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Kathy Mattea

It’s hard to imagine anyone more suited to serving as the new host of Mountain Stage than two-time GRAMMY Award winner and West Virginia native Kathy Mattea.

“If someone was going to invent a job that combined all of my passions and all of my skills, this would be it,” Mattea reflects. “It’s just the perfect fit in every way.”

Over the course of Mountain Stage’s nearly 40-year run on public radio, the show has become something of a second home for Mattea, who’s appeared as a guest on the Charleston-based program more times than any other female artist (she ranks second overall only to her good friend and fellow West Virginia native Tim O’Brien).

“There’s something quintessentially West Virginia about Mountain Stage,” Mattea explains. “Beyond the world-class performances, beyond the collaborative atmosphere, beyond how much fun it is, I think the show offers a really important insight into the people and the culture that make West Virginia so special, and I’m always thrilled to help share that with the world.”

Born and raised in Kanawha County, Mattea lived in West Virginia until the late 1970s, when she moved to Nashville to pursue her dreams of a career in music. She signed her first record deal in 1983 and charted with a pair of early releases, but it was her acclaimed third album, Walk The Way The Wind Blows, that truly signaled her arrival as a star. The record produced four Top 10 singles at country radio and set the stage for Mattea’s 1987 smash, Untasted Honey, which marked the first of five of her albums to be certified gold. Untasted Honey contained back-to-back #1 country singles, as did 1989’s Willow In The Wind, which helped Mattea take home two consecutive CMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards along with a GRAMMY for Best Female Vocal Performance. The LA Times called her “a performer of limitless potential,” while the Washington Post hailed her as “one of Nashville's finest song interpreters,” and People described her as “warm, strong, smart and generally splendid.” Over the next three decades, Mattea would go on to record nearly a dozen more albums exploring country, folk, Celtic, and gospel music; collaborate with everyone from Jackson Browne to Townes Van Zandt; notch her first platinum record with a collection of her greatest hits; earn her second GRAMMY Award; top the Bluegrass Albums chart; and garner yet another GRAMMY nomination for Coal, her Marty Stuart-produced exploration of Appalachian mining songs. Mattea’s most recent release, 2018’s Pretty Bird, marked her triumphant return to the studio after nearly losing her voice and prompted glowing profiles from NPR, Billboard, Rolling Stone, and more.

In 2019, Mattea began guest-hosting episodes of Mountain Stage at the suggestion of co-founder and original executive producer Andy Ridenour. Filling in for longtime host Larry Groce, who’d never missed a show in the series’ entire run, was a daunting task, but Mattea’s deep well of musical knowledge, easygoing chemistry with guests, and profound personal reverence for the program and its history made her a natural.

“I understood the culture, I understood the music, and I was just as comfortable singing with the guests as I was chatting with them,” says Mattea. “Stepping into that role felt like finding something I’d been yearning for without even realizing it.”

“Kathy’s been coming on the show for more than 30 years now,” adds Groce, “and in all that time and with all her success, she really hasn’t changed who she is at her core. She embodies the best of West Virginia the same way Mountain Stage does, and that’s how we knew she’d be the perfect person for this job.”

In 2021, Mattea took over as full-time host of Mountain Stage to a warm welcome from loyal listeners around the country. Given the profound effect the show has had on her over the years, the honor’s not one Mattea takes lightly. She sees herself as a steward of the series, a keeper of the flame whose primary responsibility is to carry on the traditions and the legacy that have made Mountain Stage such an integral part of the public radio landscape these past four decades. Like her predecessors, she aims to bring humor, heart, and a whole lot of unforgettable performances to the airwaves, showcasing both rising young talent and legendary veterans while at the same time sharing a taste of the West Virginia she grew up with, a place full of friendly, funny, brilliant people who tend to be too humble and kind to toot their own horns.

“One of the reasons I love this job so much is that it’s not about me,” Mattea explains. “There’s something so rewarding about being able to take whatever success I’ve had in my career and pass that on to the next person, to be able to shine a light on these amazing artists and this wonderful state and this incredibly important institution.”

Her place in Mountain Stage history long since assured, Kathy Mattea is ready to help guide the show into the future one joyous, eclectic night of music at a time.