BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Matthew West and The Myth of the Sophomore Slump
By Jennifer E. Jones
They say that an artist spends his or her whole life writing that first album. And while he jokes about the pressure to create an equally fabulous follow-up to Happy, Matthew West must admit it’s true.
“Most times artists have been storing up all their best songs. So when they finally get that record deal, they spent their whole life writing for that record. The irony [of it is] that you’re thrown into this whole new world where you’re on tour; you’re doing phone interviews; [and] you have less time to be creative.”
By that standard, all odds were against Matthew this time around. Radio hits like “More” and “The End” sent him touring across the nation and being one of the most popular guys at GMA Week in Nashville. Who had time to write songs for a new album?
Instead of hitting a slump, Matthew found that a tragic event yet again “worked together for good.”
“I had an accident with my left arm right before I was supposed to be signing my record deal,” Matthew explains. “It slowed me down so much so that, when I finally did my Happy CD, all but one of those songs were written after my accident.”
That means that not only did God bring Matthew through that difficult time, but it also left him with an arsenal of songs that hadn’t seem the light of day.
History was truly a long time in the making. Matthew had been on the road as an independent artist for years before “More” hit the radio waves. Since releasing three indie projects, History is technically as far away from a “sophomore” album as you can get.
“I don’t feel like as much of a newcomer as the press would say that I am,” Matthew says.
Since the success of Happy, Matthew has enjoyed the freedoms of being a top-selling artist as opposed to a starving indie. Now he’s excited to unleash a project that he says reflects where his life is at now.
“I got the idea to call the CD History from an article that my record label sent to me,” he says. “The headline read: ‘Matthew West Makes History’. It talked about ‘More’ and how it set some kind of a record at radio for a new artist. I looked at that headline and thought, Wow, how many times in your life are you going to see a headline that I made history?”
He wanted to soak up the moment of being immortalized in Christian music. How did it feel?
“Ironically, I didn’t feel any different than I did the day before,” he says.
That began the inspiration for his next album. He figured that if this was how it felt to make history by the world’s standards, how much better does it feel to be a history-maker in God’s eyes?
“I felt that God was using some of the success that happened the year before to humble me and to call me on to something bigger,” he says.
It set the tone for his entire CD. “I’ve been able to creatively trace back to significant times in my history, and hopefully turn it out and encourage people that all of our lives are history in the making.”
He’s accomplished that in true Matthew West style with a set of vulnerable songs that speak to our frail but redeemed humanity. Ditching the urge to write a few ready-for-radio pop hits, he focused on making History an experience.
“If they only hear one song, that song will stand alone. But if they’re able to take the journey of the whole CD, they’re really going to see the concept that’s been laid out before them,” he says.
And what is that one concept Matthew wants his listeners to grasp?
“God wants to make history out of our lives. He wants to make history of our past. He has plans to forgive us of all our sins. He wants to make history of our present moments, which means He wants to give us faith and strength to stand up in our world today and make a difference. Then He wants to make history of our future. That is to give us an eternity in heaven.”
(Universal South Records)
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