The GRAMMY-nominated singer's latest album touches on his family, his personal walk with God, and how recovering addicts inspired him to write more music.
by- Posted on Nov 16, 2017
Christian singer and GRAMMY-nominated artist Matthew West’s latest album gets personal.
Matthew West draws thousands of fans to his shows, has been nominated for four GRAMMYs, and has sold 1.6 million albums, but his latest record is unlike anything he’s done before. While West has written about personal struggles, often inspired by stories he’s heard from his fans, his newest album All In, is his most personal yet. The 14-track project which dropped in Sept. of this year, reflects more of the artist’s story, his struggles, and his unique position as a voice for those hurting and seeking a deeper relationship in their faith.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
Guideposts.org chatted with West about the new album, how he had to reconnect with God while writing it, and how he’s trying to help others.
GUIDEPOSTS: You've spent the last few albums writing other people's stories into song. Why did you want to get personal again with All In.
Matthew West: Even when I was focusing on other people’s stories as the source of inspiration for my songs, each song still carried parts of my story as well. As a songwriter, I can’t write something that doesn’t resonate with me on a personal level. But in the past, I would take a specific story and then try to write it in this universal way so everyone could relate.
This time, what changed was the actual source of inspiration. I didn’t make a conscious decision this time to take a deeper look at my own story. But just before writing these songs, I had written a book called Hello, My Name Is, in which I shared a great deal of my story. I think that process really unlocked something within me that carried into this songwriting process on All In.
GUIDEPOSTS: Was the writing process more difficult this time around?
MW: Each season of songwriting is equal parts inspiration and perspiration. There are moments when the melodies are flowing and the lyrics are pouring out of me, and then there are moments when I wonder if I’ll ever be able to write another song again. This time though, I did feel like the songs came to me quicker. And the process of telling my own story in this unique way was very freeing. Instead of trying to write everything in this watered down universal voice, I painted with the actual colors of my story, and I hope the listener picks up on that.
GUIDEPOSTS: What are some issues you wanted to address on this album?
MW: For six weeks, I spent every day at a cabin in Tennessee where I have my writing retreats. Once I felt like this album needed to be called All In, I began daily asking God to show me areas of my life where he was calling me to do just that, go all in. These songs were all written in response to that daily conversation with God.
GUIDEPOSTS: "Dream Again" is another song that really stands out on this album, especially considering the crisis our nation is currently facing when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Why did you want to write that track?
MW: This song was inspired by my interaction with some men whom I invited to my concert. These men were going through a drug and alcohol recovery program and I met with them before the show to welcome them and encourage them. I started to say to them, “Guys, my hope for you tonight is that you leave this concert inspired to…” and before I could finish my sentence a voice spoke up from one of the men in the group, “dream again?” and he said it in the form of a question. My eyes started to tear up as I realized this guy was literally asking for permission to dream again, to stop beating himself up over the mistakes he’s made and actually start dreaming that tomorrow could be better than yesterday. That inspired me to write a song for everyone out there who’s had a dream die to let them know that God is still dreaming for them and the best is yet to come.
GUIDEPOSTS: How do you balance your career and family life? Any tricks you've learned over the years?
MW: This is the greatest struggle I face day in and day out. I could say all day long that my family matters most to me. But if how I spend my time doesn’t reflect that statement, then I’m only fooling myself. That’s what caused my wife and I to make some bold moves. We homeschooled our kids for four years so that we could spend this busiest time of my career together as a family, seeing the world. Now that the kids are in school, I’ve had to scale back my touring schedule to ensure that my time with my family is protected at every turn. At the end of the day, I don’t want to get to the end of my life having built a successful music career but my kids didn’t really know their dad. I refuse to let that happen.
GUIDEPOSTS: I know you have a nonprofit ministry that tries to help people in crisis as well. When did that get started and what's the goal of the organization? How have you seen it change people's lives?
MW: Yeah, I started PopWE with my dad who is a minister. The goal was to be there for people who are coming to our shows, or listening to my music and going through a tough time. To go beyond entertainment and step into the trenches with people, meeting them where they are and helping them to begin a new chapter in their stories. This is what I’ve realized. There are so many hurting people in the world, so many hurting people coming to my shows. People who feel alone, people who need someone to talk to, people battling depression, grief, addiction, anxiety, family issues and the list goes on. I don’t want to just sing for people. Our goal is to be there for people when the music touches their heart and gives them the courage to ask for help. It’s been an amazing thing to go deeper than entertainment.