Legacy is the word that first comes to mind when we think of Matt Redman. In its purest form, a legacy brings inspiration, joy, and hope to others – and is achieved through an ongoing series of selfless acts of servanthood. “10,000 Reasons” didn’t resonate with people because it was following the latest trend, rather, it was an echo of a man who has truly dedicated his life to leading others in worship. With that said, it is with great pleasure we bring you the following interview with Matt Redman.
[WM] Glory Song sounds and feels like a Matt Redman record, but we also love the fact that it doesn’t feel like another Matt Redman record. You brought in fellow Grammy winner Tasha Cobbs Leonard as vocalist and co-writer, as well as a twelve-member Gospel choir – the musical and cultural diversity are something that we both appreciate and applaud. Tell us what this record and the people you made it with mean to you?
[Matt Redman] It was my first studio record in a while, and I wanted it to be distinctive from the albums I’ve made before. At the same time, I was thinking a lot about some of the people I’d met leading worship in the Gospel music scene, and was inspired by them. I’d led with Tasha Cobbs Leonard, and then she had reached out to song write for her album too. Then I wrote a song with Tomlin and a couple of UK friends, for which they brought the title “Gospel Song”. So, at that point it felt clear to me that the distinctive on this record would be to mix in some Gospel music influence – still keeping it very much what I would lead, but letting that inform and shape the project. And I really wanted that to happen from the outset – in the songwriting, not just the recording and singing. There are friends like Aaron Lindsey, Leonard Jarman, and Tasha right at the front end of the process, and then others like Kierra Sheard who came into the process in the recording moment. It’s always so refreshing to see how other streams of the church approach both the art and the heart of songwriting. We’re better together!
It’s interesting how the church can seem so segmented still – especially along lines of race. I think worship music is a beautiful way we can join in one song and become one choir, and in doing so touch the heart of God and show something beautiful to the world. I don’t think there’s a lot of enmity between some of our streams of the church, but often I don’t feel like there’s much effort either. This record was my tiny way of reaching a hand out across the aisle and inviting some friends to bring something new to the mix. And that was the key: first, it started from relationship. Secondly, it was a musical thing, as I felt the diversity of approaches could unlock something fresh. And thirdly, I felt it maybe is a key time to model more of this in the church. I’m just a little over-opinionated Englishman maybe, but I read the news – and it’s so discouraging that we’re in 2017 and yet some of the issues of racial injustice are still so prevalent today in society. I feel the church has much more to do and to say in this area. Our society can be so fragmented, so there’s an opportunity for the worshipping church to provide some more leadership into that area.
One more thing to note – I’ve never found a stream of the church I didn’t learn something from. Even streams of the church that feel unfamiliar or you don’t feel you can 100% subscribe to everything being expressed, there’s usually so much to learn from one another – perhaps their focus on reverence, or an ability to exude joy, or their gift of intercession. As I said earlier, we’re better together!
[WM] Was it a journey moving from recording live worship services to doing an entire album in the studio?
[Matt] Apart from the Christmas record last year, this was my first studio record in about seven years. I’ve had the privilege of recording three live albums in a row, and I love that approach. It captures something of the dynamic of the ‘people of God, in the presence of God, pouring out the praises of God’ – which of course can’t quite be replicated in the studio. In a sense, with a live record, we’re highlighting and celebrating one of our main distinctions. We’re a singing people, and our worship is not an empty ritual, but a thriving, flowing conversation with the Living God! But the thing you don’t get with a live album is the chance to put more of a musical character on things, or detail of musicality in quite the same way. So, all to say, I love both approaches, and it definitely felt like the moment for a studio record. We got to record it mostly at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, which was a massive treat for me. And, because we were in a new location, that meant the chance draw upon a fresh pool of musicians. I love that everyone playing on this record had a big heart for worship, and yet brought to the table their expertise and experience from playing for artists such as Alicia Keys, Rascal Flatts, Jessie J, Tori Kelly, J Lo, Johnnyswim, and Logic.
[WM] We’re big Jesus Culture fans (did we say fans?!) so we were excited to see that Bryan and Katie Torwalt co-wrote “Gracefully Broken”, one of the obvious ‘Sunday morning’ songs from this disc. It was also a treat to hear Kim Walker-Smith sing BGVs on “Place of Praise”. There is a special anointing on the Jesus Culture team. What would you say that is, and what prompted you to bring them in on this recording?
[Matt] Again, it was friendship. That song you mentioned started to be written in Sacramento when we were hanging a bit with the Torwalts. It took on a whole new approach when Jonas Myrin, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, and I re-visited it for stage two of the writing, but the Torwalts’ influence is all over the verses! Kim agreed to sing on the record, which was also a huge blessing, as she has one of the most powerful and distinctive voices I’ve ever heard in worship music. And it didn’t hurt that one of the album’s producers was Jeremy Edwardson, who heads up Jesus Culture’s record label! How could they say “no”? Ha! As an aside, the other producer (it was co-produced) was Jeremy Griffiths, and they made an amazing team. Plus, it might be the first time in history that both producers on an album were named Jeremy!
[WM] The Glory Song album is over an hour long… that’s a lot of music, which means there must have been a fair amount of production time. Did you rehearse the songs before heading into the studio?
[Matt] We made song demos. That’s often our first stage of figuring out if the songs have potential and work as well in the real world as they do in our heads! So, by the time we get to the studio session, with about 80% of the songs we’ve got a very strong road map for where we’re going, in terms of pace, feel, vibe, arrangement, flow etc. But what I enjoyed about our approach this time is that Jeremy Edwardson said to me, “Hey, even though this is a studio record, feel free to flow, and to bring some of the spontaneous stuff you do when you lead.” And you can hear that on the end of songs like “One Day”, “Questions”, and “Simple Pursuit” – just some extended moments that I hope brought some extra life to the song recordings.
[WM] You’ve led worship at venues as diverse as Madison Square Garden, and the roof of the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles. With so many successes, what has God said to you about humility?
[Matt] I heard Bill Hybels say it like this years ago, “If you want to swim downstream, pursue humility. If you fall into pride or arrogance, you’re going against the current. You’re going against the ways of God, and you’re just going to make it harder for yourself.” God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. There’s not any worship leader out there who isn’t tempted by proud thoughts at some point or another, but the wise ones choose to resist them and pursue a humble approach. The challenge is that a stage can be a very disorientating place. Everything about a stage elevates and magnifies. So, people don’t see reality – they see just a part of you – you doing what you do, at your best, with none of your weak points or frailties, or struggles to live well the other six days of the week. It’s easy for people to believe that you’re better than you are, and of course the really scary thing is when you start believing that yourself. It takes some ruthless heart-checks, and allowing others to speak into your life, to make sure you stay on track. It’s especially important in these days of social media, because the opportunity for self-celebration and self-congratulation is immense. It says in Proverbs 27:2, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth” – but you wouldn’t think that was in the bible if you looked at many of our social media posts these days! I say it jokingly, but actually, it’s quite a serious thing. In my twenty plus years of worship leading, I’ve never seen so much “showing off” as I see right now. We need to re-calibrate a bit.
[WM] You recently traveled to Las Vegas for a service after the tragic shooting there at a country music festival. Tell us how that came about, and also the impact that evening had on you?
[Matt] Yes, I had a tour night planned for Las Vegas, with the release of Glory Song, and then a few days before there was this horrendous mass-shooting. At first, we thought the evening would be cancelled, but as we talked it through with the local church we were working with, we decided to go ahead, but to shape it more as a worship-filled prayer vigil. We had 3500 gathered there with us, including many first-responders, who we had the chance to honor and to pray for. We had thousands more joining online, and that included some of the injured victims watching from their hospital beds. I felt so privileged to get to stand with them and be entrusted with that moment. It was such a profound moment, and I definitely didn’t take it lightly. We tried to give people space to be real and raw, and to process and grieve, but at the same time there was a thread of invincible hope running through the whole evening. I think the most powerful moment for me was getting to sing my new song “One Day (When We All Get to Heaven),” over everyone gathered. It was a chance to look to the horizon and remember that as crazily painful and deep as our suffering can be here on this earth, one day it will be far outweighed by the glory of Jesus and His heaven.
[WM] Who are some of the artists that inspire you?
[Matt] Lots of them are my friends! I love Tomlin’s knack of bringing something so congregational and widely accessible. I love Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s ability to sing with such authority. In terms of the live music experience, it’s hard to not be inspired by Coldplay’s latest tour – colorful, joyful, hopeful etc. I’m enjoying a South African band named Beatenberg – melodically, they are kings. I first came across them on the Mumford Johannesburg record, which, by the way, I think is the most under-rated record of the last few years!
[WM] What is the main guitar you’re using these days?
[Matt] I play a Collings C-10, which I really love both for songwriting and for leading. It’s a nice compact size, which is great for travel too. I heard that guitars only got bigger for volume advantages, not for tone reasons – and that kind of makes sense – I love the tone of this guitar.
[WM] How closely do you stick to the rehearsed arrangement of your songs? Do you do much improvising and re-arranging of the chart while leading live?
[Matt] Things were getting a bit “track-heavy” to be honest, and I was relying on that a bit too much. So, our general approach right now is only use tracks where essential – and leave the rest a bit more sparse. That tends to mean our up-tempo stuff is more where we use tracks to accompany us and enrich sounds or parts, etc., and then we don’t do so in the other songs, which also gives them lots more possibilities to flow spontaneously, which I love. A case in point – the song “Great are You Lord” – I’ve led this song about 15 times or so, but I don’t think we’ve quite led it the same way once so far – it’s a song which lends itself so well to that “open-ended conversation with God” approach, which I’m so fond of.
[WM] What do you do to prepare yourself before you go on the platform and lead worship?
[Matt] I remind myself who God is, and why He’s worthy to be honored. And remind myself who I am, and why I’m not!