all sides. It wasn't even a dream come true because we hadn't dared to dream that it would go so well!
What artists do you look to these days for inspiration? What do you admire most about these artists? Bluegrass and folk music in general is steeped in tradition, so we spend a lot of time digging up old recordings to learn how the music was played 50-100 years ago. Old fiddle players like Tommy Jarrell, Cyril Stinett, and Lyman Enloe have an energy and a rhythm to their playing that makes it a perfect fit for contra and square dances. We also seek out recordings of live performances as inspiration for our stage show. The humorous banter between our songs was heavily influenced by performers like The Dillards, The Country Gentlemen, and Jimmy Martin telling jokes and stories on stage.
What most excites you about the folk and bluegrass communities in Kansas City? The Kansas City folk community is one of the most vibrant, welcoming, and supportive that we've encountered in our travels. KKFI and The Bridge get local musicians on the radio, while the Westport Saloon and Rural Grit Happy Hour at The Brick provide a place for musicians to meet up, play together and learn from each other. Then there are great events year round that get the community involved, like the Westport Roots Festival, Porch Fest, the Crossroad Music Fest, the Winfield Warm-up and Hangover, and the Folk Alliance International Conference that will be here for two more years. And of course, there is a well of fantastic musicians, from living legends like Betse Ellis to young up-and-comers like us. We're lucky to have begun our music careers in the midst of this blossoming scene.
We would like to add that libraries have been a tremendous resource for us as touring musicians. In almost every city or town we go to, we know there will be a nice quiet and free place for us to spend a few hours checking emails, reading periodicals or books, and otherwise relaxing from our travels. Andrew recently read all five books of the Y: The Last Man graphic novel series in 3 different libraries across the Northeast. Thank you to Bryan Voell at the Johnson County Library for taking the time to put together Local Live, a fantastic database of musicians from the Kansas City area!
Julie and Andrew's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. We both read this book recently on our travels. It's a memoir about a cross-country road trip Steinbeck takes with his poodle Charley. His musings on the US are funny and insightful, and as fellow road warriors we can relate to his experiences, both good and bad.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. We have a special connection to this book since Vonnegut is from Andrew's home state of Indiana, and also because the story deals with the fire bombing of Dresden, a German city just an hour and a half train ride from Leipzig where we met and started playing music together. It's an amazing story that weaves together memoir, science fiction, humor and tragedy.
Watchmen by Alan Moore. Andrew has been reading graphic novels as inspiration for an upcoming album/graphic novel/performance art installation entitled Bluegrasstronauts. If you only read one graphic novel in your life, it should be this one (until we release Bluegrasstronauts, that is).
Jimmy Martin: The King of Bluegrass. This CD is always in our car! The self-proclaimed King of Bluegrass sings gems like "20-20 Vision" ("I went to the doctor, he say's I'm alright, but I know that he's lyin' 'cause I'm losin' my sight!"); "Free Born Man" ("I ran away for the first time when I was only four years old!"); and "Sophronie," named after a heart-breaking lady from Kentucky.
Sleep with One Eye Open by Chris Thile and Michael Daves. In our opinion, the best and most influential contemporary bluegrass album in recent memory. These two virtuosic musicians breath new life into traditional bluegrass songs with incredible energy and grittiness that has been all but lost from most contemporary bluegrass. We recently toured up to New York City in order to meet and jam with Michael Daves!
Is This It? by The Strokes (CD)
12 Greatest Hits by Patsy Cline (CD)
Golden Hits by Roger Miller (CD)
House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Novel)
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (Novel)
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (Novel)
In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park (Biography)
Run, Lola, Run by Tom Tykwer (DVD)