Active since 1983 as a recording artist, Kathy Mattea has recorded seventeen albums and has charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts. This total includes the number one hits "Goin' Gone," "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses," "Come From the Heart" and "Burnin' Old Memories," as well as twelve additional Top Ten singles.
While she is best known as a country music and bluegrass performer, she also brings folk, Celtic and traditional country sounds to her music.
She worked as a tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame, did backup vocal work for Bobby Goldsboro, and sang demos for several Nashville songwriters and publishers including Nashville songwriter/producer Byron Hill who brought her to the attention of then head of Mercury Records, Frank Jones, who signed her to her first recording contract 1983.
In 1986, Mattea's third album, Walk the Way the Wind Blows, proved to be her breakthrough both critically and commercially. Her cover of Nanci Griffith's "Love at the Five and Dime" was her first major hit, reaching #3. The album produced three other top ten songs: "Walk the Way the Wind Blows" (#10), "You're the Power"(#5), and "Train of Memories" (#6). "Love at the Five and Dime" also drew attention because well-known country singer Don Williams sang harmony vocals on the track.
Other hit songs include her first #1, "Goin' Gone"; 1988's the truck-driving song "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses"; "Come From the Heart" and "Burnin' Old Memories" - both #1 hits in 1989. In the 1990s she had hits with "She Came From Fort Worth," "Lonesome Standard Time," "Walking Away a Winner," "Nobody's Gonna Rain on Our Parade," "Maybe She's Human" and "455 Rocket."
"Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" became the first single by a solo female to spend multiple weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard country singles chart since Dolly Parton's "You're the Only One" in August 1979.
The heartrending "Where've You Been," which Mattea's husband Jon Vezner co-wrote with singer/songwriter Don Henry, reached #10 on the country chart and won her a 1990 Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal.
Mattea is a repeat winner of the County Music Associations Female Vocalist of the Year, which she won on the success of "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" and "Where've You Been."
Mattea won another Grammy in 1993 for her gospel-oriented Christmas album, Good News. In 1994, Mattea collaborated with Suzy Bogguss, Alison Krauss, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash to contribute "Teach Your Children" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization. Also on that album, Mattea teamed up with Jackson Browne to contribute "Rock Me on the Water."
Mattea subsequently moved to MCA Nashville and, in 2000, released the ballad-heavy The Innocent Years, a heartfelt tribute to her ailing father. Wanting to explore her taste for Celtic folk, Mattea hopped labels to Narada, for whom she debuted in 2002 with the eclectic Roses.
Her 2008 release, Coal, combined her social activism with songs about coal-mining. It debuted at #64 on the country albums chart.
Though her recent work has failed to make the country charts, Mattea continued to enjoy a strong following throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s; her albums are critically well-received, and she continues to tour and perform. She continues to have strong support from a very active fan club, whose members refer to themselves as Matteaheads.
In 1991, Mattea took part in Voices That Care, a multi-artist project that featured other top names in music for a one-off single to raise money for the allied troops in the Gulf War. She has also been heavily involved in HIV/AIDS-related charities, beginning in the early 1990s, and is often credited with being among the first to champion this cause among the country music community.
She performed with Mary Chapin Carpenter on VH1's very first Save The Music concert, which also starred Bette Midler.
Mattea currently travels the country presenting Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and speaking to crowds about the importance of fighting global warming and the environmental and physical devastation of coal mining.