Though Matrimony’s lead vocalists Jimmy and Ashlee Hardee Brown tied the knot four years ago, their musical marriage — and band name — actually came first. “It was named before we got married. The idea was the marriage of words and music,” Jimmy explains. “We knew we were gonna get married, but we were like, ‘Whatever.’ So I guess that was kind of ironic. Now most people think we’re called Matrimony because we’re married — but we’re not that cheesy.”

It didn’t take long for the duo’s lush harmonies to catch fire. The Charlotte-based band began garnering national attention in 2010 with their debut The Storm and the Eye. Since then, they’ve toured nonstop, evolving from a twosome to a full-on family band joined by Ashlee’s brothers Jordan Hardee (banjo first, then bass, and now drums) and CJ Hardee (banjo). Her cousin Austin Forbes has been the band’s bass player for nearly a year now.

Matrimony is currently on tour to support their latest effort Montibello Memories, the full-length follow-up to last year’s EP Montibello Drive — that’s the street of the Hardees’ old house. The band spent plenty of time there, either in the music studio downstairs or upstairs hosting house shows. “So many musicians would come through and stay there, and there was always a lot of music,” Jimmy says. “All of us were living there for a period together, so everything kind of started there. Now that the house is being sold, we just thought it was fitting to call it Montibello Memories. That summed up that period for us.”

Some of the record’s songs are sentiments felt long before the Montibello days. For example, Jimmy wrote the album’s first single “Southern Skies” on his front porch during sunset, reflecting on his first encounter with real Americana. Not long after his arrival from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he spent three months working in Vidalia, Ga. “I remember people taking me out on their trucks, and I’d never been in a truck like that with a flatbed and just sitting in the back,” he says. “They had street names named after their families, like the Williams lived on Williams Street. And I thought that was so weird. You’d never get away with that in the U.K., you know — naming a street after yourself.

“And there were dirt roads with dirt flying up everywhere. It was very pure Americana for me, so ideal. Usually things aren’t as ideal as you think they’re going be, but in my mind that’s how I’d pictured America. I was very romantic about it.”

When the band decided to make a video for “Southern Skies,” they looked to a local living legend to be the star. Woody Williams, a.k.a. Funky Geezer, can be seen singing the blues and shredding a pedal steel guitar on open mic nights at local Charlotte joints like the Evening Muse. Sometimes the old man’s walker is in tow, but Funky Geezer is always wearing a pair of overalls and a great, big grin. To the guys in Matrimony, he was the perfect representation of what they love about the area. “He’s just a big supporter of the music scene,” Jimmy says. “He’s one of those guys who’s just a pillar. He’s always there, so we were trying to make a video that celebrated Southern culture in some way, and that correlated a little bit with where I’m from. So he’s that character with a weathered look about them, who’s also involved with music. And he’s lived in Charlotte for a really long time, so it just kind of made sense.”

“Obey Your Guns,” another track off Montibello Memories, was originally released back in 2011. Its upbeat rhythm, catchy hooks, and positive vibe had massive chart-topping potential, except for one thing. “Apparently radio stations don’t like the word ‘gun’ because of the shootings that have been happening over the past few years,” Jimmy says. “So they’re all a little wary to bring in bands who are singing the word ‘gun,’ but I would think that most people would understand the song as more of the uplifting, feel-good song that it is.”

For the most part, the band’s biggest critics are each other. Each member is a songwriter, so everyone’s involved in how each song turns out. However, if Jimmy is singing, he probably wrote the song, and the same goes for Ashlee. She penned the words “The first day I met you, I said I’ll marry him” in the single “Last Love,” and you can probably guess who they’re about.

“I was on a solo tour before Ashlee and I were married, and I was away for six or seven weeks,” Jimmy says. “And she was missing me, so she wrote me that song. She sent me a demo of it when I was on the road, which was very nice of her.

“I still haven’t written her a song,” he adds. “I can’t find the words to write. If you’re going to write a love song, it’d better be really good, or it just cheapens the whole thing. So I haven’t done it yet, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it.”

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