Siblings take a leap into the music industry
Buried behind a maze of leaf blowers, tables and cars in a Niles home’s garage stands a makeshift stage, mostly bare except for a tangle of black cords, a set of microphones, and a few bits and pieces of sound equipment.
At the front of the stage, recent Niles High School graduate Chloe Mattiford fumbles with the microphone as her brother Collin plucks a few strings on his guitar, their faces lit by a neon sign above them.
“So, should we just get started, then?” Collin asks as his fingers begin to play the opening chords to “Stay with Me,” a 2014 radio hit by Sam Smith.
It is a Wednesday night as the pair sings together — not too different than any other night for the musically talented siblings.
“I love to sing, and Collin is crazy talented with any instrument you give him,” Chloe said. “It’s really cool when we get to play together.”
Half-siblings Chloe, 18, and Collin, 24, have loved music for as long as they can remember, ever since they could sing along to the radio. Now that the Mattifords are adults, they said they are hoping to take their love of music to the professional level, despite the challenges they know come with choosing a creative job field.
“There’s no guarantee it will work, but there will be a 100-percent chance it won’t work if we just give up,” Collin said.
As the oldest, Collin got the earliest start in the music world, falling in love with instruments after mastering Guitar Hero on his gaming station before he reached the age of 10. After that, his stepfather bought him his first guitar and Collin began playing, later going on to write songs and join a number of bands. Currently, he plays in local band The Erly, which plays a mix of pop, rock, blues and folk. The band is currently working with Troy Gray, a producer that has worked with many artists in the Michiana area.
Collin said that his stepfather, Robert Fortune, has been one of the biggest influences on his love of music and is one of his biggest supporters.
Though Fortune said that he himself is does not have a musical bone in his body, he has always done everything he can to encourage Collin’s music.
Starting when Collin was a teenager, Fortune began taking Collin to open mic nights to help him perform, eventually taking Collin to New York City to perform in Times Square. Fortune added that he and Collin’s mother never once questioned Collin’s pursuit of music.
“When he was kid, I would never complain about him playing guitar in his room. I would always tell him to turn it up. ‘If you’re playing it, we want to hear it,’” Fortune said. “He’s a hell of a kid, and I love him very much. He’s the kind of kid you want to see succeed.”
Even if musical performance does not work out for Collin, he said he always wants to keep music as a focal point of his career, and said that he would be happy working as a studio musician that creates background music on recorded tracks.
“I just want to create music,” Collin said. “And I want people to enjoy it.”
For Chloe, her love of music and performance took a bit longer to foster, as she said she lacked confidence in her voice.
“I always did the musicals and stuff in school. I really wanted to do choir, too, but I never knew if I was good enough, so I just stuck with percussion,” she said.
Despite this, Chloe eventually found her confidence and a love in performing, dancing and acting.
“Growing up, there was never really anything I was good at,” she said. “With soccer and everything else that I’ve tried, I was just mediocre, but singing, I was really good at, so I took that and ran with it.”
Chloe and Collin’s father, David Mattiford, said that Chloe has always been a natural performer despite her confidence level, and that when she was young she would perform her own plays and musicals.
“It’s always been something that makes her happy and she is so talented,” he said. “I support her 100 percent.”
Though Chloe is currently playing her musical and performance career by ear, she said she soon hopes to create an EP, a half album, should she find a producer.
“If I ever [fail at music], I want to go back and do it again,” she said. “If I don’t do this, I don’t know what I would do. Nothing else has ever interested me.”
Though the musical siblings are seeking out their own paths in the music world, both said that they find it truly special when they get the chance to perform together.
The first time they played together was at the 2016 Niles Miss Apple Festival pageant. To prepare, the pair spent weeks memorizing lyrics and testing out harmonies, an experience that, while tedious, they said they enjoyed.
“Together we have found that we are really good,” Chloe said. “[The Apple Festival] was really fun, and it was also really fun to have the time with him.”
Since then, the brother/sister duo has performed together a few more times, even collaborating together on Chloe’s first professionally produced music video that she created with Upstate in South Bend.
Collin said that working with Chloe is natural, because there is an ease and familiarity that comes with performing with a family member.
“She can harmonize like that,” Collin said with a snap of his fingers. “I think she’s a much better singer than me.”
Chloe laughed at the thought and tossed back a compliment in stride.
“He’s literally amazing. He can play almost anything,” she said. “It’s easier to sing in front of him than in front of complete strangers. I feel comfortable with him.”
Having a sibling to work with has made it easier to choose a career path that many people fail in, Chloe and Collin said.
“Of course making it in music is difficult,” Collin said. “But, we just have got to push ourselves and challenge ourselves.”
Though both Collin and Chloe have experienced discouragement from some about continuing in music, both said that most everyone in their lives has been supportive, none more so than their family.
“Both Chloe and Collin, they can be big,” said their father David. “I mean, Niles is a nice place and a nice place to live, but I think they can go somewhere bigger and do something bigger.”
Even with each other and their family, the ultimate driving force in Chloe and Collin’s futures in music will be something that all musicians have: a little leap of faith.
“It’s one of those things that’s just got to work out,” Collin said.
Chloe nodded in agreement.
Photography by Emily Sobecki