Matt Maher – Behind the Album “Saints and Sinners”
Matt Maher released his latest album “Saints and Sinners” back in March and many of the songs have topped the charts and downloads on iTunes. The 11-song album is quickly becoming a favorite because each song is so meaningful and speaks truth. The process a songwriter takes in writing a song and what inspires them is intriguing because the songs they write come from their heart and are reflections of where God is leading them. Many of the songs, including “A Future Not My Own”, “Everything Is Grace” and “Firelight” were inspired by spiritual leaders who have since gone on. “Abide With Me” and “Because He Lives (Amen)” were inspired by old church hymns. It’s incredible to see how God worked in the lives of others, such as Mother Theresa, Woody Guthrie, St. Therese of Lisieux, Martin Luther King Jr. and St. Francis come full circle in this album. It’s clear that God is still using these men and women to inspire and uplift others years after they have passed on. Matt Maher provided insight into what inspired each song and I think you will love the songs and entire album even more.
“A Future Not My Own”
“Future Not My Own” was inspired and based on “The Prayer of Romero” by Archbishop Oscar Romero who was a martyr. Matt said, “This prayer really brings to light that we’re announcing a kingdom that’s here, that’s coming, and that’s being built, that we won’t see the finish of. That’s a huge aspect of being a part of the Church, the body of Christ.”
“Deliverer” is Matt’s testimony about how he tried to put himself in the shoes of his son Conor who was afraid of the dark. Matt said, “I tried writing what might be the antithesis of what he was feeling, trying to imagine what it must be like to be a kid and to have those moments where literally there’s no fear—just total trust. I’ve never worked harder to capture that kind of moment; one of a heart cry – that sense of liberation. This bridge is probably my favorite moment on the record.”
Bear Rinehart from NEEDTOBREATHE wrote the verse and chorus of the song. Matt said, “I’ve been a huge believer in the band NEEDTOBREATHE for a long time and their ability to create music that goes beyond the fringes of the church, so I was honored they were willing to offer this haunting verse and chorus to this song that Bear [Rinehart] wrote out of his own conversion experience.”
If “Glory Bound” reminds you of the Woody Guthrie song “This Train Is Bound For Glory” it’s for good reason! In a way, this song is a response to Guthrie’s song as Matt said, “I understand the intent of what the song was trying to say, but it creates a false narrative. Jesus talks about separating the sheep and the goats and the wheat from the chaff; but He talks about it in the context of the end of time. As the church, we’re really content to take on that role ourselves and go ahead and do it for Him. The problem is, when you do that, you’re limiting grace. There are so many great men and women throughout history who have had conversions at the end of their lives! That’s how audacious and scandalous grace is. So I started writing a song called ‘Glory Bound’ with the idea that there’s a train for everybody, and I don’t know which way your train’s going, but I do know you’ve been forgiven.”
“Land of My Father”
Matt Maher wrote “Land of My Father” with David Leonard and Leslie Jodan from All Sons & Daughters and it’s about the season of Christian life that seems endlessly joyful and full of happiness. Matt said, “I had been in England, writing with Luke Hellenbroth, a guy from a great church there. I had this idea for a song based on ‘Thee Our Father,’ all the while looking at the kingdom of God as ‘the land of my father.’ It’s an allegory for heaven in a way. I finished the song with David Leonard and Leslie Jordan from All Sons & Daughters. They’re tremendous songwriters. That song, and even where it sits on the record, is what I call the ‘honeymoon phase’ of the Christian life, where there’s a sense of enjoying who God is and what He’s doing in your life. If somebody’s on a journey, this is where the weather’s great and it’s a nice day out. There are those moments. Just like there are moments as a parent where your kids are great, they’re dancing along to a Taylor Swift song, and you think it’s the cutest thing in the world; and life’s great.”
“Everything Is Grace”
St. Therese of Lisieux lived in France in the late 1800’s and died at age 24. Her short life was purposeful and her writings impactful. Matt said, “Everything Is Grace” is based on a quote by St. Therese of Lisieux out of “Her Last Conversations” that reads, “Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our father's love - difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events - to the heart that loves, all is well.”
“Sons and Daughters”
“Sons and Daughters” is a beautiful song that reflects Matt’s heart for bringing unity among all people and the impact that Martin Luther King, Jr. has had on civil issues and equality. It was written before the Ferguson incident happened, but speaks perfectly to this and other civil issues about race and color. Matt said, “God used the church in the ’60s to inspire a nation for healing. Most people don’t think about the fact that a lot of people in the civil rights movement initially were pastors. Faith was the thing that motivated people toward eradicating injustice. “Sons and Daughters” is a special song, and I hope it will play a part in inspiring more Christian leaders toward re-engagement in the issue of civil rights.”
Mother Teresa lived life pouring her heart out to the poor and humbly loving people. “Firelight” is inspired by Mother Teresa’s words, “If I ever become a saint - I will surely be one of ‘darkness. I will continually be absent from heaven - to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”
Matt collaborated with Jon Foreman from Switchfoot on the song “Instrument” and was inspired by the prayer of St. Francis. Matt said, “The prayer of St. Francis is a huge source of inspiration in my life. It’s such a simple and beautiful prayer. It was written in France and attributed to St. Francis because it seemed to have his character and the dynamic of his spirituality. ‘Instrument’ is my way of weighing in on a lot of things that are happening right now. The chorus is inspired by the song that St. Francis actually did write, which was ‘All Creatures of Our God and King,’ in which there is a reoccurring line that says, ‘Oh praise Him.’”
Why was Jon Foreman the obvious choice for collaborating on this song? Matt said, “Jon Foreman has always struck me as a St. Francis-type person in the sense that he’s a man who has universal appeal as an artist, and he and St. Francis both have been advocates for peace. Obviously, Switchfoot has tried to use their platform in major ways to talk about peace and to promote a less combative relationship between the church and the world. So it seemed fitting that Jon and I collaborated about this song together.”
“Abide With Me”
Church hymns have spoken to Matt on a deep level and it was his maternal grandparents who introduced him to them in their Baptist church. Matt said, “Being raised Catholic, it’s strange that the first time you start hearing some of these hymns, there’s something in your DNA that resonates.”
If you know many church hymns, you have probably sung the song “Abide with Me”, which is what inspired Matt’s song “Abide with Me”. He said, “As a believer, even my doubt and disillusionment have to meet Jesus at the cross. I think in our walk with God we get surprised when we end up right back where we started. In some ways, that’s the Christian life—learning how to die so you can experience resurrection. I think sometimes the aching we feel is the realization that we will always be restless until we reach heaven. We have moments where we get glimpses of what that feels like, but there’s still a haunting that happens. That’s what inspired this song—reaching a point where somebody’s willing to at least ask Jesus to help them with that disillusionment and that fear.”
“Because He Lives (Amen)”
Matt Maher grew up listening to church hymns and they have made a big impact on his spiritual walk. The church hymn “Because He Lives” by the Gaither Vocal Band speaks about the power that comes from Christ living through us. Matt’s song is a reflection on this song and the message of Christ living through us and the hope it brings.
The song “Rest” brings Psalm 23 together with the vocal harmonies of The Vespers. Psalm 23 has brought comfort to people enduring many situations and it proved to be encouraging during a season when the health of Matt’s grandmother was failing.
Matt Maher’s album “Saints and Sinners” is impactful on many levels and it’s one of the most heartfelt albums from Matt to date. This album helps connect a young generation to past spiritual leaders and fill the gaps that are often created when you don’t live in the same time period as someone like St. Francis or Mother Teresa. “Saints and Sinners” speaks heartfelt truth. Purchase your copy of the album on iTunes and connect with Matt Maher on Facebook and Twitter. How has this album impacted you?
Article by Elise Cleary
I'm a Christian writer and editor residing in northern Michigan and thoroughly enjoy Christian centered music, movies, TV shows and books. A favorite song is "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" by Hillsong United and I find many songs by Matt Maher, Tim Timmons, Third Day, Laura Story, Jeremy Camp and numerous other artists uplifting. A few of my favorite Christian movies include God's Not Dead, The Shunning, Do You Believe and many by the Kendrick brothers. When I'm not writing, I enjoy running, experimenting in the kitchen and spending time with my musically gifted husband and spunky daughter. I am so blessed and in awe of the work God is doing throughout the Christian entertainment industry.