Every album has a starting point, a beginning spark. Sometimes it’s set off by a series of events that form into a theme; sometimes the catalyst is a single conversation. For Matt Redman, the UK worship leader and songwriter, the elements that fueled what’s arguably his most passionate set of new songs ever were two little words scribbled in his notebook.
The words have been Matt Redman’s constant reaction to all the “dark, disturbing, depressing news” that fills our TV screens on a daily basis, he says—because the gospel of Christ is about imparting news that’s altogether different. Where there’s darkness in the world, Jesus brings light; where there’s depression, Jesus offers peace; where there’s despair, Jesus offers hope. “It’s truly ‘beautiful news’—which is a phrase that I’d had in my songwriting notes for a little while,” Redman reveals.
Knowing he may have latched onto the seeds of a memorable song—as well as an overall fresh way of singing about Jesus’ message to both Christians and those who haven’t yet embraced the faith—Matt Redman knew that Beautiful News was the title of the whole record.
Indeed creativity—the prolific, highly energetic sort—is one of Matt Redman's many strong suits. Emerging from the now legendary U.K. worship scene of the mid-1990s, Matt Redman’s songs have become a veritable worship resource over the last decade for countless churches all over the world. Songs such as “Blessed Be Your Name” (which garnered him a 2005 Gospel Music Association award for Worship Song of the Year), “The Heart of Worship,” and “Better Is One Day” are beloved and have landed high atop the CCLI charts. Artists as diverse as Michael W. Smith, Kutless and Rebecca St. James—to name but a few—have covered his songs. He’s even penned several books on worship, which further expand Matt Redman’s ever-growing popularity in the vast community of committed worshipers and worship leaders.
Yet, on his fifth studio album, Matt Redman has managed to shift his creativity into a brand-new gear. The audible proof’s all over the twelve tracks that make up Beautiful News. It’s strident. It’s about energy. Excitement. Mission. Movement. Full of music and poetic lyrics that leaves listeners with no choice but to act.
It mirrors, as it happens, Matt Redman’s mood while penning the album’s endlessly epic, anthem title track. On tour in the U.S. with fellow Sixstepsrecords’ lead worshipers Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio, Matt Redman came offstage one night with the verse lyrics “swirling around my head and heart.” So he grabbed a guitar, ran to the tour bus, and the song poured out right there and then. “Sometimes it seems to work like that—you have a theme for a song, and you spend a while just thinking about it and maybe doing a little Bible study. Then one time, often in a moment of praise, it all clicks together and a song flows out. I love those moments!”
Shout it out, let the people sing/Something so powerful should shake the whole wide world/Make it loud, make it louder still/Savior we’re singing now to celebrate Your beautiful news…(“Beautiful News”).
But that’s not the extent of the track’s importance—it’s also an historic moment for Matt Redman. “I try increasingly to write worship songs with one eye on the unchurched person,” he explains. "In 'Beautiful News' the bridge section says, There’s a God who came down to save/and he calls your name,” which is the first time I’ve written a lyric in the context of a worship song that speaks directly to people who don’t know Jesus.”
It’s a potentially tricky dichotomy--a worship leader/songwriter penning a lyric so blatantly evangelistic. And while he’s well aware of the parameters surrounding him (“Obviously worship songs are sung to God and for God,” he says), Matt Redman is seeing his reach extending to more than an audience of one these days—and yet that’s all part of Matt Redman’s service of worship. “It’s important at the time of writing to run everything through that ‘unchurched-person filter,’” he maintains. “We have to ask, ‘Are we conveying Jesus in a grand, gracious, and relevant way?’”
A big reason for Matt Redman’s lyrical and thematic expansion can be attributed to his involvement over the last two years in a brand-new church plant called The Point, which is part of the Church of England and located in West Sussex, about 50 miles south of London. “Church planting is one of the very best ways we can gain some momentum in communicating the beautiful news of Jesus,” Matt Redman notes. “We’ve been on an adventure the last couple of years, and it’s been such hard work at times. But when the moments of breakthrough come, and you see people lives changed and saved, it’s just fantastic.”
“Shine” is an equally powerful plea to believers to take the gospel’s beautiful news to a broken, often cynical world. Pulsating and piano-driven—with subtle strains of slide guitar that lend it a nuanced, old-time gospel vibe—“Shine” is based on Philippians 2:14-15 (“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”).
“Let’s face it,” Matt Redman says. “It can be hard in this time and culture to know if you're making any difference for Christ. England’s culture is very secular—so many people are so opposed to any kind of contact with Christ and his church. So I take a verse like this, and on the hard days when I wonder if anyone is ever going to see Christ in me, I remind myself that according to Scripture, I do shine.”
As it turns out, Matt Redman hasn’t been the only one feeling a greater sense of urgency for sharing the gospel—his good friend Martin Smith of Delirious? has also recently felt that specific call, and helped write “Take It to the Streets,” a cool, shivering piece of modern rock that gets straight to the heart of what’s most important.
I’m going to take it to the streets/Wake up the dead heart from its sleep/Heaven is open/Now's the time to raise our voice…
“Martin and I have such a similar heart-cry in terms of worship,” Matt Redman notes. “And though we’ve been friends for more than a decade, we haven’t sat down too many times to write worship songs together. But we both travel the world connecting with worshipers, and at the same time we’re both committed and deeply involved in our local church contexts. I think that’s how we got onto a direction like ‘Take It to the Streets’—we're both living to see the Kingdom of God ushered into our own communities.”
It’s a testament to Matt Redman’s advanced songwriting abilities that not every track on Beautiful News loudly and boldly proclaims God’s glory with happy abandon; he deftly explores the call to follow Jesus during and in spite of times of hardship and pain.
“You Never Let Go” begins with a quiet piano and moody atmospherics that mirror far-from-ebullient lyrics based on Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death/You’re perfect love is casting out fear/And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life/I won’t turn back, I know you are near...
The chorus is a loud, exultant proclamation that God will never let go of us and in it Redman uses the minor-key construction to subtly (and maturely) declare that God’s love is still valid, even in the midst of pain.
In a similar vein is “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” a mostly quiet, acoustic-based mid tempo ballad, complete with the sound of a baby’s heartbeat recorded via ultrasound.
“I wrote with my wife, Beth,” Redman says. “We’d had a very hard couple of years with some miscarried pregnancies—then suddenly we were expecting a baby again and things were going better. I came out of our first scan having seen the baby on the screen, and these words popped into my head: So fearfully and wonderfully made/how could they say there is no God? The wonder of what I’d just seen in that scan hit me so hard in that moment, and I really couldn’t fathom how people can say there’s no Maker.
“The song isn’t judgmental,” he says. “It actually celebrates the lives God gives us and challenges us to give them back to him.” The lovely end to the story is that in September 2006, Beth Redman gave birth to their newest little boy, Rocco Benjamin Redman. “He’s a wonderful little guy! Now there are three Redman kids: Maisey, Noah, and Rocco. We’re so grateful to God for them!”
As Matt Redman readies to take the infectious energy of Beautiful News to listeners far and wide, he’s more than a little excited about the prospect of giving fresh songs and sights and sounds to help Christians celebrate the gospel—and share it with others.
“We have hold of an amazing truth—the most awe-inspiring and mysterious truth in the whole universe,” Redman says. “The truth of the Word becoming flesh and making his dwelling among us...the truth of the Son of God who took the nature of a servant and became obedient to the point of death on a cross. The One who ushered us from gloom and death into glorious life. This beautiful news needs to echo daily around our souls. It needs to shake us to the core. We need to find creative, imaginative, and inspired ways of sharing it and declaring it. We need to shake the world with our songs and our lives of devotion. And we can’t stop at just singing about the good news; we need to be the embodiment of the good news.”
In 2009, Matt Redman released We Shall Not Be Shaken. The album centers around the theme of God's faithfulness in a shifting and changing world. Produced by Robert Marvin (Mat Kearney, Britt Nicole), co-writers on the album include Beth Redman, Chris Tomlin, Jonas Myrin and Matt Maher. The album also contains the first recording of 'You Alone Can Rescue' - a song Matt took to 17 different nations last year as part of the Passion World Tour and a joint European Tour with Hillsong London.
Matt Redman is currently working on his latest album due in August 2009.
Listen to Matt Redman Here
|Wake Up My Soul||1993||Kingsway Records|
|Passion for Your Name||1995||Kingsway Records|
|The Friendship and the Fear||1998||Star Song Music|
|The Heart Of Worship - Matt Redman||1999||Star Song Music|
|The Father's Song||2000||Survivor Records|
|Where Angels Fear to Tread||2002||Survivor Records|
|Blessed Be Your Name the Songs of Matt Redman, Vol. 1||2005||Survivor Records|
|Beautiful News||2006||SixSteps Records|
|We Shall Not Be Shaken||2009||SixSteps Records|