A monumental relocation from Watford to Brighton, a new US-recorded album, things are on the move for MATT REDMAN. He met up with Mike Rimmer.
The guys from Delirious? call him "Redders" although I am not entirely convinced he's happy about this. "That's becoming a bit more common. Even my wife calls me that!" he laughs, "so it's not very good is it?" It's a sunny day in late May and Matt Redman and I are sitting in a small lounge in St Andrews Church in Chorleywood. It's his mum's birthday and for the moment she's elsewhere working in the church. Matt-watchers will be aware that the Redman family have just returned from a sabbatical in the USA with a new album tucked metaphorically under his arm. Matt explains his reasons for a Stateside sabbatical. "We felt God had prompted us to have a little time to reflect. It's very interesting, during that time, obviously we were in a different culture for a while. There was so much choice and some of the things that seemed like luxuries at first, the longer we were there, it felt like 'Are these actually good for us? ' Having so much choice in terms of food or whatever. I guess the lifestyle is even easier than it is here and you reflect on living in England as well and how easy it is to pad your life out with things that may not necessarily aid your spiritual life with God.
There's a whole sermon in there! But that's some of the thoughts on it anyway." Matt's trip to America raised a few eyebrows here in the UK and there was the speculation that a big American church might entice him to stay in the USA. So did he receive any offers? He responds, "I think some people sniff around a bit don't they? But I don't think we were really open to things like that. I think we were very much on a 'Let's go away and let's pray and see where things are at. ' As it turned out, we didn't think it was the right thing to come back to Soul Survivor but we did really think it was the right thing to come back to England. It was a bit of a shocker because I've been with Soul Survivor since the beginning really. I've lived in that area (Watford) for a while and Mike Pilavachi was my youth pastor. So it's a real big thing for us moving. There's a lot of emotional things but I think Mike, Beth and myself and the whole team have this real consensus that this is God, there's a new season. We'll still be walking together and working together on different things but it just smelt of God. There were a few things going around where some people assumed there were bad reasons for it but actually, the real reason is just a God thing. It feels like a new season, a new time for us and I think for Soul Survivor too. It's wonderful that Tim Hughes is coming through and Martyn Layzell obviously is there and James Gregory and the Heat guys. I just think it's blossoming there."
At the time when Matt and I were chatting, he and his family were staying in Mike Pilivachi's house while the Soul Survivor leader was in America. Matt explains, "He's very kindly let us use his house for a while. Which is brilliant, it's like living in a Wesley Owen Bookshop because he's got so many books and CDs that he's collected over the years! So, never a dull moment." Matt is buying a new house in Brighton but while he's waiting for everything to fall into place, the next stop is to stay with Martin Smith. He laughs, "Yeah we thought we'd do the Christian leader circuit! They've been really generous as well opening their house to us a bit, just before we get to move into our own. So yeah, that'll be fun, down there on the south coast." He jokes about staying in Martin's servants' quarters before deadpanning, "I don't know if he's expecting me to bring him a newspaper every day!"
As an aside, Matt shares how American music fans seem to easily confuse Messrs Smith and Redman. Martin told me recently that he gets a lot of people thanking him for writing "Heart Of Worship" and it seems that Matt has his own fair share of mistaken identity moments. He reports, "One time someone said 'I want to pray for you! ' and as they were praying over me really strongly 'Bless this man for what he's done! His song "Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble?" really touched my life! That was one of the most influential songs of my life! I thank you Lord! ' I didn't know whether to tell him that I didn't actually write that one, so, I'm sorry Martin but I just accepted it and said, 'Thanks very much for your prayers. '" Matt shouldn't feel guilty since Smith had already confessed to me that he usually quietly took the credit for "Heart Of Worship" when in the same position!
Matt's immediate plans are to move to Brighton to join Terry Virgo's Church Of Christ The King, the flagship of New Frontiers. However he confesses that he doesn't have a job there but he wonders out loud whether God is leading him into worship training. He jokes, "I'm self-unemployed and it's great! It's like a clean sheet, it's time to dream and think, 'Well what is God saying? ' I've got a sense that we're going to be doing more worship training but I'm not sure how that's going to work itself out yet. So we're just praying. It's like a little seed, the worship training thing and it's about how that will actually grow. So in a sense, we really need to be watering that seed by thinking and by praying. I want to be strategic in terms of training and different things."
The summer of 2002 is going to see Matt, Beth and Maisey settling into their new Brighton home as well as the release of 'Where Angels Fear To Tread'. There is of course another production which will occupy the hearts and minds of the Redman family. The birth of Matt and Beth's second child! So let's see that's changing jobs, moving house, having a baby and of course releasing a new album. Plenty of challenges all for one summer! Matt smiles, "Yep! We love a bit of drama, so why spread everything out when you can do it all at once?!"
He's certainly sitting there looking very relaxed about the whole thing. Matt reflects, "It's a funny thing because we've been moving around a lot these last few months and I feel like we should feel a lot more unsettled than we do but it's like the everlasting arms are underneath aren't they? God's taking care of us and he's just been a wonderful provider. I'm enjoying the journey!"
Matt is clearly looking forward to being a father again and he reflects how fatherhood has changed his life. "One thing is it just sort of gives you a different perspective doesn't it?" He continues, "Maybe something of the Father heart of God, something of responsibility in life and it's certainly a great test of your character. You can't get away with things because your kid will start picking them up! If I pick my nose, then my daughter's going to start picking her nose! I'm not saying picking your nose is inherently sinful! It's not very nice though obviously! But things like that, you know, like how you treat people. That's going to rub off on your children. So, she's a little agent of the Holy Spirit, breathing down my neck! I think it just helps me put my life in perspective. It makes you look at life and think, 'What is meaningful? What things are worth doing and what aren't? What in life is valuable? What is worth investing in and what isn't? ' So it helps get more perspective in life."
His new album, 'Where Angels Fear To Tread' was recorded at the end of his American sabbatical though he confesses that he didn't really use his time off to plan the recording. He explains, "I kept telling the people at EMI and Kingsway that I wouldn't decide whether I was going to do an album while on the sabbatical. I know how my mind works and if I'd said, 'I'm going to do a sabbatical and then do an album, ' I would've spent my whole sabbatical thinking about the album and not about what I was meant to be thinking about! We made a final decision to do the album a week before we started recording it!" He adds ruefully, "It is not really very much fun for everyone else but it was fun for me! The songs are fresh but that put a lot of pressure on as well. I think the song 'Amazing' was written at five o'clock in the morning, about three days before the album recording!"
The album was recorded in the Californian studio of former Sonicflood members Jason Halbert and Dwayne Larring who are also the rhythmic production team responsible for the last Tim Hughes album. Is there a danger of them creating a new Survivor sound? Matt reflects, "There's a real relationship there and that's why it's happening and I think that's a cool thing because it's lovely working within a relationship when you get the chance to do that. When you've got people where there's a friendship building and you've got a common vision, that's a wonderful thing. So because of that, they've ended up doing Tim's album and of course 'All Around The World'. I think we took a slightly different approach this time in that it's a bit less loopy, a bit more organic. It was people in a room playing together. I think that's the test of a good producer, whether they can keep things fresh enough between projects and I think they're doing that."
When it comes to discussing themes on the album, Matt shares, "I've really been trying to explore the whole reverence thing more. For me, the way to describe it is, I've focused a lot on the cross... for obvious reasons since it's the centrepiece of my faith and on the intimacy and friendship with the Lord. These are amazingly important parts of our faith but I feel almost like the whole reverence side of things and the awe of God and his majesty and holiness is like the backdrop onto which you project the cross and the friendship. Then the mystery kicks in and it's a lot more powerful and I feel that maybe sometimes we can be in danger of just projecting the Cross onto nothing! It's powerful, of course the Cross is powerful but it's not as powerful as it could be. If we project it onto this backdrop of this transcendent, all powerful, invisible, eternal, awesome God, it becomes even more amazing."
This approach is reflected in a number of songs on the album including the title track and "Rejoice With Trembling". Matt becomes animated, "I love that! It's poetic and I love the contrast between the two. It says in Psalms 2 to 'rejoice with trembling'. That's actually a little theme that pops up a lot in Scripture. Psalm 95 says, 'Come let us sing for joy to the Lord' and then it says 'Come let us worship and bow down. ' So again, you've got the exuberant joy but then also the reverent worship. There's a great verse in Leviticus 9 verse 24, it talks about the time where people met with God and it says, 'They shouted for joy and they fell face down! ' and I just think what a wonderful description of worship. I think sometimes we're pretty good at shouting for joy but how often do we find ourselves, in our hearts or physically speaking, falling face down and reverencing who God is? It's almost like on that kind of occasion, these people were standing there and then God met them and they were all 'Wow! Hooray! ' and then there was like this... 'Ohhh... God is Holy! ' I love that and I want our worship to take on more of that. So I think that's been the little theme running throughout the album. I love the way the track order has ended up because it starts off with a song called "Amazing" which is all about grace and it ends of with a song which starts 'If it wasn't for your mercy. ' So in a sense, you've got sandwiched between grace and mercy these songs which are about the reverence of the Lord. Isn't that almost what the Gospel is? It starts with grace and it ends with mercy but he is a Holy God!"The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.