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Tag Archives: Rich Mullins

  • 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

  • The Science of Song - an interview with Andrew Peterson

    Posted on September 5, 2012 by John van der Veen

    With strokes of his upbringing, faith, experiences and relationships, Andrew Peterson creates art. Like an intricate oil painting, the nuances, layers and textures combine to create something distinct and deep. But to Andrew, it’s just part of the process… down to the very DNA of the lyrics.

    Family Christian: So tell us a little about Andrew Peterson. Where are you from, what’s your family look like?

    Andrew Peterson: I’ve been married 17 years and have 3 kids who are 13, 12 and 9. I was born in Illinois (basically in a corn field), then when I was 7 we moved to what I lovingly call “redneck Florida.” So I went from having a sort of golden-boy-Midwestern childhood to [the] deep south, ya know? [With] all of the good and bad and wonderful things that come with a southern childhood. My dad is a pastor and he still preaches at the same town that I grew up in north Florida. I ended up randomly going to Bible college. Not for any noble reason, mainly because it was affordable and I couldn’t think of anything else to do (laughs). So I went to Bible college and fell in love with it almost immediately. I met my wife there, got a Bible degree, put out an indie record then moved to Nashville where I’ve been making records ever since.

    FC: Which Bible college?
    Andrew: It was called Florida Christian College in Kissimmee/Orlando. Just a small, really conservative Bible college within my “non-denominational denomination.” (laughs)

    FC: (Laughs) You may be the first person who has publicly made that into an official denomination…

    Andrew: I coined it! Yes!

    FC: Would you consider Florida to be southern living?

    Andrew: Oh yes, at least the part of Florida that I lived in. Florida is a funny place. I maintain that it is the weirdest state in the United States – and I mean that in a good way. I didn’t like it when I was a kid, but now that I’m a writer and part of my life involves telling stories, I feel like I could not have grown up in a richer story-telling culture than Florida. It’s this kind of strange convergence of beach culture and retired people and snowbirds and Cuban-Puerto Rican culture. If you drive about 15 minutes inland from the beach or out of any town, you’re in this swampy, unique kind of country, [with] racism and southern hospitality and Bible belt stuff and it’s just a really fascinating place. I’ve gotten to [this place that] now that I’m older, I’ve started reading books by southern authors because I’m so fascinated by the cultures there. Everybody from Flannery O’Connor to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and people like that. And so I’m really grateful. I never want it to sound like I’m talking bad about my home state but it is bizarre and I’m just delighted by that.

    FC: Do people in north Florida eat grits or biscuits and gravy?

    Andrew: Oh yes, as often as possible. My little town is called Lake Butler and it has three generations of family sheriffs. There’s a railroad track and the white people lived on one side and the black people lived on the other. There was a poured house and a little drug store where farmers in overalls would talk in the heat of the day and my dad is a southern preacher which means that he paces a lot and occasionally little flecks of spittle. It was exactly what you would imagine a “deep south childhood” would look like. So yeah, I think that may be part of where my love for storytelling came from. All you have to do is sit on the porch for a few minutes and eavesdrop on my dad’s conversations and you hear the most colorful, beautiful language – good stories. It’s a farm culture and yeah, I couldn’t wait to escape it when I was a boy, but now that I’m a grown up I live in a metropolitan area and the older I get the more I’ve started calling my mom and dad and asking them how to grow tomatoes and how to keep the deer out of the pumpkin patch (that sort of thing), and so yeah, I feel like it’s a part of who I am.

    FC: Did you meet Rich Mullins?

    Andrew: I did. Just 2 or 3 times, and each time it was in a really unadulterated fan context. I shook his hand and told him I loved him and passed him a demo. That kind of thing. It’s funny, I had just finished recording my independent record in college. I was 22.

    FC: Was that The Walk?

    Andrew: Yeah, and it’s terrible. When I go back and listen to it, I can hardly listen to it because it’s so bad in so many ways. But at the time, when you’re 22 you feel like you’re the king of the world and I thought “Man, I’m going to give this CD to Rich Mullins and he’s going to love it and we’re going to become friends!” But he died a year later so I never had a chance to live down how bad the demo was. I later became friends with Mitch McVicker who was friends with Rich’s touring partner back at the time and I was always really self-conscious that I had met them both at this geeky fan phase so I didn’t let on that I’d already met Mitch before. Years later when we started doing shows together I was like “man, do you know that we met before we started traveling together?” and he was like “oh yeah, I remember, it was at your college in Florida” and I was horrified! I said “Ahhh! No! You don’t by chance remember that I gave you a demo CD do you? And he said “yeah”, so I said, “you guys didn’t ever hear it did you? And he goes “yeah… we hated it.” (laughs) So I thought that was delightful. There’s a part of me that’s like maybe it’s a small mercy that I didn’t meet Rich because it would have been the worst thing to find out that he couldn’t stand me, ya know? (laughs) [This way] I can pretend that maybe we would have been friends.

    FC: You’ve carried the storytelling trait from your dad, which Rich had too. Was that something unique in his music that drew you?

    Andrew: Yes, definitely. I’ve kind of jokingly said that Rich’s music rescued me from Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was in a rock band the year after high school, touring around, but it never ever would have crossed my mind that I wanted to do Christian music because I grew up in this goofy paradigm that meant being in the ministry meant being a pastor, or a missionary. And I didn’t want to be either of those things so I just thought, well, I guess I don’t want to be in the ministry. So hearing Rich’s music around that time opened my eyes to how powerful a song can be. C.S. Lewis described stories this way, he said that stories could “sneak past peoples’ watchful dragons.” The idea is that a sermon will hit you head-on but art can flank you, surprise you and flip truth behind your lines when you least expect it. I think that’s what happened with Rich’s music and me. I wasn’t terribly interested in the Gospel. Ya know, I would have told you that I was a Christian but I was really struggling and really trying to find my way and then I heard this Rich Mullins song that captivated me with its poetry and the roughness that I heard in his voice. He was a smoker – I didn’t know it at the time – but I heard something broken in his voice. Emotionally and physically for that matter. So that brokenness was more beautiful to me than any of the slick stuff I had heard in Christian music. And it really drew me in. What I heard was loneliness and some sadness and a deep longing, and all of that resonated with me. I felt like he was singing the way my heart felt. It was because he was willing to be honest about his own struggle and the truth about Who Jesus really is. That woke-up something in me. It took all of those Bible stories that I had grown up with over the years and my love for The Lord of the Rings and adventure stories and all of those things converged in the songs of Rich Mullins and I found something that I’d never found before. So ever since then, every time I sit down to write a song, I’m trying to get close to the feet of those mountains. If I can write something like “The Color Green” by Rich Mullins or “Copperline” by James Taylor or “Graceland” by Paul Simon I think it’s good for a songwriter to keep listening to the masters. To ask yourself “well how in the world did they write songs that move me like this?” Every time you sit down you’re probably going to fail but you gotta at least try, ya know? So I’m always trying to get back to the way that I felt sitting on the side of a mountain in east Tennessee and listening to Rich Mullins music. So that’s what I’m shooting for, whether or not I ever attain it.

    FC: So then you met Derek Webb… or he found you? How did that work?

    Andrew: (laughs) That was back when the internet was relatively new and I was waiting tables at the Olive Garden here in Nashville. We had just moved here. Jamie and I were childless, poor and working really hard. I couldn’t get any bookings. One night I discovered this band, Caedmon’s Call, and I really liked their music. I think I discovered them because of their friendship with Rich Mullins. I think that’s how I ended up finding their website. I ended up posting something online about how their songwriting and music was really the first thing that had moved me like that since I’d heard Rich Mullins’ music. I included a link to my really lame website, and Derek followed the link and read my lyrics and he really liked them. He saw something in them and I ended up meeting them later at a concert and he remembered me and I said, can I open for you guys? And he said yes. That was basically the beginning of my music career. (laughs) I don’t know why he said yes, he’d never heard me play a song before. Never heard what I sounded like live. But for whatever reason, they happened to not have an opener like a week later so I got to drive out to west Tennessee and play a show with them. A month later I was on the tour bus.

    FC: Wow and now you’re getting ready to release your 12th or 13th album?

    Andrew: Well if you included all of the little side projects [I’ve done] it would be about that many, but it’s either the 8th or 9th full-length studio record, I can’t remember.

    FC: Ok, before talk about the new album, let’s talk a second about this “Square Peg Alliance” group you created. What is it?

    Andrew: Well, it’s funny, The Square Peg Alliance is not as active as it was maybe 3 or 4 years ago. Basically, I didn’t start it – it was just something that grew sort of organically at our little songwriting community here in Nashville. In reaction to how a lot of us had been on Christian record labels, some of us had had radio play and then as the industry started to change we all found ourselves not “pop-Christian” enough to get by in the Christian world and “too Christian-y” to ever have a chance to get by in the mainstream world. And so we didn’t know what to do other than lock arms with each other and just try to help each other survive and stick to the calling of the type of songs we were writing. We kinda jokingly named ourselves the Square Peg Alliance. Ya know, all we did was give a name to this thing that was already happening. The same thing is still happening, we just don’t officially gather under that name anymore.

    FC: Did the Rabbit Room kind of morph out of that?

    Andrew: The Rabbit Room didn’t morph out of it, but it came for the same love for community. Ya know, I went to England and saw the pub where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams and their buddies used to get together and read their stories. And around that time I read a book about the Pixar company and I started to recognize that really good art thrives in the confines of community. We had some of that happening with music already, but I was writing my books and I wanted to grow into a better writer – and I knew a lot of people who wanted to do that same thing. So The Rabbit Room was kind of an experiment in community. We thought, what happens if we get some authors and pastors and songwriters and artists all joined together with the hopes that we’ll learn to make excellent work? And invite people into that conversation and see what happens? So we didn’t really have a clear direction, I just bought the domain name and made the website and invited some friends to be a part of it, and that was about 5 years ago. It’s doing really well. It’s been a pleasant surprise at almost every turn.

    FC: And so now you’ve written 3 books?

    Andrew: I’m [currently] writing my 4th book.

    FC: Obviously you’re an artist, but do you have a preference between writing music or books? Is one easier for you?

    Andrew: Um, I think that the easier one is whichever one I’m not doing. (laughs) Yeah, it’s all hard. There’s a part of me that really loves the book making process. Part of that is because I can stay home, it doesn’t involve a lot of travel, [it’s] a slowing down. It’s work, but it isn’t frantic work. Being on the road, playing music, there’s a lot of travel and deadlines and craziness, whereas book writing is probably more diligent work. It just doesn’t take me away from my wife and kids, so I really love that. With that said, I’m supposed to be writing book 4 right now but it’s been like trying to push-start a semi truck. Like I’ve had a really hard time mustering the discipline to really dig into it, so ya know, it’s all really hard, man. (laughs) It’s like planting the garden, the only way to get good fruit is to sweat and bleed for it, so that’s where I am right now.

    FC: But maybe that’s due to the fact that you have a new record coming out too…

    Andrew: Well, that’s part of it. I have been pretty busy with the record thing. I feel a little bit creatively capped ya know, from writing the songs probably too quickly. So that’s part of it. If I’m really honest with myself I am also just trying to avoid it because it’s a lot of work. (laughs) When I was in Bible college I wanted to be a youth minister because I thought he was the one who did the least amount of work in the church. (laughs) I did it for a year and realized that the opposite is true. So I quit [youth ministry] thinking, well maybe I can get out of doing work if I play music. And that wasn’t really true either.

    FC: You’ve touched on various themes in your previous records… What is the name of the new record, and is there an overarching theme?

    Light

    Andrew: The name of the record is Light for the Lost Boy. And if there was a theme (I think the title kind of sums it up), [it’s that] a lot of the songs on this record are about growing up. There are a lot of aspects to what it means to grow up. There’s the exit from Eden, this aspect of childhood that we are all kind of exiled from as we sin and grow old which creates this longing for restoration. There’s this longing for Jesus to hurry up and come back, to let us enter this Kingdom where we’ll have undying bodies [without] the pain of age or wasting away. Ya know, the effects that occur. There’s a lot of longing wrapped up in [this record]. I’m just trying to figure it out myself too. I don’t know. I’m watching my kids teeter into adolescence and the conversations with them have gotten more difficult. It’s not like we’re having problems with them, [it’s just the] preparing them for the world they’re growing into. It’s been pretty sad for me. I mean, I’m excited because they’re amazing kids and I think they’re going to do great things for the Kingdom, but at the same time, I’m grieving a little because I know that part of the process, the discipline that we receive as children of the King is sometimes painful. They’re going to make mistakes. The older they’ve gotten the more I’ve remembered my own childhood, ya know? I remember the sweetness of it, but I also remembered some of the moments that have continued to cause me pain over the years. So I’m guessing that’s why so many of the songs deal with childhood and the longing for restoration. But honestly I don’t know. I’m trying to be better about writing the songs I write and letting the listener add his or her own DNA to the thing. Most of us have seen the movie Jurassic Park, but I don’t know if you remember the scene where they’re going through the ride and the little computer thing is animating how they recreated dinosaurs from the DNA they found in the mosquitoes. And it shows these cartoon DNA strands and they’re like, well, we couldn’t really complete the DNA strands from the dinosaur so we used some from a turtle (I think or maybe it was a lizard) to complete the DNA and we created these dinosaurs. And I think songwriting and art are like that. My songs are these strands of my own DNA but there are all of these holes in them, like the songs aren’t a complete story. So the listener then brings his own DNA to the song and it begins to mean something specific to him or her. I remember that happened with “Dancing in the Minefields” this song about my marriage. The first line is “I was 19 and you were 21 the year we got engaged…” And I’ve gotten so many emails from people who are like “your story is just like my story, she was 19 and I was 21 the year we got married” and those details aren’t right at all! (laughs) They got the numbers backwards and they got the engagement and the wedding different because these people have brought their own story to my song so much so that the details of my song becomes irrelevant. So I’m hoping that with this record that whatever I meant by it will only be the beginning of the story for what the songs do in the heart of the people who are hearing it.

    Rest Easy

    FC: What music are you enjoying lately?

    Andrew: I have been listening to a lot of the new – I’m trying to be careful not to say anything “bad” because I’m talking to Family Christian (laughs) – I’ve been listening to the new Bon Iver record a lot. As soon as I said that I remembered there’s a bad word in one of the songs. There’s a band called Fleet Foxes that my sons and I really like. It’s really creative, almost classical sounding folk music, “chamber folk” is what some people call it I think. And then there’s this new Ben Shive record, he’s the guy who produced my new album – he’s really great. There’s this guy Josh Garrels, he’s great. We’ve connected and I tried to talk him into the Christmas tour this year. His wife is going to have a baby right before the tour so he couldn’t do it, but I’m a huge fan of his. Josh makes me feel the way I felt when I listened to Rich Mullins, I think Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) is like that too. There are very few people who have such great music that is so unabashedly about the gospel. I think Josh is one of those guys. Man, when I’m jogging and I hear his music, sometimes I “ugly cry.” (laughs) He’s so explicit about the God that he’s singing to and about. I’m deeply moved by that. So there’s a short list.

    FC: What kind of dog is your pet, Moon Dog?

    Andrew: (laughs) He is a Great Pyrenees. He’s a white, bushy, sheep-herding kind of dog. That’s Moon Dog. He’s white so he’s easy to see when he runs around at night. I also have to say, my father-in-law worked for NASA back around the time of the Apollo missions, he lived right there in Cocoa Beach where all of the astronauts were and sort of ‘lived among them.’ So [he] had a dog named Moon Doggie because he was working on the moon mission. And I always thought that was a great name, so when we got this dog I liked the idea of Moon Dog Jr.

    FC: Well Andrew, thanks for talking with us today. We can’t wait to hear the new album.

    Andrew: I can’t wait for you to hear it either. Thanks so much for doing this.

    Andrew’s new record Light for the Lost Boy hit stores this week! Pick it up here and check out his previous works here.

    To look into some of the artists that Andrew mentioned in the interview, follow these links:

    C.S. Lewis

    Rich Mullins

    Caedmon’s Call & Derek Webb

    Switchfoot

  • Brandon Heath - Blue Mountains

    Posted on July 26, 2012 by Family Christian

    Brandon

    Brandon Heath is certainly no new comer to the music scene.  His career has taken him on some amazing journeys through the years.  Brandon has written songs not just for his own albums, but also for Bebo Norman, Matt Wertz, Joy Williams of Civil Wars, Britt Nicole, Jars of Clay and others...  Most fans know him for writing and recording songs like "I'm Not Who I Was," "Give Me Your Eyes" and "Your Love."

     

    Carrie

    Not many folks know that Brandon sang his song, "Love Never Fails," at Carrie Underwood's wedding.  Carrie has been a fan of Brandon for a number of years and she wanted him to sing the song for her first dance with her new husband, Mike Fisher.

    This October, Brandon releases his newest album, Blue Mountain. From the dynamic first single, "Jesus In Disguise" to the heartwarming tale of "Paul Brown Petty," Brandon weaves together a collection of songs full of heart and rich with redemption. Staying true to his craft of personal songwriting, Blue Mountain's back porch ease further establishes Brandon Heath's accessible brand of story telling.

    The first single from Blue Mountain is Jesus In Disguise.  Below is the lyric video for you.

     

    Earlier this year, Brandon recorded an acoustic EP earlier this year. Songs include "Give Me Your Eyes," "Your Love" and "Wait and See."  Click the image to see the album.

    PS - Bonus video here. Brandon with Third Day, singing a great song from the late Rich Mullins.

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