Editor's Note: We are Hope is a new series profiling interesting people in the town of Hope and northeastern Bartholomew County. If you have a suggestion for a person to be profiled in "We are Hope," you can e-mail editor@hsjonline.org.

Hauser High School alumnus Matt Lee has always lived in and around the Hope community. The father of two is very open about his love for Hope and even paid homage to the town in his song “Surprising Town,” which he recorded in 2018 with his group the Night Owl Country Band. In a recent conversation, 42-year-old Lee talked about growing up in Hope, what it is about the town that inspires him, changes he’s seen over the years and what he would like those outside the community to know about his hometown.

What do you enjoy most about living in the Hope area?
The small town feel. Everyone is always friendly and willing to help. Even now, with the Night Owl Country Band we use Special By Design for our merchandise. And Dave at the library is always willing to help me with promotion. When we released our first song, “Cool Gentle Wind,” some of the local companies in Hope stepped up and helped sponsor it.

If you were to describe Hope to someone who has never visited, what would you say?
It’s a small, close-knit town. Even if people move away, people still treat them like it is their home when they come back. And it seems like that is what ends up happening, when people leave they always end up coming back even if it is just to visit.

How would you say Hope has changed over the years?
It has grown a bit. We have new businesses like the pharmacy on the square and Subway (out on State Road 9). Mom and dad used to take me to Clouse’s grocery store to get candy. Of course, dad, he pastored the Hope Independent Baptist church on Market Street. After church he would take us to the Heritage House to eat. At that time, I was small, but they had the best fried chicken I’d ever had and I still remember that.

How has your perspective of Hope changed since you’ve gotten older?
Even though it was a small town, I have always seen Hope as a big town. When we are small everything seems bigger than what it really is and then as I grew up and seen it was a small town, I was glad I was raised here. Take, for instance, our graduating class had 69 people in it and everyone knew and cared for everyone else.

What is it about Hope that inspires you?
I think a lot of it is the people I’ve had connections with those who went to our church. A lot of the people who went to our church, they would sing and play guitar and as they sang I learned from what they did. So, I learned a little bit of music through that church and it was a big inspiration for me then and continues to be today. I still look back at some of those days, and I miss them and the people who aren’t here anymore. Many of the people we would consider cornerstones of the church have passed on and I still miss that little church on Market Street. There are a lot of memories there.

When it comes to bringing people to Hope, how would you describe the benefits of Hope’s community events?
It is a really good thing. It brings people from other cities and towns and gives them a piece of what a small town can be like, especially when they come from bigger cities. They see how we do things. When they come to events like Smoke on the Square or Heritage Days, they end up seeing how well it is put together and they get to take home a little bit of Hope Indiana when they go.

If there was one thing you would like HSJ Online readers to know about Hope, what would it be?
I guess it would be that we are like a small family. As we grow up in this town, we all stay close.