LM: Your new album dives even deeper into how the good news of the gospel can impact the darkest corners of a persons life. Can you explain what led you to this place?
Matt: I learned early on in life that not only is the throne room of God a place of reverence, it’s also a place of refuge. And then you look through the Psalms and you see it’s not just songs of joy and celebration from untroubled hearts, but it’s also these deep laments and heart cries – people finding their way to the place of praise even within the toughest times of life. So some of the songs on this new album, Unbroken Praise, reflect that – there are songs of joy on this record, for the moments of sunshine and ease in our lives – but there are also songs of hope and trust for those who are walking through the valley of the shadow.
LM: What was the significance to you to be able to record this album at the historic Abbey Road Studios?
Matt: I’ve worked at Abbey Road in a small way a few times in the past – but deep down I’d always loved the idea of having ‘church’ in there one day. That’s what we did with this record – we packed out the big orchestral room there with about 350 worship leaders, and had a night of worship as we recorded these new 11 songs. There’s such a sense of history in that place – the room we recorded in was first used by Sir Edward Elgar in 1931, and of course most people know of Abbey Road because of the strong connection with The Beatles. But it’s not just a place of nostalgia – it’s a brilliant working studio still today, and such a nice environment to work in. So I love that they had us in there to record the new Unbroken Praise album – it was such a special night.
LM: As a husband and father of five, how have those roles impacted your song writing?
Matt: One of the main ways is actually by getting some helpful early responses to songs I’m working on. I’ll often be singing something in my office at home and one of the kids will walk in and make a comment – either good or bad! That’s what happened with “No Longer I” from this latest record – I was working on it and my 14 year old daughter walked in and said, “Dad, I love that – make sure it goes on your album!” Other times, I’ll play them a demo on the way to school, and see what connects. I love that they’ll be 100% honest and transparent – that’s so helpful. Plus, I’ve got 5 children, so that’s enough people to start getting a sense of “consensus”. If all 5 like a song, it’s a good sign!
LM: Your music has influenced millions of people – used in churches around the world during worship and performed by many of your contemporaries. What type of weight does this responsibility bear on you and how has it influenced what you do?
Matt: I love seeing how a song can travel to the farthest parts of the globe, but also to the deepest places of a person’s heart. And often when it does so, it can also take some much needed hope or truth with it. So, yes, it’s a huge privilege and encouragement when the songs influence people’s lives in some way. But the other side of it is that there’s a sense of responsibility with an entrustment like this – you have a duty to stay true to the Word of God, and to paint as true and honoring a picture of Jesus as possible. It’s a huge challenge, and there’s always a sense of never quite reaching the full glory of what you’re aiming for when you write songs about God. But I do feel a strong calling to this, and I love the journey of contending for a song.
LM: Passion has played a big role in your platform. Can you share how this movement has impacted you personally?
Matt: I was impacted from the first day I got up close to this movement. I was part of a huge Passion-hosted prayer gathering of 40,000 students in the year 2000, in a field in Tennessee. Looking around, I just loved seeing a generation of students wrapping their hearts, lives, and songs around the name and renown of God. That same dynamic happens to this day in every Passion college gathering, and it’s a huge blessing to see it happen up close. I’ve also loved the camaraderie of being around the likes of Tomlin, Crowder, the Nockels, Kristian Stanfill and the Giglios. Over the years we’ve done a lot of life together, seen a lot of the world together, and written quite a few songs together.
LM: How can we pray for you?
Matt: I would so value your prayers for myself and my family for our travels. Whether it’s me going away from home, or us all getting to go together, it’s so good to know we’re lifted up in prayer. Thanks!