In an extensive interview Tony Cummings quizzed Britain's most popular worship leader MATT REDMAN on a wide range of topics.
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Matt: We actually spent a few weeks in a country house in Ardingley, Sussex. There's a nice recording studio there which is just 20 minutes from my house. We actually did a lot of recording for the 'Intimacy' album there years ago. Andy Piercy introduced me to the owner. So with a young family it just worked out great. Go there in the morning, come back and have tea with the kids, go back in the evening. It was just wonderful. We flew these American guys over called Doubledutch.a production duo. They've done some Toby Mac stuff, they did some remixes, some ZOEgirl, Mat Kearney. What happened was I was really looking for a producer and didn't feel I'd settled on the right person. I phoned a friend of mine, a Swedish guy called Jonas out in Nashville. I said, "Mate have you got any ideas about a producer? I want to start recording." Jonas said, "Yeah, I'm sitting with this lady right now, Christa Black, and she's just done an album with these guys called Doubledutch. You're really gonna love them, I think they might be the right people for you." So I spoke to Christa and she raved about them. She gave me an album to listen to by Mat Kearney which they'd produced. I just loved it. I thought, man, this is it, these are the guys. So I just sent them an email - "I'm this little English guy called Matt Redman, I write worship songs. I'd love to talk to you about doing an album together." And they came straight back to me and said, "We love your songs and we've both been in worship teams in our church but we've never done a worship album, we'd be really keen to do it." So I was really excited. Four days later I was going to Atlanta, they drove down and we spent the day together.
Tony: So who are Doubledutch?
Matt: A guy called Robert Marvin who's 28 years old, he's a white guy, and then a 20 year old African American called Josiah Bell. Josiah has been doing it for years. He had songs cut by the Winans when he was 14. But like I say, they are both very grounded, connected to local church. They've both been on worship teams. A few weeks later we had them over in England. We said, "Come over, we'll do a couple of days at Abbey Road." We knew that would get them over! We did a couple of days at the studio there, then we did the rest in Ardingley. They flew out to Prague to do strings with an orchestra over there. It was just this great connection. I felt so grateful to God, I still do. Musically, socially, spiritually I felt I really connected with them. We had a lot of fun, we had a lot of prayer and just music-wise I've never been so happy with stuff in the studio - vocals, music. These are the guys for me.
Tony: Were there any songs written when you went into the studio?
Matt: That's an interesting question. I probably wrote over 30 songs that we chose from for this album. I just kept writing and writing. Some of them I knew straight away weren't right. Others we kind of put through the panel. Obviously EMI Christian Music Group in America, a couple of them spoke into it and then sixstepsrecords - a couple of those guys spoke into it and then Survivor here. Then the two producers and then my wife Beth. I've got a great kind of committee! So if you can get a song through all them, you're pretty happy. Having said that, there's a song called "Yes And Amen" on the album and that was literally written the week before the recording. I had this little moment thinking about how I wanted a devotional, kind of commitment song. I'd wanted to centre a song around the word "yes" for a long time and this song popped out. We were already in the studio messing about. Plus there's another song on the album called "When All Is Said And Done", I actually wrote that at Abbey Road on one of the last days of recording. They were messing about recording the drums again or something. I was bored so I went out into the kind of green room, got my guitar out and just started singing out this song. So a couple of the songs on 'Beautiful News' were real last moment and others were two years old.
Tony: Why the decision to start writing songs with other songwriters?
Matt: I used to really fight it, the whole co-writing thing. I used to think, "No, I'm too precious about what I'm doing, I'll just end up falling out with my friends and squabbling." If someone says they don't like something in your song it's like telling you your baby's ugly. It doesn't go down well. But I kind of got into it. Like I say I've done bits in the past with Martin Smith. I did some stuff with Chris Tomlin, my friend in America. So over the years I've got more into it. Now I've been doing loads. Charlie Hall, Steven Curtis Chapman. I've sat down with Tim Hughes a couple of times and obviously Paul Baloche, Martin Smith, Simon Brading, Nick Herbert. A lot of the Survivor Records crew we sort of hang out and write songs together. I've also written with Smokie Norful - a totally different stream and style of music which was cool. I've never come out of co-writing with someone and thought that was a waste of time. Every time has been fruitful and every single time I've also felt that I've grown as a songwriter. You know, you see the different ways people work and it just sharpens you. So I always say, whatever happens here we'll come out of it worshipping or come out of it having another dimension to our friendship but I hope we'll come out of it with a song. So many times we have. On this album a couple of times I scooted over to Martin's house and he helped me to finish a couple of songs. In fact "Take It To The Streets" he actually initiated. That was a little chorus they had hanging around for a while I think and suddenly it was fleshed out when we met together.
Tony: Once the song was finished was the plan for Martin to sing on it as well?
Matt: No, it wasn't actually. I would have liked him to but I thought he was going to be too busy. He was having a crazy season. But he came over real late one night and just spent the evening singing all the BVs and singing a verse, a couple of ad libs and stuff. The great thing with Martin is I think we've been involved in the writing of five songs together if you include "Now Is The Time" on the Delirious? album and all five of them have either been about the Gospel or about sharing the Gospel and have all been up tempo. So I think I need to get together with him more often. He gets me out of my ballad boy phase! And obviously I've written a couple of songs with my wife Beth. I'm just blessed. She doesn't just tell you what's wrong with a song, she helps you fix it. And that's a blessing. She's really good, coming in usually two thirds or half way through a song.
Tony: Do you think Beth misses not doing so much of the music as she used to?
Matt: I think she misses it sometimes. But she's in a different phase of life. We've got three young kids, we're really involved with the church plant, she's been speaking more and teaching more. She can still sing as good as ever but it's mostly me that gets to hear her these days - and God!
Tony: What was the period the album was recorded in?
Matt: We recorded from May to November '06.
Tony: So quite a few sessions?