MATRIMONY Bio

James Brown – Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin

Ashlee Brown – Vocals, Keyboard

Jordan Hardee – Drums, Bass, Guitar, Percussion, Vocals

CJ Hardee – Banjo, Mandolin, Vocals

Fronted by husband and wife Ashlee and Jimmy Brown alongside Ashlee’s talented brothers, Jordan and CJ Hardee, Matrimony is the very definition of a family band, their eclectic acoustic-based music given its extraordinary heart by blood, romance, and fraternal fire. “MONTIBELLO MEMORIES,” the Charlotte, North Carolina-based band’s hugely anticipated debut album, takes its name and spirit from the Hardee homestead, a family residence that also fuels the collection’s deep lyrical hearth.  Songs like “Obey Your Guns” and “See The Light” ripple with emotional intensity and collaborative energy, the Hardees and Browns’ natural musical interplay and hermetic harmonies resonant with all the love, laughter, and loss of a shared lifetime.

“This record kind of sums up where we’ve been,” Ashlee Brown says.  “We all grew a lot, just living in that house, so there’s a lot of emotion that runs through the songs.”

“It’s all about the Hardees’ home,” Brown says, “where they grew up, where I lived for a little while. But the underlying themes are nostalgia and searching for some kind of honest reality. Not trying to hide away from the hard truths but wanting people to be real.” 

Northern Irish-born, Brown made his way to the States via China, having accompanied a friend on a business trip that concluded in the Queen City.  He stayed on in Charlotte, playing guitar with a fellow Belfast ex-pat while simultaneously working on his own songs with local musicians. One of them, drummer Jordan Hardee, suggested Brown meet his sister Ashlee, herself a talented singer/songwriter.  The thunderbolt struck them both, resulting in a batch of co-written songs and a July 2010 wedding.  The Browns’ partnership extended to the stage as they performed acoustically in clubs and cafes around Charlotte. The duo’s inspired tapestry of rock, country, gospel, and the great Irish and American folk traditions truly came to life with the addition of Ashlee’s brothers CJ (banjo, mandolin) and the aforementioned Jordan on drums.

“Both my brothers put their own spin on it, just with their own talents and musical abilities,” Hardee Brown says.  “Once we finally found that mesh, the band took the course we’d always imagined it would.” 

“Me and my brothers, we always knew we wanted to be in a band together,” says Hardee Brown.  “I guess it’s worked out.  Everything just fell into place.”

Their moniker inspired by the blessed union of words and music, Matrimony played out relentlessly, sharing the stage with a diverse range of acts from Langhorn Slim to Passion Pit. In July 2012, the band began recording with Nashville producer Jay Joyce behind the board. Known for his work with such dissimilar artists as Brandi Carlile, Cage the Elephant, and Eric Church, Joyce captured Matrimony’s on-stage intimacy by recording most of the album live in the studio.

“It was really enjoyable,” Brown says.  “It felt like we were recording downstairs at our friend’s house.  I think Jay understood where we were coming from. It felt like he was another band member really.”

Matrimony unveiled a portion of their efforts with 2013’s “MONTEBELLO DRIVE” EP, drawing national praise from the likes of Paste, which applauded the collection for “(sounding) like the product of jam sessions in living rooms and on back porches.” The band celebrated by touring nearly non-stop, including countless headline dates and national treks with such like-minded artists as The Gaslight Anthem, Matt Pond, and Chris Carrabba’s Twin Forks. The live shows earned further accolades, with Creative Loafing noting “(Matrimony’s) acoustic-driven sound has developed over the years, most of it drawing from the comfort a group can only get after performing more than 100 shows together this year.”

“We’ve played so many shows” Brown says, “we’re a lot further along than we were a year ago. You learn your strengths and weakness from playing a lot of live shows, and then that influences your writing.”

Prolific tunesmiths both, the Browns penned a considerable quantity of material during their travels, including Ashlee’s stirring “See The Light.” Performed without percussion, only stringed instruments and passionate vocal harmony, the song proved an immediate fan favorite and improvisational highlight upon its inclusion on the set list.

“The response was crazy,” Brown says. “People were singing along, even though they never heard it before, obviously. There was a show at the Troubadour in L.A., the whole room was singing with us. I don’t know if you’d call it spiritual or not, but those are the moments that you’re searching for as a band. Connecting with an audience like that is pretty amazing. I think that’s the most exciting part of music for us.” 

Matrimony knew their debut album would be incomplete without reflecting the experience accrued over the previous year and in January 2014, they entered a Charlotte studio to self-produce a few new songs alongside GRAMMY®-nominated engineer/mixer Bruce Irvine (Anthony Hamilton, Jill Scott). The band had learned Jay Joyce’s lessons well and purposefully kept it simple, tracking live with only a limited few vocal overdubs. Patriarch Rick Hardee dropped by the studio with congas in tow, his percussive presence on “Lucky Man” bringing the album’s familial motif to its fullest realization.

“We just set up mics and went for it,” Brown says. “These songs kind of produced themselves. It was just easy, for some reason. It’s weird; they really fit in with what we had done before. These new songs really tied in well with the underlying themes of the record.”

Matrimony is geared up to leave the home fires behind and return to the road, now with more focus and flair than ever before. Their lifetime-in-the-making debut album finished at long last, this band of lovers and brothers is keen to convey the warmth and convivial character that inhabits “MONTIBELLO MEMORIES” to audiences everywhere.

“We love playing for people,” Brown says. “If we could just do that all the time, we’d be happy… which we are doing, so I guess we are happy.”                                                                                                                    April 2014