Matt Redman: ‘I want to inject some hope and joy into people’s lives.’

Matt Redman
Matt Redman

SHORT STORY FOR THE WEEKEND: Red Noir by Richard Salsbury

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Some people may not have heard of him yet but award winning singer songwriter Matt Redman plays regularly across the world to crowds in their thousands.

Last year Matt scooped two Grammys and six Gospel Music Dove Awards for his song 10,000 Reasons but he remains refreshingly down to earth about his fame and success.

‘I’m definitely not in this for ‘trophies’ – but of course it’s a huge encouragement to receive these awards,’ says Matt who plays Portsmouth Guildhall next Tuesday. ‘It’s a very full-on way of people telling you that the songs have impacted their lives and I love to hear that.’

‘Now and again an award comes along – but when you hear that in the backstreets of Mumbai or a township in South Africa that some kids in church are leading with your songs, that kind of thing amazes me, and encourages me the most.

‘I get to be in some environments where people give you a lot of attention – but I certainly don’t see myself as a celebrity. What means the most is when you hear some of the stories coming back from a song – people who are going through some of the hardest moments in life you could ever imagine who have taken some hope or comfort from one of the songs, and it’s helped them through. That kind of thing is always amazing to hear.’

The impact of songwriting on people’s lives was what first drew Matt into music and he continues to find inspiration for his music in many different places.

‘From quite early on I developed a passion for songwriting –and noticed how much songs can have such a profound impact on people’s lives. It started out as a hobby, turned into a job, and I never looked back.

‘Most songs just come from being attentive to life. You might hear a phrase someone says and think “there’s a song in there” or it could be watching a movie, having a conversation, or looking up at the night sky – really anything – you just have to keep your eyes open.

‘For me too a lot of the seeds of the songs are in the Bible – just a phrase that stands out to you and inspires a song. The point is that it’s all out there – you just have to be attentive, and ready to capture anything that inspires.

‘The composer Johann Sebastian Bach said that his music was written “for the glory of God and for the refreshment of the soul”. Our music sounds nothing like his but the heart behind what I’m trying to do is pretty much the same.

‘I play a mix of pop and rock with a touch of folk. But I definitely have an end result in mind – I want these songs and sounds to be uplifting to people, and I want it to bring some gratitude and glory to God.

‘Before anything else I’m writing songs for the church to sing – that’s always going to be my goal. I want to help this generation talk to God in a way that feels real and relevant to them.’

In 2012 Matt reached number 12 in the UK charts with Twenty Seven Million, a song supporting the A21 Campaign against slavery which blurred the lines between ‘secular’ and ‘Christian’ music.

‘I love it when ‘church’ music breaks out into the mainstream. That particular song had a big purpose – to draw people’s attention to the horrific reality of modern day slavery and the 27 million lives around this world which are entrapped by that.’

Matt also believes that both his faith and his music can be used to make a change in the world.

‘I think music can be used for so many different purposes – you can celebrate, you can console, you can bring hope. But another thing music has always done is be used as protest. Music has an amazing way of voicing an issue you feel strongly about.

‘With Twenty Seven Million our goal was to make some noise on behalf of the voiceless – those 27 million held in various forms of slavery around the world. And more recently, on my new album Your Grace Finds Me I have another song around that same theme – called Let my people Go.

‘Slavery is definitely a huge issue around the globe right now, and something that so many governments and organisations are waking up to and beginning to tackle.

‘In the UK there’s a new Modern Day Slavery bill being introduced. Our song was just a way of trying to raise some awareness, which I think is often the start of the process on these big issues.

‘Christianity is about getting to grips with the heart of Jesus – and then there’s a responsibility to take that heart and display it in this world.

‘Most churches I know are involved with stuff like caring for the forgotten or downtrodden, feeding the poor around the world, and reaching out to the homeless in their area. That’s a huge part of what we’re meant to do as the church.

‘I’ve been to more than 30 countries and have had the privilege of connecting with young people in the Church around the globe – and I see encouraging signs. They aren’t just wrapped up in themselves, they want to make a difference in the world around them. It’s fantastic to watch that happen.

‘I hope the music I make will strengthen people. This life can be a tough journey, and I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t been through some kind of hardship. I want my songs, and the themes of faith I sing about, to inject some hope, strength and joy into people’s everyday lives.’

WHERE AND WHEN:

Matt plays the Big Church Night In at Portsmouth Guildhall on Tuesday at 7.30pm, tickets: £14. To book visit bigchurchnightin.com.