Collectively, Aaron Paul Zimmer and Jay Rudd are already a known entity as part of City Hotel. Last year, Zimmer released his excellent solo album, Saints & Heretics, and now he's joining forces with Rudd for a new project.
Zimmer & Rudd, Volume 1 is a five-song EP of original material written and performed by the duo that fall under the umbrella of roots music and follow in the tradition of bluegrass guitar and mandolin duos. They’ll be celebrating the project with a show at Tybee Post Theater on Sat., July 13, alongside special guests Russel Cook and the Sweet Teeth.
We chatted with Zimmer ahead of the show.
How did the idea to do a duo project come about?
Zimmer: Well, Jay had traded Jason Bible of the Train Wrecks some studio time for odd jobs and stuff like that. So Jay decided to do some projects with musicians around town, just as a summer project. We’d done some duo stuff in the past; the biggest thing we did as a duo was open for Lyn Avenue’s CD release party at the Tybee Post last summer. That went well, and obviously we’ve been playing in City Hotel for a long time together.
We liked the chemistry, and the mandolin/guitar duo is something that’s pretty traditional in bluegrass. We harmonize pretty well together too, so it was just kind of a natural thing.
About how long did it take to complete the EP from the time the idea was hatched? Was there a writing period or were the songs there?
Zimmer: There was a writing period. He had the idea to put together the EP, and I think it was basically a couple of weeks. He’s one of those guys who’ll set his mind to something and just get it done. He’s a good person to work with because that also inspires me to do the same. It’s probably the quickest we’ve ever put together material. I wrote a couple of songs for the EP and he wrote a couple of songs, and we did maybe three or four rehearsals.
But we’ve been playing in a band together for so long that it’s pretty intuitive now. It’s easy to write songs that sound good for the two of us.
How is it different than the City Hotel stuff, or even your solo record?
Zimmer: It’s pretty folky. More folk/Americana. If you’re familiar with the band Mandolin Orange, it’s a sound similar to that. Tony Rice and Ricky Skaggs—there’s a lot of parts written for the mandolin, lots of vocal harmonies. It’s your classic guitar/mandolin duo.
In terms of the show, what should people expect?
Zimmer: We both have a lot of solo material, and so it’ll mostly be originals. There might be a few City Hotel songs in there, but mostly it’ll be songs off of the EP and a couple songs that people haven’t heard before. It’ll offer people a new glimpse into what we can do, but fans of City Hotel will find something they like too.
Sometimes doing solo projects or side projects can be really healthy if you’ve been in a band for a long time. It definitely seems like it’s reinvigorating, in a way. What’s been your experience with doing these kinds of projects?
Zimmer: City Hotel’s been playing together for eight years now, so there’s a certain level of comfort. So it’s always good to force yourself to be nervous again [laughs]. Or push yourself to sit down and write songs. There’s a similar vein that we strive after, and we’ve kind of found our niche, so to get outside of that is always exciting.
When I play with City Hotel, I don’t get nervous anymore. We know what to expect, we know who’s going to be there, all of that kind of stuff. So this is exciting. I always like going off and doing projects like this.