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It’s not unusual for the lead singer in a successful rock band to step outside the group and record a solo album, usually as a way to satisfy a creative impulse not possible within the confines of a band. For Sanctus Real frontman Matt Hammitt,...
It’s not unusual for the lead singer in a successful rock band to step outside the group and record a solo album, usually as a way to satisfy a creative impulse not possible within the confines of a band. For Sanctus Real frontman Matt Hammitt, writing and recording his solo debut, Every Falling Tear, wasn’t an exercise in artistic freedom, it was a process that helped the young father deal with every parent’s worst nightmare.
Encouraged by his Sanctus Real band mates to release these songs and to share his story through the songs that are meant to provide hope for people that are in crisis, Hammitt’s journey to the new album started with the prophetic glimpse offered by the current, best-selling Sanctus Real album, Pieces of a Real Heart. “The bridge lyric in ‘The Redeemer’ says, I don’t have every answer in life / But I’m trusting You one day at a time / ‘Cause You can make a weak heart stay alive forever,” reflects Hammitt regarding the hit radio single from Pieces of a Real Heart.
“Those lyrics, along with songs like ‘Keep My Heart Alive,’ ‘Dear Heart,’ and then the album with a broken heart on the cover, came out on March 9 of 2010.”
One month later, on April 12, 2010, Matt and his wife, Sarah, took their four-year-old daughter with them to a doctor’s appointment where they were looking forward to an ultrasound that would reveal if she would be getting a baby brother or sister. “We found out it was a boy and we were all celebrating,” Matt recalls, “but the ultrasound tech isn’t allowed to tell you if something is wrong, so the doctor came in and told our family that things weren’t right, that half of his heart wasn’t developed. It was pretty grim news. They didn’t even think he would survive.”
Diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, Little Bowen, whose name means “Small Victorious One,” defied the odds and survived, but it hasn’t been an easy road for Matt and his family. “When we found out that Bowen was going to be born with half a heart, it started stirring up a lot of questions in me,” Matt admits. “I know there are some mysteries and questions that aren’t even meant for our minds to comprehend, but I just really started praying more, reading more and honestly seeking God for comfort in that time - and for as many answers as I could get. I started expressing all my questions, emotions and feelings through song almost right away.”
Those songs became the poignant, compelling collection heard on Every Falling Tear, set to release on September 13, exactly one year after Bowen had his first heart surgery. Matt poured everything into his music--all the questions, fear and frustration along with a greater understanding of God’s comfort, grace and love. Though he originally recorded the songs as a cathartic experience and a tool to encourage himself and his family, Matt soon began to feel they had a broader purpose. “From April on through September when Bowen was born, I had been pouring myself into communicating and releasing all these feelings and emotions through song,” Matt says. “The more I began writing, the more I began realizing that these weren’t songs just for us or Bowen. I really started to feel like I was supposed to make an album and share them with other people.”
The songs reflect the heartbreaking challenges the Hammitt family has faced as Bowen endured two surgeries and prepares for a third. Yet though the songs were written in response to his circumstance, they are universal in their ability to uplift, heal and encourage all those who hear them. “Let it Bring You Praise” is a beautiful worship song. “Let Go” and “Holding You” are songs about surrender. The latter tune reminds the listener “It’s not in what you hold on to. It’s in the One who’s holding you tonight.”
Matt says “All of Me” was probably the hardest to write. “At that point I didn’t know what was going to happen. Bowen wasn’t born yet,” he says of writing the tune with Bernie Herms. “It’s about recklessly loving in spite of our fears, even if it means we’re going to bleed or we’re going to be broken.”
“Trust” is a song that captures this whirlwind of emotion. “I was struggling to believe that any good could come from that painful moment when I handed my son over for that first surgery,” he says. Matt remembers thinking: “ ‘If things don’t work out the way that I pray they are going to work out, no matter what we go through, I still know and trust that God is faithful.’ That was really the cry of my heart--to be so invested in the truth that my emotions don’t steal me away from standing on the truth that He’s faithful. ‘I will trust you Lord with all my heart and I won’t forget how good you are.’ I just think that was pretty much the guttural cry of my heart throughout that whole time on September 13th.”
Matt co-wrote “Trust,” along with “You are My Treasure,” “This is Grace” and “Let it Bring You Praise,” with friend and frequent collaborator Jason Ingram. He and Joy Williams of the Civil Wars co-wrote “Let Go,” and he co-wrote “Without You” with Audrey Assad. “I just wanted them to be everything they could be,” he says of the songs, giving props to his co-writers.
Matt has already been sharing this new music with others going through difficult circumstances, including Russell, who has been awaiting a heart transplant. “He told me that those songs had meant a lot to him and that they were comforting to him,” says Matt, who understands first hand the power music can have to soothe and encourage.
Matt and his family felt it that terrible day they left the doctor’s office after first hearing news of Bowen’s condition. “We tried to turn a CD on and--this actually never happened to us before--our CD player wouldn’t work. The CD kept spinning and skipping, so we turned off the CD player and turned on the radio. Right as we turned it on, the first song that we heard on the KLOVE Christian radio network was ‘Hold My Heart’ by Tenth Avenue North. That was a huge comfort to us. If you listen to that song, you’d be blown away by the lyrics of that song and how it pertained to us that day.”
Hearing that song at that moment not only provided comfort, but also somewhat of an epiphany. “We’ve always heard the stories about how our songs affect people, and that day, I was on the other side at the moment that I needed it,” says Matt. “This is what inspired me to begin writing more music out of this circumstance.”
In addition to providing spiritual and emotional support, the music on Every Falling Tear will have further impact on families as Matt and his wife have started the Whole Hearts Foundation, a non profit organization dedicated to helping families of children dealing with illness. “In addition to retail sales, we are selling the album at our [Sanctus Real] concerts and 100% of everything we make off that album is going to go directly to help families with children with life-threatening heart defects and disease,” Matt says. “We have this huge vision for the foundation.”
Though Bowen is doing well now, and Matt has met young people in their 20s who have had surgeries, survived and are leading normal lives, he is still fragile and anything could happen. That knowledge, and the experiences of the past year, has paradoxically strengthened Matt’s faith and given him a zeal for all of life. “The biggest change in my life is just my ability now to be grateful for every day that God has given us,” he says. “All of those experiences kind of burnt away my reliance on anything but Christ. I no longer put my faith in what I see here, but in what’s to come. If things don’t go well for us in this life, if we lose Bowen. . .if we don’t have Christ or the hope of what’s to come, then it’s a sad story. If we have that hope of what’s to come, it’s not so sad at all, it’s actually really incredible.”
9/12/2011 - Matt Hammitt's Son Turns One, Inspires Sanctus Real Lead Singer's First Solo Album
Multiple GRAMMY-nominated, Dove Award winning Sanctus Real lead vocalist Matt Hammitt celebrates his son Bowen’s first birthday today as his first solo album, Every Falling Tear, releases on Sparrow Records Tuesday, Sept. 13, which is coincidentally the year anniversary of Bowen’s first open heart surgery. Bowen, “small victorious one,” was born with a severe congenital heart defect, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and has now gone through two heart surgeries, an infection and other complications since being born.
After his first surgery, five-day-old Bowen Hammitt’s heart stopped beating shortly after midnight Sept. 14, 2010. Bowen’s body seemed to resist the open-heart surgery that he endured the previous day. Forty minutes after nurse Sarah Bealman at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI, started performing resuscitation on Bowen’s exposed heart, a faint pulse and improved vital signs restored hope for Matt and his wife, Sarah.
The couple first learned of Bowen’s condition less than one month after Matt’s band, Sanctus Real, released their album, Pieces of A Real Heart, which features songs like “Dear Heart,” “Keep My Heart Alive,” and “The Redeemer” with the chorus lyric, “‘cause you can make a weak heart stay alive forever.” All these songs were written before they knew of Bowen’s condition.
Organically sparked by the rich joy and pain of life over the last year that strengthened Matt Hammitt’s faith and solidified his resolve to lead his family well, these new songs are his most deeply personal to date. Born out of the heart of a father, Hammitt's main impetus for writing the songs on Every Falling Tear was to play them at Bowen’s bedside in the hospital, with the hope that they would be a source of comfort for his family, as well as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the midst of their uncertainty.
Encouraged by his Sanctus Real band mates to release these songs, Hammitt enlisted Jason Ingram to produce, as well as to co-write six of the songs on Every Falling Tear. Hammitt also co-wrote “Let Go” with Joy Williams (The Civil Wars), “This Is Grace” with Leeland Mooring and Ingram, and “All of Me” with Bernie Herms. Sanctus Real band mate Pete Prevost co-wrote “Holding You” with Hammitt and Ingram. The song “Without You” was co-written with Audrey Assad, who also wrote and sings “Little Light” on the album.
Here is what the critics are saying about the resulting album:
“Every Falling Tear is a lyrical masterpiece, and by far some of Matt Hammitt’s strongest songwriting to date...This is hands down one of the top 10 Christian albums of the year and one longtime fans of the band and beyond will NOT want to miss.” – NewReleaseTuesday.com (5-star review)
“Every Falling Tear works from a specific valley to arrive at a mountain of hope we should all aspire to scale, regardless of any earthly circumstance…It’s a deep yet undeniably uplifting listen…compelling music and a great cause.” – Crosswalk.com
“A cathartic songwriting release after Hammitt’s son Bowen was diagnosed with a heart defect. The range of emotions are conveyed ever so appropriately throughout tender acoustics and piano ballads, and the vulnerable storytelling will inspire those in similar situations.” – ChristianityToday.com
“Every Falling Tear will help listeners express the deep emotions in their own hearts, as each song more than adequately paints accurate pictures of pain and suffering while remaining in hope and in relationship to a perfectly loving Father.” – Foursquare Leader
“Although Every Falling Tear was birthed out of adverse circumstances, a recurring theme of hope is the thread that is woven throughout each song on the album…the beauty of Every Falling Tear is the quality of the songwriting.” – Breathecast.com
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Every Falling Tear benefits the Whole Hearts Foundation, a new non-profit Matt and Sarah Hammitt set up to help families going through similar challenges as themselves; providing assistance for families of children affected by congenital heart defects.
“More than 40,000 babies a year in the United States alone are born with congenital heart defects,” says Hammitt. “More kids die from heart defects than all cancers combined. The Whole Hearts Foundation seeks to be a resource for families who are suffering in much the same way as my family.”
Music fans have already donated to the foundation through buying songs from Every Falling Tear that were released, one track per month beginning in May, through digital retailers such as iTunes and Amazon.com. The first track released, “All of Me,” was initially heard on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoeGKOXeO-s. Bowen heard his dad sing this song for the first time in concert at a sold out Sanctus Real event last month at Bowling Green State University's new Stroh Center. “He has undergone two life saving surgeries and he’s not even a year old yet, but he got to kick up his heels a bit this past weekend as he watched his rock star dad on stage for the very first time!” reported WTVG-TV’s (ABC) Lissa Guyton in a three-part feature story following the event. Matt will continue to sing the song “All of Me” with Sanctus Real on the major market tour this fall with Casting Crowns.
Matt and Sarah started the blog, www.bowensheart.com, to chronicle their journey of highs and lows since finding out about Bowen’s condition. Recently nominated for a 2011 Parents Best Special Needs Blog, the website gathered more than 220,000 people the day of Bowen’s first surgery. The site has been viewed millions of times since as people connect with the Hammitt’s courageous story.
For all the latest information on Bowen and Every Falling Tear, go to www.bowensheart.com. For the latest Sanctus Real news and tour dates, go to www.sanctusreal.com, www.myspace.com/sanctusreal, and www.emicmg.com.
6/7/2011 - Sanctus Real Lead Singer Matt Hammitt Releases First Solo Album, Every Falling Tear, Sept 13
Multiple GRAMMY-nominated, Dove Award winning Sanctus Real lead vocalist Matt Hammitt announces the release of his first solo album, Every Falling Tear, on Sparrow Records Sept. 13. Organically sparked by the rich joy and pain of life over the last year that strengthened Hammitt’s faith and solidified his resolve to lead his family well, these new songs are his most deeply personal to date.
Encouraged by his Sanctus Real band mates to release these songs and to share his story through the songs that are meant to provide hope for people that are in crisis, Hammitt’s journey to the new album started with the current, critically acclaimed and best-selling Sanctus Real album, Pieces of a Real Heart.
“The bridge lyric in ‘Redeemer’ says, I don’t have every answer in life / But I’m trusting You one day at a time / ‘Cause You can make a weak heart stay alive forever,” reflects Hammitt regarding the current hit radio single from Pieces of a Real Heart that is Top 15 and continuing to ascend the Billboard radio charts. “Those lyrics, along with songs like ‘Keep My Heart Alive,’ ‘Dear Heart,’ and then the album with a broken heart on the cover, came out on March 9 of 2010. One month later on April 12 my wife, Sarah, and I found out that our son, Bowen, was going to be born with a severe congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.”
The whole album became a prophetic glimpse into what the Hammitt’s were about to go through, and proved to be a source of hope as Matt and his wife, Sarah, take care of Bowen “small victorious one,” who was born Sept. 9, 2010 and has now gone through two heart surgeries, an infection and other complications since being born.
“I will never forget the night of his first open heart surgery - we got a call in the middle of the night that Bowen’s heart had stopped beating,” says Hammitt on a SanctusReal.com video blog encouraging people to share their stories of redemptions. “The redemption that was for me, in probably this most broken time of my life, was that all the treasure in this world, everything I put my hope in here in this life, was burned away in that moment. I could clearly see that the only real treasure I have is the hope that I have in Jesus Christ. Bowen’s doing great now, he’s making an incredible recovery and the fact that we still have him; we thank God for that every day. We’re eager to see what God continues to do through his life.”
Born out of the heart of a father, wrestling with his pain, but buoyed by his faith and love for his family, Hammitt's main impetus for writing the songs on Every Falling Tear was to play them at Bowen’s bedside in the hospital, with the hope that they would be a source of comfort for his family, as well as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the midst of their uncertainty.
“A lot of what we went through with Bowen was really hard on my wife and I emotionally, and I felt and understood the pain of others going through similar circumstances as us. We also met families at the hospital [C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI] whose children had either just died or were on the verge of dying, and it felt like they were losing hope. One of the main reasons for recording these songs was to go back to the hospital and hand out the music to help lift these families out of despair.”
Having already recorded and handed out demos of songs in the hospital, Hammitt also sang “All of Me” on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoeGKOXeO-s. The studio recording of this song is now available for the first time through digital retailers, including iTunes (http://is.gd/S6vnni) and Amazon.com (http://is.gd/ef9NcL). “All of Me” will be the first of four tracks from Every Falling Tear to be released each month leading up to the full album release in September.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Every Falling Tear and its singles will go to benefit the Whole Hearts Foundation, a new foundation Hammitt has set up to help families going through similar challenges as himself. Providing assistance for families of children affected by congenital heart defects, additional details on the foundation will be announced soon.
As his solo project’s first single is released today, Sanctus Real’s fastest-selling GRAMMY and Dove-nominated, fifth studio album Pieces Of A Real Heart continues to sell over 130% ahead of the band’s last GRAMMY-nominated album. The album has also sparked two No. 1 songs, “Forgiven” and “Lead Me,” the latter having been heard by well over 100,000,000 people at radio and receiving the first-ever song endorsements from Focus on the Family and FamilyLife, as well as gathering two “Song of the Year” Dove nominations. The success of the singles helped pave the way for the band to become Billboard’s No. 4 most played Christian band of 2010 at radio. In all, Sanctus Real has gathered 14 No. 1 and Top 5 radio hits so far.
Sanctus Real creates compelling, authentic music that lives up to the meaning of its name: to be Holy (Latin meaning of “Sanctus”), and its members are about living out their lives as “real” Christians, not only on the stage and as they interact with fans, but also in the quieter moments of their lives as husbands and fathers. Matt Hammitt’s solo album carries this idea forward.
For all the latest on Matt Hammitt and his family, see www.bowensheart.com.
For all the latest Sanctus Real news, go to www.sanctusreal.com, www.myspace.com/sanctusreal, and www.emicmg.com
6/16/2010 - Sanctus Real Vocalist Matt Hammitt Offers Personal Confession with "Lead Me" From Pieces of a Real Heart
GRAMMY-nominated, Dove Award winning Sanctus Real released its fifth studio album, Pieces Of A Real Heart, on Sparrow Records in March amidst growing critical acclaim. As the first radio single from the album, “Forgiven,” went to the top of the charts becoming one of the most played Christian radio singles this year, the second single, “Lead Me,” was released last week to AC radio and becomes the most added new song ever for the band this week, launching into the top 20 of the overall Billboard Christian radio national audience chart. Already a Billboard Top 30 AC Monitored and Top 5 CHR hit, the song is a personal confession and prayer written by lead vocalist Matt Hammitt, and is proving to be a source of hope as he and his wife, Sarah, walk through a difficult pregnancy.
“My wife and I aren’t shy about sharing that we’ve had some pretty major struggles,” admits Matt after his wife implored him to be a better spiritual leader in the family. “I think the challenge for me in the song, and hopefully for other men as well, is every time I hear it, every time I sing it, I ask myself, ‘what kind of man am I?’ Not yesterday, not tomorrow, what kind of man am I today? Have I invested in my family emotionally, spiritually the way that God has called me to reach out to them and to lead them.”
To lead them with strong hands / To stand up when they can’t /
Don’t want to leave them hungry for love / Chasing things that I could give up /
I’ll show them I’m willing to fight / And give them the best of my life /
So we can call this a home / Lead me, ‘cause I can’t do this alone /
Father, lead me, ‘cause I can’t do this alone
Implementing this shift in daily priorities, Matt is now walking together with Sarah through one the most difficult points yet in their marriage. Parents to Emmy and Claire, the couple is struggling to bring to term their first baby boy, Bowen Matthew Hammitt. Bowen, which means "small victorious one," is 26-weeks-old and has been diagnosed with a serious heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart (HLHS).
“On April 12th of this year, Sarah and I walked into our nineteen week ultrasound excited to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl. Since we’ve already been blessed with two beautiful girls, we were excited to find out it was little boy! However, shortly after the ultrasound, our OB [obstetrician] entered the room and said she had some bad news.
“Knowing Bowen is sick has brought me face to face with the sobering reality that none of us are promised tomorrow and has pulled that nagging ache, the one to make every moment count, straight to the surface of my daily life,” confesses Matt on a blog he and Sarah created to give updates on Bowen at http://bowensheart.com/.
Again finding encouragement and strength in the song “Lead Me,” Matt and Sarah share the story of the song on video at www.sanctusreal.com. Hoping to help other couples struggling in their marriage, Sanctus Real also leads corporate prayers that can be found on the website.
As the song “Lead Me” continues to gather radio airplay, here is what media have been saying about the song and Pieces Of A Real Heart:
“‘Lead Me’ is a surefire hit…This song is a ‘must own’ for all husbands, fathers and young men looking for an honest portrayal of the prayer of a Christian man asking God to lead their lives.” – NewReleaseTuesday.com (“A+” album review.)
“We put every track to the test and can say that the superb production quality and heartfelt lyrics go a long way toward making this their best album yet.” – Napster.com
“This album is more mainstream in its pop/rock appeal… the album is nearly perfect.” – The Album Project
“With honest lyrical prose and heightened musical charm, Sanctus Real re-energizes their stay as one of Christian music’s favorite bands.” – CCM
“Pieces Of A Real Heart is an album that finds strength in brokenness, navigating the tension between humility and confidence, joy and pain…a solid album and a great addition to the latest chapter in Sanctus Real’s career.” – JesusFreakHideout.com
“On their fifth studio album, Sanctus Real reached a place very few rock bands ever ascend to…Hammitt knows what to say and how to say it, offering his own experiences and ponderings as counsel without coming across as trite or even the least bit holier-than-thou.” – All Music Guide
“Pieces Of A Real Heart offers pop-rock songs of worship even while addressing real-life issues and questions. Listeners will also appreciate Sanctus Real’s transparency and honesty.” – Charisma
“Sanctus Real continues to grow in their craft. This is their best album to date!” - CMSpin.com
“They’ve developed a more refined and mature pop/rock sound.” – ChristianityToday.com
“There are many amazing songs on this new project… it does not disappoint.” – StereoTruth.com
“The American rockers have gone from strength to strength down the years and in Matt Hammitt have one of the best vocalists on the current CCM scene.” – Christian Marketplace
“The Sanctus Real library is a must for every Christian’s music collection. This current album will not disappoint. Five stars for Pieces Of A Real Heart.” – Everyday Christian
“Pieces Of A Real Heart is by far the band’s best record to date…” – thebridgelive.net
“The songs on this album are…excellent, with insightful lyrics and memorable hooks…” – Cross Rhythms
“With Pieces Of A Real Heart, Sanctus Real remains a cut above similar popular Christian pop-rockers with superior lyrics, and clear, sharp production.” – The Phantom Tollbooth
“Singer Matt Hammitt’s voice is very distinct and crisp as he sings with heart and emotion…Sanctus Real still packs a powerful musical touch.” – TitleTrakk.com
“…Pieces Of A Real Heart, is really really good…I encourage you to go beyond the music and allow yourself to really hear the lyrics.” – The Gospel Blog
Popularly known for its captivating recordings and live performances, Toledo, OH-based Sanctus Real is all about living out their lives as “real” Christians, not only on the stage and as they interact with fans, but in the quieter moments of their lives as husbands, fathers and fellow believers. The band creates compelling, authentic music that lives up to the meaning of their name: to be Holy (Latin meaning of “Sanctus”).
With 14 No. 1 and Top 5 radio hits, Sanctus Real’s 2006 breakthrough album, The Face of Love, landed at No 2 on the Billboard Top Heetseekers chart while the band’s most recent release, We Need Each Other, garnered the band a GRAMMY nomination. Pieces Of A Real Heart is the result of the band maturing and growing as songwriters, musicians and individuals, while retaining its aggressive edge and incorporating a more diverse musical palette of instrumentation and themes.
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Every Falling Tear
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