Back in February of this year I wrote a review for Blacktop Mojo’s sophomore album, Burn the Ships, and professed that they would without a doubt see their success explode once the world got a taste of their tremendous musicality. Well, I hate to say I told you so…but I told you so. (review of “Burn The Ships”)
Over this past year Blacktop Mojo has captured the attention of millions of fans and fellow musicians with their heavy, gritty sound that seamlessly blends melody and adrenaline. They were praised for their brilliant cover of the 1973 Aerosmith hit “Dream On.” They have watched their hit single “Where the Wind Blows” climb the charts. They have toured with major acts across the nation – including opening for Bon Jovi at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. They have jammed with Sammy Hagar and Darryl DMC McDaniels on AXS TV’s Rock N’ Roll Road Trip. And this is just the beginning.
I had a chance to chat with lead vocalist Matt James about the incredible year Blacktop Mojo has experienced.
It’s been a big year for Blacktop Mojo – tell me how your lives have changed over the past year?
The main thing was we definitely got a lot busier. We’ve had a lot of cool opportunities come up. We got to open for Bon Jovi back in February at the American Airlines Center. That was nuts! A month after that we got to go on Sammy Hagar’s TV show and play with him and DMC from Run DMC. And then just getting in this van and touring has been really awesome. It’s what we’ve been working toward for a long time so we’re pretty excited and we hope to keep climbing.
What do you think has played the biggest role in your success?
We definitely have good people around us. Tom (Tom George of High Road Publicity) has been an invaluable member of our team. We’ve got a great manager and we work hard. We like what we do so it’s pretty easy to work hard at it.
You guys all seem to get along pretty well?
Oh yeah. We live together when we’re off the road so we pretty much have to get along. (laughs) We’ve really only known each other these last five years since we had the band. Few months before that we had some mutual friends and we used to run into each other at parties and bars and whatnot, but we haven’t really known each other that long. It’s pretty nice to run into guys you get along with that well.
When did you know you wanted to do this? Did you wake up one day and say, “Hey…I’m going to be a rock star.”?
(laughs) Uh definitely not. I started playing guitar a lot in college (Northwestern State University in Louisiana) and playing at parties for my friends. I started writing songs and whenever I started writing songs I had a gut feeling that I liked that a lot. It kind of grabbed ahold of me and that’s kinda when I knew what I wanted to do.
What made you decide to cover Dream On – a huge song, big shoes to fill – what made you take on such a challenge?
It really kind of happened by chance. We had been doing some cover videos and putting them out periodically while we were writing the second album. We had one of our buddies come up and say, “Hey man, you should cover Dream On by Aerosmith.” And we were like, “NOOOO!” But then our producer Phil Mosley, who helped produce both of our records, said, “Hey we should give this a shot. Nobody ever has to hear it if we don’t like it.” So we recorded it and we let our close friends and family listen to it. They are usually pretty honest with us when something sucks. We trust them a lot. They approved of it so we just had to put it out there in the world and we’ve been completely blown away by how well it has done.
Somewhere I read that “if Soundgarden and Lynyrd Skynyrd were to take a roll in the hay, nine months later, out would pop Blacktop Mojo.” Did Soundgarden have a big influence on you all?
Definitely. Definitely. All of us have our different tastes in different kinds of music, but our common ground is that we all really dig the heavy 90s stuff. Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Tool. All that kind of stuff. So that’s a pretty big influence on us. Man, we took Chris Cornell’s death pretty hard like anybody else. He is definitely a hero of mine especially being a vocalist. Me and Matt Curtis (bassist for the band) actually got tattoos. That’s kinda how we dealt with it.
We actually did Audioslave acoustic the other night – “Like A Stone” – in Lafayette, Indiana. We’ve done “Fell on Black Days” acoustic before too and I’d like to do that full band some day – when we get the time to work that up that would be pretty cool.
You’ve toured with some huge artists – have you had any favorites? Any favorite tour moments or memories that stand out?
Playing with Shaman’s Harvest the other night was really cool. They are really nice guys. They came off their bus and talked to us. We’ve been down for this for a while. We like their style of music – it’s kinda similar to our style – you know, southern heavy stuff. So it was really cool to meet them and get to find out that they’re just normal country guys like us.
Who have you not toured with yet that you would most like to?
I think we’d all like to do a tour with Shinedown. We all dig Shinedown. Let’s call them up! (laughs)
You all are engaged in the writing process together. What does that look like?
We actually all write together for the most part. Sometimes a guy will have a more developed idea and he’ll have actual music and lyrics written. But most of the time we all just get in a room together and kind of jam some stuff out. Maybe one guy will play something and then somebody will say, “Hey man I like that. Let’s build on that part.” Then we just keep building on it until we have something we like.
Have you started working on new material already?
Yeah, definitely. Every time we get together.
Another thing I read on your Facebook page under “Band Interests” is “wrestling gators.” Anybody ever actually do that?
Ummmm. Not recently let’s put it that way. There’s a funny story about that. I wrote that bio and stuff probably three days into having a Facebook page and then forgot about it. And then we were featured in Classic Rock Magazine with the title “Gators, Guns N’ Whiskey” (http://teamrock.com/feature/2017-06-19/introducing-blacktop-mojo-gators-guns-n-whiskey). And I was like oh crap. But now we kinda lean into it.
If you had to describe Blacktop Mojo’s music in 3 words – what 3 words would you use?
Oh man. Fire. (laughs) I don’t know, man! That’s a hard one. What three would YOU use? Let me turn the question around on you.
Me: I’d probably use soulful, heavy – I liked fire, too – hot maybe? I don’t know I just get this swampy vibe.
Matt: Swampy, Spicy, Heavy. Let’s do it!
What else do you really want the world to know about Blacktop Mojo?
Just keep up with us. We’re going to be hitting the road a lot in the next few months. So come on out to the shows and meet us. We don’t bite – well, okay we don’t bite hard.
If you haven’t checked out Blacktop Mojo yet you need to get on it immediately. This is a talented group of humble country boys who work hard for their fans and make music that appeals to fans of a variety of genres – traditional hard rock, steamy southern rock, and even mainstream top 40 rock. Buy their music. Go to a show. Follow them online. Don’t miss out on this amazing band.
By Cathy Moore of Moore Rock Shots & Reviews
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