Almost three decades have passed since Matt started to lead worship at his local church. It didn’t take him long to discover how steep the learning curve could get…
WAW: What were the things that helped you as an 11-15 year old worship leader?
Matt: Having honest but caring feedback. Having someone who would tell me the truth if I was singing out of tune, if a section of a song didn’t work or if I needed to go away and rehearse a song a little more before leading it again. But it never came over as negative; it always came across as trying to help me grow.
It also helped having people to look up to, musically, theologically, and leadership-wise. I had personal connections with some of the people I looked up to the most – Kevin Prosch, Bryn Haworth, Noel Richards, Graham Kendrick – I aspired to be like them and got to hang out with them.
WAW: Was it hard to learn to take correction?
Matt: I grew into it. Everyone has their insecurities, but when you bring a new song and nobody’s ever heard it and it means something really special to you – it can be hard to accept what people say. We used to have conference calls before making the albums and I would bring 20 songs and for an hour we’d tear them apart. I used to dread those calls, but now I look forward to them. I know what’s coming – lots of feedback that will cause me tonnes more work and the need to fight off insecurity – but I look forward to those moments. They’re the ones that help me grow the most. You might as well find out now what’s wrong with the song than two years later when you think ‘why doesn’t this song work when I try to lead with it?’
WAW: What do typical 11-15 year old worship leaders need to hear to encourage them today?
Matt: The most helpful advice I heard was from Brian Doerksen: put a universal theme in a unique way. I run everything through that and I’m always looking for new ways to express Biblical themes.
For a young leader you could apply that to how you lead, asking what’s the one thing that I can do when I lead to give things freshness? It could be something musical, not to stand out for the sake of it but to keep moving creatively.
I like the idea that the ceiling of one generation is the floor of the next. You can take everything from people around you – how they write, how they lead, how they arrange songs – and add to it, making it relevant. With songs that fly around the world it’s easy for everything to sound the same and be presented the same, and there’s nothing crazy wrong with that but I do love it when I see someone throw their own little twist on it, to add in a bit of their creative perspective into the mix….
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