19 July 2016
Matt Redman: 10,000 reasons and one special song
Editor Amaris Cole caught up with international singer-songwriter Matt Redman ahead of the release of 10,000 Reasons: stories of hope, faith and thankfulness inspired by the worship anthem. “The book isn’t about showcasing the song; the book is about showcasing amazing lives of worship – people believing in God even in the toughest moments.” We all know the words to the song, but do you know the story behind it, and the countless stories of incredible faith it’s sparked?
Let’s talk about the song first. It resonates with so many people. How do you usually go about song writing, and did this song take that same pattern?
I’ve been doing music for more than a decade, and there’s no formula – even to the point where some songs seem to come in an hour and some songs take a year, with months of rewriting and shaping. But this song, 10,000 Reasons, was one of the quickest songs I’ve ever been part of writing.
I was in a little chapel in a village. I was singing and song writing with a friend of mine, J Jonas Marie and we’d already been writing songs all day. It was already half past one in the morning and I said I needed to go home. He said: “Hey just listen to this one little chorus melody.”
Something in it just connected straight away. This song started pouring out of us. It was just an amazing moment of overflow. It felt quite a simple song: it doesn’t have a pre-chorus, what I say is it’s got four chords and the truth. I had no idea that this song would go on to gather momentum and all the stories that come back.
So when did you realise that something about this song was so special?
Well we started calling the album 10,000 Reasons. We were leaning towards other songs on the album more than this one on the album, but I noticed some churches had grabbed onto it and Christian radio in America got behind it. Then I showed up in Durban, South Africa, and we opened the song with this piano hook. As soon as we started playing the song the whole place started cheering. I thought it was weird because it hadn’t been out very long. It was like the song had got there before us. I think that was when I started realising that God is really breathing on this song.
And what is it about music that speaks to us the way it does?
It’s fascinating. Music is such a special part of God’s blessing to this world. It’s all around us. There’s a musicality to creation. Every culture seems to have a form of music.
I love that He has also ordained that we can draw near to Him through it and music can draw near to us. The people of God have always been a musical people. There’s so many times in
scripture where they gather and sing. The book in the middle of the Bible, Psalms, gives us 150 songs that would have been the hymn book of Jesus. They were obviously very present in his life. There are so many moments where he’s quoting from them, even on the cross.
It’s a fascinating thing that Jesus on the cross is quoting worship songs. Then you get right to the end of scripture and there’s music everywhere. There’s a growing orchestration of music there. It happens with every creature of heaven, on earth, under the earth, singing.
It’s a part of God’s creation and part of how He’s made us that we respond so well to music. I often think about this and think that if I just read my songs out as poems, hopefully they’d have some power, but when we mix them with music there’s something that travels so deep. And if that lyric is full of the word of God, hopefully it can travel deeper.
Tell me when writing the book began and whose idea that was.
A few people mentioned to me that I should write a book on 10,000 Reasons and I had no idea where to start so I ignored them!
And then one day I thought the key to this is the stories. If I searched through those and then we put a thing on social media and said we’re writing this book with all these stories and have a few more come in from that, it could work.
I brought in a friend called Craig Borlase. He’s a great writer. One of his things is taking people’s life stories and bringing them out. I thought he is perfect. I went to school with Craig, so it was really nice to get to work on it with him.
Some of these stories were just an email I had and a few paragraphs. Getting to talk to these people and unravel a bit more of the story just makes you realise how powerful each story is – how this person had honoured God in such an amazing way through the storm
It’s lovely in the book, we’ve got stories from Africa, America,and the UK.
One of my favourite ones is a guy called Ruben Hill. A few people in one day, like 10 people, had seen this thing on BBC news of a guy having a brain operation while he was awake and singing 10,000 Reasons. I got to meet this guy. He studied PhD physics at Imperial College, London, and is in a choir, too. They discovered he had a tumour the size of a golf ball in his brain, so they said: “We want to do this procedure on you, but it’s never been done before.” It was an exploratory procedure. It just turned out that the technique they used was actually something he was studying at the time.
In one sense he was quite scared and overwhelmed, and the other side, the scientist in him, was fascinated by it. Anyway, he was aware at some point during the procedure they wanted to check that his cognitive function – speech – was working properly, so he decided to sing 10,000 Reasons. There were all these TV cameras there. It was a world first procedure. They’re operating on his brain, but he was singing 10,000 Reasons. It was amazing to see that on BBC news and I had so much respect for him. Sometimes our worship is spontaneous, but sometime it’s a very conscious choice. I love that he wanted to use that very scary moment to worship the Lord.
It must have been an amazing experience for you – collecting those powerful stories about a song you’d written?
It was very moving because I know there’s no rocket science to this song. I know how it happened – we were just trying to write a simple little song. I’ve written hundreds before. I have no idea why this went a little deeper into people’s hearts.
The thing was the depth and the intensity of some of these stories. I think the one that affected me the most was about these prisoners in Bali on death row for drug trafficking nine years earlier. Since they were convicted they’d become Christians and their lives were radically transformed and they were also transforming radically the lives of others in the prison. But the authorities decided they’d still have to face death penalty. I was reading the newspaper one day about these guys, and it said as they were facing the firing squad, they sung a final song with the words: “Bless the Lord”. I remember wondering if that was my song. A few days later I heard from a few people, one who was there and had become very close to these people – walking them through the last few months of their lives – that they were amazing worshippers, and they sang 10,000 Reasons at the end. They made a conscious decision to press into God and proclaim Him, even through these moments. That’s become one of the chapters in the book; it’s just so powerful.
Who is the book for?
We’re hoping that people who connect with the song in one way or another will also connect with the book and find it uplifting, but I also hope the book will find its way to the hands of people who don’t have a faith or are asking questions about the Christian faith.
I heard from this guy who said I’m not a Christian, I don’t go to church and I’d never heard of your song until my dad passed away. He was touring in a famous rock band, and he got in touch to tell me that he’d heard this song at his dad’s funeral and then found out it was his favourite song. He said: “I listen to it the whole time now. I’m just writing to you to tell you that something about my dad’s faith came alive to me through the song.”
It was really special to hear that and I hope this book might do the same.
TWITTER QUESTION: This one came from a reader via @EAUKnews - can Christian worship songs reach non-Christians?
Some of the best songs are a window onto the heart of God. I love it when we just have a song that shows us who God is.
I think some are all about response – asking us to put our hands up – and there’s definitely a place for that. But I love songs that have a lot of revelation, they tell you who God is, and reveal something of His ways and heart for you.
When I write I’m trying to help the saints sing to Him, but I have one eye on it being an invitational moment for someone who’s not a believer.
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10,000 Reasons is released on 22 July 2016.