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Friday, 28 February 2014 11:58

With Nashville experience under his belt, Janesville musician is ready to rise

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Zac Matthews strums on a guitar at his home in Janesville. Matthews recently was a national finalist in the Texaco Country Showdown. For being a finalist, Matthews won a recording contract and is currently working on an album. The 18-year-old has been performing for about three years. Zac Matthews strums on a guitar at his home in Janesville. Matthews recently was a national finalist in the Texaco Country Showdown. For being a finalist, Matthews won a recording contract and is currently working on an album. The 18-year-old has been performing for about three years. Dennis Hines/staff

MESSENGER -- Zac Matthews has dreams of headlining a major concert and entertaining a large audience with his country music.

“If I could fill a stadium some day, that would be my all-time goal,” Matthews, 18, of Janesville said. “I would be happy having a comfortable living making music, but obviously the all-time goal is being a country music star.”

Matthews, whose real name is Zach Molitor, has taken a huge step toward that goal, as he recently was a national finalist in the Texaco Country Music Showdown. The national finals were held Jan. 16 in the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., with host LeAnn Rimes.

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In order to become a national finalist, Matthews had to win a local competition, held at the Rock County 4-H Fair last summer. He then went on to win a state and regional competition. Matthews said it was an honor to make it to the national finals.

“It was like a dream. When I got onstage and stood on the stage where Johnny Cash proposed to June, it was a feeling of accomplishment that I made it,” Matthews said. “I got to play in my dream venue and to have my family and friends from Wisconsin and Illinois drive all the way down to Nashville to watch me play.

“I got to meet a lot of new people and be around some big names.”

For being a national finalist, Matthews received a recording contract and is working on an album, which he plans to release in April. During the next few weeks, he will be traveling back and forth to Nashville to work on the album and a music video.

“I’ve been very busy. It’s helped that I’ve been home schooled this year,” Matthews said. “(Working on the album) keeps me busy. It keeps me motivated to keep doing bigger and better things and to keep following my dream in music. It’s pretty cool to be doing all this at my age, too.”

Matthews said he has remained in contact with the other finalists of the Texaco Showdown and plans to record music with some of them.

“I’m going to be writing a song with Crystal Yates, the winner of the Texaco Showdown. She told me that she loved my style of writing and my ability to come up with melodies. She was impressed with me, and I was impressed with her, so we hit it off,” Matthews said. “Suzanne Harper was another finalist there, and I ended up hitting it off with her, and she’s one of the best singers I’ve ever heard in my life. She lives in San Diego, and we’re still in touch.

“All of us are still in touch, and we all ‘like’ each others’ Facebook pages, and we follow each other (on Facebook).”

While Matthews’ music career is picking up steam, parents Renee and Matthew Molitor are happy for their son but hoping to keep him grounded, too.

“It’s like having a 1-year-old thoroughbred. They take him out on a racetrack, but they don’t let him run, and Zac just wants to get on the racetrack and wants to run, but I’ve got to hang on to him a little bit,” Matthew Molitor said. “He’s ready to run, but he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know yet. There’s challenges out there. I want to let him soar, but at the same time we’re trying to do it the right way. We want this to be a true success story.

“He’s got a pretty good head on his shoulders, and we’re keeping a pretty close eye on him. We want to make sure the people he surrounds himself with are not only good musicians, but good people.”

Renee Molitor said Matthews has worked hard developing his music and performing skills.

“I’m very proud of all his accomplishments. He plays day and night. The guitar never gets set down,” Renee Molitor said. “He used to go down by the mantle and sing, then one day he picked up a guitar and started playing.

“It’s very heartwarming. He’s got a lot of spunk and ambition. He lights up the room.”

Making a name for himself

Matthews began performing about three years ago after purchasing a guitar. He has been a member of the Christian rock band Battle Cry, as well as a band called BuckNeck-ed. He has performed at several local venues as well as well-known establishments in Nashville, including Tootsies, The Stage, Legends Corner, Second Fiddle and Wild Horse Saloon. Locally, he is scheduled to perform Saturday, March 8, at Lucy’s Hideaway in Milton and on Thursday, May 1, at Quaker Steak and Lube in Janesville.

“I haven’t been doing it for long, but I’ve made a nice stamp in the business in a short amount of time with my management team and the promoters,” Matthews said. “I work with MCM Promotions. They’ve really helped me get good gigs. They’ve gotten my name out there.”

Matthews and his band have opened for several well-known country artists, including Billy Currington, David Allan Coe, Randy Houser and Jerrod Niemann.

“It was really cool, because we got a lot of fans out of it. They’ve purchased a lot of our CDs. We’ve made a lot of really big increases in our following from playing the concerts. Playing in front of 5,000 people helps,” Matthews said. “It was really cool sitting and talking backstage with the headlining acts. I got some good advice from some of the stars in the business. It’s been pretty cool.”

Matthews said he has been interested in country music since childhood.

“I loved country music growing up. I would be sitting in the car with my dad, and he would be putting country music on. We always liked Sundays, because it was ‘Retro Sunday’ on WJVL, and they would play a bunch of old classics,” Matthews said. “We turned it on and listened to it on the way to church and on the way back. I just fell in love with it.

“I’ve always had a special place in my heart for country music, so when I decided to pick up the guitar and start playing, I just fell in love with it. The first song I learned to play was a country song, and it was like, ‘This is pretty cool.’ So, I kept on doing it and decided it was something I wanted to do some day.”

Some of Matthews’ musical influences include Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Stevie Ray Vaughn. However, he plans to develop his own style of music.

“I listen to all different kinds of music, from country to rock to jazz to pop to opera to classical to blues. It’s all different styles, and I’ve shaped them into one unique different sound that I can look into the mirror and listen to the music and be proud of it because it’s my own,” Matthews said. “I’ve been influenced by a lot of different artists, but I don’t try to copy anybody. That’s my main thing as an artist, to come up with something new.”

Matthews said he appreciates the support he has received from his family, friends and fans.

“I would love to thank everyone in the community who has supported me and listened to my music and come out to see me play. It means the world to me,” Matthews said. “I know it sounds cliché when you say thank you to everyone, but I truly have the best fans in the world. They’ve been behind me 100 percent.”

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