Lisa Matassa Finally Singing the Music She Always Wanted to Sing
She calls it "Long Island country music." Lisa Matassa says she coined the phrase to mean a mix of rock and modern country, the two genres that root the properly trained vocalist. Her new song 'Somebody's Baby' exemplifies that mix, and fans are loving it to the tune of nearly four million views on YouTube.
One good song does not the singer make, however. Matassa's career began over 20 years ago when she was a pop singer named Lysa Lynn. She had two hits -- 'I've Got the Hots for You' and 'Rock Me Baby' -- but knew she wasn't being true to herself. "It wasn't the music I wanted to sing," the Long Island native tells Taste of Country. "It wasn't in my heart and I knew that the timing for country music in New York wasn't right."
Matassa was born in New York, but spent much of her childhood in Florida. She remembers listening to her parents' diverse record collection and falling in love with country music and southern rock. More than the music, it was the lifestyle that seduced her.
"There was all open fields and farmland and horse farms and there weren't big shopping malls and stuff like that that you have now," she recalls. Matassa moved back to New York at age 16 because her brother needed medical care and, while she had trouble readjusting to being a Yankee, it's now her home. There are no plans to move to Nashville to "make it."
She's already "making it." Matassa -- who plays the Taste of Country Music Festival on June 15 -- has a supportive husband and two teenage kids that provide plenty of inspiration for her songwriting. She speaks with endless enthusiasm about her music and career, but when it comes to writing, she softens, approaching the subject with a certain reverence. 'Learning as You Grow' from the 'Somebody's Baby' EP is one that she is particularly proud of. It's about learning how to parent on the fly, because babies don't come with an instruction booklet.
"Every song as a songwriter that you write has a meaning to you, and as an artist I wanna make sure that the songs that I sing are believable because I've either experienced them or witnessed them firsthand," she says. "Like you'll never hear me sing a song about hunting or something like that, because I'm not a hunter. But I can tell you what it's like to have heartbreak. I can tell you what it's like to raise kids in this world right now."
The EP also features covers of 'Heaven' by Bryan Adams and 'I Will Always Love You' by Dolly Parton -- not exactly material you can mess up without anyone noticing. Matassa's version of the Parton song was recorded live, somewhat spontaneously, days after Whitney Houston died. She remembers closing her eyes during the first verse and being overwhelmed when the audience began cheering before she got to the first chorus.
Matassa's live set at the ToC Music Festival will come late at night, after headliners Lady Antebellum finish. Hunter Hayes, Joe Nichols and Billy Currington are also on the bill that day. The songstress promises to keep the last night of the three-day fest lively with a full band and their well-rehearsed set of originals and covers, including Aretha Franklin's 'Chain of Fools.'
Two songs you won't hear: 'I've Got the Hots for You' and 'Rock Me Baby.' "I haven't sung those songs since 1992," she says, laughing. "I'd have to get to the two (shirtless) guys who used to dance next me." Matassa will perform on the Guts and Glory Stage, presented by Ram, on June 15 at 11:45PM ET.