Church songs BIO:
Matt Papa is as likely to quote G.K. Chesterton in casual conversation as he is to describe himself as a “weird dude.” He is a delightful combination of gifted musician and songwriter, loving husband, father, and inquisitive theologian. And with all those roles and attributes, he remains ever-focused on a singular goal: to help people see the beauty and glory of Jesus.
The past few years for Matt, his wife Lauren and their four children have been shifting sands to say the least. They uprooted from North Carolina, where their family began, then lived in Georgia for a year before settling in Nashville.
“Probably ten or more years ago I announced a little ‘never’... I will never move to Nashville,” says Papa from his home just outside of the music city where he is building a studio. “I’m convinced we start ourselves on a magnetic path toward whatever that thing is that mystifies us, scares us, annoys us, and ultimately awaits us.”
Papa, a veteran of record deals with nine albums under his belt, finds himself in a new season of life - as an indie artist (again) who is now mentoring other worship leaders and songwriters, and listening for the call of God on his life while continuing to write the songs and hymns that are inspired from his life’s pursuit.
Many of his previous albums have included hymns, such as “Come, Behold The Wondrous Mystery” from 2013’s “Look and Live,” which was included in “Hymns Of Grace,” a new hymnal released by John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary. Papa’s latest project “Church Songs” (an EP, October 28, 2016) offers five new hymns co-written with Matt Boswell and Aaron Keyes.
“Hymns take longer to write than a typical song,” says Papa. “A song like Christ The Sure and Steady Anchor took years to write because it needed some life experience, some liturgy, and a lot of theology to get it completed.” “Another song on the project called Hollow is one I have been leading at conferences and churches for the past few years and it has taken a couple of turns lyrically but every time I would lead it, people would ask how they could get it so I knew its message was connecting and that would be a song worth chasing.”
While the evangelical church began using hymns in early days for congregational singing, many of the church’s artists and songwriters have lost hymn writing as a practice. Today’s modern church is seeing a resurgence of liturgy and hymns.
Papa has had the opportunity to teach a number of songwriting and worship conferences as well as lead disciple now events and retreats for local churches around the country. These gatherings have allowed him to mentor young songwriters and inspire church worship teams to pursue the heart of God, chase songs and to find a voice for their own art.
“Hymns have an aesthetic density that isn’t present in all of the church’s songs,” continues Papa. “They represent transcendence both as art for our culture and as a part of our sung worship of Jesus. My own focus on the Psalms as laments and the beauty of their emotional honesty brought these songs to life.” “When we sing a lyric like ‘Our sins they are many, His mercy is more’ that is a truth for all time, all places and for all generations and it is worth the effort for sing that truth.”
As an itinerant worship leader, he may not have pictured himself at home in Nashville. And while Church Songs captures what you expect from Matt - lyrical honesty, passion, his acoustic guitar and piano - producer Christian Paschall (Crowder, Housefires) tastefully applied touches of Nashville’s famed pedal steel and lead electric guitars to these hymns. His life may be evening out these days, but Matt is persistent in his pursuit of the captivating beauty of Jesus and his desire to keep things a little shaken up.
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