Playing from the Heart

By Jessa McClure

Photos by Brooke Mendenhall Photography

Courtney Patton has always been in love with music. Her mother even teases the 30-something, mother of two that she asked for Michael Jackson’s Thriller album for her third birthday.

Her early years were filled with singing and dancing to her favorite music. And although her mother remembers her fondness for 80s rock and pop, Patton’s musical memories are embedded in the times she spent growing up in church in Weatherford, TX.

“Music always came naturally to me, but I never took any formal voice or guitar lessons,” she said.

When she moved to Stephenville to attend Tarleton University, she bought a chord poster at a local grocery store and hung it in her dorm room.

“I taught myself how to play, and that’s all I’ve ever done—played by ear,” she said.

When she wasn’t cheering on the Tarleton Texans football team, she was rubbing callouses into her fingers with steel guitar strings, writing songs that she admits were void of much meaning.

“I was young and didn’t really have any life experience, so those songs weren’t great,” she said. “But it was a start, and now songwriting and playing my own music is the most important thing to me.”

After spending her college years scribbling out songs in between classes and social activities, Patton began performing around Stephenville.

“The Texas music scene was brand new to me at that time, and it was so big,” she said. “That’s what we’d do on the weekends. We’d save up our food money and go buy tickets to see Pat Green or whoever was playing at City Limits.”

But despite her musical aspirations of becoming a singer and songwriter, Patton put her career on hold to get married and raise a family.

“I would play shows here and there, and when my friend Mike McClure would come into town I would open shows for him, but it was never something I thought I’d do for a career.”

She spent several years just focusing on her children and trying to be the kind of wife she thought she was supposed to be. But, when her marriage ended and she moved out on her own as a single mother, she found that writing music helped her heal.

“These songs were better than anything I’d ever written and they were just pouring out of me,” she said. “I realized that I needed to listen to that voice inside of myself and do something with it.”

While working a full-time job as a marketing director and raising her two children, she began to work on her first record.

“I took my personal vacation and went and made a record in Austin,” Patton said. “The Kickstarter campaign I started helped raise the money for that.”

She finished the record in just five days, but because she was new to the music business, it took several months for the album to be released. And when she started getting calls to perform, she realized that she couldn’t keep up the break-neck pace she was taking.

“I realized it was now or never, so I quit my job,” she said.

With a small record to her name and a desire to play the words flowing out of her, Patton began making musical connections and playing new venues. During this time, she reconnected with a fellow artist and friend, Jason Eady.

“He also quit his day job at the age of 30 to be a full-time musician,” Patton said. “He’s a little bit older than me, so by the time we got together he had already figured out a lot about the music business. He said, ‘this is what I did wrong, so you don’t have to make those same mistakes.’”

The friendship between the two musicians eventually blossomed into romance, and the two were married in 2014. Patton said her husband not only helped her avoid music business pitfalls, but he also taught her to stay focused financially and budgeting.

“We support each other. We know that [this job] is not something you can always count on to bring in money every week or month. It takes a lot of planning.”

Aside from their collaboration on household budgets, the country superstar couple has also performed together at venues all across the state, and even had the chance to play in Europe.

“[A promoter] from Switzerland said, I’m familiar with your husband’s music and now I’m familiar with yours, and I’d like to set up some shows for you,” she said. “So, in 2013 we went to Switzerland and Italy.”

Patton said she couldn’t believe that people who didn’t speak the same language came out in droves to hear her sing.

“They related to the music because of the way the harmonies were arranged,” she said “We made so many good friends and connections.”

The couple’s European adventure was such a success that they have been asked to come back in the spring to perform in a French music festival and several other events in Austria, Sweden, and Italy.

“It blows my mind,” Patton said. “I’d never left the country until 2013, and now I’ve gone so many times. It’s quite a blessing.”

Along with travel opportunities, Patton is also blessed to be able to pick her kids up from school every day and come to their school functions since most of her work and performances are done at night or on the weekends.

The singer/songwriter is even going to be recording her next album close to home at a recording studio in Stephenville.

“Just the thought of being able to work with friends and being able to come home at night and not have to stay in a hotel is really exciting,” Patton said.

She has strong ties to the area not only because it’s where she’s raising her family, but because it allows her to remain close to her alma mater and friends she’s had since her musical beginnings.

“I live close to Tarleton, so I love being able to hear the football stadium at night,” she said. “I got to walk to the homecoming tailgate party and see people that I’d missed.”

It’s this personal connection that comes across in Patton’s music.

“My songs are all very honest and real,” she said. “People get that when they listen to me. They’ll say, that made me cry or that made me laugh.”

The singer admits that most of her songs are sort of melancholy, so she throws in a gospel song or two to brighten things up.

The future looks bright for Patton as she adds more performances and albums to her repertoire, but her ambitions are different than most aspiring musicians.

“I want to focus on the writing,” she said. “I’d like to be able to write songs for other people to sing so that I can stay home, because kids are growing up so fast, and I don’t want to miss out on that.”

She admits that she’s never hoped to be famous, but instead she hopes to continue to love what she does.

“I want people to see the heart behind what I do,” she said. “I’m a very smiley, happy, talkative person, but in my heart I carry things heavily. I think a lot of artists do. That comes out in my songs, and people seem to appreciate the honesty behind that.”

Patton said if you’d like to support her music and her heart’s work, then come out to a show, follow her on Facebook, buy her records and tell people about it.

Her style leans more toward old country artists like Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, and although it’s not what’s most popular in the music world, she believes it’s making a comeback.

“I think there’s a new surge of music like mine with stars like Chris Stapleton, Cody Jinks, and Whitey Morgan,” she said. “It’s helping draw more attention to the traditional kind of music I play.”