A four-time GRAMMY® nominee, American Music Award winner, GMA Dove Award winner, K-LOVE Fan Award winner and Billboard’s 2016 pick for Hot Christian Songwriter of the Year, everybody knows that MATTHEW WEST has gone all in in his music career, but with his eighth studio album set to release, he’s ready for his fans to know that he wants to go all in in every area of his life.
The album, aptly titled All In, released September 22, 2017 with Sparrow Records and is largely an answer to a question West has been asking himself lately: “What does it look like to be all in, like never before in my life?”
As someone who lives his faith in the public eye—West says he knows how easy it can be to coast, to pretend his spiritual life is in a better place than it actually is.
“That’s a dangerous place to be,” he says. “That’s what the Bible talks about. Being lukewarm. So I’ve had this idea that I want to be all in like never before. I want to be all in on this record, I want to be all in with the songs that I write, I want to be all in with my time with the Lord, I want to be all in with my wife, I want to be all in with my relationship with my daughters.”
Because he was writing from a place of such personal conviction, longtime West fans are going to be able to hear something a little different on this album: the most vulnerable music of his career.
Since 2009, the singer/songwriter has been collecting stories from people all over the world. By now, he has well over 40,000 of them. And for the past several albums, he has taken their stories of heartache and hope and turned them into songs. All In includes songs like these, dedicated to others’ stories, but this album will give listeners a glimpse into West’s personal stories as well.
While writing early this year in a cabin in Tennessee, West says he was surprised by how personal his writing was: “I scared myself a bit. I guess it was just time. Time to take some inventory of my own story, where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I’m going.”
All In is an album that encourages and inspires from the first track to the last. Each song connects with listeners by challenging them to go all in with different areas of life. West’s story might as well be our story too; for that fear of regret, of not living life to the fullest, is in all of us.
This is exactly what the title track speaks to. The lyrics of the pop anthem “All In,” set the tone for the 13 tracks that follow. The song honestly admits in the first verse, Turns out safe is just another word for regret.
To combat regret, we must do what the chorus says, which is the heart cry of the album: I’m going all in / Headfirst into the deep end / I hear you calling / And this time the fear won’t win.
Through the writing of All In, West recalled memorable moments from his faith journey, moments that were turning points in which he had to decide if he would be all in or all out. One of those happened years ago at the Assembly Hall Arena (now the State Farm Center) in Champaign, Ill., during a Steven Curtis Chapman concert.
The song inspired by this moment, “The Sound of a Life Changing,” tells the story: Just a poor college boy making noise, writing my first songs / Steven Curtis up on stage singing “Speechless” / Left me speechless and amazed / Tears rolling down my face / I heard a still small voice say, “That’s gonna be you someday / Telling the world about amazing grace / Telling the world about a God that saves.”
“I called Steven to join me at the cabin to write the song with me,” says West. “How’s that for a full circle moment?”
Another big name in the faith inspired what West says might be the most personal song on the album, “The Beautiful Things We Miss.” During a conversation with Rev. Billy Graham, West asked the renowned evangelist if he had any regrets.
“He told me his biggest regret is that he spent so much time traveling away from his family,” recalls West.
The more contemplative ballad reflects on how easy it is to become focused on the things in life that won’t matter in the end. Quoting the chorus, West, who has been married for over 14 years and has two daughters, says, “I don’t want to look back someday and find everything that really mattered was right in front of me this whole time.”
In this vein, the album includes songs written for and about his wife and daughters. LuLu, his oldest daughter, even jumped in to sing on “Becoming Me,” a touching tribute to West’s mom, wife and daughters.
“I can remember overhearing my mom praying for me when I was a child,” says West, who wrote the song from the perspective of his daughters’ admiration of their mom. “The mother in the song has gone all in with her love of God and family.”
West also wrote a song specifically for his wife, Emily. “Jesus & You” expresses gratitude for the anchors in West’s life. As the chorus of the soulful melody says, When I think about the only things in life that pull me through / I hit my knees for Jesus and you.
“This song is about being all in with my marriage,” West explains, “communicating how I feel about her, rather than assuming she already knows.”
All In is not all personal. West still found inspiration from others’ stories to write songs like “Power Love Sound Mind,” which he wrote after reading about a soldier who was struggling with post traumatic stress disorder; and “Dream,” taken from stories about people who needed to dream again after going through a major struggle.
West is still, and probably always will be, collecting stories through popwe.org, a web home to a nonprofit he started with his dad, Pastor Joe West. The mission of popwe is to encourage people to craft, share, and live a more meaningful life. West even formed a new company, Story House Collective, built to encourage and support the next generation of storytellers who work in the music industry.
One of these next-generation storytellers will be joining West on his All In Tour this fall. Up-and-comer Leanna Crawford will open for West as they hit 38 cities across the U.S.
“I absolutely love writing songs, and I love watching those songs come to life in the recording studio,” West says. “But it’s getting on the bus, hopping on stage in city after city and carrying that music to a live audience night after night that completes the creative circle.”
It’s no wonder that the artist who is giving it his all in every area of his life—faith, family, songwriting—wouldn’t also be doing that for his fans who come to see him on tour, where he will be all in, doing what God called him to all those years ago: telling the world about amazing grace, telling the world about a God who saves.