Matthew West's most recent album from 2012, 'Into The Light,' was inspired entirely by the real-life stories of some of his fans.
He invited people to share their stories with him several years ago before he began writing his previous album from 2010, 'The Story of Your Life,' according to Amazon. He received over 10,000 stories from fans around the world. The project continued into his newest album, 'Into The Light,' as he began to find that his songs empowered people with a voice and the ability to have their stories heard.
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"On every level it has been the single most fulfilling thing that I've had a chance to be a part of in my career," West said, according to Amazon. "It's just the added element of emotion that I feel by having a chance to be a part of this person's story and to share their story with an audience. Something really special is taking place and I'm along for the ride for as long as it needs to go. As long as those stories come in, I think I'm going to keep making these kinds of records."
The album's title track, 'Into The Light,' was inspired by the story of a woman named Alice. She is a single mother with two sons who suffered from domestic violence that made her fear for herself as well as her children. She put up with abuse and beatings believing that it was best for her sons to have both parents, but one night she finally decided that she needed to escape the dangerous situation that she was in.
"It was pitch black and pouring rain on the night my sons and I escaped from our home. We were lead by a series of phone calls from my father. Each call directing us to another location and ultimately we ended up at a shelter for the night," Alice wrote to West, according to his website. After escaping the violent home, Alice understood that she had made the right decision to leave when she found a drawing that her son had made of a bright sunny day, on the rainy night that they had escaped.
The song, 'Into The Light,' is about love being 'restored' in a marriage, although in this case, God decided to intervene in a different way. "Into the Light is a song for Alice, and all the other brave women forced to go it alone for the safety of their lives and the lives of their children. I also hope that Alice's story and this song will help to encourage anyone else secretly trying to cope with an abusive spouse to speak up, to get help, to step into the light," West wrote on his website.
The most popular song on his new album, entitled 'Hello My Name Is,' which is currently No. 1 on the Billboard charts for most popular Christian song, tells the story of Jordan, a former drug addict. Jordan's addiction to Oxycontin took over his life and robbed him of his college football scholarship and everything he had worked for. However, a rehabilitation center in North Carolina, called "Teen Challenge," showed Jordan that God's plan wasn't for him to be defeated, but rather it was for him to overcome this challenge and to grow beyond it.
Jordan told West that he has since received his masters degree, become a teacher and a coach, gotten married and has recently felt God calling him into full-time ministry. Jordan finished his letter to West saying, "These days I introduce myself a little differently than I used to. Hello, my name is Jordan and I am a child of the one true king!" He doesn't allow his past offenses to define him, but rather, he has allowed the power of God to restore, redeem and renew his heart and his life.
These are just two of the amazing stories that West shares on his new album. The other songs on the album are aptly titled, 'Forgiveness,' 'Do Something,' 'Moved By Mercy,' 'We Are The Broken,' 'Unchangeable,' 'Wonderfully Made,' 'Restored,' 'Love Stands Waiting,' and 'The Power of a Prayer.' Each song presents a different story but all of them represent the love of Christ overcoming hardship and allowing healing and personal growth. The stories behind each of the songs on the album can be found at the the Matthew West website.
"There's something that feels important when I sit down with the responsibility of somebody's life story in front of me and I'm going to put that to music in some way," West said of the album, according to Amazon. "It's not important like, 'Look at this awesome thing that I'm doing,' but it feels important because this person has trusted me with their story and my responsibility is to them."
West wrote the album on the road as he was touring with Casting Crowns in 2011, according to Amazon. "I wrote every song on the road, all over the country. My songwriting retreat was the back lounge of the bus, the dressing room at the arena, every town and city that I traveled in," he said. "I was writing all day and then I would hop on stage and sing in front of these audiences and get a good look at the faces of these people. I would tell them. 'Hey, send your story to me if you want to' and then I'd hop off the stage and go back to my dressing room and write more songs. It was a lot more challenging just because it was really hard to find that solitude. I was in 43 cities around the country writing songs all along the way. It was special in its own way."