Matthew West is one of SonPower 2016’s Worship Leaders and his hit song, Grace Wins is the inspiration for this year’s event, #GraceWins, in Orlando, Florida (June 20-24, 2016 at the Rosen Centre Hotel). You can register for this event, here.
Grace Wins was inspired by the true story of a young man named Rob who attended one of my concerts. At the time, Rob was really struggling with addiction and by his own admission was knocking on death’s door. He knew something had to change. He wrote in to my website the next day saying that God really touched his life during the concert, and he asked me to help him get into a recovery center. I reached back out to him, and our ministry was able to get him the help he needed. Today, Rob has been sober for 19 months, and his life is completely different. He’s living proof that grace wins every time.
How do you go about selecting your songs for your albums?
Selecting songs for each album is a very difficult and intense process. Every song out right is special for me and saying no to one of the songs feels a little like when I have to say no to one of my daughters who asked me for an ice cream cone. But, you can only put so many songs on an album and you can only eat so many ice cream cones. Ha! I usually have a specific theme for each album and that theme winds up guiding the song selection process. The songs that fit into the overall message of the album tend to be the songs that win. The other songs have to wait for my next record.
What does it feel like to bring songs to life — from an album to a concert venue?
I absolutely love the process of songwriting… that is the stage when you feel like anything is possible. It’s sort of like an artist who begins his painting with a sketch, black and white, pencil on paper. Then, the recording process is when you begin to add color to that sketch and things really burst into life. The final stage is probably the most rewarding. When I hear a song I’ve worked so hard on, on the radio or when I see a crowd respond to the new music during a concert – that is a very special feeling, and it reminds me why I am doing what I do.
Tell us about any “traditions” you have when you’re in the recording studio or on the road?
There are certain traditions or routines that help me prepare myself whether I am beginning to write songs for a new record or if I’m in the studio or on the road. For songwriting, I have been going out to the same cabin for several years and writing most of my songs at this particular cabin. That has become a special place for me. In the studio, it’s really about keeping things loose. So we have lots of fun in the studio, lots of laughs with my producer. And on the road, my band and I have a daily routine where we have devotions and pray before every concert. Those are just a few traditions that have become part of my process.
You’ve worked with youth before through a variety of programs and events . . . do you have any advice or encouragement for youth leaders and volunteers who work with students?
I really have a heart for the youth of today, and I am thankful for all of the youth leaders who sacrifice their time to invest in the lives of the next generation. The greatest encouragement I could give is the same encouragement my father gave me during my brief stint as a youth pastor. He encouraged me to remember that the little stuff is the big stuff when working with young people. He reminded me that simply investing my time and letting young people know that I care for them was so important. He said that kids won’t cry with you until they laugh with you first. So whether it’s ordering pizza, taking them to see a Christian concert or whatever, those little things are big things and times when seeds of trust can be sewn.
You have also been to SonPower before and you know these students LOVE to sing! Can you tell us about your own experience growing up in choir and the important role student choirs can play in raising up future worshipers and leaders?
I was in choirs at school and church starting in middle school. Some of my first times really getting excited about music or a performance came during my time in choir. That’s also when I began to see how powerful music can be… how it can impact peoples’ lives. There’s something really awesome about seeing young people who are on fire for God expressing their faith through music. It’s contagious and makes everyone else get excited to express their faith as well.
As an artist, what do you feel is your biggest challenge?
There are many challenges. I would have to say the biggest is keeping my focus on what is really important. Sometimes when your ministry is also your job, it can get a bit muddy, and you can lose your focus. More than anything, I never want to lose sight of the reason why I make music. It’s not for money or fame or acceptance or accomplishments. It’s to tell a lost world where they can find hope!
Share one of your most memorable moments during your career?
Wow! Well there have been so many awesome moments that I will forever keep with me. One special memory is actually surrounded by a season of adversity. I had surgery on my vocal chords in 2008 and thought maybe my singing career was over. After nine months of recovery and vocal therapy, I was able to step on stage at a concert for the first time. That was a moment when I was filled with gratitude for how faithful God had been to lead me through that trial.
Favorite song you’ve ever recorded and why?
Probably “Hello My Name Is.” That song just jumped up as a big anthem from the minute we started recording. I remember feeling so much energy and victory in the track, and I just knew it was going to impact people.
What is the one hymn that means the most to you?
Blessed Assurance is my favorite. It’s powerful, and I love how the chorus talks about “story.”
What has been your most memorable concert?
You would think the most memorable concert would be in front of the most people, but I’ve found that my most memorable concerts came in unsuspecting places. A prison in Tennessee was the scene of one such concert. Seeing the inmates worship and praise while in captivity was something I will never forget.