Matraca Berg


Paul Manaster

Native Nashvillian Matraca Berg grew up around the music industry. Her mother was songwriter and session singer Icie Calloway Berg, and her stepfather was songwriter Dave Kirby ("Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone," "Memories to Burn," "There Ain't No Good Chain Gang"). Though Icie Berg died at an early age, her experiences in the music industry and her counsel — “The purest country song has the fewest words and says the most with the least embellishment” — had a profound impact on her daughter’s career.

Matraca spent her childhood in the company of relatives and family friends who were musicians, singers, and songwriters on Music Row. "I was surrounded by masters, bounced on their knees, and I thought they were magical. They were my heroes. Those people weren't Hall of Fame songwriters when I was young; they did it for love—and to capture something. Nobody becomes a songwriter because they wanna get rich. It's something you have to do” (from “The Daughter of Music Row” by Holly Gleason, Oxford American 2014).

Matraca had her first #1 hit with 1983’s “Faking Love,” a duet by Karen Brooks and T. G. Sheppard, co-written with Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Bobby Braddock. She was only 18 years old at the time. By the age of twenty-two, she had her first Grammy nomination, and in 1996 she had five number-ones chart in a single calendar year. In 2004 and 2005, Berg was nominated for induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, making her one of the youngest nominees in history. She was inducted in 2008.

Berg has had more than 50 of her songs recorded. Some who have sung them include Reba McEntire, Randy Travis, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Linda Ronstadt, Tanya Tucker, Keith Urban, Dusty Springfield, Emmylou Harris, Kim Carnes, Ray Price and Loretta Lynn.

"Strawberry Wine," a #1 hit for Deana Carter co-written by Berg, was named the CMA Song of the Year for 1997 and was nominated for a Grammy Award as Country Song of the Year. Another Grammy nomination came in 2007 with Gretchen Wilson’s "I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today,” co-written with Jim Collins.

"Wrong Side of Memphis," "XXX's and OOO's," "You Can Feel Bad," "Hey Cinderella," "I'm That Kind of Girl," "The Last One to Know,” and "Strawberry Wine" have all been broadcast on radio and TV more than a million times apiece.

Berg and fellow Nashville songwriter Marshall Chapman co-wrote the songs for the 2000 stage musical Good Ol' Girls. Matraca appeared in the 1987 motion picture Made in Heaven and on the soundtrack of the movie The Thing Called Love in 1993. As a backup vocalist, she has been in the studio with Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton and Neil Young. As a producer, she has guided recordings for Christian singer-songwriter Christy Sutherland.

Matraca Berg also is a successful recording artist. Her albums include Lying to the Moon (1990), The Speed of Grace (1993), Sunday Morning to Saturday Night (1997), and The Dreaming Fields (2011) on which she wrote or co-wrote all the songs and self-produced the album with a small group of friends. She offers her perspectives in the 2017 documentary film, The Last Songwriter, scored and co-produced by Marcus Hummon.

Matraca and her husband Jeff Hanna, singer-songwriter of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, have been married since 1993 and live in Nashville, TN.