Undeniable: Mat Kearney, An Emerging Rock Star
- Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Even though he eschews the label “Christian artist” as a marketing tag, Kearney wanted to get his music out there. When “Undeniable” was sent to Christian radio as a download, it became a successful single, which surprised Kearney. “I love my music,” he says, “but I didn’t know who also would love it.” Once released to the mainstream, it caught the ear of music producers for ABC’s hit series Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s been, well, undeniable ever since.
“It’s a song about God and people and love—it’s about life,” he says. “It’s totally vertical and all of that at the same time. I wouldn’t pin it down and say it’s just about a girl; it’s definitely about my faith. I wrote ‘Undeniable’ about this kid. We were hanging out with him, loving on him and encouraging him. We invited him to be a part of the recording session. He was about 13 and going through this crazy time; they were tearing down his school. They were tearing down this old building and building this beautiful school in its place. He was going through these trials, but there’s this beauty from ashes story in his life.”
Still, there’s not a lot of clarity in Kearney’s songs of poetic yearning—is it a girl or God for whom he’d “take a bullet”? Which does he mean, when he sings, “I will wait for you”? But Kearney’s not sure he needs or wants to say what all these references mean definitively.
“It’s a funny thing,” he says. “C.S. Lewis said that romantic love is what proved to him that God existed. So I think that sometimes there’s a healthy blurring of lines between the love a man feels for a woman and the love that we experience for God. That’s why the Song of Solomon exists (in Sacred Writ); it’s God’s way of showing us His love, by putting people that you love on earth.”
“I can’t help but wonder, who is this wind at my back/A whisper to walk on, come on from all of that/It’s undeniable how brilliant you are/In an unreliable world you shine like a star.”
Since Kearney remains friends with folks he’s worked with in the past, he admits being cautious describing how he moved from a disc licensed to a Christian label to mainstream distribution through the Sony system. “I’m being coy,” he says, “because I did turn down eight record deals from exclusively contemporary Christian music labels, because I didn’t feel that was the avenue I wanted to go down. I knew that I wanted to be on a pop label that could put my record on the mainstream airwaves. I felt like I made a record that could connect with a whole lot of people. So I was holding out for something. I knew that I wanted to sign with a label that would put it out to as many people as possible, because I really believed in it.”
Ask Kearney where he turns for role models and he speaks of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and U2—the usual suspects. As the success of his long-lasting “debut” continues, he was offered an opening slot on an arena tour with Kelly Clarkson for the summer [Editor’s Note: the tour has since been cancelled], the chance to play the kind of venues this caliber of artist represents. Kearney is excited by the idea of taking songs written in his bedroom to big concert halls where they can be transformed into pop anthems for a generation. I got a glimpse of that, as the largely female audience sang his songs back to him in Indianapolis.
Excitement is building, he suggests, “This whole journey has been a process for me to find out what I’m supposed to be doing. But this is it; this is why I was put on earth.”
© 2007 CCM Magazine. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Click here to try a free issue.
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