The Christian worship singer opens up about his father's suicide, raising his own children and recording at the historic Abbey Road Studios.
Posted in , Jun 19, 2015
If you were to chart the origins of some of the top Christian worship singers in the industry today, you’d see that Grammy award-winning artist Matt Redman is an outlier in every sense of the word. While some of the biggest names – Chris Tomlin, MercyMe and tobyMac – were born and bred in the good ol' Bible Belt of the South, Redman began his career across the pond, in his hometown of Chorleywood, England.
The sleepy little suburb an hour north of London is where Redman was first introduced to faith, courtesy of a tragic event in his childhood. When the singer was 7, his father died suddenly. It wasn’t until years later that Redman learned his dad had actually committed suicide.
“It was almost like a double blow because it brought up a lot more questions,” Redman told Guideposts.org. “’Why did he do that? Was I not enough? Did I have anything to do with that?’ I don’t have a lot of memories of him to be honest, but I do mark that as moment when I started to think about God a bit.”
A young Redman would walk himself to church every Sunday, even on those days when the rest of his family chose to stay at home. Years after his father’s passing, Redman’s mother remarried, but her new husband abused the family’s trust and Redman found himself turning to the church, his faith and music more than ever to make sense of the struggles in his life.
“Things got very dark there in my teenage years,” Redman said, “but again, by the Grace of God, I decided to trust Him and trust that He was in control. Even though I couldn’t understand anything He was doing, just trusting that He was watching over me. I think I can trace a lot of what I do now, the songwriting and all of it, to those key moments.”
Redman would be the first to admit, he never set out to be a Christian recording artist. What began as a young boy just leading worship services in his local church soon morphed into gigs on the road, record deals, Grammy awards, Dove nominations and has now culminated with his fourth -live studio album, Unbroken Praise, recorded at the storied Abbey Road Studios in London.
To hear Redman describe the experience of sharing the space with the legends that have come before him – The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Queen all have a place on those walls – is to hear the dreams of that 7-year-old boy, who never missed a Sunday service, coming true.
“It was brilliant,” Redman said. “You see that studio from the outside and people have their photo taken on the crosswalk or write their name on the wall, but when you go inside, it’s not just a nostalgic, souvenir kind of place. It was very welcoming and it just felt really special. We filled that place with about 350 worshipers and a load of friends and just had church.”
There’s something quintessentially British about Redman. Perhaps it’s his accent – which makes him instantly likable – or the way he compares songwriting to brewing a cup of tea. Whatever it is, it’s gained him legions of fans and quite a few friends in the industry, some of which Redman recruited on his latest record.
“That’s what friends are for,” Redman joked when asked about collaborating with people like Tomlin, David Crowder and Jonas Myrn. “It’s interesting, so many of the people that I look up to are actually my friends.”
“For the first time on this record I got to write something with David Crowder who I’ve known for probably 15 years, so I think that those friendships all show up in those songs. It’s a beautiful thing to kind of lean into each other’s gifts. That whole proverb of iron sharpening iron, that’s really what happens. You sharpen each other as creative people and as disciples of Jesus so you can’t really go wrong.”
The theme of this latest album is one that is entirely relevant to Redman’s own journey through life.
“One of the things I speak to on the album is just trusting God with your whole life,” Redman said. “The single, “It Is Well With My Soul,” is just about the storms of life. [Saying] ‘God I’m going to lean into You. God, I’m going to trust You are who You say You are, and I’m going to worship You.’”
“'Songs In The Night’” too is a similar theme. In the daylight, anyone can sing a song. When everything is going great in your life, it’s a lot easier to bring a song of worship, but can you still sing to God in the dark times?. I think of it like an evergreen tree. The time when you find out whether a tree’s evergreen or not is in the winter. The way you find out what kind of worshiper you are is in the storms of life.”
Having weathered quite a few storms in his own life, Redman’s ready to continue sharing his faith with others, something he’ll do this August when he joins Louie Giglio, Max Lucado and Chris Tomlin for their Worship Night in America tour. The singer also recently played a song off of his new album at the historic Albert Hall in London.
The track, “The Father’s Song,” centers on the birth of the artist’s first child and his own experiences growing up without a father.
“I’ve never really felt fatherless,” Redman said. “I lost my dad when I was 7, things didn’t go too good after that with the guy who replaced him, but I’ve never really felt fatherless. And it talks about that in the song. It talks about God being a Father. It’s really about how we can sing songs to God, but the song that overwhelms all of them and precedes all of them is His song over us.”
When Redman isn’t on the road, playing for thousands of fans or lending his name and talents to those big events, he’s happy to have his hands full at home, raising his five children with his wife Beth.
“There’s never a boring moment,” Redman said. “If one of my kids ever comes to me and says ‘I’m bored’ I say ‘That’s not possible. Including your mum and me there are seven people in this house, you cannot be bored.’ But honestly, I think it’s just a learning process of how to be a parent. I think about in Scripture when it talks about how God’s slow to anger and quick to show compassion. I’ve sometimes caught myself being the opposite, quick to be angry with my kids or not very quick to be compassionate and I want to be more like my Father in Heaven. I want them to see His heart through my actions.”
And while his own children are certainly old enough to realize the impact their dad has in the Christian music world, they don’t mind teasing him about it either.
.”A couple of my kids are quite cheeky and whenever they want to get my attention, instead of calling me dad they’ll call me Matt Redman. They think they’re funny.”