Congratulations on earning multiple awards for '10,000 Reasons'. How do you feel about your huge success? How do you stay grounded?
Matt: It's been a really encouraging time with that song. The Grammys, ASCAP and Billboard awards have meant a lot, for sure. But actually it's some of the powerful and profound response stories associated with the song that I think impact me the most. For example, we've now had six different people write and say their loved one passed away and requested that as they go to be with Jesus, they would be listening to the "10,000 Reasons" song. That's something I can't measure or put a value on. That kind of thing is the most encouraging thing a songwriter could ever hear. I'm grateful that God trusted my co-writer Jonas and I with this song and it has reminded me yet again how worship music has such amazing potential to carry hope and truth deep into people's hearts and lives.
Your latest album, 'Your Grace Finds Me', focuses on the theme of battles and blessings. What made you focus on this?
Matt: I think those factors of battle and blessing are such a big part of life. And they are probably what define us more than anything else as to what kind of worshippers we will be. When life is flowing with abundance and blessing, do we turn it into thanks and praise? And when life is hard and confusing, are we able to still find our way to the place of praise? I heard a preacher recently commenting that so often we walk through both battle and blessing at the same time, and I've experienced that so many times in my own life. I think the key is to be able to lift your head and acknowledge the goodness of God whatever you're walking through. Even when the pressure is on, the goodness of the heart of God towards us is a constant, and the most mature worshippers recognise that.
Did you enjoy co-writing with Chris Tomlin and others on the track 'Jesus, Only Jesus'?
Matt: Yes – actually with that song I jumped in when the song was already two-thirds completed. Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Nathan and Christy Nockels, and Tony Wood had already been working on this song. I was in Cape Town, South Africa for a Passion event and Chris played the song to me. We ended up writing a bridge together and finishing the song. I've never been part of a song that had six songwriters before! I loved the theme of this song the moment I heard it – because the uniqueness of Christ is an essential ingredient in our worship. It was a joy to lead and record this first at Passion Atlanta with 60,000 college students earlier this year, and then to record a version on my new album too.
Is it challenging when writing new songs and having to come up with new messages and ideas? Do you ever struggle with writer's block?
Matt: One of the key things that keeps things flowing is collaboration. So often when I don't have an idea, someone else in the room does – and that kick starts something in me. Songwriting is really such a devotional process - and sometimes when you start delving into a theological theme, it just lights something up within you and fuels worship. I love that.
Do you draw on personal experiences as inspiration for song writing? Or is there any particular artist that excites and inspires you?
Matt: I think some of the songs that connect most with other people's hearts started off as something very real in my own heart. I think back to songs like "Blessed Be Your Name" and "You Never Let Go" – they both came out of times of pain and confusion, and often they seem to connect with other people walking through that kind of season. There's a song on the new album called 'I Need You Now' – it was a very real and deep, personal prayer for me and already I'm hearing back that it's becoming that for some other people too. I love that. As for the other part of the question, I'm inspired by lots of different artists and songwriters, but the fantastic thing for me is I get to song write with so many of them, and to call them friends. People like Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher, Jonas Myrin, Reuben Morgan and Jason Ingram all co-wrote on this album, and I look up to all of them.
After two decades as a Christian worshipper, what advice would you give to the young generation of new artists?
Matt: It's some advice I heard very early on as a worship leader, which has stayed with me ever since. The late John Wimber once said in an interview that the real test in these days won't be in the writing and producing of new and great worship music – the real test will be in the godliness and character of those who deliver it. That's a huge challenge and important reminder for all of us.
You are also involved in the Passion events and working with students. Do you see great importance in targeting the Christian youth?
Matt: I love working with Passion because all those college-age people who come are at such a key moment in their lives. They've left home for the first time and are figuring out who they are and what they will stand for in life. So it's a huge privilege to provide a tiny bit of their soundtrack for those years with the Passion worship team of songwriters.
After the release of this album, what are your plans? Is there anything else you wish to achieve from your music career?
Matt: We're about to embark on a European tour – to countries like Croatia, Holland, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Then long term, I'd like to write some more songs – I don't think I'll ever grow weary of that. When we look at all the colours of God's faithfulness, and all the shades of His holiness, we'll never run out of things to sing and say back to Him.