Matchsellers: A New Class of Bluegrass
Musical hybrids are nothing new, and more than once diverse artists and musical styles have come together in the most unlikely places to create infectious new sounds. But few musical perfect storms have produced a more unique deluge than when Julie Bates, a classically trained violinist from Kansas City, Missouri, and Warsaw, Indiana-born blues guitarist Andrew Morris came together to form the Matchsellers in the polka country of Germany. The result nourished the traditional roots of acoustic bluegrass with the fertilizers of classical music and blues and watered them with the rains of fresh and earthy original songwriting.
The bluegrass duo will return Sunday, May 10 to Blue Sky Vineyard in a special Mother’s Day concert.
In December 2014, the Matchsellers debuted their latest CD, the autobiographical Kosciusko County. Currently touring to promote the project, the duo spoke to Nightlife from their home— not a house or even an apartment, but rather the highways of America.
Bates says the serendipity that became the Matchsellers was surprising to the musicians as it is refreshing to their audiences.
“Andrew and I met when we both got scholarships to teach English in Germany,” Bates says. “We were teaching in the same city. I started playing Suzuki violin when I was in first grade and did that all through college. But Andrew was actually a blues guitarist. Neither of us were experts in bluegrass at all. But I knew a couple of bluegrass tunes that my teacher had taught me for fun, and Andrew knew some bluegrass tunes that he had learned from some friends. That seemed to be the one genre we both had in common. It just started from there.”
While the duo’s collaboration began with covers of acoustic and bluegrass classics, it has since expanded to include an impressive catalog of original material. It is this repertoire, Bates says, that brings the pair the deepest musical and creative satisfaction.
“Kosciusko County, the CD we just put out around Christmas time, is all about the county where Andrew is from in Indiana,” Bates says. “When we were living in Germany, he started writing all these songs about his home county. He was interested in the unique regionalism of it, and analyzing his home from the different perspective of living in Germany. All the songs on the album are about his home county, so that’s really neat.”
While the duo’s newest project has a feeling of home, Bates and Morris now make their home on the highways and in the airports of the world. While they do take the time to hang their hats in various places, the duo’s real feeling of home grows out of the feeling they get from their music and the audiences that love it.
“We don’t have a permanent address,” Bates laughs. “When we’re not on tour, we stay with either my family in Kansas City, or with Andrew’s family in Indiana. Those are really our two home bases. Being on the road so much has gotten a lot easier. In the beginning it was really hard traveling all the time. We were trying to book enough shows and make enough money. The hardest part about traveling is not having your own space, but now it’s almost normal because we’ve done it for almost two years.”
While Kosciusko County is the focus of the Matchsellers’ current tour and concerts, Bates says audiences should find their future as exciting as the current project.
“We have one gospel CD that we recorded last year,” Bates says. “It’s made up of a lot of old, traditional gospel favorites and two original songs. But our music has changed a lot. For the new CD, Andrew didn’t want to do another themed album. So with this new CD that we’re writing, we’re getting a lot more into the bluegrass and oldtime feel. We’re writing a lot more traditional-sounding songs that we can play with other people. The other thing that’s different is that on the last album, Andrew wrote all of the songs. Now, I’m starting to write more songs.”
When asked which aspect of the creative process is most meaningful, Bates finds it difficult to answer, but finally says the live experience is one that she wouldn’t trade.
“We definitely enjoy performing the music and have a lot of fun performing on stage,” she says. “It’s a totally different atmosphere. You get more of a rush on stage, and you get to interact with the audience, which is what we really enjoy. That’s why we tour so much. We love getting involved with all different kinds of audiences.”
Audiences with diverse musical tastes are what the Matchsellers crave, and what they hope they will find when they return to Blue Sky.
“The best thing about bluegrass is that everyone can play it and follow it,” Bates says. “It’s a really communal music that you can enjoy with anybody. We put on a really fun, high-energy show with lots of traditional bluegrass, and I hope people will come out and join us for a great time.”
For more about the Matchsellers, visit <http://www.TheMatchsellers.com>.
where: Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery
when: Sunday, May 10