By Alyssa Bjornstad Matt Brouwer’s new record, Where’s Our Revolution (Black Shoe Records), reflects something unique in today’s culture: an approach to songwriting with purposeful honesty.
Canadian-born Brouwer considers music a conversation to be experienced throughout life’s journey. Matt was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule for a “Take 5” with Backseat Writer.
How have you evolved as a musician/songwriter?
Well, I’ve become more confident simply from playing and, playing almost every day for a number of years now, and I have really begun to find my voice as an artist. Sometimes it takes living life and a little water under the bridge to better understand how to communicate honestly and clearly a message of hope that takes into consideration the broader picture of the human struggle without the easy answers.
What role and/or causes do you actively support as a social activist?
I am involved with a relief and medical aid non-profit that I helped to found a few years ago. It’s called New Beginning Resources, and in addition to running a full-time medical mission in Guatemala, we have been building a school in San Pedro that has just been completed. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I also work with World Vision in their fight to eradicate world hunger. This fall they are introducing a new campaign. I got to hear a crisis forum that they presented in Nashville, and I’m very excited about working with them because the need is so great. Yet World Vision is such a proactive organization, doing incredible things in the world. The world is in crisis, but there are also many wonderful things happening. As a traveling artist, I want to tell the inspirational stories that help us remember there is hope.
“The Other Side”—what can you tell me about that song?
It’s a song about the death of a family member. I was in the grocery store one night and was thinking about the loss and my feelings just started to take shape into a song. I went home, wrote it down, and then worked on the verses for about the next seven months, trying to honor the memories of my sister. In the studio, Amy Grant and Vince Gill agreed to sing with me—a real thrill, but even more powerful was a moment when I was talking to my mom after the session in the studio. She reminded me that my sister introduced our family to Amy’s music and how amazing it was that now Amy’s voice was added to this song in tribute to my sister. It was a small but powerful reminder to my family that God remembers these small moments and is present even when we forget or can’t feel Him, He’s there.
Not so long ago, you quit your job, sold your stuff, and hit the road. Why?
A year ago I found myself in Guatemala at a sort of crossroads in my life. I was about to begin working on a new album, but I wasn’t feeling exactly sure about what the next step in my life should be. While I was in Central America, I got a call from a guy I had gotten to know a few years earlier who lives and works with the Mayan people. His call was totally out of the blue, but he said that he felt compelled to tell me that I needed a change. I was supposed to step out of my comfort zone and begin to travel by faith. It wasn’t the specifics I was looking for, but it was unusual enough to grab my attention. So after I got back from the trip, I packed up and/or sold my belongings and embarked on an adventure across North America.
During this time I was really searching, sometimes fervently and sometimes like a lost ship caught in a mind-numbing fog. I walked miles and miles of coastline, talked to strangers, played music in bookstores and pubs, took some time to be with family in Canada, and, on more than one occasion, faced the prospect of sleeping in my car. Thankfully I never had to sleep in my car, but I did sleep outside under a gazebo for a week or two in the Hollywood Hills!
After a year of traveling, I have found new hope: a spiritual passion renewed and a reminder of what drew me to music in the first place. I also have a brand new album that was recorded in the past 3 months directly inspired by this unexpected journey. I am so excited about this new music and the ability to share it with you all is a priceless gift. I was reminded the other day how back in college where I first got serious about music, I used to think that if my friends and I sat down and really got honest, if we wrote a song together, a song could find its way to places we could never go. I really believed that an honest song about life or love, a song about God, had a chance to change someone’s life like my life had been changed by music like that. I believed that a song could change the world. I’ve started to believe again… that’s true.
As a worshiper, what’s your hope for Where’s Our Revolution?
This album is a bit different from the music I have previously recorded, though my last record, Unlearning, was heading this direction. It’s not a praise record or a religious record, but a collection of songs from a Christian perspective. I hope these songs inspire people and encourage them. I think there is joy in the whole experience of music, from writing, performing, and listening. When I finish an album or a song, my experience with it is that you have to let it go, release it and allow God to use what He put on your heart in any way He wants to use it, and to be okay with that. I just want to be a vessel that God can use however He pleases.
Alyssa Bjornstad Alyssa’s greatest accomplishment to date was picking one major in graduate school. Her undergraduate career was filled with indecisiveness—namely, English, Communication, Journalism, and Psychology. When not reading textbooks, doing research, or writing papers, she can be found drinking coffee, painting, philosophizing, blogging, listening to music, drawing, or playing an immovable stringed instrument. After graduation, Alyssa hopes her dream of working for Passion Conferences comes true! Until then, she stays busy editing and contributing to the field of sanity. You can contact her by e-mail plansforhopeATgmailDOTcom.