Persistence pays off for Morgantown songwriter Chris Haddox.
In 2001, Chris Haddox made a monumental effort to get a song he’d written noticed by West Virginia country singer Kathy Mattea. He emailed her manager, who invited him to send a CD. No response. He had a friend slip a CD with a note into her gift bag at an event. No response. Finally, he steeled himself to find her backstage at a show in Morgantown. They had a good conversation, she accepted the CD, and they walked to the lobby together—where she passed the CD to her handler, who Haddox saw leave it on a table.
Our man was determined. He retrieved the CD, chatted up Mattea’s guitar player, and got him to pass it to her. No response.
This story is not a criticism of Mattea, who has surely had thousands of hopefuls’ CDs pressed into her hands. It’s not a story of failure, either—keep reading.
Growing up in Logan in the ’60s and ’70s, Haddox begged his parents for piano lessons and taught himself guitar. He loved bluegrass and old-time music and found jamming partners in college at WVU and, at 21, he moved to Nashville to become a songwriter. Family life took him back to Morgantown in the ’90s, but he never gave up—even when his 2001 push to Mattea didn’t work out.
If his songs were going to get heard, Haddox decided, he would have to be the one singing them. He started slipping his own songs in at open mic nights and found people liked them. His band, The Stonefly Four, played some of his songs, too.
Finally, in 2018, Ron Sowell of West Virginia Public Radio’s Mountain Stage noticed Haddox at an open mic night. He soon offered to produce an album for him. “I had never heard my songs like Ron was hearing them,” Haddox says. “Like, I’d never played with percussion.” Sowell, it turns out, has good instincts. The album, titled Chris Haddox, was released in March 2022 to positive reception. “If I’d done the album myself, every song would have sounded the same,” he says. “But it’s an interesting listen—there’s a lot of variety on there.” All 13 songs are getting airplay. “And longtime folk DJs are contacting me saying, ‘Where’d you come from?’ That’s been really cool.”
Just as cool: A couple days after the album dropped, he got to play Mountain Stage—with Kathy Mattea.
These days, Haddox is enjoying the payoff to his persistence and feeling gratitude for his musical community. You can find his upcoming gigs and sample and buy his album at Chris Haddox Music on Facebook or chrishaddoxmusic.com.