W.Va. Native Kathy Mattea Joins Mountain Stage As Its New Host
West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Mountain Stage has announced its new host. After 38 years and more than 900 episodes co-founder Larry Groce is handing the mic over to Kathy Mattea -- a West Virginia native who has been making country music since the early 80s.
Mattea is a two-time Grammy Award winner with numerous top 10 hits on country radio. Fans might remember Mattea’s hit “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses.” She’s also gained significant critical acclaim, with The Washington Post calling her “one of Nashville's finest song interpreters.”
After guest-hosting Mountain Stage several times, Mattea was asked to take over full time. Inside Appalachia co-host Caitlin Tan spoke with Mattea hosting helm at Mountain Stage and why she decided to take it on.
**This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.**
Caitlin Tan: Was it a hard decision to accept the hosting position for Mountain Stage?
Kathy Mattea: You know, it's challenging. It doesn't look like I should do this on paper. But, I think Mountain Stage is important, I think live music is important, I think West Virginia culture is important, and I was just like, “Yeah, I think I’ve got to say yes.”
Tan: What was your reaction, kind of absorbing this new title and thinking about how this is going to look going forward?
Mattea: You know, I keep talking to my friends about it and saying, “There are so many amazing musicians out there making music that blows your mind.” And so I feel like that part is really good for me. Because as you get older, it's easy to just kind of be a stick in the mud and sort of not go out of your comfort zone. Part of the challenge for me is I may not instantly like everybody I hear. So I try to get to the essence of what is special about them, like, what is it about this person that connects with the people who love them? And then I get to sort of bring that to new people as I check this person out.
Tan: So you are originally from Cross Lanes, West Virginia, and I'm curious how it feels getting to host a show that was founded and housed out of the Mountain State?
Mattea: Well, you know, I've spent my whole life being sort of a West Virginia native daughter. I moved to Nashville when I was 19, and then I wound up getting to take this ride in the music business -- touring all over the country and much of the world.
So, I wound up talking about the place that I'm from, and the place that made me. You know, there's so much stereotypical stuff about hillbilly culture and it’s a chance to bring some of the soulfulness of that to people and break those stereotypes
Tan: As you take the reins, how will Mountain Stage look similar, and are you planning to add anything new?
Mattea: I kind of think of it as one of those Olympic relay races. Larry just handed me a baton, and my job is to keep the thing going without any major glitches -- keep the momentum and the center and the spirit of it. I’m thinking, “Don't mess this up, Kathy! Don't make it about you!” [laughter]
Tan: [laughter] No! Of course not. What will the Mountain Stage band look like going forward? Will “Simple Song” still be the theme song? And obviously, you are an incredibly accomplished singer yourself. So I'm really hoping we'll get to hear you singing?
Mattea: Well, as far as I know, the theme song is gonna stay the same. I don't see any reason to change it.
You know, I see myself as sort of stewarding something that is a container for other people's music. I don't see this as like, “Oh, I'm gonna get on that stage. I'm just gonna sing a whole bunch.” You know? That’s not how I feel about it. I feel like part of my job is to take my ego out of it.