© Briques Magazine 2020
All Photos Copyrighted by Briques Magazine & Contributing Photographer.

Matt James ~ Blacktop Mojo

Briques:

Okay, writing process. How does that work for you guys? Is it collaborative or one person?

Matt:
Ultra collaborative. It might start with one person's idea, a guitar riff or something like that, but we all get in a room together and work everything out.

Briques:
What's your favorite song off of all three of the albums? Which one sticks out? 

Matt:
All three? Man, I don't know.

 

Briques:
Maybe what you're proudest of.

Matt:
One of my favorites, somebody was talking to me about it the other night so it's fresh in my brain, but Shadows on the Wall.

Briques:
Yeah. Actually, that was the last song I listened to before I came in.

 

Matt:
Okay, cool. Well, there you go. Small world.

 

Briques:
Small world, isn't it? Yeah.

 

Matt:
Yeah. I like that one. That's always a fun one to explain to everybody because it makes me sound smarter than I am.

 

Briques:
Okay, So, what's it...

 

Matt:
It's based off of, it's called Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Socrates was having an argument with one of his students and Plato was Socrates's teacher. But the story basically is, there's three brothers that are chained up in a cave for their entire life and there's a fire that's burning behind them. So the only thing that they know of what the world is, is the shadows that are on the cave wall. Then one day they drag one of the brothers outside and he sees, his eyes have trouble adjusting at first, but he sees trees and sky and the actual world. Then he goes back inside and he tries to tell his two brothers, he's like, "Dude, you'll never guess what I've seen." But they don't believe him, so they kill him, so that's a parable about belief and keeping an open mind really. 

 

Briques:
Right. The narrow-mindedness of some people, zealots. Yeah, I see that.

You've done some pretty awesome covers.

 

Matt:
Thank you.

 

Briques:
I have to admit, when I first saw Dream On, I'm like, "Oh, no. No, no. You don't touch that."

 

Matt:
Agreed.

 

Briques:
Then I heard it and both versions are now on my playlist. Another one that I really love was Hunger Strike. You teamed up with Small Town Titans for that.

 

Matt:
We did.

 

Briques:
How did that come about?

 

Matt:
We were on our first tour in 2017, I believe. They were one of the, just so happened to be one of the local bands on the bill and we ended up meeting them and stayed in touch. They were really talented, of course.

Briques:
Yeah, I love them too. The Grinch is my favorite.

 

Matt:
They absolutely killed that. Yeah.

 

Briques:
I think that's my favorite Christmas song.

Yeah, they did. Nailed it.

 

Matt:
Yeah. I don't even like Christmas music, but I like that. They reached out and they had this idea to do Hunger Strike and they asked me if I would want to do it. So I said, "Of course." I flew up to Pennsylvania and we did it at St. Cloud Studios, which is in York, PA. It's the bass player for Live, it's his studio. Very cool place. Very cool place. But that's where we shot the video and everything too.

Briques:
Great. With you guys getting more exposure, you're on your third album, have you seen changes in relationships back home? I know you come from small, country town.

 

Matt:
Not really, because pretty much 99% of the time we're just hanging out with each other anyway, because we all live in the same house back home.

 

Briques:
Still?

 

Matt:
Yeah.

 

Briques:
 I knew when you started you did that. 

 

Matt:
Nothing's really changed, man. Nathan got engaged to his girlfriend.

 

Briques:
Awesome.

 

Matt:
Yeah, that's about the only thing that's changed. But I've known her for a long, long time. Yeah. No, we all love her.

 

Briques:
With the increased touring, have you guys run into burnout or fatigue, and then how do you deal with that once it comes up?

Matt:
We all just keep each other going and running and I think that's part of living together and being together all the time anyway. You don't really get burnt out because you're just, it feels like you're at home no matter where you're at. I don't know, that's for me anyway.

 

Briques:
When one's feeling down, somebody will pick up.

 

Matt:
Right, right. Exactly. We all keep each other going.

 

Briques:
Awesome. You've played some festivals and then you play some of the smaller venues. What's the difference in the vibe and which one do you prefer?

 

Matt:
It's hard to tell. Of course, it's fun to play festivals in front of a bunch of people. I think it's easier even to get that many people going all at once than it is, it's more of a challenge I think when you've only got... If you show up on some night somewhere and there's only, it's snowed outside or something and everybody, there's only 20 people that showed up. It's a lot harder to get 20 people going because nobody wants to be the first person that's like, "Yeah!"

 

Briques:
Right. When you're in a big crowd with everybody... Yeah. Anonymous.

Matt:
Right, right. Yeah. Exactly, but it's cool either way. It's super fun to be, we played in New Mexico the other night
in Gallup at this little place and there was probably 80 people there on... Was it Thursday? I don't know. Whatever.

Briques:
A week day.

 

Matt:
Yeah. Yeah. But there was 80 people in there, it sounded like there was 300. You know what I mean? Everybody was into it. It's really just about the energy of the room and if you give it out then usually people give it back.

 

Briques:
One of my most vivid memories when I was a teenager was flying down the country roads, because I grew up in the country in Indiana. In this shit-brown Ford Pinto that a friend had and the song that always comes to mind is Copperhead Road. Is there a song like that for you where it takes you back?

Matt:
They still play Copperhead Road in most of the bars in Texas.

 

Briques:
I bet.

 

Matt:
Steve Earle's the man. Yeah, that's definitely one I know. Then I'm at home if you hear Copperhead Road.

Briques:
Yeah. You hear those bagpipes and then...

 

Matt:
You hear people stomping, you hear the boots on the wood. Yeah. Absolutely.

 

Briques:
You guys are fan fueled and you've used PledgeMusic, but you ran into some problems with them on this last one with not getting paid.

 

Matt:
Everybody did.

 

Briques:
Yeah. Did that resolve itself? Would you use them again for number four?

 

Matt:
No. Well, they declared bankruptcy.

 

Briques:
They did, okay. I thought I'd heard that.

 

Matt:
They're getting investigated for fraud and everything.

 

Briques:
Not good.

 

Matt:
Yeah, there was a lot of bands that got screwed over by that situation. We were fortunate enough that we got some of our money that we raised so we were able to, at least, go into the studio and start making our record and getting it done. But all the fulfillment of everything we tried to make up as best we could, so all the fulfillment and all that stuff came out of our own pocket, because we didn't feel like it was right that those people would pledge and then not get anything back.

 

Briques:
Right. Yeah, because I've went through them a couple of times with a couple of different bands.

 

Matt:
Right. No, our second record we did with PledgeMusic and it went phenomenally. It couldn't have gone any better, helped us make that record, quit our jobs, and we started doing this full time. I think they changed management and things like that since then, but whatever happens. We have some of the best fans on the planet. We have people that found out what happened and then literally just sent us the money in the mail. People were super, very supportive. I think that was the point, the original intention of that website anyways, that fans could make music and I think that's what happened in our case.

 

Briques:
Is that going forward with album number four? Have you got plans?

 

Matt:
Album number four will probably be... I think we'll do probably something like PledgeMusic, but we're going to manage it all ourselves so that there's no...

 

Briques:
Middleman.

 

Matt:
Yeah. There doesn't need to be a middleman. Not anymore.

 

Briques:
Right. You've got the fan base now, definitely. The newest album is great. There isn't a song I don't like actually...

 

Matt:
Thank you.

Briques:
... all of you guys' songs, I absolutely love them. When I first put it on, Lay It on Me, when it built up and then that first...BAM... I literally stood up went, "Oh my God!" So when I listen to it in the car, I'm headbanging down the road...

Matt:
Awesome. Hell yeah.

Briques:
When you hear that, that you have that influence on somebody and know somebody's in their car headbanging away down the road, that makes you...

Matt:
Yeah. That's what it's for.

 

Briques:
What kind of feelings does that bring up?

 

Matt:
It made me smile. I can't wait till you hear it tonight. I want to see you headbanging in there.

 

Briques:
Oh, yeah. I'll try to take some steady pictures.

Well, thank you so much for taking the time.

Matt:
Thank you so much.

For Blacktop Mojo concert coverage and tour dates.

Special thanks to Matt James and Blacktop Mojo for taking the time with us.