MATT JAMES  
BLACKTOP MOJO
May 21, 2016
Blacktop Mojo have been tearing up the music scene since 2012 with their brand of hard rocking/southern style tunes. Their debut album, “I Am” garnered the band from Palestine, TX some serious attention from not only the Texas scene, but thanks to social media, worldwide consideration.

Playing show after show, singing song after song, entertaining fan after fan, Blacktop Mojo is steadily on the rise to bigger and better things. Now the boys are working on their sophomore album, with their first single, “Where the Wind Blows” dropping this past April. They brought in famed Muscle Shoals sound producer, Jimmy Johnson in the mix to help out with their sound. Jimmy is known for working with legends such as, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Seger and The Rolling Stones.

In this exclusive interview conducted by Benny Henderson Jr. Music Wire Online speaks with vocalist Matt James, getting his thoughts on their influences, their rise to fame, their upcoming album and more, enjoy.


Benny Henderson Jr.
How did Blacktop Mojo come about?
 
Matt James
I worked in a coffee shop at a college and did some music playing some acoustic stuff here and there. I ran into Nathan who had some mutual friends. He came out to see me play one night and ended up helping me play the drums. Later that night I went to his house with a bottle of crown and my guitar, and Blacktop Mojo was born.

BH
Blacktop Mojo is a unique name, how exactly did you guys come up with that?

Matt James
You’re here in East Texas as we are, so you know there are a lot of small towns here with back roads. Although we don’t advocate drinking and driving sometime it happens. We were doing some backroading and we happen to cross a blacktop and I needed something to stir my drink and my friend handed me a mojo key from a duck call. And with a drunken slur Blacktop Mojo came out and everybody in the truck liked it so it stuck.

BH
I have to say that Blacktop Mojo has a terrific sound, although you guys have not been together too long, you have a very tight sound, sounds very experienced. So how did you all come up with the Blacktop Mojo sound? Who influenced you guys?

Matt James
Influence wise we are all kind of over the map. The drummer, I would say his favorite band is Tool, so a lot of the rhythm is mixed up and not the same straight beat all the time. We all have so many different influences, I grew up all over the place when it comes to music, and my Mom loves hair metal, so I have hair metal running through my veins. Southern rock of course is a huge influence over us. Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, Molly Hatchet, The Allman Brothers. And growing up 90’s grunge and post grunge kind of stuck with us. We like to think that if Lynyrd Skynyrd and Sound Garden met in a bar and had a drink together and had a baby, it would be us.

BH
Chris Cornell is a very tough vocalist.

Matt James
That’s my hero right there.

BH
Growing up did you have the dream to be in a band or did it just unfold that way?

Matt James
I really did not pick up the guitar and start singing until I was around seventeen years old. And I never really sang in front of people until I was almost out of college. I started writing songs and singing and fell in love with it. Luckily I had a lot of people encouraging me along the way, keeping me after it. Once you start playing in front of people it sort of becomes like an addiction.

BH
I hear a lot of bands gripe about not getting the local support. How has the support been for you all?

Matt James
We have a great music community in Tyler, TX. There is a lot of great bands doing a lot of great things and we are all supportive of one another. There are not a lot of rock venues around here, but the ones who do put us on make it count.

BH
Blacktop Mojo has shared the stage with a lot of different veteran bands, most recently Candlebox and Drowning Pool. Any of the acts you work with give you any good advice?

Matt James
It really just depends, sometimes you will run into bands who have been on tour for a long time and they are held up in their bus so we don’t get to meet them. But, as far as the national acts that we have gotten to hang out with they have all really been supportive and real good guys.

BH
The debut album, “I Am” is such a tremendous album, but now you guys are working on your sophomore album. The first release, “Where the Wind Blows” is another top notch tune. Talk a little about the new single and such.

Matt James
Jimmy Johnson from the Muscle Shoals Swampers helped up produce that one. Jimmy has worked with everyone from Aretha Franklin all the way to helping Lynyrd Skynyrd cut their first demo. He has also worked with The Rolling Stones, Bob Segar and Paul Simon, they guy has a roster a mile long. We are very fortunate to get to work with him, we are really excited about it.

BH
Jimmy has worked with legends, so I ask, what have you taken away from working with him?

Matt James
A lot of great stuff, we learn from just watching him work. We learn from hearing his stories, Jimmy has so many stories, we learned that greats like Lynyrd Skynyrd had to start somewhere. The legends even had to eat peanut butter sandwiches and drive around in a van, and that is encouraging, you just don’t become a star overnight. It takes a lot of hard work.