Matthew West Was Once Rejected by Record Labels: 'I Found a Different Career'

  • Michael Foust Crosswalk Headlines Contributor
  • Updated Mar 22, 2023
Matthew West Was Once Rejected by Record Labels: 'I Found a Different Career'

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Matthew West has written songs for dozens of artists and won multiple awards, including an American Music Award, a Billboard Music Award and five ASCAP Christian Songwriter of the Year honors.

Years ago, though, West wasn't well-known. In fact, no one wanted to hire him.

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"I tried to get a record deal for three years and got rejected by all the labels," West told Christian Headlines.

That was two decades ago. During those three years, West did what came naturally: He kept writing music.

It took him about three years to land a deal.

"I found a different career, which was being an everyday songwriter – writing songs with and for other artists," West said. "So I wasn't the singer. My first songs [that were] recorded weren't recorded by me – they were recorded by others."

West, though, eventually landed a record deal. Since then, he's recorded 46 songs that landed on Billboard's Hot Christian Songs chart, including 21 Top 10 hits and six that reached No. 1. He's landed 12 No. 1 songs on Billboard's Christian Airplay chart.

His latest album, My Story Your Glory, peaked at No. 1 on Billboard's Christian Albums list. It includes 22 tracks, a number that is roughly double the number on a typical album. He calls it "two albums in one." Half the songs involve West telling the story of "my life and the story of other people's lives," he said. The other half are worship songs – a "response to how God is at work redeeming the broken stories of our lives," he said.

Even though he has a record deal, West has continued to write songs for other artists. He was a co-writer of Anne Wilson's breakout hit My Jesus, which won a Dove Award. He has more than 100 songwriting credits.

"I sort of have two careers in Nashville," he said. "… I'm always writing songs."

Each morning, West sits at his piano and begins playing "the first thing that comes to mind." Often, it's new music created in the moment.

"It's actually kind of an extension of my quiet time, but I push record on my phone," he told Christian Headlines. "As the coffee machine is warming up, I'm warming up my songwriter brain."

Song ideas, he said, come to him throughout the week.

"I'm always trying to have my antennas up and pay attention to the world around me," he said. "Sometimes, I'll get an idea from a devotional book I'm reading. But I always, in my phone, keep my notes. I have just hundreds and hundreds of titles and song ideas ready to go when the mood strikes."

His newest album, he says, represents a new path for his music.

"I feel like there's sort of two categories [for Christian music]," he said. "There's songs about faith – vertical or worship songs. And then there's songs about life, from a faith lens, from a faith perspective. And that's the category I've always felt like my songwriting leans towards – telling my story, telling other people's stories, but not necessarily songs that were sung in the church on Sunday morning. And that started to kind of change over the last few years. And that's why this album felt very much like almost two statements in one.

"I'm really excited to kind of write songs that I typically haven't gravitated towards more – worship anthems – and that's just kind of been on my heart lately."

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jason Kempin/Staff

Music courtesy: ©Soundstripe Library


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.