Musician's ties to city, university stay strong
Graduate was lauded as Capital's 2013 Young Alumni Achievement Award winner
The Billingslea family includes (from left) Bexley, age 2 1/2; Christina; Ryman, 3 months; and Matt, Capital University's 2013 Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient.
Matt Billingslea, a Maryland native and nationally touring musician who's currently a drummer for Taylor Swift, has called Nashville, Tenn., home for the last eight years, but there hasn't been a day in the last two and a half years that he hasn't thought of Bexley.
As a 2001 Capital University graduate, Matt never doubted that the city would always hold a special place in his heart, but it wasn't until it came time for him and his wife, Christina, to name their first child that Bexley took front and center.
"We wanted a name that was unique -- something with a story," he said. "My wife came up with Bexley and I'll admit that I hated it at first, but now I just love it and I think it's perfect."
Matt said Christina's inspiration came from the city where they solidified their relationship.
"We always felt like our time in Bexley was important," he said. "I don't think we saw it at the time, but looking back, it really was."
The two dated for a year in high school, but broke up before Matt headed to Capital on a scholarship to begin building a career in the music industry. During his junior year, Christina, a college sophomore at the time, moved to Bexley for an internship.
"That internship kind of sealed the deal in our relationship and we've been together ever since," Matt said.
Bexley Billingslea, now age 2 1/2, has never visited her namesake city, but Matt said once she's older, the family that also includes 3-month-old Ryman (whose name was inspired by the auditorium that formerly housed the Grand Ole Opry) will plan a trip. The family will likely tour Jeffrey Park and the shops and restaurants on Main Street, since Matt said those areas of Bexley are the ones he remembers most fondly.
Matt, who spent four years after graduation in Colorado before settling in Nashville, has made it back to the Columbus area a few times during his career. Just last week, he took the stage at Nationwide Arena as the drummer for Taylor Swift's Red Tour.
In April, he received Capital University's 2013 Young Alumni Achievement Award.
"I knew I wanted to do music at a high level, if for no other reason but to prove for myself that I could," said Matt, who spent three years playing with the country group Lady Antebellum, which shot to fame with the hit song Need You Now. He's also toured with singer Gary Allen and the group Thompson Square.
"When I was in school, I can't say I knew exactly what I wanted to do," Matt admitted.
But, he does have advice for current students who want to pursue a big career: "Don't be limited by anything. If you have a wild idea or a crazy dream that you think you might want to chase or anything you might want to try, there is no better time than right after college."
Although Matt's career has taken him to some of the world's largest stages, including the Grammy Awards, he said he stays grounded by always looking forward and maintaining an ambitious spirit.
"You never really make it in music because you're always just trying to keep going," he said. "I will say, though, the first show of the Red Tour with Taylor was one time where I looked out at the crowd and I had the thought not so much of 'Oh, I've made it,' but more of a 'Wow, look where we've landed.' "