Matt McCormack meets Gene Simmons 

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Matt McCormack and KISS bass player Gene Simmons collaborated on "Pride," McCormack's recently released single that will be included on McCormack's album, Life in Stereo, slated to be released September 8th.

McCormack, 42, a former Memphian living in Austin, will perform the song at a free show, "Matt McCormack and Friends," 6 to 9 p.m. August 28th at Lafayette's Music Room.

"Pride" isn't a new song; its story goes back decades.

McCormack, who says he was a "KISS geek" growing up, skipped school at 13 to try to meet Simmons, who was in town for a show. McCormack, living in San Antonio at the time, hung out all day at Simmons' hotel. Finally, he drove up in his limousine. "I had a bag full of KISS stuff for him to sign," McCormack says. "I said, 'Gene!' He walked right by me."

McCormack followed Simmons to the checkout desk, pulled out a limited edition KISS picture disk, The Elder, tapped him on the sleeve and said, "But I have this!"

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"He looked at me, pulled his glasses down on the tip of his nose and goes, 'Wow.' And pulled the glasses up, turned around and continued checking out."

McCormack, who was devastated, became a musician. He formed Bury the Bone at 19 and began writing songs with fellow Memphian Lance Oliver. He moved to Austin, where he formed Choker Montana, and continued writing songs, including "Pride."

He and Simmons crossed paths a few times at KISS conventions, but they really made contact in 2004. McCormack was at his mom's house. "On the table was a relic of Mother Teresa's hair. It was a traveling shrine that goes from home to home to bless houses. For some reason, it's in my house. I love Mother Teresa."

He got on his computer and saw "Gene Simmons is looking for new bands to sign."

Holding Mother Teresa's hair, he said, "Look, Mother Teresa, I've always had your back. If you're with me now like I know you are, make it happen."

McCormack sent his CD to Simmons. Seven days later, he got a call. He says Simmons told him, "I like that song, 'Pride.' I like it a lot. I want to come down. I want to meet you. I'm interested in doing 'Pride.'"

They met a week later. McCormack told him how he rebuffed him when he was a teenager. "He tipped his glasses down again and said, 'I just cut you a check. Have you matured any?' And he pulled his glasses up again."

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They hung out for three days while Simmons worked on tracks for "Pride," which was supposed to be included on Simmons' solo record, but it wasn't.

But, McCormack says, "Just being associated with him opened tons of doors for me. I got a song in a movie, Dead of Winter. It opened me up to meeting other writers who have radio cuts. It got me opening slots for other bands. Just with that on my resume."

McCormack married, had children, played gigs and began a management company, New Pony. His clients included Bill Carter and the Blame, which featured Johnny Depp on guitar. He also started After Give, a non-profit to provide traumatic relief for artists.

He and Simmons rekindled their friendship after McCormack invited him to be on his "Sounds of the Town" segment on TV.

A year later, things fell apart. A flood devastated Austin's Onion Creek area. "We lost everything we owned. There was four feet of water in our 4,000-square-foot home on the golf course. We had no flood insurance."

McCormack was wiped out, and he and his wife divorced. But he found solace in Simmons' book, Me, Inc. "It gave me the strength and courage to move forward and make decisions about me. Putting me first."

Last March, McCormack sent an email to Simmons telling him he wanted to put "Pride" on his new album. Simmons wrote back telling McCormack to feel free to use his own version with his own vocals.

What is "Pride" about? "Picking yourself up and feeling good about yourself," McCormack says. "Starting again, but having a positive attitude about it."

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