It started with a job search on the internet, but could end with a career in Nashville. 
Matthew Chandler, 20, was surfing the web as many young adults his age do. He was looking for a job when he stumbled on to a link that led to a site for the television reality show, “Nashville Star.” It is the country version of, “American Idol.” 

The producers were calling for auditions for the next show. Chandler thought, “why not?”

He enlisted a friend, Jerry Brown, to help him make a tape, but did not tell anyone else what he was up to. 

It was only two weeks later when he received a call. Chandler was offered a chance to go to one of the live auditions in Austin, March 18-19. He received another letter this past week telling him he has already advanced to the call-back round, which would be on the 19th. Instead of singing 45 seconds of a song, he will now sing two songs each two minutes long. He hasn’t decided which songs he will sing, but may choose an original song he wrote himself as one of the selections. The show has an open call in eight cities, with more than 20,000 applications and 2,000 videos submitted. Making the call-back round puts him ahead of the majority of the contestants. If he is selected, Chandler will be heading to Nashville this summer to compete for a shot at a recording contract.

Chandler first started getting involved with music when he was in the eighth grade. He asked his uncle, Richard Robbins, to teach him how to play the guitar. Robbins was going through chemotherapy to fight cancer and he couldn’t play the guitar. But he could show his nephew a few chords.

“He taught me three chords on Saturday night. The next day I sang in front of the whole church,” said Chandler. There were about 500 members in the congregation that day. “I was as nervous as all get out. The music director couldn’t believe I did it.”

Singing “I Can Only Imagine,” did not leave many dry eyes in the sanctuary, including those of the music director, who is Jerry Brown.

Since then, Chandler has served as the assistant worship leader at Community Church, working alongside of his friend. 

Robbins, Chandler’s uncle, completed his cancer treatments and started playing the guitar again. Chandler started accompanying him with pencils on trashcans. That led to the drums. “He’s my biggest musical influence,” said Chandler about his uncle.

Chandler’s father died when Chandler was 17 and a junior in high school, so his uncle has more than just a musical influence on him.

After graduating from Orangefield in 2005, Chandler attended Dallas Christian College for one year. He took voice and piano lessons while there. He also joined the “Salteens” while in Dallas. The name stood for Singing and Living Truth. 

Money forced him out of school and back to the area.

He sang for a few months at Van Choate’s Tuffy’s in Mauriceville. A woman who sang backup for George Jones and Conway Twitty gave him good feed back. Tracy Byrd’s bass player, Bubba Moore, also dropped in at the restaurant and gave Chandler his card. 

Chandler’s mother, Lynette, was friends with Clay Walker before he became famous.
Chandler will be going to Austin next week on a trip that could change his whole life. “If I get on, I want to go all the way.” Also, if he gets selected, he wants to dedicate his performance to his father.

“If I don’t get on, I’ll come back and continue at the church,” said Chandler.

Contestants on “Nashville Star” have to furnish their own housing and pay their own way. A benefit concert may be waiting in the wings if he is selected. It would be a way to earn the money needed to cover his expenses and give the area a taste of his music which he describes as “Christian Country.”

Nashville Star will last eight weeks this summer and will air on NBC for the first time since the program started.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.