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Matt Redman: singing to the soul

Matt Redman’s worship anthem 10,000 Reasons has made an impact on people right across the world ...

Matt Redman’s worship anthem 10,000 Reasons has made an impact on people right across the world. The Christian songwriter explains to GEORGE LUKE why he wanted to tell some of their stories ...

“Do you remember the first time we met?”

That’s an odd question to ask in an interview; even more so when it’s the interviewee who’s asking it.

Of course I remember the first time I met Matt Redman. It was at the Champion of the World worship event at Wembley Stadium in the late 90s.

“That was 20 years ago!” says Matt. “Can you believe how the time has flown?”

No, I can’t say I do. The second time I interviewed Matt, he and his wife Beth had just had their first child. Now they have five, and he’s in his early 40s.

I ask him what impact fatherhood and approaching middle age have had on his music.

“I hope that being a father and a husband shows up in the songs somewhere!” he replies. “The bottom line is, who we are, where we’ve travelled in life and who’s in our life will all show up in the songs we write.

“I pay a lot of attention to what my kids think when I’ve written a song. One of my kids said to me: ‘Dad – not only is 10,000 Reasons not your best song, it’s not even in the Top 50!’

“That’s the sort of brutal honesty you’ll only get from your child. On the other hand, another one of my kids is proud that they sing it in school.”

The song that has caused such a difference in opinion among Matt’s offspring is the reason he and I are talking today. Matt has just written a new book called 10,000 Reasons. It’s a collection of stories he has received over the years of the effect that the song has had on people.

The stories come from all over the world. They include the story of Reuben Hill, a physics PhD student at Imperial College in London, who sang the song while surgeons removed a tumour from his brain.

There’s Molly, a Californian woman who was diagnosed with leukaemia shortly after she’d bought a ticket for one of Matt’s concerts. She couldn’t go to see him, so Matt went round to sing to her in hospital instead.

And then there’s the story of the ‘Bali Nine’, who reportedly sang the song as they were being executed on charges for drug trafficking.

“Many of the stories in the book are about people’s final moments,” Matt says. “I think that’s because the third verse of the song connects with people in that moment: in a hospital room or a graveside – or even before a firing squad.

“What I like about these stories is that sometimes worship is spontaneous, but at other times it can be premeditated. A decision is made: ‘When the storm comes, this will be the song coming from my lips.’”

And what about the story behind the song itself?

“I was songwriting in a little chapel in the village where I live,” Matt recalls. “I was working with a friend, Jonas Myrin. He’s a Swedish singer and worship leader.

“We’d been songwriting all day. Around 1.30am, I was desperate to go home. But Jonas said: ‘I’ve got this idea. It’s just a few melody notes, but I think it could be something.’ He played it to me, and I connected with it almost immediately.

“We wrote the song in an hour-and-a-half. Songs never happen that quickly!

“I’ve written a couple of hundred songs, but by far this one has had the most momentum and the most stories come back as a result of it.

“Every one of those stories has moved me profoundly, and I hope they’ll have the same effect on other people.”

  • 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman is published by David C Cook. A Christmas album is due out in November 2016

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