A Conversation with Matthew West

matthew-west2

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Hey Matthew, what’s new?
Matthew
Well, what’s new is actually what’s old; I’m making a Christmas record. In the middle of this summer heat, I’ve been in the recording studio getting into the Christmas spirit. It’s been great fun.

I have a book out this fall, The Story of Your Life. It’s a devotional book, 52 devotions inspired by real life stories, stories people sent to me. There’s a wide range of topics: a story from someone battling cancer, a former atheist’s story, stories of broken homes that have been restored. Each story has a devotion that I or Angela (Angela Thomas) have written that speaks to that topic of the day. The heart behind the book is to encourage people to begin examining their own lives and consider the story they’re telling. I’m really excited. The opportunity to extend my writing beyond songs is a neat thing, a different kind of challenge.

What’s the biggest challenge of being married to an artist?
Emily
Him being away and on the road so much. We’ve married been 8-years now — we have two daughters: Lulu 5.5 and Delany is 2 — he was a musician when we married, and on the road since then.

Matthew
(laughs) Well, not every day.

Emily
You’ve been an artist since we’ve been together. I’m used to him traveling, but now that we have small children, it’s him leaving. We’re sad and we adjust. Then he comes home, and that’s an adjustment as well, bringing him back into the fold with schedules, school and things like that. That’s the hardest part, the travel.

How often do you travel together?
Matthew
Not often. Our plan is not to home school our kids and be a traveling family band. We want the kids to have as normal as an upbringing as possible. It will never be like our next door neighbor’s because it’s a different kind of normal.

We try to strike a healthy balance where I want them to travel with me enough so they can see and feel a part of what I believe God’s calling me to do. I feel it’s a calling on the whole family. Emily was saying, they have to deal with me being gone. What makes that more tolerable is if they know with all their hearts that what I’m doing when I’m gone is for the kingdom and is worthwhile work and ministry. If they can feel part of that ministry, it makes it easier to deal with our schedules.

I want my kids to see what I’m passionate about. That’s the strongest way to show them is when they see me on stage and I’m not pumping my chest and saying, “I’m a rock star!” I’m telling the crowd about the God who saved my life. I want them to be a part of that.

Sometimes we get to play at fun locations — summer festivals and amusement parks. My daughters go nuts over the roller coasters and the cotton candy, and they love being on the bus with the band because it’s like a bunch of uncles spoiling the kids. It’s a fun thing.

My wife is an amazing mother; we want to create that strong, home foundation so they don’t feel their home is a bus, even though I might have to feel like that sometimes.

When is the last time you guys had fun together?
Matthew
Right now is pretty fun (laughs).

Emily
His parents come to town about once a month to visit and they are great about taking the kids. About once a week we’ll go to dinner, just the two of us. We’ll be going to Florida — just us — in a few weeks, which we haven’t done since we’ve had kids.

Matthew
Sometimes we can turn our shows into a weekend getaway. My parents will watch the kids and we’ll go to a beach for a couple days before the show. A few years ago, we had some shows in Northern California, Emily had a few days in San Francisco. We try to get those little getaways from time to time. It’s tough because we love being with our kids so much, it’s tough to break away. We definitely need that time together.

What’s your favorite thing to do?
Matthew

Going out to eat — at least it’s my favorite thing (laughs).

What’s your preferred cuisine?
Emily
His is steak (laughs).

Matthew
I like steak. I’m a foody, I’m into the Food Network; I love finding these restaurants. So, if you put me in Manhattan, I will do some damage (laughs). You can’t beat those meals, you need a nap afterwards.

What does spiritual intimacy look like in your marriage?
Emily
Praying together. And when we’re alone, we talk about our dreams as a family and we give each other things we can be praying about. Sometimes we’ll go on walks together, that’s our re-connect time.

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Matthew
When I’m home on a Sunday morning, and we get to go to church together, there’s something about that time when we’re worshipping together. That can be the strongest spiritual intimacy for me, to be with her worshipping, praying, connecting to a message and driving home talking about it.

The reason I say that is, we don’t always get to be in church together. That’s something that hurts.

What is God saying to you about your marriage?
Emily
Before Matthew started to make the album, The Story of Your Life, we were in a place where I wasn’t going with him on the road that much, and he was coming home frustrated for different reasons — missing his kids, missing me.

Then, we got these 10,000 stories (the 10,000 personal stories mailed to Matthew as part of his The Story of Your Life project) and we started reading them together — that really changed a lot for us. It changed my view of what he does and how necessary his ministry is. The Lord is keeping me strong at home and allowing him to go and not feel guilty.

So, Emily, the stories impacted you as well.
Emily
Yes. We live in a little town outside of Nashville that is not the most culturally diverse; our neighborhood is maybe 90% Christian. The stories opened our eyes to the rest of the world. The way we view things has changed.

Matthew
The stories have been a deep well of not just inspiration, but life application. If all I did was get songs out of this, I think I would have missed the point. That’s why I wrote the song, My Own Little World, and put it out as the first radio single because that was the big takeaway for me. I was looking for inspiration for songs, but God was giving me a greater insight into the platform that He’s given me. No longer do I look in the audience and see a bunch of faces — I see a crowdful of stories. And they’re all in different places. What can I say or do, how can I live today that would impact someone else’s story in a positive way?

I’d be the first to say that I fall short of that all the time. On any given day, we’re gonna fall short, and yet those stories come back and remind me that people are all around me and God can use me to impact. That goes for all of us.

How does accountability work in your marriage?
Matthew

Accountability is huge for our lifestyle because of my time away. Over the last several years I’ve had accountability partners that meet with me, and in many ways that has a direct impact on my marriage. Your wife will know you better than anyone else, but a couple of close buddies can ask you the questions your wife won’t ask.

Are your band mates that accountability?
Yes, they have become very much that way. We lift each other up, we’re holding each other accountable. . . . Honestly, we spend as much time with each other as we do with our families, which is scary (laughs). I want to surround myself with that.

As a preacher’s kid I always looked up to Billy Graham; he was a major evangelist that was never, ever questioned or in trouble for any scandal or infidelity. I always thought that was really impressive. We see artists fall all the time, I want to surround myself with accountability all the time.

Accountability impacts our marriage; I think we’re both open books.

Emily
There’s never a question in my mind. There’s never anything going on in the bus, there’s nothing inappropriate on his phone — I’m not worried.

When Matthew is on the road, you’re a single mom. What is your support system?
Emily

When he’s gone I have Matthew’s mom, most days. Every day he’s out of town someone is calling to check on me and the girls. We have family nearby and lots of great mentors.

Closing Words?
Matthew

We’re fortunate that through my parents we have an amazing example of marriage and parenting — a marriage that stays together no matter what. I want people to know that our marriage is like everyone elses — it’s not perfect. It’s flawed, we let each other down, we have bad days and arguments. What we always come back to — and I pray we will for the rest of our lives — we will pick back up; we’re not going to quit. We know God will give us the strength we need. At the end of the day, I know Emily is still in my corner, and I pray she knows I’m always in hers.

Copyright © 2011 by Jim Mueller, Growthtrac Ministries.

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Matthew West on Growthtrac Radio

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About Jim Mueller

bio-jim-muellerJim is the founder, with wife, Sheri, of Growthtrac Ministries as well as Program Director of GrowthtracRadio and the architect behind growthtrac.com. Jim holds a B.S. in business management and is a facilitator for PREPARE/ENRICH, the most widely used customized couple assessment tool. He has authored numerous articles, interviewed leading relationship authors and Christian artists, and has contributed to Dr. Les Parrott’s book, The Complete Guide to Marriage Mentoring. Jim has worked for more than 15 years to help premarital couples and married couples build and maintain healthy relationships.

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