www.liveontheleveecharleston.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Helping to celebrate West Virginia's birthday (and coincidentally her own), country star Kathy Mattea returns to Charleston for a special FestivALL Live on the Levee show Friday that also features country harmonica legend and fellow West Virginia native Charlie McCoy. McCoy opens the free concert at 6:30 p.m., and Mattea takes the stage for two sets at 7:30 p.m. Gazz spoke with Mattea about coming back to the state, what she misses when she's away and what the rest of her summer looks like. Q: How great is it to be playing in West Virginia for the state's 150th birthday? A: "I think it's going to be really fun. I'm sort of borderline nervous about it. I want to do really well, but I think there are just some gigs in your life that you remember, and it feels like the opportunities for these two shows on these two days will be really memorable." (Mattea plays Wheeling's Heritage Port Amphitheatre with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra on Thursday.) Q: You get nervous? A: "I do get nervous sometimes. You learn to work through it and try to be professional enough that even with my worst show, people still get their money's worth. I do want to do well coming home and this is something special, but I think it's good to be a little nervous." Q: As a West Virginia ex-pat, what are some of the good parts about West Virginia that others outside the state might not see? A: "You know, I have to tell you, I was putting gas in my car in my neighborhood and the lady behind the cash register came up to say hi. She told me she used to live in Princeton and seeing me, she was reminded how when I was just hitting my stride, how proud everyone was. She said she missed the people. "We just had this short visit about how people kind of have each other's back back home. People take care of each other. There's a real sense of community and real sense of place that's getting lost in the rest of the country." Q: Aside from family and friends, what's good about coming home? A: "One of the things about coming home I didn't realize until I moved away was how the hills roll. I can go to Virginia and I love the mountains there, but it's not the same. Everything is close together here. I grew up with that, but I've gotten used to living without it. "Coming back, it's like wrapping a blanket around me. I've just really come to appreciate that more and more." Q: What's ahead for you? A: "I'm touring. It's mostly weekends, but we'll go pretty steady until the fall. I'm really happy about that. For a long time, I didn't do a lot of outdoor concerts. I did a lot of small theaters and performing arts centers. It's going to be fun to get out and play some bluegrass festivals." Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.