Matthew West: Stories Help with True Identities

By Diane Howard, Ph.D.

Matthew West is a four-time GRAMMY® nominee, a multiple-ASCAP Christian Music Songwriter/Artist of the Year winner and Dove Award recipient. He was awarded an American Music Award (2013), a Billboard Music Award (Top Christian Artist, 2014), a K-LOVE Fan Award (2016), and named Billboard’s Hot Christian Songwriter of the Year (2016). Further, he received a Primetime Emmy® Award nomination for original music and lyrics for “The Heart of Christmas” for the film of the same name.  He grapples with significant issues in his work.

In addition to his own recording career, he has co-hosted the K-LOVE Fan Awards twice. Further, he has more than 130 songwriting credits to his name, including cuts by Rascal Flatts, Scotty McCreery, Casting Crowns, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Mandisa, among others. Selling more than 1.6 million albums to date (TEA), West’s discography includes acclaimed releases such as the following: “Live Forever” (2015), GRAMMY-nominated Into The Light (2012), “The Story of Your Life (2010),” “Something to Say (2008),” “History (2005)” and “Happy (2003).” He will release a holiday album this season, titled “Unto Us: A Christmas Collection.”

On the road year-round, he has headlined many of his own tours, for example the Live Forever Tour which ran through Fall 2015. First joining WinterJam tours in 2013, he also co-headlined the 2016 WinterJam Tour Spectacular, which was the No. 1 tour in the world. He then joined the tour again this past November as he headlined WinterJam West Coast.

Matthew West is well known for communicating stories through song. Having received thousands of stories from around the world, his latest studio album, Live Forever, continues that storytelling theme and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Sales Chart. He has had numerous No. 1 singles, most recently with “Grace Wins.” He has had a record-setting No. 1 for 17 straight weeks at radio with “Hello, My Name Is” and “The Motions” for 15 weeks. Furthermore, West has written four books to date: “Give This Christmas Away,” “The Story Of Your Life,” “Forgiveness,” and “Today Is Day One.” His latest book, “Hello My Name Is,” has recently been released. Matthew is passionate about providing hope and healing through the power of prayer and story. With his father, Pastor Joe West, he founded popwe, a non-profit ministry to help others craft, share, and live more meaningful lives. In his music and books, Matthew West addresses important issues of our time.

Here’s my exclusive interview with Matthew:

DH: Why have you been fascinated with stories?

MW:  As a kid I was fascinated with stories. I used to hear people in my dad’s recovery group in his church tell their real, honest stories, as they “boasted in their weakness.”

DH: Why do you think stories matter?

MW:  People’s stories matter, because they help and empower others who receive them.

DH: Why do you think our Lord Jesus Christ told stories?

MW: Our Lord told stories that every man and women could relate to. He met them where they were and they asked them to come and follow Him.

DH: What do you think makes an engaging story?

MW: People want to put out a “highlight reel” of their lives and hide the rest; but stories that are real, honest, authentic and not pretentious are the most powerful for others to receive.

DH: Why do you think people struggle to find their identity?

MW: We are all living different lives, but we are all engaged in finding our true identities. It is very easy to believe lies about ourselves rather than the truth.

DH: How can we all find our true identities?

MW: Just as it is important to strengthen our core in our bodies, it is important to strengthen our spiritual core. We do that by spending time with God and in His scripture. It we don’t do that, it is very easy to be knocked over.

DH: How would you describe your own personal identity?

MW: Finding my true identity is an ongoing journey. I have learned that God loves me regardless of how I perform. His love doesn’t change.

DH: What is the importance of prayer in finding our true identities?

MW: Prayer is important. To strengthen our spiritual core, we need to take time to listen to God and to hear Him speak. Through prayer and His Word, we need to  look into His mirror to understand what He thinks of us, to allow Him to search our hearts, and to hear what He says needs changing.

DH: What is the danger of having a false identity?

MW:  We live misguided lives, going in the wrong direction towards the wrong finish line.

DH: Where are ideas of false identity coming from?

MW:  They are coming from all over: damaging words; voices of the past; mistakes; the world’s pressures and more. This is why we need to strengthen our inner spiritual core daily.

DH: What do you hope readers will gain from this book?

MW:  My goal is to encourage others to think about their name tags. What I think my name tag is affects the direction of my life. Having a true name tag and identity is a game changer that affects my motivations.

After collecting so many stories from so many different people, Matthew learned an important truth—every person has a difficult journey to discover their true, God-given identity. He says to his audiences that even if they are not sure who they are or who they will become, he wants to help them discover their true identities and how to best fit into this world and also to understand that they are not alone.  Throughout his travels, Matthew has collected thousands of stories from around the world from people dealing with this very issue. Well known for communicating these stories through song, he continues his storytelling theme in his new book,“Hello, My Name Is.”  Throughout the book, Matthew takes the stories he has collected over the years to inspire readers to reconnect with their own best selves. His hope is that they will understand their identity isn’t found within, but through the Savior, Jesus Christ.

As Matthew explains, “The Bible describes Satan as the ‘father of lies.’ And the father of lies would love for nothing more than to get you to believe a lie about yourself. He knows that if you take ownership of a false identity, before long, that false identity will own you. And the more time you spend being owned by a false identity, the further away you fall from discovering the power and the freedom and the hope that is waiting to be tapped into when you take hold of the truth of who God says you are.”

“The day is coming when all of the name tags we’ve accumulated, all the false identities we’ve owned, all the lies of the enemy we’ve had a hard time shaking—will fall to the ground once and for all as we stand before the Lord,” says Matthew. “None of it will matter anymore, because our true names will be known by Him and spoken by Him.”