Hunter Hayes Picks Old Pals Striking Matches To Open NYC Show

'We go back a little ways,' Matches say of Hayes, who hand-picked them to open his MTV Artist To Watch Show on June 18.

Rising Nashville duo Striking Matches have battled their way to the finals of the O Music Awards’ “Make A Band Famous” competition — the winner gets a once-in-a-lifetime shot to play VMA weekend in August, and will be featured on MTV, VH1 or CMT — and now, with voting set to close in exactly one week, well, let’s just say they’re not playing for second.

“You know, we kind of felt like we’ve won it already, because our fans have been incredible with voting and spreading the word,” Matches member Justin Davis said. “And, you know, it’s an honor just to make it this far and all that, but we really want to win, if only because our fans have worked so hard just to get us here.”

“When we first entered, I was a little scared, only because we’re still this little band, you know, all the other bands had such bigger followings,” his partner, Sarah Zimmermann added. “But now, we’ve got a chance to win, and to be involved with CMT, so, yeah … we’re really hoping we can win it all.”

Of course, in a way, the Matches — who, in just three short years, have landed songs on the ABC hit “Nashville” and played with everyone from Vince Gill to Kellie Pickler— have already won: They’ve just been hand-picked by Hunter Hayes to serve as the opening act at his June 18 MTV Artist to Watch LIVE show in New York City, which will not only bring the band to the Big Apple, but brings them full circle, too.

“We go back a little ways, before he released his record, Hunter used to come out to our shows, and we’ve developed a friendship,” Davis said. “We respect him, we’ve gotten to know his family, but he’s been away while, and he’s had his success, so it’s really incredible well get to hang out and make some music together.”

“He’s a killer player, too,” Zimmermann laughed. “So it will be great to share the stage with him.”

So, with the Hayes gig lined up, and a potential shot at performing during VMA weekend on the horizon, things are happening pretty quick for Striking Matches … though, to hear them tell it, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“You know, we’ve been at this for three years, and I think we’ve grown by leaps and bound. It feels like it’s growing every day,” Davis said. “It’s incredibly cool to see it happen, to watch people singing the words back to us from the stage, we’ve only heard about this, and now we get to experience it. But we’ve still got so far to go.”