Matthew West is one busy man. To get inspiration for his latest album, “Into the Light,” he asked his fans to share their life stories with him. To his great surprise, he received more than 10,000 tales. Being that he had about 9,989 stories more than what he needed, he was inspired to write “The Story of Your Life” a new book by Harvest House that features more of these stories. Then, he created a new online ministry called Population We, which has a mission to bring healing to hurting hearts. Fortunately he still had enough time to create a great album.
“Into the Light” is West’s best album to date. Perhaps it’s the theme of the album, but this one feels a little more honest and real. The album is heavy on recovery and for some older folk, may remind you of David Meece or Steve Camp. The songs were inspired by raw emotion that shows through their lyrics including “We Are the Broken.” The song has the audacity to claim that we can be both “broken” and “chosen” at the same time:
Most my life I’ve been doing my best toTry and hide anything less than perfectI covered up all my scarsI gotta make them think that I’ve got it togetherMake believe nobody ever has to seeWhat I keep in the darkTruth is, I was wrongThat’s the part that you have wanted all along
Another song that is getting a lot of air play right now is “Forgiveness” that not only provides powerful lyrics, but is decorated with beautiful sounds of strings and a choir. The song was inspired by Renee Napier whose 20-year-old daughter, Megan, was killed by a drunk driver over Mother’s Day weekend in 2001. The driver, Eric Smallridge, was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Not only did Renee forgive Eric, she also petitioned the court to let him out of prison early. According to Napier’s website, she has been allowed to have Smallridge join her as she shares about the dangers of drinking and driving to public high school since April of 2010. Smallridge is bound by shackles and handcuffs while he shares his testimony. “This woman’s act of forgiveness continues to be felt by everybody involved,” West says. “Eric’s life has been changed because this woman said those words: ‘I forgive you.’” (To learn more about this story, watch the accompanying video.)
The title track was inspired by a woman who ran from an abusive marriage with her two young sons. “The Power of Prayer” is about a young boy’s prayer for his fighting mother and father. What could be an album full of somber songs, “Into the Night” is actually full of energy and encouragement. “On every level it has been the single most fulfilling thing that I’ve had a chance to be a part of in my career,” West says. “It’s just the added element of emotion that I feel by having a chance to be a part of this person’s story and to share their story with an audience. Something really special is taking place and I’m along for the ride for as long as it needs to go. As long as those stories come in, I think I’m going to keep making these kinds of records.”