Although Forerunner Music artist/songwriter/worship leader Matt Gilman is not quite thirty, there is a wisdom and sincerity in his songs hinting at seasoning beyond his years. He is the writer of Holy, recorded by Kari Jobe and Kim Walker of Jesus Culture. And he recently released his debut album, Awaken Love.
Matt’s grandfather and father were both Lutheran ministers, so he grew up in a structured, liturgical worship environment. He ultimately discovered contemporary praise music and began leading worship at the age of fourteen. Just a few years later, he was on full-time staff at the International House of Prayer of Kansas City.
Life for Matt and his wife, Alexia, became much livelier eighteen months ago with the birth of twin sons, Isaac and Caden.
It seems that music has always been part of your life plan. Have you ever experienced a “divine detour,” a God sent redirection to your path that changed your plans for the better?
I love music. I have always loved music. Even as a child I remember going to bed by putting on my favorite cassette tapes and singing at the top of my lungs until I fell asleep, much to the demise of my older sister who was in the room adjacent to mine. I tried sports . . . and we’ll just say that didn’t work out very well. My junior high basketball try out has been, and probably always will be, one of my top embarrassing moments in life. But music has always been an integral part of who I am. I took ten years of classical piano training, was in band from fifth grade through my senior year of high school, sang in multiple choirs throughout my high school years, and I did well in many statewide competitions for piano, band and choir. So, with that came quite a few scholarship opportunities for college after I graduated high school. It seemed that my future, at least my post-secondary future, was set and paid for. It was my dream to go to college and get my doctorate in music theory and go on to become an orchestra conductor.
The Lord, however, had a different plan for how I was to use the giftings he gave me in music. My junior year of high school I met a worship leader at a conference on the Holy Spirit in Minneapolis, MN. I didn’t know it when I first met him, but he would become a huge spiritual mentor for me. It was through him that I discovered the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC).
He brought me down to a conference in Kansas City in 2002 where I got connected with a few of the leaders there. I was selected to come and do a six-month internship in Kansas City right after I graduated high school, which resulted in me joining them as full time staff. I was on staff with them for almost ten years before I recently relocated my family (my wife Alexia and our twin boys Isaac and Caden) to Orlando, FL to help build the Orlando House of Prayer (OHOP).
This whole transition was a major “divine detour” for me and one that I never dreamed would happen to me. I’m so thankful for the leadership of the Lord in bringing me to such an awesome place. I’ve learned so much about worship and prayer and how to connect with the heart of God in my ten years of being at IHOPKC. I do still have that itch to write orchestral scores and conduct, but I believe I will eventually have opportunities to do that . . . if not in this age, then in the next.
I’m so excited that Awaken Love has finally been released. This album has been about four years in the making from start to finish. The songs on the album really will give the listener an intimate look into my journey in the Word over the last several years. My favorite things to sing about and meditate upon are the humility and the majesty of Jesus. All the songs on this record are just an overflow of my own heart as I have studied the Bible and searched out the depths of who God really is.
What was the foundation song for the project? What was the process for choosing and gathering the material for the recording?
The foundation song of the album would probably be the title track, Awaken Love. It is my prayer for every listener to fall in love with Jesus more after hearing these songs. As we gaze upon the majesty of God in the song, Holy, or as we ponder His humility in Though You Were Rich, I want each person to have a deeper fascination with the person of Jesus. That’s why the song, Awaken Love, kind of ties it all together. If the end product of this album isn’t a heart that is more in love with God, then it’s all for nothing and I’ve failed as a minister of the Gospel. I want Jesus to have His inheritance, hearts fully in love with Him forever.
This is my first solo album, so these songs are my favorite that I’ve written over the last seven years of leading worship at IHOPKC.
You’ve had diverse musical influences—from being raised in the liturgical Lutheran musical environment to co-writing with Christian pop producer Ed Cash. How do you describe your personal musical style?
Growing up in the Lutheran church we did a lot of hymns. I absolutely love hymns and some of my favorites are, Amazing Grace, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and It Is Well With My Soul. There is so much profound theology written in these old hymns so I love singing them.
Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Steve Green, Sandi Patti, and Amy Grant were among the artists that received a lot of playing time in the Gilman household. I was about fourteen years old when I started really getting into the worship genre. The Passion: Better is One Day album, along with Michael W. Smith’s Worship album, really changed my life and my musical passions. Being classically trained I love listening to instrumental classical pieces.
As far as my own personal musical style I love ambience. I really like big atmospheric sounds. There is something so majestic to me about ambient ballads. At the end of the day I want to tap into what Heaven sounds like and if it sounds like ambient noises. . . . awesome! If it sounds like a thumping, “dance-y,” heavy beat . . . great! I just want to join in with what is going on around the throne of God in Heaven . . . no matter what it looks like, feels like, or sounds like.
God often uses our work to teach us something. What has this new project taught you (about life, faith, and/or even yourself)?
Having all these songs compiled together in one project has been an awesome experience. I can relive six years of my journey in the Word in one hour listening to this album. I love my journey. I love where the Lord has taken me. I love I’m able to write my journey in song. And I really love that I get to invite so many people into where the Lord has taken me and allow them to enter into some of the personal revelations I have received over the years. I’ve learned through this project that I actually have a message to share through my music. And I really hope and pray that the message in these songs changes the lives of all who listen to it.
A few fun questions…
What is your favorite comfort food and why?
Ever since I was a kid my absolute favorite food is deep dish pizza with pepperoni and green olives. I could eat it every day for every meal. It’s so good.
This website also features literary guests. What’s the name of the last GREAT book you read?
Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I love this book because it gives deep insight into what our eternal dwelling place will actually be like. It demystifies eternity and cultivates an excitement in my spirit to get there. It’s a MUST READ!!!
Are you a major or a minor chord?
Definitely a MINOR chord. I love drama. I love playing minor music. To me there is something so deep and meditative about minor music. It definitely reflects my personality a little bit.
In the story that is your life, are you the tall, dark stranger; the romantic lead; the mythical warrior; the mad scientist; or the child in an adult’s body?
Good question : ) I think I’m a child in an adult’s body. I like to think of myself as fun loving and childlike. And I really love the simple things in life. Even in my music I like to keep it simple in structure and melody.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
Growing up we always had a dog. When I was first born we had a cocker spaniel named Danny. We had another white fluffy dog named Samson. In high school we got a Yorkie named Ernie (he still lives with my parents in Minneapolis). But my favorite dog we ever had was a black lab named Shadow. He was a sweet dog and really was a loyal companion. He eventually got sick and we had to put him down. It was a sad, sad day, but we loved Shadow and I hope to have another Lab in the future.
Thank you, Matt! It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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To preview songs on the Awaken Love CD, visit this site.
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