Perform at The McCallum Theater in Palm Desert on Friday, March 2
By Jason Hall
Squirrel Nut Zippers are an amazing cross between Delta Blues and jazz. The sound comes natural to founding member, Jimbo Mathus. He was born and raised in Mississippi. His whole family had been involved in music for generations and obviously passed their skill down to Jimbo.
Upon moving to North Carolina, Jumbo met Katherine Whalen and Tom Maxwell and started playing a sort of swing revival under the moniker Squirrel Nut Zippers. The trio enlisted the help of several musicians, and hit the ground running. Their sophomore album, Hot, was a commercial success and features hits “Hell” and “Put A Lid On It.”
In 2000, the band called it quits. In 2006, the band briefly reunited, but again called it quits. In 2016, Mathus and Chris Phillips reunited the band once more, but this time as more of a revival featuring completely new musicians. Mathus felt it was time to put a spin on the old songs and work on new music. There are 2 new songs you can listen to on their Facebook page. Squirrel Nut Zippers have a new album on the horizon, and will be playing new and old songs during their performance at The McCallum Theater in Palm Desert on Friday, March 2.
CV Weekly: Has music always been a part of your life?
Jimbo Mathus: “Yes it has man. I come from a family of musicians where music was a part of weekend activities. I picked up the mandolin when I was six years old. I started playing with my dad and uncles and cousins.”
CV Weekly: Were you always into swing or did your musical style slowly progress into what the Squirrel Nut Zippers are?
Mathus: “I’m from Mississippi. I started out with honky-tonk, country, gospel, blues, and all that kind of stuff. I don’t think anybody in history started off with what the Zippers are. It took a long time to put that together. It’s not really swing. It’s an amalgamation of a lot of different stuff. Unless you grew up just post World War 2, you probably didn’t grow up with swing. I was blessed to meet some of the old swing cats like Al Casey. Once I got interested in it, they were able to guide me and mentor me in those different pursuits.”
CV Weekly: You’ve been recording solo projects since shortly after Squirrel Nut Zippers formed. Was that an outlet for songs that didn’t fit Squirrel Nut Zippers?
Mathus: “I would say so. It’s a part of who I am. I’m a writer, a historian, and musician. I’m interested in all forms of music; especially weird, old American music. The whole time I was with the Zippers, I was also writing other genres. We just narrowed all that down to what it became.”
CV Weekly: How did you get involved with Buddy Guy?
Mathus: “Through word of mouth just like everything that’s ever happened in my musical career. Somebody that knew me just recommended me for this record they were making called Sweet Tea. That did really well. The next year we did Blues Singer. We got a Grammy for that. I ended up working with Buddy off and on for 5 years. At that time, I was still pretty young. “
CV Weekly: What are you listening to which may surprise fans?
Mathus: “Cardi B!”
CV Weekly: SNZ is releasing their first new album in 18 years. What made you decide it was finally time?
Mathus: “We got the revival of the band going last year. It was a whole new cast to revive this music. Once we started doing these concerts, I saw the response of the audiences, and saw the way the band was creating this magic. The songs started writing themselves after that. There really wasn’t a plan. We just grabbed some studio days throughout the year, maybe 5 days. Then we had the record finished. I knew if we could do that, we could not only capture what we had before, but improve on it.”
CV Weekly: Are you working on any solo material?
Mathus: “I am working on a new solo record. This next one will be 16 or 18 solo records.”
Tickets are $27, $57, or $77 and can be purchased at www.mccallumtheatre.com.