Canadian singer and songwriter Matt Brouwer got his start in the music industry while studying music at school in Alberta, Canada. While in college he and fellow students founded the band Monday Night Worship (MNW). Because of the spiritual content of his lyrics he was 'discovered' by a Nashville record company in 2000, and in 2001 recorded his solo debut CD Imagerical. The album was released on May 29, 2001 on Reunion Records.
He then formed his own label called Black Shoe Records and released an album titled Unlearning in 2005, Where's Our Revolution (Universal) in 2009, and Till The Sunrise in 2012. Brouwer's music has been hailed for its relentless vulnerability as he shares his life's story of tragedy (the death of his father) and hope (his Spiritual pilgrimage) with his listeners.
Brouwer has just released his greatest hits entitled "Writing to Remember." We are so honored to catch up with him for this exclusive Hallels' interview.
Hallels: Congratulations on the release of your greatest hits "Writing to Remember." A greatest hits in many ways is a milestone; so looking back over the last 14 years, what would you say were the greatest blessing and the greatest challenge in your career?
Thanks! It really feels like the right time to release this project and it's been such a blast to look back and reflect on the past 14 years. For as long as I can remember I have dreamt of being a musician, writing songs, singing, traveling and sharing the music with others, so I am enormously grateful for every season these songs represent. I think the greatest blessing has turned out to be the thing that is also the greatest challenge. A deeper Spiritual connection to God is something I really longed for as a teenager and I remember feeling very lost and unsure of how to begin to grow in my faith in practical ways. As I started to discover the arts and especially music, it was like a door was unlocked. The greatest challenge for me in all of this is that I struggle a lot with self- doubt and feeling inadequate or unworthy to be a leader or a singer or whatever. However, no matter how strong those feelings can be, there is something that compels me to do this. Something drives me to get up in front of people and sing these songs and that has been a blessing. The passion is greater than the fear and somehow in that position my relationship with The Lord has continued to be my source, my strength, my comfort, and help. It's very clear to me that anything good that happens in my life and career is totally through Him and not something I am doing on my own merit.
Hallels: In choosing the songs for this album, was it difficult? How did you go about choosing the songs to include on this album?
I did a facebook poll or two to see what songs my friends and fans were passionate about, but most of these songs, especially the ones that have been around for a while, are the ones that have stayed with me through the years. They have stayed relevant to my story and the message I feel consistently compelled to share. It's very interesting to make an album because you rarely know what exactly is going to connect and the songs that you'll be playing everyday for the next 14 years. Sometimes they are the obvious choices, but many times, at least for me, they are not.
This album, "Writing To Remember", is an attempt to rebrand these songs as a cohesive new collection to hopefully emphasize the depth of the journey of worship and life that the past 14 years have been. I plan to put together a concert tour in 2015 and the idea is to play each of the songs in the order that they are on the album and to share the stories and lessons that have been learned in a way that comes full circle. I'm so excited to have all this music in one place, on one project, and to be able introduce the songs to new people all over again!
Hallels: Are there any new song(s) on the record?
Yes. One brand new song called, "Waking Up", which is the first track on the album. I'm really excited about it. I feel like it's a triumphant and positive anthem for me to basically say that all of this has been possible because of the incredible, life-changing love of Jesus in my life.
Hallels: Over the years you've got to work with some talented people including JJ Heller, Amy Grant, Michael Omartin, Vince Gill and many others. Do you have a story or two working with some of your collaborators?
I feel so blessed to have worked with so many amazing musicians and I have learned so much from each one of them. I met JJ Heller and her husband at a concert we were both booked at. They invited me to tour with them later that year and so I got to know them and their family really well. It was amazing to see their work ethic and how they travel with their two little girls and just make it work. That is of particularly interest to me now as my wife and I have a one-year-old little girl and another baby on the way! A favorite memory from that tour was when we played a concert at an opera house in Texas and the dressing rooms had hundreds of costumes and wigs, etc. Both JJ and her husband Dave, who never miss an opportunity to be goofy, took advantage of dressing up in the most ridiculous clothes just to make us laugh backstage.
I met Michael Omartian through a mutual music publishing contact that set up a meeting for me to chat with Michael and play him some of my songs at his house near Nashville. I thought it would be so intimidating but I immediately felt at ease and comfortable to be myself the moment we sat down to talk. Michael has this incredible positive musical energy that is really contagious and he has a way of valuing what you have to offer in a way that gives you confidence to just put forward your best. He was the one who invited Amy and Vince to sing on my song, "The Other Side", which I wrote about the passing of one of my sisters. My sister was 12 years older than me and she was very musical and loved Amy's music and introduced our whole family to decades of following her career. I remember being 5 or 6 years old and hearing my older siblings playing their Amy Grant albums. It's hard to put into words, but the idea that Amy would end up singing on that song was not even something I could have dreamed and the fact that she and Vince would take the time to honor the memory of my sister the way that they did just meant so much to me and my whole family back in Canada. It's hard to explain how profound it was, but there was a very clear moment when we realized that this was something God had orchestrated to remind our family that He remembers the little things and I know somewhere my sister Sandra was smiling ear to ear at just how good and loving the Father is, to show us He is with us and knows what can bring comfort even in a dark time.
Hallels: Over the years, how do you think you have matured as a writer and a singer?
That's a difficult question for me to answer about myself, but I know that as a writer I trust my instincts more and I feel that when I write I am starting on some sort of a foundation rather than throwing something at the wall and hoping in makes musical sense! I hope that as a singer I have found my own style a bit, I've definitely become more familiar with my strengths and weaknesses so that hopefully helps me make better choices.
Hallels: What's next on your agenda? Are you already planning your next album?
This 'best of' project serves as a sort of bookend for me in terms of what my sound has been and my method for these past 14 years. I am writing a bunch of new songs and dreaming about a new album that I hope begins a fresh chapter as a distinct break from the past in a completely new musical direction. That's the challenge I feel excited about right now. I have always felt like there are other musical landscapes and textures that are maybe even better suited to what I have to offer. Because of how I was 'discovered' and introduced in the pop worship genre, I have always sort of stayed pretty grounded in that world musically and it's been an awesome place to be, but now I feel that this is the time to begin dreaming about phase 2.
Hallels: For our readers who would like to purchase "Writing to Remember," where can they go?
The album is available everywhere digital music is sold. The iTunes and Amazon links are below. To purchase the physical copy, which I so recommend because for something like this there has been a lot of thought and time poured into the experience of the sequencing and the artwork, etc, you can order now on my website or look for it in stores in the new year.
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