Written by Ronald Scaglia: [email protected] Friday, 08 June 2012
It’s a wet and dreary morning on Long Island. A pretty, blonde woman escapes the downpour, enters a Starbucks and shakes off the raindrops. This Plainview mother of two could be a typical Long Island mom, sneaking in a cup of coffee between her errands. However, most Long Islanders have not spent the previous evening performing at the NCBY Theatre at Westbury, opening for country superstar LeAnn Rimes. Nor have they had two music videos reach No. 1 on CMT.com.
Her name is Lisa Matassa. She was born in Manhasset, and after a stay in Florida, moved to Franklin Square at age 16. Presently she resides in Plainview with her husband, Frank, and their two children. Singing since age 6, she realized one of her ambitions by performing at Westbury where she had gone as a fan to listen to Pat Benatar, Eddie Money, Tommy James and Survivor.
“It was surreal to see that I was treated like one of the artists that I had come to see.” she says of her performance. “It was just incredible to be on that stage. Right before they opened the curtain, I got a little choked up.”
It would seem improbable that a Long Islander would foray into the country music industry, let alone have the success that Matassa has achieved. After all, Long Island is not renowned as a hotbed of country music fever. Yet, her talent, as well as a bit of really good timing, has helped her break into the business.
At 19, Matassa performed under the stage name, Lysa Lynn. Although she was singing ’80s-style dance and pop music, her heart remained in country music as evidenced by the last part of her stage name, an ode to one of her heroes, country icon Loretta Lynn. Following her stint in pop, Lisa followed the path of many Long Islanders and settled into a typical suburban home in 1994, performing the roles of wife and mom instead of singer. However, an amazing sequence of events brought her back into the studio.
Matassa’s daughter did an Internet search of her mom, and discovered clips of her performing as Lisa Lynn, something that would not have been possible in the late ’80s or even early ’90s. Her two children then urged her to sing again, the first in a sequence of events that would revive her career.
“The stars were all in alignment,” she recalls.
In 2010, she received a call from a friend about going back into recording. Before doing so, she spoke with her family to be sure they supported her decision. Finally, with the ‘80s pop/dance era having passed, a different genre was necessary and Matassa decided to pursue her unfulfilled dream of being a country singer.
After recording several songs for an EP, she received a call from Ed Salamon, an influential country music executive and former president of Westwood One Radio.
“You have a great package,” she recalls Salamon saying to her on January 17, 2011. “It’s too bad Long Island doesn’t have a country music station.”
Incredibly, WJVC, broadcasting country music, would go live one day later. Since then, her first single, “Me Time,” climbed into the Top-50 on the country music charts and the accompanying music video reached No. 1 on CMT.com.
“It didn’t matter where I was from or how old I was, it all came down to the songs,” says Matassa of her success which some would deem unlikely.
Staying true to her Long Island roots, the title track of her album, “Sunrise Highway,” may seem to be a traditional country music title, but it actually comes from the less-romantic Long Island road. Matassa says the lyrics of the song describe a path she took many times, driving along Sunrise Highway in a black Camaro, dreaming of being a star as Bon Jovi played on the radio. As the lyrics continue, the song describes seeing the ocean and a warm wind blowing in her face as the car goes down the road. While many artists have sung about listening to their car radios, imagining what it would be like to hear yourself blasting from it. Matassa puts it all together in this song with images that Long Islanders can definitely relate to.
For Matassa, this dream would be realized in Montana, as she was on her way to do an interview with a radio station when she first heard her song on the radio.
Another dream was accomplished with that performance at Westbury. In the future, she hopes to perform at Jones Beach, the Nassau Coliseum and Madison Square Garden. In the meantime, she will be appearing locally at the Brookhaven Amphitheater’s Freedom Fest on July 3, and at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead on July 28 as part of a benefit for the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund. She will also sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at Citi Field on September 18.
Nationally, her next single, “Wouldn’t You Like To Know,” was recently released and is climbing the charts, as Matassa heads off to Las Vegas to perform at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino along with Darius Rucker (formerly of Hootie and the Blowfish) and Tracy Lawrence.
Recently, she attended the ACM awards, where she met country megastars Kellie Pickler, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and Taylor Swift. Yet despite her growing fame, Matassa remains grounded and loyal to her Long Island roots.
“It’s a lifelong dream,” she says. “I feel honored to have touched so many.”
Who knows? Maybe it’s the first step towards making Long Island country.