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Matthew West

THE K-LOVE COVER STORY

Matthew West celebrates the holiday season on the K-LOVE Christmas Tour and maps out new music for 2020.

Matthew West’s house has an identity crisis. At least it did back in November. It was still weeks before Thanksgiving when Matthew called in for an interview from his home in Franklin, Tennessee, which was already decked out for the holidays—albeit a bit prematurely. “It’s like a mullet—business up front, party in the back,” the singer quips. “We’ve got pumpkins up front and a Christmas tree in the living room.”

In his defense, Matthew and his family opted to decorate early because he’ll be gone for many of the days leading up to December 25 on the K-LOVE Christmas Tour, alongside Matt Maher, Hannah Kerr and I AM THEY. 

“I decided to start really getting into the Christmas spirit early because my days home during the month of December are at a premium,” he admits, adding, “It’s a really special time of year to be on tour, so I’m excited to be a part of the K-LOVE Christmas Tour this year. You might see me in a suit; I’m just warning you.” 

Matthew says he’s personally been inspired by each of the artists that complete 2019’s annual holiday lineup. “I AM THEY had a really powerful song called ‘Scars’ this past year that spoke to me in a big way. I’ve gotten to meet Hannah just a handful of times. She’s incredibly talented, and I’m going to have her sing a song with me during our show,” Matthew shares. “And then, of course, Matt [Maher]. We’re ‘the Matts of Christian music,’ so we’ve got to stick together. Matt’s one of the best songwriters in the Christian industry and has written some of my favorite worship songs.” 

The tour, which concluded in Anderson, Indiana on December 20, showcased a mix of holiday favorites and year-round radio hits, including Matthew’s new single, “The God Who Stays,” a song he wrote in a quiet moment of reflection. 

“The message of the song is really simple and started as kind of a late-night conversation I was having with God. My kids were in bed. I was just sitting at the piano in my house and having this moment,” Matthew explains. “I was playing this one note over and over again on the piano that you hear in the recording, and I just started singing, ‘If I were You, I would’ve given up on me by now.’ So this song is really about the grace that God displays and the promise of His presence.”

The God Who Stays” is the first taste of new music from Matthew, who’s recently found himself in a busy season of songwriting, rife with change. He signed a brand new record deal with Provident Label Group. He started a brand new company, Story House Collective, to help develop new acts. And he built a brand new studio, where he’s been plodding along on new songs. That’s why the title of his forthcoming album, Brand New (due Feb. 14, 2020), is so fitting. 

“There’s something about sitting down at a piano that you haven’t played before. It’s hard to describe. I can’t even put my finger on it, but it’s like sometimes you pick up a different guitar, and it just feels a different kind of inspiring,” Matthew shares of working in his fresh studio space. “It’s actually been a really neat season of writing and recording a bunch of new music.” 

He’s also spent quite a bit of time writing with and for other artists, something he’s quietly been doing behind the scenes throughout his whole career. Most recently, he’s co-written significant songs for Casting Crowns (“Nobody”) and Sanctus Real (“Unstoppable God”). Whether he’s penning songs for others or for himself, with Matthew, what you see is what you get. 

“I’ve always strived to write honest songs and not just write what I think I’m supposed to say as a follower of Christ, but just be real with what I’m really thinking or how I’m really feeling or what stage I’m really in on my journey of faith,” Matthew says. “I write about what I know I need. I write about what I know I don’t deserve; and ultimately, I write about what’s giving me hope to wake up in the morning and sing a new song every day—and that’s grace.” 

The new songs on Brand New are no exception. With conviction, Matthew sings about the places where grace has seeped into the cracks of his life. Also, as has become his custom, he sets other people’s stories of grace to music. 

“At this point in my journey as a songwriter, telling the stories of other people’s lives is now what I do. It’s woven into the fabric of my creative process. Really, all of our stories are pointing to the same thing, and that is we all have the same author,” Matthew says. “Something special takes place when I open myself up to hear someone else’s testimony and then see what songs flow from that. And yet, I first started writing songs as a way of telling my story.” 

His personal story is told on the cover art of Brand New, which reveals a vintage polaroid of Matthew sitting on a blue couch. The couch itself signifies the very place where he became brand new. As a newly-minted teen, he sat on a blue couch in his living room, watching Billy Graham; and that’s the very place where he prayed the sinner’s prayer with his mom. 

Brand New is his way of getting back to basics. “I’m talking to somebody who’s maybe been a Christian for a long time. Maybe they check all the boxes. Maybe they listen to K-LOVE radio and go to church on Sundays and tithe. Maybe they’re in a small group and just doing everything right; but if they’re honest, maybe the fire in their faith has dimmed. Sometimes I think that’s a struggle when you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time. Even as a Christian singer, it’s possible to be that guy whose faith just feels lukewarm, and I don’t want to be lukewarm,” Matthew asserts. “I want to go back to that blue couch. I want to go back to that thirteen-year-old kid who cried out to Jesus and decided that from that day forward he was going to live his life for God.” 

Matthew’s venture with Story House Collective has also reinvigorated the singer. His new company gives him the opportunity to introduce the next generation of storytellers in Christian music. “We’ve got our ears to the ground, open to finding those young, up-and-coming artists who might be the next TobyMac or the next Matthew West or whoever,” Matthew says of his mission to champion aspiring artists. “One of the things that I’ve really discovered in my artist journey has been the importance of a champion in your life; not just in your career, but in your life. The voice of one champion in your life can do more to help than the voice of a thousand doubters can do to hurt.” 

Story House’s flagship artist is a young singer/songwriter named Leanna Crawford, the first in a line of artists Matthew hopes girls like his own daughters can look up to. “I personally don’t feel like there are enough female artists who get to see the light of day in Christian music,” he offers. “As a dad, I’m trying to point my kids to Christian music at every turn; but man, pop culture is all around us, and if you think you’re going to keep your kids away from the influences of pop culture on every level, it’s just impossible. I can’t remove pop music from the world, but I can put more positive music into the world.”

Perhaps, without even realizing it, that’s what he’s been doing all along. His home might be in holiday flux, but Matthew’s identity as a storyteller is sure. Whether writing chart-toppers for other artists, adding another hit to his own discography, supporting rising stars or spreading a little Christmas cheer out on the road, Matthew is putting more positive music into the world one song at a time. —Lindsay Williams

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ABOUT MATTHEW WEST

Singing and songwriting weren't always part of Matthew's vision for his future career. 

Originally, he wanted to play baseball, professionally. However, when he was offered a four-year music scholarship to Millikan University, he accepted it. It was a decision that changed the direction of his life. During his college breaks, he wrote most of his first songs in the sanctuary of his father’s church, and after graduating from college, a friend suggested that Matthew attend the annual the Gospel Music Association Music in the Rockies event for aspiring musicians.

Eventually making the final round of the songwriting competition, Matthew was offered a songwriting deal. Then after writing songs for established artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rascal Flatts and Natalie Grant, Matthew continued writing his own songs and eventually signed with Universal South Records.

His first radio single “More” held on to the #1 position on the Christian adult contemporary charts for nine weeks and his second album, History, scored him two more hit radio singles, “Next Thing You Know” and “Only Grace.

In 2007, however, it was no longer smooth sailing when his career took a rather turbulent turn. Turns out, Matthew was on the verge of losing the very voice that endeared him to fans. Instructed to undergo vocal rest for two months by not talking at all, the future of Matthew’s singing career lay in the balance. As it turns out, the treatment worked and God wasn't quite finished using Matthew’s voice after all.

Matthew resumed his singing career and went on to write, “The Motions” and “You Are Everything” which firmly established Matthew as one of the industry’s premiere songwriters.

Another fan favorite, Matthew's song "Do Something," is a great reminder about the importance of serving others by being the hands and feet of Christ, and doing something to make a difference in this world.

"I will never forget meeting Andrea.  If I were judging a book by its cover, I’d say she looked like a college girl, maybe in a sorority or something, lots of friends, bound to be successful someday. But that is not the whole story," the singer shares. "Andrea, a former University of Colorado student had chosen to spend a semester abroad learning micro-financing in Uganda.  While there, she happened upon an orphanage in critical condition. The children were being badly neglected and even abused. That’s when this college student decided to do something. She refused to leave these children until something was done to improve the conditions."

He continues, "Today, Musana is a thriving orphanage in Iganga, Uganda, housing over one hundred children! When asked what it was that made her fight for these children she simply said, “I just kept thinking, ‘If I don’t do something, who will?' Today, so many of us Christians talk so much about being the hands and feet of Christ, but never really displaying what that looks like. It’s not about talking. It’s about doing! It’s time for us to do something!"

"Do Something," is one of the songs included in his 2012 release Into The Light.The album also includes, "Hello, My Name Is"- a powerful redemption song

Into The Light follows Matt's album The Story of Your Life, where Matthew first thumbed through thousands of stories shared by listeners to seek inspiration for his songs. West hosted a "Storytellers Weekend" for the families and individuals who inspired the music on Into The Light and songs from The Story of Your Life. Each of the storytellers were surprised with a concert, commemorative plaques, a special dinner, and a night at the Grand Ole Opry where Matthew performed.

"I was face to face with the real stories of people's lives," Matthew reflected in an interview with K-LOVE's Scott and Kelli. "It made me take a look in my own life, and I realized that a lot of times, I stay safe in the confines of My Own Little World."

Matthew's songs "Grace Wins" and  "Day One," off his album Live Forever (April 2015), were inspired by the words people shared with him about their life experiences. As of 2015, he's received 40,000+ responses to his call out for stories from people all over the world. And, while reading through those stories, he began to notice some common themes.

Like how a lot of people shared the amount of continuous days they'd been sober, or hadn't smoked, or ... fill in the blank. He knew what they meant cause he’d counted before, too. Then Matt read Lamentations 3:23: “His mercies never end, they are new every morning” and he realized, “My counting of consecutive sinless days is something I don’t have to be owned by anymore. So whether you’re on a winning streak or a losing streak, God’s not concerned about that. He’s giving you an opportunity to start over, today is day one.

Matthew has also used his talents on Valentine's Day to bless one K-LOVE listener with a personalized love song. You can see some of his "Next Great Love Songs" below, as well as read the stories that inspired them:


Songs

Preview and Discover the Songs you Love
Winter Wonderland (Single)
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
The God Who Stays (Single)
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
Unplanned (Single)
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
Unto Us: A Christmas Collection
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
A Christmas To Believe In (Single)
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
The Heart of Christmas
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
The Heart of Christmas
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
Wouldn't Change A Thing - Single
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
The Story of Your Life
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
WoW Christmas (Green)
Various
iTunes  |  Amazon
Something To Say
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
Hold You Up EP
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon
History
Matthew West
iTunes  |  Amazon