For singer/songwriter/worship leader Matt Maher, there is nothing more special about his call than anyone else's, and like those before him, he is trying to live that same call.
Born and raised in Newfoundland, Canada, Matt grew up in a strong culture compromised of two elements: music and tradition. "Music is part of the fabric of the culture there, similar to places like Louisiana or the Appalachian mountains; and over the years, not just Celtic music, but music of every kind. "I grew up listening to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem every Saturday, rain or shine. My dad would cook while listening to Willie Nelson or Frank Sinatra. My cousins, who lived next door, listened to everything from Broadway to British Rock, like the Beatles and The Who."
Early in life, Matt Maher's parents realized his talent for music and started him in piano lessons. He quickly absorbed as many musical styles as possible, playing in concert and jazz ensembles, singing in choir, and even playing in a high school garage rock band.
Matt's collegiate years began while he was still in Newfoundland. At this time, life lessons abounded, and most of them were difficult ones. In 1995, Matt's parents divorced. His mother, an American citizen, decided to move back to the United States to be closer to her family. After careful consideration, Matt decided to move with his mom. "I remember realizing in my heart that I was going nowhere, and quickly. I had made some poor decisions during college. I was a very sensitive soul. During those years, it's easy for people and life to break your heart. I knew I needed a new start, so I moved to Arizona with dreams of becoming a film-scorer." Matt assumed a brief stay in Arizona would help him adjust to American life, but God had different plans.
"I had been raised believing in God, but music was my religion in a way. Once high school came, I stopped going to church. I would pray at night before I went to bed. I had a Bible in my room and would read Genesis and Revelation, because I was fascinated with how we got here, and how we're going out, but that was all. My relationship with God was not very strong. I knew He was real, I just didn't know how much He loved me."
Matt Maher started attending church with his cousin and her friends, looking for deeper answers and friendship. This is where he witnessed a church youth group for the first time. What Matt found was something more than friends - he found Jesus Christ.
While attending his new church in Arizona, Matt was approached by the youth pastor and the music director to help out. "They both saw something in me that I didn't see, and I know it was God leading me closer to Him. Within two months, I was led to accept what Christ did for me on the cross, and to respond in serving Him in my new church community."
During this time, Matt restarted work on his music degree and received a scholarship from the Jazz Department at Arizona State University, where he studied Jazz Piano.
After a few years, Matt Maher was led to another community, St. Timothy Catholic Community in Mesa, Arizona, where he has been since. While being mentored by Dove Award-nominated songwriter and artist Tom Booth ("I Will Choose Christ," "Nothing Is Beyond You"), Matt met and worked with several artists along the way, including Israel Houghton, Kathy Troccoli, and Rich Mullins, whom Maher credits with helping him land his job at St. Tim's.
Matt shares, "Rich and Tom were friends, and Rich wanted to do a performance of his musical "Canticle of the Plains" at St. Tim's. Rich asked Tom to cast it. Tom called me and asked me if was interested. I said, 'Uhh, sure,' at that point having no idea who Rich was. This was a major turning point for me. I couldn't get over this guy; he was so real, yet he loved God so much, but without all the superficial piety."
Matt Maher's character, Ivory, was a piano player who made his living playing at a hotel saloon, a job Maher knew well. He paid for his first three years of college by playing piano in a hotel in his hometown. This series of events, like many others to follow, helped deepen Matt's commitment to Christ. A few years later, another movement became more present - modern worship music.
"I was in my last year of college, unsure of what to do next, when I heard the songs of Delirious? and songwriters like Paul Baloche and Darrell Evans, as well as the Passion movement. This stuff blew me away. It was in those simple expressions that I realized my desire to do the same thing." Maher took a full time position at St Tim's, and started writing songs for his church.
Many years and many more songs later, Matt Maher is now travelling full time as a "Musical Missionary," and is still involved in local church ministry at St Timothy Catholic Community, as well as helping out with the young adult ministry at All Saints Newman Center, on the campus of Arizona State University. "You have to stay rooted in community if you want to lead and write for the Church. That is where your songs come from - from your relationship with Christ, with your immediate family, and the family of believers."
"In life, we end up having to empty ourselves to achieve that which is beautiful," Matt says. "If you don't, you never really get made beautiful. It's a weird dichotomy, especially in the world we live in because there's so much focus on beauty. The whole idea of having to empty one's self to achieve beauty is completely counter cultural, but that's what happens-marriage, service of the poor, sharing the beauty of the gospel. That's what Christ calls us to do, and I hope these songs will help inspire people to follow Jesus in that way."
Listen to Matt Maher here
|The End and the Beginning||2001||OCP Publications|
|Welcome To Life||2003||OCP Publications|
|Empty & Beautiful||2008||Essential Records|
|Alive Again||2009||Essential Records|
|Love in Between||2011||Essential Records|
|All The People Said Amen||2013||Essential Records|