Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people that lived in Winston-Salem and now have moved on to do great things. All of the questions will be about their time in the Twin City.
After a ten year hiatus, the band Jump, Little Children continues to have a loyal following all across the country. The members of the band (Jay Clifford, Matthew Bivins, Evan Bivins, Jonathan Gray, and Ward Williams) now live throughout the United States in Charleston, New York, Atlanta, and Chicago, though they call Winston-Salem home and it is where the band was born. I had the opportunity to talk to Matthew Bivins (the older brother, vocalist and accordion, harmonica, and mandolin player) about the bands upbringing in Winston.
“Winston is such a strange place to grow up,” said Matthew. “Winston-Salem has more culture and art than most cities its size and even bigger cities. It is small enough to know all of your neighbors and know them well and there is just something about it. Every time I come back to Winston, I leave so excited. It feels so much like home, it feels good to be there!”
In the early 1990’s, Matthew moved to Downtown Winston to 2nd St. in a time when Downtown was a ghost town. The brothers went to school at Brunson Elementary, Wiley Middle School, and R.J. Reynolds High School. Matthew was a friend of Cary Clifford (current owner of Winston’s Camino Bakery) and that is how he became friendly with her older brother, Jay, who is the lead singer of Jump, Little Children.
The family also lived across the street from an Irish family, whose son was Christopher Pollen. The three were also friendly with Ward, and both of the brothers plus Jay and Ward all ended up at the North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). In 1991, Jay and Ward were in a band called, The Sound Painters, and Matt and Christopher were able to lure them away to form a new band.
They all lived together in the Washington Park area, and Evan wanted to join the band. He didn’t have an instrument to play, so he taught himself how to play an Irish frame drum. The musical origins of the band were more Irish folk music than rock & roll. They practiced at UNCSA and played local folk festivals. They also played several live shows on Wake Forest’s local radio station (WFDD).
Jay, Christopher, and Matthew all decided to take a break from UNCSA and they moved to Ireland to focus on their music. Matt said, “we knew we weren’t going to be soloists in a classical band, so we traveled to Ireland and stayed in monasteries, while playing in Irish pubs throughout the country.”
The three came back to Winston and decided to move to the most Irish city in America, Boston. Evan joined them, while Ward stayed behind to finish up at UNCSA. Things didn’t go as planned in Boston after Christopher left the band, so they decided to move to Charleston permanently in 1994.
Jump, Little Children as we know them today, officially started once they moved to Charleston. Jonathan, their friend from Myrtle Beach, joined the band as the bass player and Ward, the cellist and guitar player, finished up at UNCSA and moved down, and the band was formed. They kept a lot of the same instruments they used as a folk band, but they started writing rock songs. Hootie and the Blowfish and The Dave Matthews Band were starting to become popular, and this set the stage for a grassroots musical movement.
JLC made their name in the Carolina’s, but it didn’t take long for them to earn national radio play, and start to tour across the country. Between 1995 and 1999, the band released The Licorice Tea Demos, Buzz (a live recording), and perhaps their most famous record, Magazine. Songs like “Cathedrals” and “Quiet” became radio hits, and the band began playing to sold shows of 100 to 5,000 fans. They also started playing New Year’s shows at the Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, and the concerts were revived after their ten year hiatus in 2015.
In the early 2000’s, the band released studio albums, Vertigo and Between The Dim & The Dark, plus a live recording, Live at the Dock Street Theatre. They spent time touring with bands like Guster, Rusted Root, Butch Walker, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Howie Day.
In 2005, the band decided it was time to pursue other areas, including starting a family. Matt has been married for four years, and Evan is engaged. Jay is married with one kid and lives in Charleston. Jonathan also lives in Charleston, and is married with three children. Ward is in Brooklyn, and has one son and a baby on the way.
During their ten year hiatus, their song “Mexico,” which is perhaps my favorite song of the band, was featured in Zach Braff’s movie, Wish I Was Here, and became a hit. Other songs have made it on television, including shows like Party of Five, So You Think You Can Dance, Everwood, and Scrubs.
In 2015, JLC decided it was time to get back together. In April of this year, the band will embark on a tour that includes shows in Asheville, Chapel Hill, Birmingham, and Atlanta. They will also be joining bands like Shovels & Rope, The Avett Brothers, and The Shins at the High Water Festival in Charleston. You can buy tickets to their upcoming tour and merchandise at their website (here).
Below, Matt answers some questions about the band’s favorite parts of Winston-Salem:
Growing up, what were some of your favorite restaurants in Winston?
Growing up, Winston wasn’t a culinary capital like it is today. I just came back to town recently and ate at Quanto Basta and it was great. When I was young, I loved the West End Cafe. We also loved the Rose & Thistle. I think everybody in the band had a job one time or another at Rainbow News.
What were some other things about Winston you really appreciated?
My dad, John Bivins Jr., was a restorationist, and did a lot of work Downtown and at Old Salem. I loved all the people at MESDA (Museum of Early Decorative Arts). My mom, Mary Lucy, who currently works at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, was a theater professor at Wake Forest, and we loved going over there. I did a lot of performing arts growing up, and spent a lot of time in plays at The Little Theatre.
Who are some other musicians from Winston that you know?
Growing up, I remember spending time at the Shakespeare Festival with Becca Stevens and her family when she was very young. Jay’s older sister went to Reynolds with Ben Folds, and Greg Humphries from Dillon Fence was good friends with Ward. I don’t know Paul Defiglia from The Avett Brothers, but look forward to playing with him at the High Water Festival.
Where are some places you enjoyed performing in Winston?
We played at Ziggy’s a lot and at the Millenium Center once we were touring. When we were younger we did acoustic shows at UNCSA that were great!
What do you think about Winston-Salem now?
The revitalization of Downtown is amazing and inspiring. I love to see how much Downtown has changed. My dad moved us there and there weren’t many people living Downtown, and now a lot of people live there.