Matthew West wins the Christian Music Songwriter/Artist of the Year award at the 35th annual ASCAP Christian Music Awards at the Franklin Theatre. Photo Credit: Ed Rode
“Hello, My Name Is” continues to impact and inspire radio at No. 2 on the charts
Announces headlining tour "The Into The Light Tour" for this fall
Matthew West, a four-time GRAMMY® nominee heralded by the New York Times as a “vivid and compelling songwriter,” celebrates the distinguished honor of being named ASCAP Christian Music Songwriter/Artist of the Year at this past Monday night’s ASCAP Christian Music Awards. As a veteran recipient of ASCAP’s Christian Music Song of the Year, West’s career highlights boast four No. 1 hits along with songwriter credits including cuts by Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Diamond Rio and more.
The award comes off the heels of West’s nomination in the first ever K-LOVE Fan Awards. West is up for “Male Artist of the Year” and is scheduled to perform at the event on June 1.
Adding to his recent award successes, West’s second single “Hello, My Name Is,” off his powerful project Into the Light, continues to gain momentum on charts claiming the No. 2 spot on the National Audience Chart, No. 5 at Christian AC Monitored and No. 3 at AC Indicator this week. The singled garnered over 8.5 million audience impressions this week. After a successful run pre-headlining Winter Jam, the No. 1 tour in the country, the acclaimed artist will hit the road this fall on a headlining tour with guests Sidewalk Prophets and Jason Castro as part of “The Into The Light Tour.” Cities and dates will be announced soon at www.MatthewWest.com.
From L to R: Paul Williams (ASCAP President and Chairman), LeAnn Phelan (ASCAP), Matthew West, Michael Martin (ASCAP) and John LoFrumento (ASCAP CEO)
GRAMMY and DOVE Award-winning Jason Crabb has become one of the most respected names and voices in Christian music. Working alongside accomplished producers Jay DeMarcus (band member of Rascal Flatts), Ed Cash and Wayne Haun, Jason has delivered his sophomore studio solo recording, Love Is Stronger. A moving collection of down-home gospel and contemporary songs that feature Jason’s incomparable voice and heartfelt performance style, the release offers inspiring and challenging messages of comfort through the love of Christ that conquers all. Loved by audiences of every age and background, Jason Crabb is fast-becoming a prominent voice of hope for his generation and for generations to come.
I had the privilege of talking with Jason over the phone recently to hear about his new album, his family and his heart for God.
John van der Veen (FC): Hello, Jason. Thanks for talking with me. How are you?
Jason Crabb: Hello! Fine. We’re getting ready for a concert tonight.
FC: Oh I'm excited to hear about that.
Jason: Oh, thank you. I appreciate all that you do.
FC: I'm not sure how often you check your twitter account, but I did send out a message earlier today asking all of our friends if they had any questions that they wanted me to ask you, and someone suggested, “What was the greatest advise Dottie Rambo gave you in your beginning?”
Jason: Oh, wow! I will never forget that. When we first started out, we used to host a concert at the Executive Inn, on the river front there in Woodboro, Kentucky. One of the performers that came in was Dottie. We were on stage with her and Dottie—she was always polite, and she always messed with you, she was just so funny—well, she was getting ready to play a song. And she said, “Oh, Jason, can you come out here and get my guitar pick? It's in my shoe, and she was sitting down. So I had to go out, get down on my knee and get the guitar pick out of her shoe. And it was kind of a funny thing to be doing, and then, you know, we're sitting there and she said, “Well, now sing a song with me, and we sang together, and then she said, “Jason,” she said, “if you take care of these people (and she was pointing at the audience) and be there for them, they will always be there for you.”
I took that to heart, and that's why during every intermission, after every concert, I'm the last one to leave the building because I want to be there for the people, and I want to hear what they have to say and listen to their prayer requests and things like that. You know what, I can really truly obviously say that was one of the best things that anybody has ever told me, because truly I believe that is why I am here today, doing what I'm doing. Because I'm there for the people... and they've always been there for me.
FC: Jason, let me ask you a little bit about the influences that you have had in probably your personal life at least the way that you're talking about Dottie, but your personal life as well as your career. You have mentioned that Bill Gaither has been not just an influence to you, but certainly a mentor, and probably even somebody closer than that as well. Bill said once, “Jason Crabb is the real deal. I love his voice, I love his heart and I love the unique way he can connect people to the hope every human being needs to hear.”
Jason when you hear that and have people talking into your life like that, how do you take that as a man who is pursing Christ? How do you take the words from other people and then apply them to your own life? And then what does that mean for us, and how should we be looking for mentors and other people to speak into our lives as well?
Jason: Let's go back to Bill and those people that are speaking into your life and influencing you. I have had so many in my life; of course, my family—all my family from my parents to grand parents to my siblings. They've been so supportive with encouragement and we've helped each other out, but I mean also people on the road and in different situations and things. Bill is one of those. He's one of those men that if you'll just sit, watch and listen, you can learn so much. I think people like that when they speak into your life and they truly mean it, if they say something positive about your life, what it does for me is it challenges me to be even better. It challenges me to live up to maybe what they might say. If they say, Hey, thanks for being there for me,” then it makes me want to be there for others as well. Those things feed the spirit of the person that is there and it feeds your spiritual side. If you use it the right way. Even bad things, things that people say—could even be in a negative way—can be turned around for the good. I think we have to use all of that.
So yes, everybody needs that person to speak truth into their life, whether it's good or whether it's bad. Like, “You just have to watch how you treated this person,” or “I just couldn't believe that you went down and talked to that person and you didn't have to.” That makes you want to do those things, and so I think it's very important to listen and let those things help create who you are.
FC: How does Jason Crabb—not Jason Crabb the artist or the actor or the author or the TV personality—but Jason Crabb the regular guy keep a continual focus on Christ in your own personal walk? When the rubber meets the road, Jason, how are you doing that?
Jason: I think the Lord will find ways to speak to you. Of course, in His Word, He speaks to you on what to do in character building and those types of thing. One way that He speaks to me--I've got two kids and a gorgeous wife—is through parenting. He lets me know, kind of the role that He plays in my life, and in a similar way with my kids, such as being gracious and how to treat my children if they falter or fail at whatever they do. Those situations draw me to Him, and it's the same with my ministering on stage a lot of times. Even though I am ministering, I still get ministered to as well, and feel like I'm in the presence of God and being led by Him and those types of things.
Even the times that we are on the road, people come up and say certain things that minister to me. And believe me, I do know who I am without Christ and it's a mess. I know who I need to be with and I know I need him to be the center of my life and so whatever way that I have to do that, whether it's reading or whether it's listening to one of my favorite ministries, church and all of those things, I just think that it has to be an every day moment in your life. And usually He'll show you how to get to the best ministry to where you need to be. I can also say there have been many times when I've failed at that, and I would be the first to tell you that I am not perfect, but when I do falter I'll learn from it, and that's the whole walking it out with Christ part, just to experience all those moments.
FC: As you mentioned, your family and obviously the family that you grew up in, and of course now, you and your wife have some kids… The traditions that you had growing up musically, I'm picturing like the Crabb Family Pray album where there is that little girl, I think, in front of the white church and you just kind of have this picturesque family all together and periodically you guys have these moments where you are bursting out into song. I'm not exactly sure if that's true or not, but that's just what I had in my head as I listen to the Family records. Do you and your wife have that similar tradition with your kids? Are you incorporating those traditions that were passed down to you as a child onto your kids?
Jason: Well, yes and no.
FC: I guess more specifically, when it comes to music?
Jason: Yeah, kind of. Here was the plus for the home that I grew up in: My dad was a pastor, so we had to go to church. We were at church any time the doors were open. We were the music, we were the Sunday School teachers and more. When actually somebody should have been teaching us! (laughs) But we had to step in to fill the gap, which was alright.
It's different for me, I'll leave the house and go on the road, and my kids are in school and they've got the normal routine. The everyday life of a child that is normal at that age. It is very important to have those one-on-one moments with your child, and what’s more, I've learned that it's very effective in parenting. We learned the works of God, the work in ministry, but the cool thing is now that I know that side of it (and they do get to experience that on the road with me sometimes), I've learned that it's the one-on-one thing that counts, or when everybody grabs each other's hands and prays. If you got a problem, then you talk it out and you say, “Okay how do we handle this?”
Or when one of my kids prays for someone, I realize Christ is at work in my family, that faith is present there. My daughter was getting ready for a cheerleading competition and one of the girls got sick. And in a cheerleading competition, if one person is missing, then the whole routine that they have practiced is gone. So they were all nervous about it and my daughter walked over and she said, “Let's all pray for her.” I'm talking about like at six or seven years old, she's saying let's pray for this girl and so the whole cheer team is over there praying. That's when I knew that Christ was real in our lives. That what we are teaching, that what Christian school and church is teaching is working and that what she has accepted and believes in is alive!
Even though our lives are totally different than what it was growing up in the church, her traveling full time with me on the road, that's how I knew it is still alive. You've got to know it in every day life, in what you do and in all those types of problems that Christ is present, and so it is truly cool to watch faith come alive in their lives.
FC: I appreciate your honesty there. Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about the new record, it's called Love Is Stronger which comes out in March. When you go in and begin the process of putting together a new album, what does that look like? For instance, where do you begin with that process?
Jason: We got together and kind of wanted to talk about direction and what we wanted to target and who we wanted to help us do that. I think one of the keys for me was learning how to let go and let people that are skilled and crafted at what they do help me hit that right target. You can practice and practice, but if you are not doing certain things right, then you are practicing the wrong way and so it doesn't matter.
I think it was key for us we went in and said these are the targets we want to go after, now who can help us hit that mark. We started choosing different ones, different producers and we had three different producers on this record and that's kind of where it began, where we begin on the record.
FC: A couple of these producers are new right? That you haven't worked with before?
Jason: Actually I've not worked with all three of them. Ed Cash, Wayne Haun, and Jay DeMarcus, from Rascal Flatts, produced six.
FC: That's great. So what is behind the title, Love Is Stronger?
Jason: A lot of the lyrics in the songs deal with how we get through situations, and how we help others, and also what helps us get through times like that. The song called “Love Is Stronger” is one of my favorite cuts on the record, and that's hard to say because I love them all--every lyric on this record. But that is one of my favorites, and I just felt that was kind of the direction for this record.
FC: The song, “What the Blood Is For”—Wow! What a powerful song. How do you approach a song like that? I'm not sure who wrote it, did you do write that song?
Jason: No, I didn't write the song. Two men by the name of Ronnie Freeman and Tony Woods wrote that song. How real is that song? It is just as real as can be…
FC: That's my question, when you sing that song how do you—in a rhetorical sense--how do you keep yourself from just falling apart? I was just blown away by the words and the power of that song. Unbelievable!
What the Blood Is For
I’m a mess today
I followed the desires of
My foolish heart into the dark
Feeling far away
Need a couple of days
To work real hard to hit the mark
To get myself back in good with You
Oh what a waste, what a losing game…cause
That’s what the blood is forIt cleans the dirty man I amMakes it possible to standBefore You LordCause that’s what the blood is for
What if I fall
One more time
Or soon forget
That You’re the light
Where I am free in perfect peace
And what if I can’t get my act together
That’s what the blood is forIt cleans the dirty man I amMakes it possible to standBefore You LordYes, that’s what the blood is for
It’s Your blood that compels me
Holds the power to my victory
It’s still speaking, You Lord to me
That’s what the blood is for
That’s what the blood is for
It cleans the dirty man I am
Makes it possible to stand
Before You Lord
That’s what the blood is for
That’s what the blood is for
That’s what the blood is for
It cleans the dirty man I am
Makes it possible to stand
Before You Lord
That’s what the blood is for
Ronnie Freeman and Tony Wood
Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (ASCAP) // Lehajoes Music (ASCAP) // Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing (ASCAP) // Songs From Exit 71 (ASCAP)
Jason: It is so real--where we are and how people feel, you know… like, How can I fix this? or Where can I go? and, well, it's just by the grace of God. You've got to grasp onto that or you'll never live in Victory because we, as humans, boy, we make a mess of things, don't we? It's totally grabbing a hold of the mercy and the grace of God, and believing it, you know, that it works. That's what the Blood is for. It’s because of that that I am able to stand; it makes me alert.
FC: Real quick, going back to the record here… There are a couple of duets, and a couple of guest appearances. You have Joyce Martin, Michael English and Kari Jobe. What was it like singing with those guys? I am assuming you've sang with Mr. English and Miss Martin before, but how about Kari Jobe?
Jason: My time with Michael English—both with the Gaither Vocal Band and his solo efforts—and with the Martins were a huge influence in my life growing up. Those were the records that you just waited in line to get. I couldn't wait to get my hands on them. Couldn't wait to hear what the next thing was, what it sounded like, or what they did and pick out my favorites and listen to them vocally. So I was very, very excited about the songs they cut, and the records, and so now I get to do that and I have always just been very excited about that.
On the flip side with Kari Jobe, now that's ... I had never heard a voice like that, ever. I remember the first time I heard her; I was just blown away. It was something that she wasn't just one of those voices where you just listen to how high she sings or something. It wasn't that. It was just the touch of God that is on her voice, and the anointing that is on her life that is just ... she sings in such a real place and I just don't know how to describe it. I am so honored that she would come and sing with me on this record. I was blown away and still am every time I hear it. I'm like, really, I can't believe this really happened. (Laughs)
FC: Jason, what kind of music do you listen to today, that lately you've been listing to, that makes you go, Wow, this is some really good art!
Jason: There is so much good stuff out there today. You know I love what tobyMac always puts out. Such great pieces; he is just so talented. And I listen to a lot of different stuff. I'm more of a guy that just likes the feel of good music, whatever style it is. It’s what I draw from and I just love it. I think tobyMac’s new record is great, and I love Kari Jobe's record, and oh my goodness, there are just so many great, great artists out there. The Vocal Band has just put out a brand new project, which is wonderful. My brothers have just put some new stuff too. Aaron has a new project and it's going great. I'm producing one of Adam's records and I'm excited about that also. I'm just wrapped in music all the time, I just love all of it.
FC: Are you a book reader?
Jason: You know what, I've just really kind of gotten into that a little bit.
FC: What have you been reading lately?
Jason: I've been reading a lot of Andy Andrews. I really like his books. I also, I just picked up a book that is an old book. It is really neat. It is about the Jubilee Singers, that was based out of Nashville and it's the Fisk University and it's about a group of African-American singers that toured around the globe and sang just about everywhere. I picked this up, I found it at a bookstore, and it's a real old book, an antique. Also, there is a writer that wrote hymns ... well, not really hymns just kind of lyrics and poems. He was a slave. He wrote about some of their lyrics—his name is Dunbar. I like history, so I loved the Jubilee Singers, that's just a really cool book and I'm just getting started in it. I guess I like a lot of different things.
FC: Sounds neat. Now I have two random questions to kind of wrap things up. Are you a coffee drinker or Red Bull drinker?
FC: Coffee? Is it black or is it a king of frou-frou type of coffee?
Jason: No, you know, I have moments where I like a little cream and sugar, but then there are moments where I just like black. My trainer tells me it's black, so… you know how that goes. (Laughs)
FC: Last question, Jason Crabb. Just how Southern are you?
Jason: How Southern am I? (laughs)
Jason: Oh my goodness! I guess if people really only knew, they would probably never come and see me. (laughs again). No, I absolutely love the Southern style living. I'm kind of a—oh, I don't know what you would call it--a hybrid, I guess. I love all of it. Fried chicken, the fried pork chops, I'm in the woods a lot, and I love the outdoors. I even like to hunt a little. That’s just the way we grew up. I grew up in the swamplands of Kentucky, with coal miners and different ones and that's pretty much who I am. But then again, you know, I love nice cars (that I don't have!) and the finer things in life as well. But if it ever came down to it, give me the rocking chair, the front porch and a cup of coffee and I'm in a good place.
FC: Sounds good. Jason, thank you so much for taking the time. Man, I really appreciate it. I love the new record. I've loved your family for a long time. I love all the records. I have them all. I think they're phenomenal. Jason, you're a great singer, don't ever lose your voice, man. Sometimes when I think that you're hitting those notes, I think, Dude, it's going to pop one of these days--his voice is going to go.
FC: I thank the Lord for you and for your gifts, and I am so thankful that you use it for Him and not for yourself. Blessings to you my friend.
Jason: Thank you so much. I give Him thanks and praise every day for allowing me to live this life and to get to experience the goodness of it, and what He is and what He has done for us. To be honest with you, from where I came from in life, I'm going, How am I getting to live this? How am I getting to do this? Thank you for allowing me to get to present your love and your dreams for our lives, Lord. Your desires for our lives you know, and it's just so, I am just overwhelmed every day and that's the truth. I'm thankful for it. I really am. Bill & Gloria Gaither - Until Then [Live] ft. Jason Crabb