Suppose it was possible to both lead a horse to water and force it to drink. If you could, it wouldn’t be much fun to watch. Imagine a horse forcing down water with the enthusiasm of a man using his lunch break from jury duty to stop by the DMV. Musicians also don’t perform well and are no fun to watch, if their hearts aren’t in it.
Kaylee Matuszak wasn’t forced to learn guitar, but she didn’t have a compelling reason or a strong drive to last very long when attempting lessons. It just didn’t click. But later, at the age of 15, she suddenly found this elusive drive. Almost overnight, she was playing guitar
and singing all over Duluth.
“She just decided that she wanted to teach herself guitar,” explains Kaylee’s father Brian Matuszak. “Out of nowhere she told us she could play guitar and it was amazing.” She began her self-study guitar lessons, in the fall of 2013. In April 2014, she first played and sang in public. In August 2014, she played her first time at Tribute Fest and in April 2015 the first time at Homegrown. Then, in April 2016 she released her first solo album.
This was quite a two and a half years from someone who sang well in the choir, but had barely touched a guitar. She just needed some inspiration. Her story is a bit like Bob Dylan’s.
In the documentary No Direction Home, Bob Dylan tells the story of how he played a record he found in his father’s closet, when he was 10 years old.
“The sound of the record made me feel like I was somebody else,” he said of the memory. He began to play a guitar, which he also found that day.
It may not have been exactly like this for Kaylee, but she also received a sort of vision of what she could be and wasted no time making it a reality. This was also the result of finding some new music she really enjoyed.
“I started listening to Brandi Carlile per my English teacher’s suggestion, and I loved her style of music so I decided to teach myself guitar,” says Kaylee.
Soon Kaylee and her dad would be showcasing her music around town.
“So we would go to Beaner’s and Amazing Grace—any place that had an open mic,” notes Brian.
Brian wasn’t surprised that she was good on stage.
“I think she always had a performer streak in her even when she was a little girl,” he says.
At earlier stages Kaylee would dance and entertain the crowd during intermissions at her father’s Rubber Chicken Theater. She was also in other theater productions like the semiimpromptu Chicken Hat Plays. Kaylee’s imitation of Brandi Carlile morphed into her own style, and her
own songs. She went on to release an album of all original songs, which she recorded at the Music Resource Center (MRC).
Adult mentors give kids tips on playing or just let them jam to their heart’s content. They also help them record music.
“Her second year at MRC, she said she would like to put out her own album by the end of the year,” Brian explains. “So they asked how they could make that happen. We were impressed first of all that she had enough songs written to fill an album.”
Using recording equipment in the old Sacred Heart Church, the MRC staff helped her get to work. In March of 2016, high school senior, Kaylee Matuszak had her first album.
While the MRC staff was helping her with the recording, her theater man dad was helping her improve her performances. He taught her to make a connection with the crowd and not just go from song to song. “I love being in front of people and sharing my music with others,” says Kaylee today.
For this up-and-coming star, it was just a matter of wanting to do something and throwing herself into it.
Brian is happy his daughter found something she does well, because she loves doing it.
“You are always hoping that your child will find that passion and follow up on it,” he says. “She is about to go to school for something else, but she still is going to be pursuing this. There is always time to do music, no matter what.”
Written by John Shirley for Duluth.com the Magazine. Check out the July/August 2016 issue on newsstands now.