An Interview With Matthew West
NRT's Paul Phillips talks to Christian music icon Matthew West about his music, his career, his greatest hits and his future.

AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, An Interview With Matthew West
Posted: August 15, 2019 | By: PaulPhillips_NRT
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I have had a strong connection with Matthew West's music since his first album, Happy. Back then, I was a seeker, still deciding if I wanted a relationship with Jesus. This didn't stop the Lord, however. He wanted me to come home. So, he used Matthew's music, along with others, as one ministry to do just that. More specifically, it was his breakthrough hit, "More," that helped open that door. 

Once I gave my life to Christ, the Lord continued to minister to me through Matthew's music. Hits like "You Are Everything," "The Motions," "Family Tree," and the repeatable "Broken Things" are anthems I've enjoyed during my 12-year walk. Now, it's "Unplanned," and his latest single, "The God Who Stays," I have playing on my iPhone.

I'm not the only believer who has been deeply impacted by Matthew West's music. His tunes have ministered to so many listeners over the years. So, it's fitting that we get to celebrate Matthew's valuable contributions to Christian music, with a much overdo greatest hits album. Hello, My Name Is: Greatest Hits covers songs from Happy to All In, Matthew's 2017 album. It highlights his illustrious career. And shines the spotlight on his future in music.

With so much history with Matthew West's music, I was thrilled at the opportunity to speak with Matthew about his music, his greatest hits, and the next chapter of his career.

You're releasing your first "Greatest Hits" album. How does it feel to be releasing a "Best Of" after more than 15 years of music?

It's a bit surreal. I remember buying the greatest hits albums of my favorite artists back in the day and thinking that was really a symbol that an artist had staying power. So, when I was told this was being put together for me, I definitely had a moment of reflection on just how much has happened in the last 15 years.

I think every artist hopes their music might find an audience and make a deep connection with listeners. After all these years, I see the word "hit" as having a deeper meaning. To me, that just means the song connected with people. And that's really been my deeper goal from the beginning–connecting with people.

Tell us about your new label partnership with Provident Label Group. What motivated you to switch labels? So far, how has this impacted your career?

The Greatest Hits release really does encapsulate my time with Capitol Records. They were real champions of my music, and I'm so grateful for the chance they gave me to release it into the world. That made it even harder to make a change. But sometimes change can be a good thing, creatively and otherwise. I was really excited about Provident's vision for my career and ministry and for the chance to partner with them in the form of an imprint label (Story House Records). I want to help develop new artists, too. We're working on releasing new music from our first new artist that the world will soon hear.

Your new single, "The God Who Stays," ushers in a new chapter in your career. What inspired you to choose the feeling of abandonment as a theme? How does creating this song differ from creating past singles?

Good question. I don't know that there was anything intentional about the theme of this song ushering in this new chapter. All I know is that I felt like there was something special in this chorus. It just felt right, and it stood out as a powerful message for right now. If it speaks to me, I feel confident it will speak to others. Also, now more than ever, I want to write songs that I feel like I would be excited to sing 10 years from now. Only time can give you that perspective. And I think after all the shows I've done and all the songs I've written, I have a better feeling for that.

I started the song myself and brought the first verse and pre-chorus to a new co-write with songwriter and producer Jonathan Smith. We finished the rest of the song together. And songwriter AJ Pruis, who is producing this record, joined in on the home stretch.

Tell us about the Story House.

I've never had a place at my house where I could really create. It was usually a small room somewhere in the house where I couldn't make too much noise. So, in years past, I would go to a studio or rent a cabin any time I wanted to work on a new record. That would mean late nights away from my family. And I already spend too much time away from them on my tours. So, the Story House was built. Now, I'm able to walk out my back door and go to work. I've written all of the new songs at my home studio and I'm recording all of the vocals for this album at home, too. It's very exciting.

How do you feel you've grown as an artist since your first album, Happy, released in 2003?

I feel like I've grown as a singer. Having vocal cord surgery really forced me to take care of my voice and really learn how to sing again. I can hear the difference in my voice from album to album. I hope I've grown as a songwriter. But, most importantly, I hope I've grown as a communicator. That's really important to me. Putting the show together, sharing the message between the songs, not just the songs themselves.

How do you approach your songwriting? Over the years, what have been your favorite themes to write and sing about?

My approach to songwriting is different depending on the room I'm in. I do a lot of writing with other artists on their projects and my role is different in those rooms. So, when I'm with Mark Hall writing for a Casting Crowns album, it's less about what my idea is and more about how to create lyrics from Mark's vision. And what the Lord has put on his heart. When I'm writing for my record, I'm thinking of an overall theme for an album many times.

I can't say songs are written the same way each time. Some songs come to me fast, some songs take months. I do find that the songs that don't usually wind up making my records are the ones that just seem like they required too much "surgery." Sometimes there are just songs that aren't quite landing right. They might be good, but they're just not great.

I don't know that I have a favorite theme to write about. Although I would guess that listening back through all of my songs, someone could say that the theme of "grace" is one that is recurring. And I'm just fine with that. I write songs about the God I love and the amazement I feel when I think about how He loves me.

Earlier this year, you released the single, "Unplanned" for the movie of the same name. What inspired you to attach yourself to the film?

My friend Joe was a producer of the film and he asked me to write a title song for the movie. I read the script and came up with the idea that "as long as my God holds the world in his hands, I know that there's no such thing as unplanned." I knew that writing a song for a movie about the controversial topic of pro-life would maybe put me in the center of some criticism. But I want to stand up for what I believe in. And writing this song was a way for me to do that. I wrote the song thinking about the first moments I held both of my daughters after they were born. Counting fingers and toes, being amazed by the beautiful child in my arms. I just remember the overwhelming sense that I was holding a miracle. I carried that picture into this song.

Is there a live worship, mainstream or acoustic album in the future?

Well, those are three totally different things. Let me see. Mainstream? No. Live Worship? Ah, I think I'll leave that up to Bethel. Acoustic album? Not a bad idea.

Over your career, you've received so many accolades and rewards. What does the next chapter of your career look like? How can we be praying for you?

I'm just so thankful that people have connected with the songs I've written. And I'm just as excited about the new music I'm writing as I've ever been about anything I've done. In many ways, I feel like a brand new artist, just as nervous when I release a new song as I've ever been. You can pray for my ministry, PopWE; it's a non-profit that allows us to go deeper than the music. We're providing prayer after each concert too, and that's been something really special.

Paul Phillips is a Canadian journalist with over 10 years of experience writing and editing digital and print content. He specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, and travel. He loves music, movies, and, of course, living for Jesus.

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