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Tag Archives: Michael W. Smith

  • Interview with Michael W. Smith

    Posted on November 5, 2014 by Family Christian

    The other day, I had the honor of interviewing Michael W. Smith! Enjoy!

    Kristen Jeffery

    Social Media Coordinator at Family Christian

     

    FC: Hello Michael! How are you doing?

     

    MWS:  Doing great! Thank you!

     

    FC: Well, I know you just released your newest cd, The Spirit of Christmas, so it is only natural that we ask a Christmas question.  Can you share with us a favorite Christmas memory that you have?

     

    MWS: Just growing up in my house…all the kids…. I mean I don’t even know where to start.  We have our traditions. Christmas is a BIG thing at the Smith house.  Just huge!   We’d pull out the Christmas albums every September 1; everyone opens a present on Christmas Eve.   A great Christmas memory is probably when I got my first red, sparkling drum set when I was 7 years old.  You know, I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven!  I’ll never for forget that.

     

    FC: Speaking of gifts, do you have a favorite gift that you received for Christmas?  I know mine was the Barbie Ice cream shop

     

    MWS: Love that!

     

    FC: I did too! Was yours your drum set?

     

    MWS: Probably so.  It was a game changer for me.

     

    FC: I heard a quote from you that in your 31-year career, The Spirit of Christmas is the most unique album you’ve created.  Can you expound on that for us?

     

    MWS:  Well I think it’s unique because of all the people who are on it.  I’ve never actually had as many guest artists on an album in my life, other than the artists that were on the worship album that sang in my choir.  These are people that are stepping out.  I’m singing solos with them and people that are mostly not from my genre, you know Contemporary Christian music.  This is an A Level group of amazing people.  Carrie Underwood being one of them. Bono’s on the record.  I mean it’s just insane.  I’m just sort of pinching myself that we actually pulled it off.

     

    FC: I’m sure.  When I was looking at the list of artists performing with you, it’s going to reach such a huge audience!  You’re hitting all the different tastes that people could have for the different genres of music and different talent it’s just phenomenal!

     

    MWS:  Well I think so.  You know I think we have something really special going on.  Just take me out of the equation and I think it’s just an amazing record, just from what these people brought to the project.  It’s pretty off the charts.

     

     

     

    FC: That sounds amazing! I know I will be picking up a few copies for my family this year.  You’ve got a tour going on this year and some confirmed tour dates for 2015 as well.  Is there anything else you are working on right now?

     

    MWS:  No, I did an exclusive album for Cracker Barrel that I worked on and then Sovereign came out in May and then the Christmas record and it’s just like wow! 3 records in one year for me.  Pretty crazy!

     

    FC: Here at Family Christian we believe strongly in the power of prayer.  In fact, we have a team that gathers daily to lift others up in prayer.  So how can we be praying for you right now?

     

    MWS:  You know what, probably just it’s such a busy, busy time.  It’s pretty non-stop from now till the end of the year, till Christmas.  Just pray for my health, for protection as we travel everywhere. I think just some of those things.  Kristen, business can wear you out if you don’t watch it so please pray that I’ll get my rest and that we will all stay healthy on the road and my family as well.  Thank you very much!

     

    FC: Thank you Michael! Have a blessed Christmas season!

  • Go deluxe with these new tunes!

    Posted on June 19, 2014 by Family Christian

    Bonus tracks & more from top artists!
    If We’re Honest: Deluxe Edition by Francesca Battistelli
    Sovereign: Deluxe Edition by Michael W. Smith
    Passion: Take It All: Deluxe Edition by Passion Band
    WOW Worship 2014: Deluxe Edition by Various Artists
    WOW Hits 2014: Deluxe Edition by Various Artists
    Majestic: Deluxe Edition CD/DVD by Kari Jobe
  • Blog Summary for May 2014

    Posted on June 2, 2014 by Family Christian

    Here are the most popular blog posts as read by you. Thank you for following us!

    Shane Harper on Living Out the Gospel

    Shane Harper established himself as an artist with a quadruple threat—singer, actor, dancer, and songwriter. He began working as a professional dancer in the entertainment industry when he was just 13, appearing as a principal dancer in High School Musical 2, and in Nickelodeon's show, "Dance on Sunset".

    Shane transitioned easily into acting, and is recurring on the hit Disney Channel show, "Good Luck Charlie", for all 4 seasons. He guest starred on "Wizards of Waverly Place", and "So Random". He also guest starred in a 4 episode arc for the scripted MTV series, "Awkward."

    As an actor in film, Shane worked with Rob Reiner, in a supporting role for the movie, FLIPPED. He also had a small featured role in the Bollywood film, MY NAME IS KHAN.

    Shane has a principal role in the feature film, GOD'S NOT DEAD and recently, I sat down with him to talk about faith, Hollywood, books music and coffee.

    Read the full interview here.

    Michael W. Smith - Behind the New Album

    “Sometimes you’ve just got to shake things up,” Michael W. Smith says with a smile. After selling more than 15 million albums, scoring 28 No. 1 hits, earning three GRAMMYs and more than 40 Dove Awards, no one would blame the Christian music icon if he decided to coast just a little bit, but that’s just not in his nature.

    On Sovereign, Michael’s first worship album since 2008 and his first project since signing with Capitol Christian Music Group in 2013, he deliberately steps into a new creative chapter to craft a vibrant collection of vertically focused songs with a fresh sense of musical innovation.

    Read the full interview here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Nick took some time out of his busy schedule to do a little Q&A with us. Read them here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    Read the full interview here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Jon White and Cole Walowac have parlayed a long-term friendship and shared passion for music into one of the hottest careers in the industry. Despite their young age, the duo’s
    history is a lengthy one. “We were in the nursery in the same church,” Jon says. “We moved away to Massachusetts for a few years, Cole and I met back up in the same middle school and we started playing in the youth group band. Cole would play drums and I would sing and that’s how we started making music.”

    Read the full q&a here.

    All or Nothing with Mike from MIKESCHAIR

    The band may have been formed in a dorm room with a group of college friends, but it has since become a music ministry that has touched peoples hearts and minds all over the globe.

    Here is Mike Grayson, the lead singer of Mikeschair, speaking about how he got involved with music, his songwriting process, and explaining some of the tracks from the latest album, All or Nothing.

    Read the full interview here.

    Matt Maher. On Being Christian.

    Matt Maher's newest album, All The People Said Amen," fuses the popularity of his vibrant live show with several new studio cuts, offering fans an assortment of writing and performance styles.

    “This project,” offers Maher, “is a real collage of who I am musically. You’ll hear intimate worship songs, anthemic praise tunes often sung and shouted aloud together in unison, and celebratory songs that inspire the whole church.”

    I chatted with Matt on cold winter day.  What follows is a conversation on who Matt is, what he hopes to accomplish and how he just wants to sing about Jesus.

    Read the full interview here.

    Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.

    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    There is a vulnerable side to this young lady. And if you didn't know it already, you will be able to hear it by reading the interview below. Franny came to our corporate Christmas party to bring encouragement and holiday greetings. After I sat down with her, I was reminded again about her passion.

    Read the full interview here.

    Kari Jobe - Pioneering New Roads in Worship

    Dictionary.com gives the definition of pioneer in the following ways
    1. a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.
    2. one who is first or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress.
    3. one of a group of foot soldiers detailed to make roads.

    For more than 15 years, well-respected worship leader Kari Jobe has been using her gifts to lead people into the presence of God. When she began leading worship at age 13, she never imagined she would be nominated for a GRAMMY®, win a Dove Award or be praised by the New York Times. She only knew she had a heart for broken people and a deep desire to lead them to the cross.

    Pioneer? This may be the word that describes who Kari is and what she hopes to do as an artist.

    I sat down with Kari and asked about her background. Where she came from, how she found Jesus and where is she going. Read the full interview here.

    The Life, Legacy and Music of Bill Gaither

    The pages of history have been written by ordinary people who had something extraordinary to say with their lives. Bill Gaither is just such an individual… an Indiana-born kid with an insatiable love for music who grew to become an industry leader who would change the course of gospel music history through the songs he has written and through his influence as a mentor for other artists.An avid fan of gospel quartets throughout his childhood, Bill founded his first group, The Bill Gaither Trio, in 1956, while he was a college student. He began teaching English in 1959 because his musical aspirations couldn’t support him full-time… yet. In 1962, Bill did one of the best things he has ever done. He married Gloria Sickal, who became the best writing partner Bill could have found anywhere. The couple spent the first five years of their married life juggling full-time teaching jobs, writing, singing, recording and publishing until music became their full-time career in 1967.

    Read the full interview here.

  • You Won't Let Go - Michael W. Smith

    Posted on April 8, 2014 by Family Christian

    Michael W. Smith, one of the industry’s most enduring and well-loved artists, returns with Sovereign, his first album since 2008’s A New Hallelujah. In a career that boasts album sales of over 15 million, Smith is deliberately entering a new creative chapter on Sovereign, crafting a vibrant collection of vertically-focused songs with a fresh sense of musical innovation. Smith enlisted the talents of several songwriters and producers he hasn’t collaborated with previously for the album, which includes the hit single "You Won't Let Go."

    Check out his new LIVE video here.

    What do you think of the song?

  • Michael W. Smith - Behind the New Album

    Posted on March 26, 2014 by Dan Hubka


    “Sometimes you’ve just got to shake things up,” Michael W. Smith says with a smile. After selling more than 15 million albums, scoring 28 No. 1 hits, earning three GRAMMYs and more than 40 Dove Awards, no one would blame the Christian music icon if he decided to coast just a little bit, but that’s just not in his nature.

    On Sovereign, Michael’s first worship album since 2008 and his first project since signing with Capitol Christian Music Group in 2013, he deliberately steps into a new creative chapter to craft a vibrant collection of vertically focused songs with a fresh sense of musical innovation.

    I sat down with "Smitty" to how he shook things up on his new album, Sovereign.

    Dan:                            And you’re with a brand new record label. What's that been like? Has it been different from what you've done in the past in terms of how things have progressed? Could give me some insight onto how things are different?

    Michael:                    Well, it's honestly a bit of fresh air. I mean, it was hard to leave when you've been with a record company for that long—for 29 years. But sometimes you just need to shake things up a little bit. I've always been impressed by Capitol and BMG and the kind of stuff that they're doing. And I’ve always wanted to work with Bill Hearn. So, through a series of many meetings with just about every record label there was, I felt like this was the right move. And they're knocking it out of the park. They're all in. It's been a real team effort to create this project and I'm really excited about it. I think it's my best work yet. We’ll have to see if everybody else feels the same way.

    Dan:                            Has the process itself been different from what you've done in previous records?

    Michael:                    Very different. Big faith steps for me. Going to territories I've never been to before on the creative side. Working with all these kids—I'm old enough to be their dad. That’s been a challenge and mostly fun. Working with producers I've never worked with before. It's been one of those times you jump out there with a lot of faith and it's really proved to be a great thing.

    Dan:                            The first single is "You Won't Let Go.” Can you tell us a little about that song?

    Michael:                    I wrote it with a guy named Seth Mosley, one of the producers and writers that I've never worked with before. We were hanging out in his studio working on another song called "Miracle.” It’s one of my favorite songs on the record. We kind of made that the bar, saying, “If the song doesn’t top this guy then it's not going to make the record.” We went through 120 songs.

    Dan:                            Wow.

    Michael:                    So I said to Seth, “Just play me something.” He started playing this track and I picked up an acoustic guitar started playing the melody you hear on "You Won't Let Go.” We got to the verse and chorus and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I need to get my iPhone out and hit record so I don't forget this melody.” Thirty minutes later we felt like we really had something solid musically.

    The verses from Romans that say, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God” really propelled the first idea for the lyric. Then we pulled a girl named Mia Fields in, who's a great writer. We all got in the room and we tackled the lyric and before you know it we had a song. And at the end of the day everybody felt like that was the first single. I'm very, very happy with it.

    Dan:                            I love the way that the song ends, with repeat of the simple word “always” at the end. It’s a powerful reminder to the strength of that Scripture.

    Michael:                    Yeah, I agree. It's fun to hear it on the radio. It's been awhile since I've had something on the radio. We've been doing a Christmas record and the Glory record—all these little specialty records that just I love doing. It didn't seem like anything from the Wonder record really connected for some reason.

    I can't predict what radio will play. I've never written for radio my whole life. I've never specifically said, "I'm going to try to write a pop song for radio." With Sovereign, it looks like we have a lot of songs that have potential for radio. It's very commercial but it's very authentic and worshipful.

    Dan:                            I see that you've written on several of the songs but other ones are songs that you found. Can you share with us how you found some of those other songs to round out the record?

    Michael:                    I said, "Look, I don't have to write in on every song. If we can find some songs that are really great then I'm up for that." I mean, I love to write as much as possible, but this is not about me trying to write all the songs on the album.

    So the word got out and all these people start sending me songs. I got a couple from a guy named Dustin Smith who leads worship in a church in Kansas City. "You Are the Fire" is one of his songs. I started doing it live in the fall even before I started working on the album. It seemed to really connect. "Sovereign Over Us” is just unbelievable. It’s written by Aaron Keys from Atlanta. Actually, my son-in-law, Jack Mooring from Leeland, was co-writer on that song. It might be the best song on the album musically and especially lyrically.

    That's just to name a few. Chris Stevens is a guy I've worked with. He's worked with TobyMac and Mandisa for years and was a fan growing up in Eugene, Oregon. Now he's producing three of the cuts and he's mixing the whole record.

    Dan:                            I had the privilege of attending the taping of the deluxe edition at your barn.

    Michael:                    Oh, that's awesome!

    Dan:                            Can you share some of those moments from that night that stuck out to you?

    Michael:                    I thought it was awesome. I mean, we had a lot of stuff to overcome. The weather – it was 14 degrees outside.

    Dan:                            It was cold.

    Michael:                    We kept all the folks in Franklin that sell propane in business. I think from so much that could have gone wrong, everything just worked. I think the challenge was having all of these people come—400 people—to sing these songs. And they’re songs that these people had never heard before.

    There were some wonderful moments. I thought the Leeland moment was incredible. The Kari Jobe moment was amazing. We prayed, “Can we just have a fresh encounter with the Lord this night? Forget about the cameras, forget that we're taping this thing for DVD and audio.” So we forgot all about that. And we felt something. I sensed the beautiful presence of God in that barn.

    Dan:                            As somebody in the audience, I agree there was something about the night. The presence of the Spirit was there. You hit on a couple moments that I thought were really special too. The song with Kari Jobe, “The One That Really Matters,” was a fantastic song and watching the two of you perform that in that moment was really good.

    Michael:                    It’s a Dustin Smith song. We found that song at the last minute. Actually Jack, my son-in-law, mentioned it to me. Jack says, "Hey, you've heard that song, ‘The One that Really Matters,’” and I go, "You know I need to go back and listen to it again." We were still trying to find one last song that possibly could end the record. I went back to listen to it and thought, "Wow. Maybe this is what I'm supposed to do."

    Dan:                            Leeland was at the barn that night as well.

    Michael:                    Leeland and Jack, along with David and Leslie from All Sons & Daughters wrote "Christ Be All Around Me.” I went to Jack because he had cut that song at the barn three weeks earlier and said, "Would you all mind if I cut it?" Everybody was cool with it. That song turned out really amazing not only live, but on the studio version as well.

    Dan:                            I heard that your son Ryan filmed the night at the barn. Is that correct?

    Michael:                    Yes. He's amazing. He's just so good. I'm so proud of him. There were a lot of people in line for that job to do that deal. Ryan had never shot a live DVD. He's made tons of videos. He's written and directed a movie called After, but he had never done this. I said, "Guys I'm staying out of it. You guys hire whoever you think needs the job. There's a conflict of interest here for me.” They all fell in love with Ryan at Capitol.

    It looks amazing. You're not going to believe it. It's so incredibly well done.

    Dan:                            How cool to have your son be part of that. That's pretty awesome.

    Michael:                    Yup. Kind of fun working with your kids.

    Dan:                            Last thoughts on the record. Can you give us some insight as to how you landed on Sovereign as the title track and an overall theme to the record? What made you land on that particular title and song?

    Michael:                    Well, second or third in terms of importance, I think the title pops. But really, first and foremost, I just think we're all just so in love with “Sovereign Over Us” and feel like this song is going to have longevity for a long, long time, mainly for what it says: What the enemy means for evil, He turns it for the good. Even in the valley, He's faithful. He's working it for the good. I think this is something so many people just need to hear.

    I think it's the right title for the record. It encompasses everything that's on the album for sure.

    Dan:                            Going back to that night at the barn, you mentioned something that night that really stuck out to me and I'd like to get some additional thoughts. You mentioned that you believed that 2014 was potentially a big year for the church. What do you mean from that standpoint in terms of what are you seeing and feeling out there?

    Michael:                    I just sense in my spirit that there's something stirring, you know? I feel like there's this—to borrow from Jim Cymbala’s book—Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. There seems to be a real hunger and passion in this next generation. I think that's going to pay off. When I say pay off, I think that's going to usher in something very, very beautiful. I think there’s something about to explode.

    That's just me. I could be wrong. But if you're a true believer and you look at the Word, man, we're in battle. It's a fight. We have an enemy that's very real and trying to take us down. And I'm feeling like there are a lot of victories coming in 2014.

  • 44th Annual Dove Awards

    Posted on October 17, 2013 by Family Christian

    Hosted in the hub of the Christian Music industry, Nashville Tennessee, the 44th Annual GMA Dove Awards included several powerful performances by Big Daddy Weave, Colton Dixon, Michael W. Smith, and For King & Country, to name a few. The official hosts of the event were Amy Grant and Kirk Franklin as well as pre-cast telecast hosts Jamie Grace and Chris August.

    The Dove Awards took place on October 15th and will be aired on October 21st at 8 p.m. EDT on UP.

    Click here for a list of the winning albums.

    Throughout the night, Matt Redman frequented the stage, winning 4 awards for his single “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” as well as the Songwriter of the Year Award. Matt was also a part of the Dove-Award winning album, “Passion: Let The Future Begin” along with Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Kari Jobe, David Crowder, and Christy Nockels.

    Artist of the Year was awarded to Tobymac who took home a total of 4 awards, including 3 for his short film and album, “Eye On It”. Upon winning the Artist of the Year Award, TobyMac stated, “It feels weird to be called artist of the year when I know it takes a family, and I always want to acknowledge that. I said in one of my songs a long time ago, ‘I’m just a little man trying to fit in God’s plan.’ I still feel like that”.

    Other winners included For King & Country as New Artist of the Year, Lecrae’s “Tell the World” for Rap/Hip-Hop Song of the Year, and Jason Crabb’s “What the Blood is for” (Southern Gospel Song of the Year). The Uplift Someone Award was given to Mandisa “for her music, message, and humanitarian heart, all of which (individually and collectively) have inspired others,” said Amy Grant.

    Among a number of spectacular performances, the musical tribute to the Gaither Vocal Band, performed by Karen Peck, Daily & Vincent, Signature Sound and the Isaacs, was one of the most remarkable displays of passion and talent. Another memorable moment included a collaborative performance with Michael W. Smith and the Newsboys in honor of evangelist Billy Graham.

    UP’s President & CEO Charles Humbard stated, “Congratulations to the GMA Dove Awards winners, performers, presenters and hosts Amy Grant and Kirk Franklin for a thrilling night a spectacular entertainment. This evening celebrates the unifying and uplifting power of this genre and demonstrates why this is the biggest night of Christian and Gospel music. There is no other network dedicated to showcase this prestigious musical celebration other than UP.”

    For a list of winners click here.

  • Behind the Songs with Darlene Zschech

    Posted on July 8, 2013 by Family Christian

    The long awaited live worship project from iconic worship leader Darlene Zschech is available now. Revealing Jesus is Darlene’s first worship recording in the U.S., and was produced by four time Grammy winner and Gold selling worship artist Israel Houghton at the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. In addition to Israel, Darlene is joined by friends Michael W Smith and Kari Jobe as co writers and performers on the project.

    Watch and listen as Darlene shares her thoughts behind some of the albums songs:

    Bonus video - Victor's Crown

  • Revealing Jesus U.S. Tour Launches Today in San Diego

    Posted on April 17, 2013 by Family Christian



    Tour Features Darlene Zschech, Israel Houghton With Special Guest BJ Putnam

    World-renowned worship leader and best-selling author, Darlene Zschech, and five-time GRAMMY Award-winner, Israel Houghton, open their U.S. “Revealing Jesus Tour” in San Diego today (April 16) followed by events in Las Vegas (4/17), Phoenix (4/18), Irvine and Rancho Cucamonga, CA (4/19), Houston (4/20-21) and Dallas (4/21). In addition to new music from Zschech and Houghton, the events will feature special guest worship leader and songwriter BJ Putnam. For all the latest tour detail and ticket information, go to www.darlenezschech.com.

    Christians across continents are joining in the call to worship presented through Zschech’s Revealing Jesus live CD/DVD and 365-day devotional hardcover gift book from RGM-NEW BREED Music / Integrity Music and Bethany House Publishers, respectively. Released March 19 amidst international acclaim, her long-awaited new recording was produced by Houghton and features special guest appearances and song co-writes with Michael W. Smith, Kari Jobe and Houghton. The first video from the Revealing Jesus DVD is “Victor's Crown.”

    Dr. Chuck Fromm, founder and publisher of Worship Leader Magazine / Song Discovery says, “Among today’s hymnwriters and music creators, Darlene Zschech is a pioneer, mentor and vital contributor with worldwide impact.” Charisma Magazine says, “Zschech, with Houghton’s direction, has crafted one of the finest live worship projects in recent memory, which serves as a bridge for those raised on early Hillsong music who want to sing a new song.” CCM Magazine says, “In her classic fashion, worship leader Darlene Zschech brings her A-game once more in this newest release.”

    In addition to the 12 new Revealing Jesus CD/DVD worship anthems, bonus tracks in custom versions of the album will include fresh takes on such internationally acclaimed songs as “Shout to the Lord,” “Hosanna” and “Worthy is the Lamb,” as well as the Houghton-penned “Jesus at the Center.” The custom versions include a “deluxe” CD/DVD combination.

    The companion Revealing Jesus book was poured out from the pages of Zschech’s personal journals. Honest, raw, and beautifully written, the devotional contains meditations and Scriptures revealing the heart of Jesus. Worship Leader magazine says the book is “beneficial for those who may feel stuck in a rut in their prayer life or for those who may not know where to start, overwhelmed by the vastness of the Bible…[it] will help readers to gain a fresh perspective and renewed hope for each day, deepening their understanding of God and drawing them closer to Him.”

    To listen to song samples from Darlene's newest album, click here.

  • Amy Grant - The Wife/Mother/Singer/Songwriter

    Posted on April 10, 2013 by John van der Veen



    There’s nothing like life experience to provide a deeper, richer emotional palette for a songwriter to draw from when crafting new music. For Amy Grant, it’s been 10 years since her last full studio album and it’s been a decade marked by soul-shaking milestones. As she’s always done, Grant has embraced both the triumphs and challenges, distilled them to their essence and poured the lessons learned into songs that ache with honesty and reverberate with gentle wisdom.

    How Mercy Looks From Here is the soundtrack of a life well-lived. “A lot of major life changes happened during these past few years.” Grant says. “So on this record, there’s zero filler. Every song has a real story behind it.”

    In chatting with Amy, I saw, again, that here is a woman of deep faith. Deep love. Love for family. Love for art. Love for food. Yes, food. And love for God.

    John: Before we talk about the new record, do you want to talk a little bit about what you’ve been doing over the last 10 or so years since the last new record? Is that too big of a question?

    Amy: I’ve been… Ten years is a lot of life!

    John: That’s a lot of life.

    Amy: It’s not that I haven’t made music in 10 years. I’ve toured and just from a work standpoint, I never stopped working. Just had a little less energy for being in the studio. In the last 10 years, we’ve gone from four kids under the roof to one. It’s a big change. I have two daughters living in New York now, a son who’s getting his engineering and applied mathematics degree and then a lot of personal changes that you just never know when those things are going to happen.

    There was the death of some good friends and my mom. A fellow musician, Will Owsley, who I’ve made a lot of music with. A good friend of mine who’ve I’ve played music with, my gosh, for 15 years, passed away in 2009. Anyway, I think there are times that are just sort of more creative, and there are times to just hunker down and be in life.

    John: When you go through the process of creating art, is that something you more or less feel compelled from your own heart, where it just kind of flows from you? Or is it more structured than that? Do you sit down, and take the time to say, “Okay, now I have to work here.”

    Amy: As far as song ideas, those just appear because they’re triggered by something. I might hold onto a song idea for quite some time before I sit down to put it into a song. Probably what makes me focus on an actual project is a deadline. I don’t know how you are in your life, you’re clearly a writer, but I don't know much time you make to sit down and just write for art’s sake. Since this last year I knew I had a record due and sometimes the responsibility of a deadline makes you disciplined. I consider it a gift.

    John: Do you know how many songs you have written?

    Amy: I don’t write 100 songs a year or anything like that. I’ve written only a couple songs some years, but I’ve done this for a long time, so I don’t know. Maybe a couple hundred.

    John: Amy, you are a singer, you’re obviously a songwriter, you’re a musician, you’re an actress and you’re an author. How do you encourage some of the people that are reading this now, who feel like they have too much on their plate and they don’t have time being a wife or a mom or a daughter or a co-worker? How do you manage all of life?

    Amy: I have to go back and say that I would use the term actress very loosely. I can’t speak for a man, but for a woman it might feel like we’re juggling all things at all times. But I think in reality that different things take priority, kind of in a revolving pattern. If you’re a working mom, there are times that a deadline at work forces you to put that on the front burner and there’s no rest until it’s done. I think maybe it’s good to say occasionally what matters the most, either to write it down or to talk about it with a good trusted friend.

    If how you’re spending your time never matches up to what your priorities are, then I think we need to be honest and say, “This is my priority.” If something is a priority and it never matches up with the time that you’re spending on it, there needs to be a change in how we’re spending our time. I have done all those things, but someone told me that one time. Everybody’s life is so different that it’s hard to say what’s going to give someone more time.

    The list of things I’ve done doesn’t tell you how I spend my time on a daily basis. For instance, we don’t eat out very much. You might think I do. Maybe it’s because when I’m on the road, I’m never digging into my own refrigerator. But I think the kitchen is the hub of the home. And because I travel so much with work, when we’re home, I’m almost always cooking something. I’m not a great cook, but I’m decent, so I always make sure there are good things in the refrigerator.

    When I get really overwhelmed with work or I feel very scattered, I will go into the kitchen and start cooking. Easier said than done sometimes, I know. For someone who has a 9 to 5 job, that might not work so well. But you can do it on the weekends. I find that when I start cooking, I have time to think. People walk through the kitchen because they smell something good, and they go, “Hey, what’s that smell?” So there’s the social side of it too. And if you don’t have an idea at first of what you’re going to cook, just cut up some onions and put them in a little olive oil in the skillet and then it starts to smell good. My family may ask, “What is it?” I go, “I don’t know. I’m just buying time.” That’s just for me.

    Cooking’s a very centering process. Somebody is always hungry and I’m cooking in mass, and so I know one of my friends is not going to have had time to make dinner or somebody I know might be sick, but I will just go, “Oh, man. I am feeling so scattered and really sad. I feel like I’m untethered. I can’t figure out what’s wrong,” so I start cooking. We all have our trigger points. For me, if I can start cooking, it gives me time to think, and then people come into the kitchen. My daughter will come in, sit on the kitchen counter and we just start talking. Anyway, those are some of the reasons I like it.

    John: Who’s the better cook, you or Vince?

    Amy: He only really cooks one meal a year, Christmas breakfast for the whole family. He loves to eat and so it’s nice to cook when you’ve got someone in the house who loves to eat.

    John: Does he make the same Christmas meal every year?

    Amy: It just kind of anything breakfast-y that you can think of.

    John: He goes beyond just, “Here’s bowl of cereal.”

    Amy: Yes. It’s like sausage, bacon, sometimes waffles, eggs. He started doing that years ago. It’s so nice to just sit there with a cup of coffee and watch him work. I like that.

    John: That’s a nice gift. Amy, let’s talk a little bit about the new record, How Mercy Looks From Here. What went into that title as a theme?

    Amy: It’s the title of one of the songs. I had that phrase floating around in my head for quite some time. I was anxious to write a song. I think the great thing about living for a while is that the longer you live, the less quick you are to say, “This is a good thing, this is a bad thing.” I just say, “Well, this is what it is, and now we live with this.”

    John: In one of the lyrics in that song, I think you sang, “I would have given up drowning in my tears if it wasn’t for your voice all these years.” What’s behind that?

    Amy: That song originally came from a really difficult time. I think the idea for that song was born in the first week of May, 2010. A lot of really awful things happened that week, and some really beautiful things as well. But with each extreme, what I experienced alone and what I experienced with my family was that we encountered a kind of gentle grace and mercy.

    Some within, with each other. I’ll tell you what happened that week. It started off on a Friday, Will Owsley, a good friend of mine, a musician, killed himself. It was awful and I went to his home that night. His mom and dad had come up from Anniston, Alabama and we were all just in shock. Then it started raining on Saturday, the next day. The biggest flood that’s ever been in recorded history hit Nashville. I guess it crested on Monday. Like a lot of people, we were not physically hurt, but we lost a lot of things.

    A lot of guitars that were at a storage facility and a rehearsal hall called Sound Check; probably all of our road cases and guitars. Of course in the wake of Will’s death, that seemed like nothing, but it was actually very difficult to even get in the car to go to his funeral because the roads were still flooded. Then it was also beautiful being with his family. And it was beautiful watching the community of Nashville come together to help each other out with the flood.

    Then, as a family, we were anticipating the wedding of our oldest daughter, Jenny, which was that Saturday. We were forging ahead with this outdoor wedding in our yard and making those plans, putting up tents. The woman who was the wedding planner, and handles all the decorations, said her home was completely destroyed. She was living out of a hotel and we said, “What can we do?” She said, “You know what? I can’t get home until the water recedes.” Her car was, I mean, the whole thing was under water. She said, “I’m living in a hotel and I just want to lose myself in this celebration. At the beginning of a married couple’s life and I’ll just deal with the mud later.” Watching that, we were going, “Oh, my goodness!” It was the most beautiful, joyful coming together. All week there were preparations and it was just so great. My mom and dad were over every day. Then on Thursday, a cousin of mine was killed in Afghanistan. Friday morning I’m at their home mourning again. Extremes.

    We were just talking about what a blessing he was. And his four siblings had sat around and made this recording with a friend of ours for several hours, reminiscing about family history. Just the timing of it was so merciful. Everybody was thankful for Skype, and that it hadn’t been months or weeks since they’d seen Adam’s face. Just processing, but feeling this sense of love and the mercy in the middle of it.

    Then that night, we had Jenny’s rehearsal dinner in our front yard because the location had been rained out for her rehearsal dinner. Our house is at the top of a little hill on the street. She got married in the front yard, I mean the rehearsal dinner’s in the front yard and the next day the wedding was in the side yard and the reception was in the backyard. I got to tell you, that was such an emotional rollercoaster week, the whole thing. I came away from that week saying, “I feel like from every angle I have seen how mercy looks. “ It took a couple of years to write the song, but I kept going, “I’ve got to write that song ‘How Mercy Looks From Here.’”

    John: I don’t want to say that all of your other records are not spiritual, because they certainly are, all of them are, but there are songs on here that go really deep. The one you were just talking about, “How Mercy Looks From Here,” which is the title track, and the first single “Don’t Try so Hard,” are quite spiritual. Has there been a spiritual awakening or a deep rootedness you’ve felt? You obviously have been talking about the various things that have happened in your life in the last few years, has God done something amazing?

    Amy: Well, I think He always does. Whether you’re writing about it or not. I think that on this record, in particular, I wanted every song to matter. That came directly from a conversation I had with my mom. My mother passed away in April of 2011. It’s February, I was home from a road trip, kind of an extensive tour with Michael W. Smith, from Fall 2010 to the Spring of 2011. Anyway, I had gone by to see my mom and dad, they both suffered with dementia.

    My dad’s still living and he has full blown dementia, but my mom … If you’re going to have to vote for a kind of dementia to have, Lewy Bodies is a good kind to have because it doesn’t change your personality. It just changes your relationship with reality. Sometimes it comes and goes, sometimes it seemed almost like she was in time travel or something like that.

    One time my niece was visiting her and my mom was so excited. She confided in my niece that she thought she was pregnant, which would have been a nightmare since she was 78. But she was so excited about … My aunt Gracie said, “Doe, you’re 78. There’s no way you’re pregnant.” My mother’s like, “I am? That’s awful.”

    And there was the time I had gone to see her in February. It was nighttime and we had our visit and then I said, “Mom, I’ve got to go pack and get back on the bus.” And she said, “Oh, you’re getting a bus.” I’m like, “Yes, I’m going to do a show. I’m traveling with Michael W. and I’ve been singing so much this year.” She went, “Ah, you sing?” Okay here we go… I said, “I do.” I’m so used to that pattern of her being there and then not being there. I said, “I do, I sing.”

    “What kind of songs do you sing?” she asked. I told her and she asked, “Will you sing something for me?” So I did and she was so adorable. Then she said, “Can I go with you?” I pictured my mother crawling into one of those bunks and I said, “Maybe not this time. We’ll talk about it when I’m back in town.” I kissed her on the cheek and I was heading out the door and she said, “Hey, will you do me a favor?” I turned back and I said, “Sure, what?”

    She said, “When you get on that stage, sing something that matters.” I said, “I will do that.” That was not our last conversation, but it was in the last eight weeks of her life. I’m dedicating this record to her. Gloria Napier Grant. I believe that was probably a driving force in the song choices. They’re not all of the spiritual nature, but they all matter.

    John: Amy, on the song, “Deep As It Is Wide,” you have some quest vocals.

    Amy: Yes, but that’s the only song on the record that I was not a part writer on.

    John: Who are the other singers?

    Amy: Erik Paslay. He wrote that song six years ago and I have loved it. I’ve had a copy of it for four years. I’ve loved it.

    John: It’s a great song.

    Amy: I’ve listened to it incessantly in the last months of my mom’s life. He is the one that gave me the permission to sing it with him. He wanted to do a group thing. Erik and Sheryl Crow and myself. I’m just crazy about that song and they’re both dear friends of mine. Erik and I were both at the studio, because we were working simultaneously with the same producer, Marshall Altman. I said, “Erik, either say yes we can do the song or no we can’t.”

    He was really dragging his feet because so many people had asked him to record that song. Little Big Town wanted to record it, Lady Antebellum wanted to record it and he kept saying, “No.” I said, “Just say no, it’s okay.” He said, “No. I think I want you to be singing on this song,” and I said, “Okay, well great. What else? Do you want it to be like a group of singers?” He said, “I guess so.” As a songwriter, what you write, those are your gems. That’s clearly a great song. Erik will, hopefully, have a great career in country music.

    I have good audience in the Christian music community and so I said, “Why don’t we ask Cheryl, because she’s more of the rock-n-roll background. That way we’re really speaking to three different communities. He said, “I like that. I like that.” Because really it’s about the song, especially that song. We called her up and she said, “I’m getting ready to lie down for a nap. I’ll listen to it as soon as I get down, and I’ll call you back.” She called back and said, “How did I get lucky straw to get to sing on this song?”

    John: That’s great. Amy, do you have a passage in the Bible that you’re particularly close to right now?

    Amy: That’s a good question. I spend a lot of time memorizing Scripture. I would say the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is swirling around my head currently. Really the whole thing, I think, because it dove tails with this book that I’m reading right now called The Epic of Eden. Who’s the author of that? Let me see. Sandra Richter is the author. She’s a professor at some seminary.

    The songs on How Mercy Looks From Here represent a season of growth, yet as personal as they are, they are also universal. Everyone can relate to love, loss and the passing of time. “At some point in life you realize that some things really matter and some things don’t,” Grants says. “Living matters. Celebrating life matters.  Seeing the value in hard times matters.  Relationships and people matter.  Faith matters.  I feel like that’s where my head has been while writing and recording his project.  I feel this is a very positive record. I hope it is life affirming. Life prepares us for the journey. You don’t know what’s ahead and that is one of the great things about getting older in a framework of faith.  Faith is the one thing that stands the test of time.”

    Amy Three Caregiving Tips
    In this video, Amy talks about caring for her father who has profound dementia and what families can do to make this time one of meaning and spiritual growth.

  • Matt Maher. On Being Christian.

    Posted on April 1, 2013 by John van der Veen



    Matt Maher's newest album, All The People Said Amen," fuses the popularity of his vibrant live show with several new studio cuts, offering fans an assortment of writing and performance styles.

    “This project,” offers Maher, “is a real collage of who I am musically. You’ll hear intimate worship songs, anthemic praise tunes often sung and shouted aloud together in unison, and celebratory songs that inspire the whole church.”

    I chatted with Matt on cold winter day.  What follows is a conversation on who Matt is, what he hopes to accomplish and how he just wants to sing about Jesus.

    John: So, Matt … hey man, again, thank you for talking with me. I’m wondering if you could give me a little bit of background information on who you are. I know you spent some time in Arizona as a worship leader, but before that, where did you come from?

    Matt: I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada. I was involved in the Northeast, and I lived there for 20 years. I was born and raised there. I grew up in St. Johns, sort of a small harbor town with a population of about 250,000. I worked there when I was 19. My parent’s got separated and my mom’s American. So, she moved back to Arizona. Her father was a naval pilot and her parents retired in Arizona. I wasn’t going to church at the time. I was born and raised in the Northeast. Like a lot of people 20 years ago, you grew up definitely in one of the main lines of denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal or what have you. I grew up Catholic with Catholic schooling and all that, and had a lot of great experiences. From a very young age, my parents did a great job of instilling a general faith in God, in Jesus. Going to school, you hear the story of the incarnation and salvation, but I didn’t really get all the person of Jesus. I grew up like a lot of people, sort of educated somewhat in my faith but not really getting to have a moment where I made a decision to follow this person, Jesus, who did all of these amazing things for me. Not only gave the universe and gave me life but also died for all my sins and the sins of the whole world and guaranteed me a place in heaven.

    I think what happened was, I moved … I was 19, my parents were getting divorced, I was a Music major in college already, studying music. I wanted to do film restoring. That was my childhood dream! I figured, well I moved to Arizona and L.A. is an eight-hour drive. I could get a job working part-time. Then I thought about it and I was like, “You should really finish your degree.” Then I applied to Arizona State University and got accepted! I didn’t realize that it was two months after the admission deadline and somehow I still got accepted and met the people for the school of music and had to do an audition tape. They were like, it’s obvious you’re meant to be here but we don’t have any scholarship money available. You are an American citizen, so why don’t you come here and live here for a year and then we can get in the tuition and we can figure out what we can do for you then. So I did!

    I took one credit hour. That’s all I could afford! I worked at a coffee shop down the road, but more importantly, I had a cousin there who was my age. I had been in Arizona for six weeks, and she was really involved with a youth movement called “Life Team” which is kind of like “Young Life” in the Catholic Church. It started at a church in Arizona and now it’s in more than 1,600 churches in the U.S. and all over the world.

    Basically, what they were doing is they were taking sort of the historical traditions and the doctoral teachings of Catholicism and presenting them in a format that helps kids understand that the foundation of it all is having a relationship with Jesus. So, I started hanging out with her because I didn’t know anybody else my age. All her friends were helping out with the youth group. I had met them a couple of years ago because when I was in high school, like I said I went to Arizona and I went on a couple of the youth trips and it seemed kind of cool.

    So, I’m 19 years old, my parents are divorced and I realized that I had a lot of questions about life and about who I am. I wondered about my real purpose and the meaning behind all of it and that kind of stuff. I was in that time frame when people are asking those major questions, and what I realized is that I was going to everywhere but God for answers. I think that by being in a community of not just people my age, but in one where young people, older people, families and everybody was sort of living out their faith, it gave me permission to do the same thing. So in a very short period of time, I started going to church again every week. That summer I was prayed with to receive Jesus, and I started participating in my Catholic faith again, but this time in kind of in a more personal sense. I had never experienced anything like that before growing up.

    I started helping out with the youth group and started playing piano at our masses and services. All of this amazing stuff happened. I found … like I said, I found a job and my mom got an apartment a mile away from ASU and a mile away from the church, and it just became very apparent to me that God had a plan all along. I helped out at this church for a year and then I actually ended up at another church. I got my job there because of Rich Mullins.

    John: Really?

    Matt: Yes. Back to the story … Like I said, I had been in Arizona for about a year and a half and I got a phone call from this guy named Tom Boos who was sort of a contemporary Catholic music guy, worship leader, more liturgical of sorts.

    He was the music guy for “Life Team” and basically Tom started mentoring me. He was casting a musical that Rich had written, called “Canticle of the Plains.”

    John: Oh sure!

    Matt: The church that he worked at—St. Timothy’s, which is in Mesa—did a performance of it. He asked if I would play a character. He goes, “I’m doing a musical that Rich Mullins wrote and I think you’d be perfect for it. He was actually thinking … I was praying and I felt like Jesus told me that I was supposed to cast you.

    It was like the worst … well, not the worst, that’s probably a bad word, but it was the most amazing type of typecasting. I played a character who was best friends with Frank, who’s modeled after St. Francis and his name was Ivory, we’ll just nickname him or Ira was his name. He played piano in a saloon. What was crazy was I paid my way through the first three years of college in Canada by playing piano in a hotel bar.

    John: Wow!

    Matt: I spent about a month, on and off every other week, a couple of days with this guy Rich Mullins and the only song I knew that he wrote was “Awesome God” which I didn’t particularly like the verses. I thought it was so strange, but to hear this amazing chorus ...

    I got to know Rich, and during that time a job opening came at St. Tim’s and so I took it. Rich would periodically come down. He developed a really good friendship with Tom who was my mentor. Tom actually co-wrote the song, “Nothing is Beyond Jesus” with Rich and Mitch McVicker. I kind of ended up joining this other church then for 13 years and during that time I graduated from college and discovered modern worship music. I discovered that there were a bunch of guys my age doing what I was doing, but in the denominational or the Baptist world. I was led to Christ by sort-of charismatic Catholics, so I was much cooler with that bit of musical expression anyways. For me, hearing music such as the Delirious and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, all of a sudden I was like, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There was this period where I was meandering and I was trying to figure out what am I supposed to be doing? I was just writing music primarily for my church for the youth group I was part of. We started doing a weekly worship night, kind of like a Wednesday night. It was primarily geared towards kids in the Catholic Church and I think what changed was in … are we good so far? Do you need me to stop?

    John: I’m really enjoying this Matt. I have hours and hours and days and days. You can talk as long as you want!

    Matt: Oh, good. In 2002, no 2003, I wrote your “Grace is Enough” and I remember when I wrote it, I was going through a bit of a dry spell, spiritually, you know like most people that work at churches do. You know, you just get burned out. You give a lot of yourself, you know, and a friend of mine once said, “Look, if you allow her to, Church will suck the life out of you!” The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!

    I wrote that song, and later that same year, I played it at a youth specialties convention. They came to my church and they were so flipped out that there was this Catholic Church in Arizona doing not only youth ministry but using contemporary music, like in a mass. They were like, “You need to come sing that song! That song’s amazing. I was kind of oblivious and I was like, “Okay, cool!” I knew who Chris (Tomlin) was and I was familiar enough with the Passion ministry. I used to go to a Family Christian store and buy CDs when I worked at the church.

    John: Woo Hoo!

    Matt: So, what happened was that Chris backed me up with that song; him and his band. He, I guess, I guess he really, really liked it and a couple of months later I ran in to him again and he said, “Hey, do you have a copy of that song? I’d really like to show it to somebody and I was like, sure!” Well, what I didn’t realize was that that somebody was Ed Cash, who was his producer.

    John: Oh yeah!

    Matt: The next day or that Saturday or Monday I got an email from him that said, “I’m going to record this song. Are you cool with me putting it on my next record?” He wanted to make a couple of arrangement changes and stuff, and so we talked on the phone and I was like, “Absolutely!”

    I remember when I read that email, where I was … I was in the house across the street from my church and that’s where all the worship staff worked and I remember reading it and I think I even screamed out loud! It wasn’t so much that Chris Tomlin was recording my song, as much as it was that I felt like I was staring at the screen through words on a screen, sort of looking into my future. And I felt like God was just saying, “I’m opening a door here and there’s a new sequence of life coming.” Chris recorded that song, obviously, and it was on “Arising,” and I think that started a relationship, which has really turned into a friendship. Chris, to me is just a great friend. He’s a wonderful man of God and I think that’s blossomed over the years; that sort of collaboration. In fact, kind of what happened after that was that he asked us to come to a Passion conference and lead in a small community group. We did and I was the token Catholic; that’s what people were talking about. I think all of us kind of looked at it like what is happening? Why do we all connect?

    During that time, I just kind of started to feel like the Holy Spirit was downloading into me a vision for ministry that was less focused on denominations and more about trying to bring the Church together. Not ignoring the disagreements that we have, but more so saying the things that we agree upon are just far greater, and that that’s something that the world desperately needs to see. It needs to see the Church standing together in solidarity.

    John: Matt, let’s talk a little bit about that. You’ve had a unique role in walking in to both Catholic as well as Protestant circles with that ideology behind you. What do you think... where others have attempted that before you but for some reason, there is something with your songs that are resonating very well. Not to say that they’re two camps but just to kind of break it down to some extent that there are two camps. What do you think that is? Why is it that God is using you in this particular moment in time to do such a thing as that?

    Matt: Well, I think and here’s what I’ve learned, that as a songwriter, you can write songs about your faith, you can write songs from your faith. I think a great example of that is just in the test of time in great songs of the Church that we all sing, because of our denominations. I think that when you look at those songs, those songs weren’t necessarily written about doctrines of faith as much as they were written from doctrines of faith; the difference of that being that I realize that early on in my writing I was writing songs about my Christian faith from a Catholic perspective. I think over time as my faith became more and more integrated just to know who I was, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. I just needed to write songs from my faith, and so I think when you do that, there’s a timeless element of core Christian truth that shines through regardless of disagreements. I think people just start to go … I mean, “Amazing Grace” … that song isn’t about justification. It isn’t about subsidiary atonement or sensationalism. It’s a song about grace! It’s a song that comes from a deep personal perspective, and in a way from the gospel. It’s not about the gospel.

    I think that’s the difference. I think writers more and more are realizing that. “10,000 Reasons”… some people could say it was a theological speculation about the multitude of reasons that a redeemed sinner would have to bless God, or you could just simply say that it’s an amazing prayer that comes from a heart of somebody who knows Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying?

    John: Yes.

    Matt: I think part of it is the realization that I don’t major in the minors!

    John: That’s a good point!

    Matt: Like Matt Redman and I wrote a song about communion together. He comes from an Anglican or Evangelical background and I came from a Catholic background. We have completely different doctoral teachings about communion and about the Eucharist. Does that mean that we can’t write a song together about the importance of communion. Or that when Jesus says in the Bible, “Remember me … do this in remembrance of me… that we can’t. What we can say is let’s try to serve the Church with a song that somehow reflects truth and leaves a little bit of room for the mystery of faith. I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my music. Particularly I think the corporate songs … the songs specifically for churches to sing on Sunday. I have definitely tried to do that in those songs.

    John: When you look at the catalog of songs that have come through Christian-dome in the years, down through the ages, what is a song or two that continues to move you and make you go, “That is a song that drives specifically to my heart and makes me fall at the feet of Jesus”?

    Matt: Hmmm.

    I think for me I definitely do … I liturgically sort of … coming from a liturgical mindset and as a believer … I’m a firm believer in seasons and so I would say it would depend on what season we’re in. I think “It Is Well” is just to me such an awe-encompassing, amazing hymn that I think the more you grow in your faith and in your life, you know, being single and following Jesus is one thing but being married and being a father and following Jesus it completely changes. Particularly as you get older in life, you just start noticing this thing where people around you, their bodies just start breaking down. It’s like I have had more family members or friends suffer with illness or disease or heart problems or diabetes or all of that. I think that combined with just the climate of everything going on in the world. Well, we don’t have a pope, we’re currently sequestered and the city of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. If you don’t have anything to pray about, just go ahead and pick one of those!

    I think a hymn like that speaks volumes because it’s very real and it addresses a lot of the human experience. It’s like we have mountain top moments that are fleeting and small, and they inspire us to walk through the valleys, so that even in the valley’s we can continue to be a joy for people and say it as well.

    It’s so funny because when you immediately said it, I thought of “Oh Holy Night”. We sing that song once a year but for a lot of people, the lyrics just fly right by. Truly He taught us to love one another, His name is love and His gospel is peace, chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppressions shall cease … the problem is that we only sing that song once a year so it doesn’t get enough scrutiny.

    I think of a hymn like that and a song like that and how it defines a singular moment. I mean if you hear “Oh Holy Night” you knew everybody, even the un-churched can think of an experience of being in church and hearing that song, hopefully sung well. I think that is powerful. Those are two examples. I think it’s so funny … I just love the fact that a melody that was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we’ll still sing it and that’s just a really neat prospect.

    As a songwriter, to think that you might eventually stumble upon something that you’ll get to hand down to the church and the point isn’t that you wrote it, the point is that it gets to get handed down and to me, that’s exciting.

    John: I’m going to ask you a personal question and again, all of these are fair game. If you don’t want to answer any one, it would not offend me at all.

    Matt, how does somebody who is in your role, who’s known possibly all over the world for leading people to Jesus … how do you kind of step out of that and say, it’s not about Matt, it is about Jesus when you happen to be in front of a couple thousand people at that time?

    Matt: Well, I would say that wherever you are in your life, God has used the years prior to that to prepare you for that moment and that season. I look back on the 13+ years of doing ministry in the local church and not being known and kind of being taken for granted. I asked God for moments in my life where I could be part of relationships and communities where I am a little bit taken for granted; not in a negative way but in a positive way. To be seen as part of the body of Christ and not the head. There’s only one head. That experience of being active in the local church—not just leading worship on a platform, but being in community with people and having your relationships with young people, teenagers and playing at funerals and playing at baptisms and playing at weddings and participating in the life of the body of Christ—those things stay with you. I think that has definitely been part of it. I had very small beginnings; the first thing I ever really got to lead worship for was a Bible study … no that was actually on a good night … it was with about 15 teenagers. That’s where I started falling in love with leading worship. The biggest fear I had was playing for 65 kids one night and it might as well as been with 65,000 people. I just think for me, that’s where my heart was formed and God definitely poured a lot into me and spoken a lot of things in those years that have stayed with me. For example, I remember being in a conference and God saying, “All you’re doing is standing up and supporting what I’m doing. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything!”

    Because you do … you get in there and you’re like, what if I make a mistake or what if I mess up or you know? You fall victim to your pride and think like … look at me, I’m so great and I just remember God saying I’m doing all the work and it kind of comes from second Chronicles when the Lord leads that small army … he said, “Go and stand up on this hill and I want you to watch, I’m basically going to kick it!” I remember reading that early on and then carrying that into worship one night and God saying, that’s all that you’re doing. You and your little band of people are going to go stand up on the mountain and watch and look down and watch me take care of everything! Being married helps a lot!

    John: Amen!

    Matt: You know, my wife isn’t impressed at all by musical ability. It’s not that it doesn’t matter anymore, it just doesn’t woo her anymore … that’s all!

    John: I may need to have a part II interview with her pretty soon!

    Matt: (laughs)!

    John: Let’s talk a little bit about your new record. You have a new record coming out next month. “All the People Said Amen” and in listening to it, it’s a little bit different than your previous records. Do you want to talk a little bit about what went in to the making of it?

    Matt: Sure. I was on tour with Third Day and talking about what’s next, and I started sharing that I wanted to double-down on the experience of being with people. I discussed how I pray a lot with the church and love writing songs, but that I love watching the church sing them even more. So, when you record songs live, there are a couple ways you can do it. You can record a specific night’s performance or you can take it on the road and just see what you get. I was formed so much by live worship albums like “Delirious” and some of that stuff that was really spontaneous, that I wanted to do more of that. So we were like, “Let’s get going and do that then! Let’s try to capture some live moments. And some of them were worth shipping, and some of them were a little more like a jam session, but I think that kind of reflects what happens out there on stage. We had one weekend where we realized we had a perfect representation of what my ministry looked like, which was we were playing in a non-denominational church at a sports bar at the University of Notre Dame campus, right on campus …we’re talking across the street from the football stadium! A Franklin Graham crusade and a Catholic church in Detroit. I thought, this is it! This is what I do! This is kind of where I go. I go wherever the Lord leads me.

    We tried to record everything that the Franklin Graham crusade, the weather was really bad that night and so that night kind of got messed up and we didn’t get anything from it. We had those three nights and it was great! The night at Notre Dame was so special. I mean 500 college students showed up and God’s been doing stuff on that campus. There are kids there who are hungry and are running after Jesus and are trying to lift him up in that place. It was just amazing to be able to go there and all of a sudden I’m singing “Your Grace is Enough” and I realize that everybody has their hands in their air! I’m like, they’re not just singing any more, they’re worshiping God!” It was really, really amazing. We recorded that weekend and then we worked it out where we could record our set every night when we were on tour with Brandon Heath and we said, “Let’s just try to capture ‘moments’!”

    I think the cover of the new album is indicative of the music and the ministry that I do and it’s just mismatched. It’s a collage of a bunch of different stuff that reflects a lot about who I am. I’m a worship leader, but then I’m a songwriter who studied jazz in college. There is a mismatched component to all of it and it was exciting. I got to use my studio… I got to use my band that I play with live. I was able to use them in the studio for the first time for actual studio tracks and that was significant for to me. You don’t always get that opportunity, to record music with those you actually play live! It was great fun to be able to do that.

    I think ultimately what I’m trying to do is just help the Church remember who she is! She’s a work of art. She’s the bride of Christ. She’s the body of Christ. We have all this art … you know we have all these photos of religious art and photos of churches and buildings on the cover—and my life’s in the middle of it from my perspective—but the church is a work of art. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork created for his good work which he has prepared for us in advance. That is the heart behind this project.

    Also helping people that maybe haven’t yet heard me sing live, but have heard songs on the radio. I wanted to create an experience that would make them say, “Man, I want to go see this guy live now.” Not just to see me, but more so that we could maybe have an encounter with Jesus together.

    John: Wow, that’s really awesome, Matt. So, now tell me. Who are you a fan of, Matt?

    Matt: I’m obviously a friend of all the guys from the Passion movement: Chris [Tomlin], David [Crowder], Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill and everybody else. In fact, Louie came up to me and has mentored more worship leaders just through his sermons online and conferences than anybody else. I call them friends now but God used them early on. I feel a certain level of gratefulness. I was a huge fan of “Delirious” when they were around.

    Honestly, musically, growing up, I was huge a fan of the Beatles. A huge fan of Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. I kind of grew up listening to everything. My dad listened to Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson when he would cook dinner. My mom listened to instrumental music. I played in youth orchestra and concert bands and jazz bands. I kind of grew up literally listening to every style of music.

    I would say right now that the newest album I’ve been listening to … I’m trying to think … it’s so funny, when you become a parent things change. I listen to the Backyardigans channel on the Pandora station… that’s what I listen to when I’m home with my son. Ha!

    John: Funny. But of course. How old is he?

    Matt: My son is 18 months.

    John: Eighteen months!

    Matt: Yes. I just started listening to Bach in B-minor again to kind of get reacquainted with it. I had to listen to it in college because I was getting graded on it and I kind of got out of classical and plugged into listening to whatever was current, and then I was writing a lot of music.

    I mean going back and listening to Bach... or classical music in general… Bach and more on a contemporary level, Erin Copeland, who’s an American composer, it’s pretty fantastic.

    And of course, there are certain popular bands that everyone’s listening to right now. With the advent of shared music services. This is funny… I used to go to record stores to find new music. I would go to a Family Christian store and go to the listening station and spend 45 minutes to an hour. I discovered Audio Adrenaline and Underdog that way. It’s weird. It’s changed now.

    John: Do you think that you’ll ever do a film score?

    Matt: It’s kind of one of those things that’s in the back of my head, that I say to God, “Well, whenever you want to get around to that, just let me know.” And if it’s meant to be, just give me enough time in advance so that I can maybe take a couple of theory classes again to get myself ready.

    John: Or you could do like Smitty did. He didn’t call them film scores but basically that’s what they are… when he did his two pieces.

    Matt: Yes, the inspirational… I think I would probably do most of it. If I was to do a film score now, I would lean toward the sound from the Social Network movie, which was a weird combination of instrumental, electronic and acoustic music. I think that’s what I would probably go for, mostly because of budget. Recording with a huge orchestra cost a lot of money! Anything’s possible though, especially if God desires it to happen. If He wants me to do a film score with a symphony orchestra, who am I to turn that down!?

    John: Is your wife rolling her eyes right now?

    Matt: No, no. She’s upstairs playing cards with our son, but if she was downstairs she probably would be rolling her eyes!

    John: I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said that!

    Matt: That’s alright. You’re obviously tuned in. That’s good!

    John: Matt, I’m assuming because you used to work at a coffee shop, you are a coffee-snob?

    Matt: I’ve gone through phases. My wife and I have been married for almost three years, and I remember for the first Valentine’s day, she brought me a hand-grinder. I embrace the whole thing; I was hand-grinding beans and using beans from a certain mountaintop in Ecuador or El Salvador, but you know, when you have a baby, all bets are off! Whatever’s in the cupboard that doesn’t have mold on it, just pour hot water over it and put a paper towel underneath it.

    At this point … black with one Sweet’N-Low or Stevia and I’m good to go!

    John: I love a good cup of coffee!

    Matt: I still do too.

    Matt: Yes!

    John: Hey, Matt, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today and I’m excited. I’ve listened to the new record, and I love it. I think it’s fantastic. I have your other records.

    Matt: Thanks! It’s been a pleasure!

     

     

     

    MATT MAHER INTERVIEW Edited by JLF

    John: So, Matt … hey man, again, thank you for talking with me. I’m wondering if you could give me a little bit of background information on who Matt is. I know you spent some time in Arizona as a worship leader, but before that, where did you come from?

    Matt: I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada. I was involved in the Northeast, and I lived there for 20 years. I was born and raised there. I grew up in St. Johns, sort of a small harbor town with a population of about 250,000. I worked there when I was 19. My parent’s got separated and my mom’s American. So, she moved back to Arizona. Her father was a naval pilot and her parents retired in Arizona. I wasn’t going to church at the time. I was born and raised in the Northeast. Like a lot of people 20 years ago, you grew up definitely in one of the main lines of denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal or what have you. I grew up Catholic with Catholic schooling and all that, and had a lot of great experiences. From a very young age, my parents did a great job of instilling a general faith in God, in Jesus. Going to school, you hear the story of the incarnation and salvation, but I didn’t really get all the person of Jesus. I grew up like a lot of people, sort of educated somewhat in my faith but not really getting to have a moment where I made a decision to follow this person, Jesus, who did all of these amazing things for me. Not only gave the universe and gave me life but also died for all my sins and the sins of the whole world and guaranteed me a place in heaven.

    I think what happened was, I moved … I was 19, my parents were getting divorced, I was a Music major in college already, studying music. I wanted to do film restoring. That was my childhood dream! I figured, well I moved to Arizona and L.A. is an eight-hour drive. I could get a job working part-time. Then I thought about it and I was like, “You should really finish your degree.” Then I applied to Arizona State University and got accepted! I didn’t realize that it was two months after the admission deadline and somehow I still got accepted and met the people for the school of music and had to do an audition tape. They were like, it’s obvious you’re meant to be here but we don’t have any scholarship money available. You are an American citizen, so why don’t you come here and live here for a year and then we can get in the tuition and we can figure out what we can do for you then. So I did!

    I took one credit hour. That’s all I could afford! I worked at a coffee shop down the road, but more importantly, I had a cousin there who was my age. I had been in Arizona for six weeks, and she was really involved with a youth movement called “Life Team” which is kind of like “Young Life” in the Catholic Church. It started at a church in Arizona and now it’s in more than 1,600 churches in the U.S. and all over the world.

    Matt: Basically, what they were doing is they were taking sort of the historical traditions and the doctoral teachings of Catholicism and presenting them in a format that helps kids understand that the foundation of it all is having a relationship with Jesus. So, I started hanging out with her because I didn’t know anybody else my age. All her friends were helping out with the youth group. I had met them a couple of years ago because when I was in high school, like I said I went to Arizona and I went on a couple of the youth trips and it seemed kind of cool.

    So, I’m 19 years old, my parents are divorced and I realized that I had a lot of questions about life and about who I am. I wondered about my real purpose and the meaning behind all of it and that kind of stuff. I was in that timeframe when people are asking those major questions, and what I realized is that I was going to everywhere but God for answers. I think that by being in a community of not just people my age, but in one where young people, older people, families and everybody was sort of living out their faith, it gave me permission to do the same thing. So in a very short period of time, I started going to church again every week. That summer I was prayed with to receive Jesus, and I started participating in my Catholic faith again, but this time in kind of in a more personal sense. I had never experienced anything like that before growing up.

    I started helping out with the youth group and started playing piano at our masses and services. All of this amazing stuff happened. I found … like I said, I found a job and my mom got an apartment a mile away from ASU and a mile away from the church, and it just became very apparent to me that God had a plan all along. I helped out at this church for a year and then I actually ended up at another church. I got my job there because of Rich Mullins.

    John: Really?

    Matt: Yes. Back to the story … Like I said, I had been in Arizona for about a year and a half and I got a phone call from this guy named Tom Boos who was sort of a contemporary Catholic music guy, worship leader, more liturgical of sorts.

    John: What was his name?

    Matt: His name was Tom Boos. He was the music guy for “Life Team” and basically Tom started mentoring me. He was casting a musical that Rich had written, called “Canticle of the Plains.”

    John: Oh sure!

    Matt: The church that he worked at—St. Timothy’s, which is in Mesa—did a performance of it. He asked if I would play a character. He goes, “I’m doing a musical that Rich Mullins wrote and I think you’d be perfect for it. He was actually thinking … I was praying and I felt like Jesus told me that I was supposed to cast you.

    It was like the worst … well, not the worst, that’s probably a bad word, but it was the most amazing type of typecasting. I played a character who was best friends with Frank, who’s modeled after St. Francis and his name was Ivory, we’ll just nickname him or Ira was his name. He played piano in a saloon. What was crazy was I paid my way through the first three years of college in Canada by playing piano in a hotel bar.

    John: Wow!

    Matt: I spent about a month, on and off every other week, a couple of days with this guy Rich Mullins and the only song I knew that he wrote was “Awesome God” which I didn’t particularly like the verses. I thought it was so strange, but to hear this amazing chorus ...

    I got to know Rich, and during that time a job opening came at St. Tim’s and so I took it. Rich would periodically come down. He developed a really good friendship with Tom who was my mentor. Tom actually co-wrote the song, “Nothing is Beyond Jesus” with Rich and Mitch McVicker. I kind of ended up joining this other church then for 13 years and during that time I graduated from college and discovered modern worship music. I discovered that there were a bunch of guys my age doing what I was doing, but in the denominational or the Baptist world. I was led to Christ by sort-of charismatic Catholics, so I was much cooler with that bit of musical expression anyways. For me, hearing music such as the delirious and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, all of a sudden I was like, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There was this period where I was meandering and I was trying to figure out what am I supposed to be doing? I was just writing music primarily for my church for the youth group I was part of. We started doing a weekly worship night, kind of like a Wednesday night. It was primarily geared towards kids in the Catholic Church and I think what changed was in … are we good so far? Do you need me to stop?

    John: I’m really enjoying this Matt. I have hours and hours and days and days. You can talk as long as you want!

    Matt: Oh, good. In 2002, no 2003, I wrote your “Grace is Enough” and I remember when I wrote it, I was going through a bit of a dry spell, spiritually, you know like most people that work at churches do. You know, you just get burned out. You give a lot of yourself, you know, and a friend of mine once said, “Look, if you allow her to, Church will suck the life out of you!” The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!

    I wrote that song, and later that same year, I played it at a youth specialties convention. They came to my church and they were so flipped out that there was this Catholic Church in Arizona doing not only youth ministry but using contemporary music, like in a mass. They were like, “You need to come sing that song! That song’s amazing. I was kind of oblivious and I was like, “Okay, cool!” I knew who Chris (Tomlin) was and I was familiar enough with the Passion ministry. I used to go to a Family Christian store and buy CDs when I worked at the church.

    John: Woo Hoo!

    Matt: So, what happened was that Chris backed me up with that song; him and his band. He, I guess, I guess he really, really liked it and a couple of months later I ran in to him again and he said, “Hey, do you have a copy of that song? I’d really like to show it to somebody and I was like, sure!” Well, what I didn’t realize was that that somebody was Ed Cash, who was his producer.

    John: Oh yeah!

    Matt: The next day or that Saturday or Monday I got an email from him that said, “I’m going to record this song. Are you cool with me putting it on my next record?” He wanted to make a couple of arrangement changes and stuff, and so we talked on the phone and I was like, “Absolutely!”

    I remember when I read that email, where I was … I was in the house across the street from my church and that’s where all the worship staff worked and I remember reading it and I think I even screamed out loud! It wasn’t so much that Chris Tomlin was recording my song, as much as it was that I felt like I was staring at the screen through words on a screen, sort of looking into my future. And I felt like God was just saying, “I’m opening a door here and there’s a new sequence of life coming.” Chris recorded that song, obviously, and it was on “Arising,” and I think that started a relationship, which has really turned into a friendship. Chris, to me is just a great friend. He’s a wonderful man of God and I think that’s blossomed over the years; that sort of collaboration. In fact, kind of what happened after that was that he asked us to come to a Passion conference and lead in a small community group. We did and I was the token Catholic; that’s what people were talking about. I think all of us kind of looked at it like what is happening? Why do we all connect?

    During that time, I just kind of started to feel like the Holy Spirit was downloading into me a vision for ministry that was less focused on denominations and more about trying to bring the Church together. Not ignoring the disagreements that we have, but more so saying the things that we agree upon are just far greater, and that that’s something that the world desperately needs to see. It needs to see the Church standing together in solidarity.

    John: Matt, let’s talk a little bit about that. You’ve had a unique role in walking in to both Catholic as well as Protestant circles with that ideology behind you. What do you think... where others have attempted that before you but for some reason, there is something with your songs that are resonating very well. Not to say that they’re two camps but just to kind of break it down to some extent that there are two camps. What do you think that is? Why is it that God is using you in this particular moment in time to do such a thing as that?

    Matt: Well, I think and here’s what I’ve learned, that as a songwriter, you can write songs about your faith, you can write songs from your faith. I think a great example of that is just in the test of time in great songs of the Church that we all sing, because of our denominations. I think that when you look at those songs, those songs weren’t necessarily written about doctrines of faith as much as they were written from doctrines of faith; the difference of that being that I realize that early on in my writing I was writing songs about my Christian faith from a Catholic perspective. I think over time as my faith became more and more integrated just to know who I was, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. I just needed to write songs from my faith, and so I think when you do that, there’s a timeless element of core Christian truth that shines through regardless of disagreements. I think people just start to go … I mean, “Amazing Grace” … that song isn’t about justification. It isn’t about subsidiary atonement or sensationalism. It’s a song about grace! It’s a song that comes from a deep personal perspective, and in a way from the gospel. It’s not about the gospel.

    I think that’s the difference. I think writers more and more are realizing that. “10,000 Reasons”… some people could say it was a theological speculation about the multitude of reasons that a redeemed sinner would have to bless God, or you could just simply say that it’s an amazing prayer that comes from a heart of somebody who knows Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying?

    John: Yes.

    Matt: I think part of it is the realization that I don’t major in the minors!

    John: That’s a good point!

    Matt: Like Matt Redman and I wrote a song about communion together. He comes from an Anglican or Evangelical background and I came from a Catholic background. We have completely different doctoral teachings about communion and about the Eucharist. Does that mean that we can’t write a song together about the importance of communion. Or that when Jesus says in the Bible, “Remember me … do this in remembrance of me… that we can’t. What we can say is let’s try to serve the Church with a song that somehow reflects truth and leaves a little bit of room for the mystery of faith. I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my music. Particularly I think the corporate songs … the songs specifically for churches to sing on Sunday. I have definitely tried to do that in those songs.

    John: When you look at the catalog of songs that have come through Christian-dome in the years, down through the ages, what is a song or two that continues to move you and make you go, “That is a song that drives specifically to my heart and makes me fall at the feet of Jesus”?

    Matt: Hmmm.

    John: If I put you on the spot there, I apologize.

    Matt: I think for me I definitely do … I liturgically sort of … coming from a liturgical mindset and as a believer … I’m a firm believer in seasons and so I would say it would depend on what season we’re in. I think “It Is Well” is just to me such an awe-encompassing, amazing hymn that I think the more you grow in your faith and in your life, you know, being single and following Jesus is one thing but being married and being a father and following Jesus it completely changes. Particularly as you get older in life, you just start noticing this thing where people around you, their bodies just start breaking down. It’s like I have had more family members or friends suffer with illness or disease or heart problems or diabetes or all of that. I think that combined with just the climate of everything going on in the world. Well, we don’t have a pope, we’re currently sequestered and the city of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. If you don’t have anything to pray about, just go ahead and pick one of those!

    I think a hymn like that speaks volumes because it’s very real and it addresses a lot of the human experience. It’s like we have mountain top moments that are fleeting and small, and they inspire us to walk through the valleys, so that even in the valley’s we can continue to be a joy for people and say it as well.

    It’s so funny because when you immediately said it, I thought of “Oh Holy Night”. We sing that song once a year but for a lot of people, the lyrics just fly right by. Truly He taught us to love one another, His name is love and His gospel is peace, chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppressions shall cease … the problem is that we only sing that song once a year so it doesn’t get enough scrutiny.

    I think of a hymn like that and a song like that and how it defines a singular moment. I mean if you hear “Oh Holy Night” you knew everybody, even the un-churched can think of an experience of being in church and hearing that song, hopefully sung well. I think that is powerful. Those are two examples. I think it’s so funny … I just love the fact that a melody that was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we’ll still sing it and that’s just a really neat prospect.

    As a songwriter, to think that you might eventually stumble upon something that you’ll get to hand down to the church and the point isn’t that you wrote it, the point is that it gets to get handed down and to me, that’s exciting.

    John: I’m going to ask you a personal question and again, all of these are fair game. If you don’t want to answer any one, it would not offend me at all.

    Matt, how does somebody who is in your role, who’s known possibly all over the world for leading people to Jesus … how do you kind of step out of that and say, it’s not about Matt, it is about Jesus when you happen to be in front of a couple thousand people at that time?

    Matt: Well, I would say that wherever you are in your life, God has used the years prior to that to prepare you for that moment and that season. I look back on the 13+ years of doing ministry in the local church and not being known and kind of being taken for granted. I asked God for moments in my life where I could be part of relationships and communities where I am a little bit taken for granted; not in a negative way but in a positive way. To be seen as part of the body of Christ and not the head. There’s only one head. That experience of being active in the local church—not just leading worship on a platform, but being in community with people and having your relationships with young people, teenagers and playing at funerals and playing at baptisms and playing at weddings and participating in the life of the body of Christ—those things stay with you. I think that has definitely been part of it. I had very small beginnings; the first thing I ever really got to lead worship for was a Bible study … no that was actually on a good night … it was with about 15 teenagers. That’s where I started falling in love with leading worship. The biggest fear I had was playing for 65 kids one night and it might as well as been with 65,000 people. I just think for me, that’s where my heart was formed and God definitely poured a lot into me and spoken a lot of things in those years that have stayed with me. For example, I remember being in a conference and God saying, “All you’re doing is standing up and supporting what I’m doing. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything!”

    Because you do … you get in there and you’re like, what if I make a mistake or what if I mess up or you know? You fall victim to your pride and think like … look at me, I’m so great and I just remember God saying I’m doing all the work and it kind of comes from second Chronicles when the Lord leads that small army … he said, “Go and stand up on this hill and I want you to watch, I’m basically going to kick it!” I remember reading that early on and then carrying that into worship one night and God saying, that’s all that you’re doing. You and your little band of people are going to go stand up on the mountain and watch and look down and watch me take care of everything! Being married helps a lot!

    John: Amen!

    Matt: You know, my wife isn’t impressed at all by musical ability. It’s not that it doesn’t matter anymore, it just doesn’t woo her anymore … that’s all!

    John: I may need to have a part II interview with her pretty soon!

    Matt: (laughs)!

    John: Let’s talk a little bit about your new record. You have a new record coming out next month. “All the People Said Amen” and in listening to it, it’s a little bit different than your previous records. Do you want to talk a little bit about what went in to the making of it?

    Matt: Sure. I was on tour with Third Day and talking about what’s next, and I started sharing that I wanted to double-down on the experience of being with people. I discussed how I pray a lot with the church and love writing songs, but that I love watching the church sing them even more. So, when you record songs live, there are a couple ways you can do it. You can record a specific night’s performance or you can take it on the road and just see what you get. I was formed so much by live worship albums like “Delirious” and some of that stuff that was really spontaneous, that I wanted to do more of that. So we were like, “Let’s get going and do that then! Let’s try to capture some live moments. And some of them were worth shipping, and some of them were a little more like a jam session, but I think that kind of reflects what happens out there on stage. We had one weekend where we realized we had a perfect representation of what my ministry looked like, which was we were playing in a non-denominational church at a sports bar at the University of Notre Dame campus, right on campus …we’re talking across the street from the football stadium! A Franklin-Graham crusade and a Catholic church in Detroit. I thought, this is it! This is what I do! This is kind of where I go. I go wherever the Lord leads me.

    We tried to record everything that the Franklin-Graham crusade, the weather was really bad that night and so that night kind of got messed up and we didn’t get anything from it. We had those three nights and it was great! The night at Notre Dame was so special. I mean 500 college students showed up and God’s been doing stuff on that campus. There are kids there who are hungry and are running after Jesus and are trying to lift him up in that place. It was just amazing to be able to go there and all of a sudden I’m singing “Your Grace is Enough” and I realize that everybody has their hands in their air! I’m like, they’re not just singing any more, they’re worshiping God!” It was really, really amazing. We recorded that weekend and then we worked it out where we could record our set every night when we were on tour with Brandon Heath and we said, “Let’s just try to capture ‘moments’!”

    I think the cover of the new album is indicative of the music and the ministry that I do and it’s just mismatched. It’s a collage of a bunch of different stuff that reflects a lot about who I am. I’m a worship leader, but then I’m a songwriter who studied jazz in college. There is a mismatched component to all of it and it was exciting. I got to use my studio… I got to use my band that I play with live. I was able to use them in the studio for the first time for actual studio tracks and that was significant for to me. You don’t always get that opportunity, to record music with those you actually play live! It was great fun to be able to do that.

    I think ultimately what I’m trying to do is just help the Church remember who she is! She’s a work of art. She’s the bride of Christ. She’s the body of Christ. We have all this art … you know we have all these photos of religious art and photos of churches and buildings on the cover—and my life’s in the middle of it from my perspective—but the church is a work of art. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork created for his good work which he has prepared for us in advance. That is the heart behind this project.

    Also helping people that maybe haven’t yet heard me sing live, but have heard songs on the radio. I wanted to create an experience that would make them say, “Man, I want to go see this guy live now.” Not just to see me, but more so that we could maybe have an encounter with Jesus together.

    John: Wow, that’s really awesome, Matt. So, now tell me. Who are you a fan of, Matt?

    Matt: I’m obviously a friend of all the guys from the Passion movement: Chris [Tomlin], David [Crowder], Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill and everybody else. In fact, Louie came up to me and has mentored more worship leaders just through his sermons online and conferences than anybody else. I call them friends now but God used them early on. I feel a certain level of gratefulness. I was a huge fan of “Delirious” when they were around.

    Honestly, musically, growing up, I was huge a fan of the Beatles. A huge fan of Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. I kind of grew up listening to everything. My dad listened to Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson when he would cook dinner. My mom listened to instrumental music. I played in youth orchestra and concert bands and jazz bands. I kind of grew up literally listening to every style of music.

    I would say right now that the newest album I’ve been listening to … I’m trying to think … it’s so funny, when you become a parent things change. I listen to the Backyardigans channel on the Pandora station… that’s what I listen to when I’m home with my son. Ha!

    John: Funny. But of course. How old is he?

    Matt: My son is 18 months.

    John: Eighteen months!

    Matt: Yes. I just started listening to Bach in B-minor again to kind of get reacquainted with it. I had to listen to it in college because I was getting graded on it and I kind of got out of classical and plugged into listening to whatever was current, and then I was writing a lot of music.

    I mean going back and listening to Bach... or classical music in general… Bach and more on a contemporary level, Erin Copeland, who’s an American composer, it’s pretty fantastic.

    And of course, there are certain popular bands that everyone’s listening to right now. With the advent of shared music services like Spotify; this is funny… I used to go to record stores to find new music. I would go to a Family Christian store and go to the listening station and spend 45 minutes to an hour. I discovered Audio Adrenaline and Underdog that way. It’s weird. It’s changed now. You know? Now you go to sites like Noise Train, and find that a lot of independent artists are giving away their music.

    John: Do you think that you’ll ever do a film score?

    Matt: It’s kind of one of those things that’s in the back of my head, that I say to God, “Well, whenever you want to get around to that, just let me know.” And if it’s meant to be, just give me enough time in advance so that I can maybe take a couple of theory classes again to get myself ready.

    John: Or you could do like Smitty did. He didn’t call them film scores but basically that’s what they are… when he did his two pieces.

    Matt: Yes, the inspirational… I think I would probably do most of it. If I was to do a film score now, I would lean toward the sound from the Social Network movie, which was a weird combination of instrumental, electronic and acoustic music. I think that’s what I would probably go for, mostly because of budget. Recording with a huge orchestra cost a lot of money! Anything’s possible though, especially if God desires it to happen. If He wants me to do a film score with a symphony orchestra, who am I to turn that down!?

    John: Is your wife rolling her eyes right now?

    Matt: No, no. She’s upstairs playing cards with our son, but if she was downstairs she probably would be rolling her eyes!

    John: I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said that!

    Matt: That’s alright. You’re obviously tuned in. That’s good!

    John: Matt, I’m assuming because you used to work at a coffee shop, you are a coffee-snob?

    Matt: I’ve gone through phases. My wife and I have been married for almost three years, and I remember for the first Valentine’s day, she brought me a hand-grinder. I embrace the whole thing; I was hand-grinding beans and using beans from a certain mountaintop in Ecuador or El Salvador, but you know, when you have a baby, all bets are off! Whatever’s in the cupboard that doesn’t have mold on it, just pour hot water over it and put a paper towel underneath it.

    At this point … black with one Sweet’N-Low or Stevia and I’m good to go!

    John: I love a good cup of coffee!

    Matt: I still do too. If you ever come to East Nashville, there’s a great coffee shop right around the corner from my house, and I will gladly take you there. It’s a really fantastic cup of coffee.

    John: I may have to take you up on that. I used to live down in Springhill.

    Matt: Oh really?

    John: Yes. I was there for six years but now I’m back up here in Grand Rapids.

    Matt: That’s funny. I was in Michigan last weekend!

    John: You were?

    Matt: Yes. I played … where was it Friday night? Flint, and then Saturday in Holland.

    John: You were that close man!

    Matt: I know! I actually flew out of Grand Rapids airport Sunday morning!

    John: We could have chatted face-to-face!

    Matt: It would’ve been great!

    John: Oh, well. Next time!

    Matt: I’m going to be back. I know I’m going to be back in April with Chris August and Bella Reid.

    John: Oh. Well, that’s cool.

    Matt: Yes!

    John: Hey, Matt, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today and I’m excited. I’ve listened to the new record, and I love it. I think it’s fantastic. I have your other records. I don’t have your Indie records so maybe one day I’ll try to find those somewhere!

    Matt: (laughs).

    John: The records that you have done, honestly man… terrific!

    Matt: Thanks! It’s been a pleasure!

    Burning In My Soul - Lyric Video

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