Singer, songwriter and, above all, storyteller Matthew West will bring his “Into the Light” concert tour to Decatur Saturday, Nov. 16.
Along with songs, West also brings stories – selected from among thousands that have been sent to him, which provide the inspiration for his songs and evidence of a God who continues to work in this world.
The concert is 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 1200 Preskitt Rd. Also performing will be Sidewalk Prophets and Jason Castro.
Tickets are $20 in advance ($25 the day of the show) by calling the church at 940-627-3235 or emailing www.firstdecatur.us. For groups of 20 or more, the price is $15 per ticket.
A four-time Grammy nominee, West released “Into the Light: Life Stories and Songs” on CD and DVD Aug. 13. It features songs from the album, as well as live concert footage interspersed with interviews with the people whose stories have inspired the songs.
Some of the songs, including “Forgiveness,” “Hello, My Name Is” and “Strong Enough” have already become hits. Each shares a story of someone’s real-life struggles.
Several years ago during a concert, West started inviting his audiences to share their stories with him. That opened the floodgates of inspiration, and since then he has received more than 20,000 stories from fans all over the world, providing material for many of his songs as well as two books.
“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,” he said in a news release. “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.”
Among the stories:
- “Forgiveness” 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 petitioned the court to let him out of prison early. He’ll be released this fall after serving 11 years and will join her at speaking engagements warning young people about the dangers of drinking and driving, and sharing the power of forgiveness.
- “Into the Light” is the story of Alice, who wrote West about escaping an abusive marriage. “She had been too scared to leave for a long time and had believed the lies she was telling herself – that it was better for her family,” West said. They left on a cold, rainy night and ended up at a shelter, where they woke up the next morning to bright sunshine, feeling safe for the first time.
- “The Power of Prayer” came to West from a 13-year-old boy in California whose mom and dad were constantly fighting. He wrote a prayer for them on a special wall at his church, and after the minister came to visit and pray with them, his dad’s heart was changed.
- “Do Something” was inspired by a 20-year-old college student who went to Uganda for a semester to study and found an orphanage where children were being neglected and abused. She got the government to shut down the orphanage and release the 40 children to her – and now she operates an orphanage in Uganda.
The stories have energized him as a songwriter.
“There’s something that feels important when I sit down with the responsibility of somebody’s life story in front of me, and I’m going to put that to music in some way,” he said. “It’s not important like, ‘Look at this awesome thing that I’m doing,’ but it feels important because this person has trusted me with their story. My responsibility is to them.”
Interviewed by phone last week, West said the 31-city concert tour that began in September ends with four shows in Texas.
“We’ve really enjoyed it, but we’re also excited about getting to the finish line and getting to rest a little afterward,” he said. “We’re really grateful for all the folks who come out to see us.”
He’s played in some major venues in big cities, but West said he enjoys playing cities the size of Decatur and smaller.
“The audiences may not be as accustomed to having big shows come their way, so at times you get a greater level of excitement in those shows,” he said.
West grew up in Chicago and moved to Nashville in 1999. Since then, he’s been writing songs and recording them, touring and building a career in music. Over the last several years, he has branched out to write songs for other artists as well.
“In today’s music world, you have to be multi-faceted,” he said. “You have to have different dimensions to what you do. Writing songs for other people has become a real creative outlet for me.”
Rascal Flatts, Michael W. Smith, Billy Ray Cyrus, Casting Crowns, Diamond Rio and other artists have recorded his songs.
“It’s fun to have these outlets whether I’m working on my own record or someone else’s,” he said.
His two books, “The Story of Your Life” and “Forgiveness” have been inspired by the stories people have shared with him. He has also started a nonprofit organization called “Population We” – teaming up with his dad, a minister, to follow up on the stories he continues to receive, and help those who reach out to him.
“We’re going to be building this network of resources to help become a conduit and connect these hurting people to the help they need so that they can begin to heal,” he said. “It’s changing everything about what I’m doing – not just the way I write music, but how we’re going to go about caring for this community of people who are connected.”