By The 700 Club
Appearance Date: November 19, 2010
In April 2007, Matthew West was gearing up for concert dates and the recording of a new album when he lost his voice. His doctors discovered a vascular polyp and hemorrhaged blood vessels on his vocal chord, making it impossible for him to sing. Without a voice, all of his plans came to a halt and Matthew was faced with two courses of treatment: surgery and complete silence.
“I found myself surrounded by questions like, ‘What if I can’t sing anymore? What if my voice doesn’t sound the same?” says Matthew. After his surgery and prescribed silence, his voice was restored and he continued his singing career with his album Something to Say. Most of the songs on Something to Say were written before his surgery, but in many ways, it took this trial to fully understand their meaning.
For his previous albums Matthew searched his own life for inspiration for his writing; however, on his new album, The Story of Your Life, he turned the tables and went to his audience for inspiration.
“I know how to write songs about my life, my experiences and my journey, my faith and my love,” says Matthew. “Yet along comes an idea for a record called Story of Your Life and instead of writing what I know and writing songs about my life, the idea is to turn the microphone around to the people who listen to my music. I wanted them to send me their stories.” The result was a body of work that tackles a diverse array of real life subject matter and finds Matthew exploring a territory rarely seen in comtemporary pop music.
In a way, his new Sparrow Records album is a natural follow up to Matthew’s previous release, Something to Say, which spawned the Grammy nominated, 14-week No. 1 radio hit “The Motions.” After telling everyone they had something to say, this album is them telling their stories.
Matthew has been writing hit songs for years, yet he says working on this album was like stepping out into this unknown world. “I went to my Facebook page and my Twitter account,” he says of announcing his intentions. “I went to my core fan base and said, ‘Here’s the idea. If you want to send me your story, send me your story.’ We got over a thousand stories the first two days. I couldn’t believe just the shear amount of stories that came in from every state in the U.S., and then there were 20 different countries represented. It was overwhelming.”
He began collecting stories in February 2010 and spent March and April in a cabin turning the stories into songs. Matthew received more than 10,000 responses. “I would sit in the cabin and read these stories. I had a big dry erase board and I would write down ideas in red and when a song would be finished I wrote the title in blue. At the very beginning, there were hundreds of titles in red and then slowly, but surely the scales began to tip more towards the blue.”
Matthew discovered a lot about people during the process of writing the album. “I’ve learned that if somebody is asked the question, ‘what was the defining moment in your life? or ‘what has shaped you to become who you are today?’ nine times out of 10, people are not going to necessarily tell you a story about the happiest moments of their life,” says Matthew.
“The mountain top experiences, the joys that we have, those are all defining moments in our lives, but the stories people were sharing with me were the weakest moments—the greatest trial they’ve ever faced, the illness that they suffered, the loved one that they lost, the abuse that they were a victum of or the addiction that they were dealing with.”
One such story that stood out to Matthew was a woman from Austin, Texas, who told him about her decision to have an abortion back in 1975. That choice has stayed with her ever since. She was a scared teenage girl who was devastated by the news of the pregnancy and left with a boyfriend who didn’t love her and no family support to turn to.
“I could tell in reading her story that the very details of that day in her life had been relived in her mind over and over again during the past 35 years,” says Matthew, “but this woman has come to embrace the life-changing gift of grace that can bring healing to even our most broken places. She now devotes her time to her church helping teach little children about God’s love.”
Matthew is wrapping up The Story of Your Life Tour this fall.
Go behind the scenes of Matthew West's appearance on The 700 Club with In the Green Room
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