Known for her blend of traditional and folk tunes, Kathy Mattea is one of the most respected female country singers of her era. After performing in a number of bands throughout her high school and university days, Mattea eventually embarked solo career after securing her first recording deal with Mercury Records at the age of twenty four. Working her way towards becoming a successful music artist, she released her debut eponymous album Kathy Mattea in 1983. Since then, she has gone on to release seventeen full-length albums and over forty singlesーmost of which have charted. To date, the country singer has achieved a total of seventeen top ten singles, including some of her classic hits Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses, Come from the Heart and Goin’ Gone.
Known for her sincere and sonorous vocals, Mattea also has a vast amount of industry awards under her belt. A celebrated musician, she has won three Academy Country Music Awards (two for her single, Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses), four Country Music Association Awards as well as two Grammy Awards. On top of the ones which has ultimately taken home, she has also received five additional nominations for the Academy of Country Music Award, three for the American Music Award, and four for the Grammy Award. In 1990, she was also a nominee for the Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” award. Aside from her music-related accolades, she has also received the Harvard AIDS Institute Leadership Award as well as the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award for her contributions to various HIV and AID related charities.
In addition to her success as a recording artist, Mattea has also dipped briefly into acting during the 90’s and early 2000’s. Some of her early works behind the camera include the action comedy, Maverick (1994) and the family drama, Touched by an Angel (2000). Besides live-action, she has also lent her voice to a couple of television movies including Rachel and Andrew Jackson: A Love Story (2001) and The Griffin and the Minor Canon (2002). Over the years, she has also been featured on a number of TV specials such as America’s Music: The Roots of Country (1996), The Roots of Country: Nashville Celebrates the Ryman (1994) and The Women of Country (1993), to name a few.
So what has the country performer been up to since then? Where has she gone? What happened to Kathy Mattea? Where is she now in 2018?
Kathy Mattea’s Early Life and Eventual Desire to Become a Music Artist
Born on June 21, 1959 in South Charleston, West Virginia, Kathleen Alice Mattea is the daughter of Ruth and John Mattea, both of which grew up in coal camps. Raised in her parents home in the suburbs of Cross Lanes with her brother, Mattea spent much of her time working at the coal mines with the rest of her family. As a teen during the early 70’s, she went to Nitro High School, a public school in the Kanawha County; it was also during that time that she eventually discovered her passion for music while at a Girl Scout Camp with some of her friends. An excellent student, Mattea excelled in all of her classes and was described as a typical A’s student.
After graduating from high school, Mattea attended West Virginia University, where she majored in chemistry and physics. In order to pay for her courses, she worked part time back at the coal mines near her home. Wanting to get back into music, she later became a member of the bluegrass band, Pennsboro. However she would soon drop out of her classes after two years in order to pursue a career in folk music in Nashville, Tennessee. With no immediate success in sight, Mattea landed a job at the Country Music Hall of Fame as a tour guide to help make ends meetーa position which she’d later learn to appreciate as it had taught her how to handle herself in front of a crowd. While she worked there, she also took part in various side projects performing the backup vocals for a handful of singers including Bobby Goldsboro.
Not giving up on her dream of becoming a musician, Mattea eventually recorded a handful of demo tapes which she ultimately sent off to a number of publishers and songwriters in the city. In a stroke of fate, her songs eventually found its way into the hands of music producer, Byron Hill. Moved by her performance, Hill brought the aspiring singer to the attention of Frank Jones, who later offered Mattea her first recording contract in 1983.
Kathy Mattea’s Early Music Career During the 80’s
In March 1984, Mattea released her first studio album entitled, Kathy Mattea. Featuring a listing of ten tracks, the album included the singles You’ve Got a Soft Place to Fall, That’s Easy for You to Say, Someone is Falling in Love and Street Talk. Praised for her warm alto voice by music critics, the album peaked at number forty-two on the US Billboard Top Country Albums Chart a few weeks after its released. Although it wasn’t a megabit, Kathy Mattea did help Mattea to get her name out there in the music industry.
The next year, the country singer released her second full-length album, From My Heart in January 1985. Produced by Allen Reynolds, the record once again consisted of ten songs, one of which was Ball and Chainーa cover of Elton John’s 1982 hit piece. In contrast to her debut effort, the album also contained more up-beat music, as noted by critic, William Ruhlmann. Given three and a half stars from Allmusic, From My Heart was a strong follow-up to Kathy Mattea, from just a year prior. Having spawned four separate singles, the album later went up to the number forty-two spot on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart, performing the same as her first album.
It wasn’t until 1986, that Mattea finally got her breakthrough with her third album entitled, Walk the Way the Wind Blows. With a track list of ten songs, it included many eventual hits such as Song for the Life, Love at the Five and Dime, You’re the Power and Train of Memories; the first of which would later be covered by several other music artists. Charting at number thirteen on the Billboard Top Country Albums, Walk the Way was significantly more successful than her previous albums. Considered to be “one of her better efforts,” the album soon produced Mattea’s first single to reach the top ten.
Quickly rising in prominence in the US, Mattea released her fourth album, Untasted Honey in September 1987. Featuring a duet with fellow music artist, Tim O’Brien, the album peaked at number eleven on the Billboard Top Country Albums shortly after its releaseーher best charting record since her debut back in 1984. Noted for its powerful title track, Untold Stories, it would be her first record to receive Gold Certification status from the RIAA for having achieved over 500,000 sales in the US.
Following in its success, the singer released her last album of the 80’s, Willow in the Wind in April 1989. As her highest-peaking record, it climbed up to the number sixth position on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart shortly after being made available in stores. A critical hit, the album later produced four singles including Come from the Heart, Where’ve You Been, Burning’ Old Memories and She Came from fort Worthーall of which would rank amongst the top ten in the Billboard Country Single Chart. Where’ve You Been would later also earn Mattea her first Grammy Award for the category of “Best Female Country Vocal Performance” in 1990. As of July 1990, the album was certified Gold in the United States for having sold over 500,000 copies.
Kathy Mattea’s Continued Music Career During the 90’s and 2000’s
In March 1991, Mattea released her sixth studio album entitled, Time Passes Byーit would also be her third record to be given Gold accreditation from the RIAA. Warmly received by fans and critics upon its release, the album eventually peaked at number nine on the US Billboard Top Country Albums Chart and at number seventy-two on the US Billboard 200. It soon spawned four singles including, Whole Lotta Holes, Time Passes By, Asking Us to Dance and From a Distance.
Over the rest of the decade, the singer released three more full length albums: Lonesome Standard Time, Walking Away a Winner and Love Travels; of the three, two would go on to be certified gold by the RIAA for having received over 500,000 sales in the US.
Although Mattea would continue with her music recording through to the next millennium, none would reach the same charting performance as those from the 80’s and 90’s. Some of her more recent albums include, Calling Me Home (2012), Coal (2008), Right Out of Nowhere (2005), Roses (2002) and The Innocent Years (2000); unfortunately, none would chart within the top ten in the US Country Charts.
What’s Kathy Mattea Doing Now in 2018- Recent Updates
Although she hasn’t released any new material for a few years, she has been traveling to perform for her fans in a wide variety of cities across the country. On September 23rd, 2016, Mattea will be performing alongside long-time collaborator, Bill Cooley on the stage of the Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tennessee. Not only will the pair be sharing their music at the event, but they will also be sharing some of the stories that they hold dear to their hearts. From there, she will then be heading on the road to perform at the Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville and at the Davis Theatre in Concord.
Going into October, Mattea will also be holding concerts at the city of Jonesborough, as well as in Akron and Port Clinton, and a couple of others. Looking at her touring schedule, it looks like her schedule is quite packed full until at least March of next year! Currently the last performance listed on her official page is the one to be held at the Poor David’s Pub in Dallas, Texas in March 2017.
This past January, the country star also took part in the Country Music Cruise, a luxurious vacation trip in the high seas that offers those on board the opportunity to watch music artists perform live on the stage. First announced as an exclusive guest back in February 2014, Mattea was also joined on the cruise by Kenny Rogers, The Oak Ridge Boys, Jamie O’Neal, Riders in the Sky, Wade Haynes, and numerous others.
If you’d like to stay up to date with the Grammy-award winning singer, you can do so by following her on her official Youtube Channel (we have to say, she’s a fairly frequent poster). Or if you’d prefer, you can also get some of her latest news on her official website (mattea.com)!