Singer, Songwriter, Worship Leader and Actor Matthew Hawk has just released his first Christmas EP. Louder Than The Music spoke to Matthew to find out about some of the stand out moments from the movies he has appeared in, and the story being his 'Merry Christmas EP'.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
I was 19 years old and I wanted to be a pastor. I was literally praying for a musician in our prayer group who wanted God to launch him into a music career and I heard a voice tell me, “I didn’t call him for that, I called you for that.” I was a little freaked out at first. I told our pastor about it two weeks later, and he said, “That was probably God.” He let me borrow a guitar and I started learning worship songs. But there was something inside of me that wanted to write songs more than anything, and reach people with them and draw them closer to God. Those were the humble beginnings-I say humble, because I was terrible at first.
What are some of your favorite moments from appearing in various films over the years?
God has made it clear to me that Hollywood was a mission field. I lost a church worship leading job during a pastor change-over, and I was looking for temporary work. I got an agent and was offered to play guitar in the television hit series, The Vampire Diaries. I am very anti-anything vampires. As a street pastor, I learned, there are people who are involved in vampire occults and they literally worship the devil as part of it. So, when I got the call, I was like, “God, if this is a test, I can turn it down. I need the money, but I want to be pleasing to you.” And I felt the Lord telling me to do it. So, I did it. Most of it was a 2 shot with me and one of the lead actors, for several days. He asked me what I did before and I told him about worship leading, so he picked my brain about God and the church. I shared God’s love with him. On the third day, as we said our goodbyes, he said to me, “Matthew, I need to look into this Jesus thing, because it seems to work wonders for you.”
There was another film I was working that I had to run lines with a famous actor every evening in his hotel room. I prayed for an open door. One night he showed me pictures of his daughter and told me how he missed her. I was like, “I never understood God’s love until I had my own children.” I went on to explain how God loves us regardless of our choices or our sin. There’s nothing we can do to make him love us any less. Because we are his children. By the end of the night, he was on his knees weeping before God and asked me to pray for him. This was my mission field.
Tell us about your new EP 'Merry Christmas' and how you selected the songs for it?
Merry Little Christmas started as a single song: The Greatest Gift. I wrote that song for a sermon last Christmas, and everyone loved it. So we decided to record it and release it. But then, I really wanted to record my version of my favorite Christmas song, Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas (titled, Merry Little Christmas.) My version is very much tied to my child’s birth, and almost losing him to a deformed heart, and my wife almost dying giving birth to him. It was a very dark Christmas, but full of hope and joy, too. My somber version is a reminder that even in the darkest times, we can celebrate the true reason for the season: Jesus come in the flesh. God was there with my little family, holding us all.
We understand you're also working on a new album to be released next year, what more can you tell us about that?
I've had so many songs penned up inside of me for a number of years, but my film schedule kept me from being able to focus on my personal music. I’ve also matured a lot in my musical taste. I’ve been able to finally get back to a studio and get some of these songs out, since I’ve taken a break from film, but with a more mature sound than I’ve ever had before. I’m a child of the 90’s, and I love that whole authentic raw, emotional style of playing. The album will have a strong 90’s flair, but yet contemporary as well. It’s Norah Jones meets Counting Crows, Coldplay, and Dave Matthews, but Jesus-infused, and yet similar to modern day bands like We The Kingdom and Zach Williams, but less commercial mainstream. However, the first single will be released in February, and it’s a melodic rock pop tune that I wrote a long time ago, but never recorded. I feel like God had me hold onto it until now.
What message would you like people to take from your music?
Hope. I used to be nicknamed melancholic Matthew. You can hear that on my songs like, Merry Little Christmas. I want to write songs that touch people where they are at, and then offer them the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ. The new album will reflect this quite a bit. I have met so many “holy” Christian artists, and I’m just this raw, authentic, once-broken, beggar at the gates with tattered clothes, so grateful for any crumbs of God’s grace. And then someone hands me the key to get in the gates and offers me a new, clean robe, and I’m overwhelmed with tears of joy and love… but I have this compassion that I want to grab as many of the other beggars I can and bring them all inside with me. I want them to see the grace, love, and mercy in Jesus Christ.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
My music is constantly evolving. My last album, Overcome, was more of an Americana, country-fried, melodic rock sound with a 90’s flair. I’m moving a little more towards a mature sound with more piano, clean guitar and hopefully some strings, etc, yet still very 90’s sounding. We The Kingdom has brought back some old school stuff, paving the way in Christmas music, so I’m grateful for that. I just love everything real and authentic, stripped down, and mostly 90’s. Man, CCM in the 90’s was amazing. It was the birth of the Christian music explosion. I don’t listen to a lot of modern music. I learned to create music that is representative of me, and people either seem to love it or hate it. The same goes for my voice. I have that deep, baritone voice that either touches people or they can’t stand it. It’s not a syrupy sweet sound.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
I would love to work with Ed Cash. He’s co-written on so many Christian albums. But now that he started We The Kingdom, I don’t know how much time he would have to work on anyone else’s projects anymore. I used to be a huge David Crowder fan. It would be cool to work with him, too (he also worked with Ed.) We used to go to the same church, but I never really got to talk to him.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
Success is defined by if my songs are literally touching people and drawing them closer to God. I wrote a song years ago and recorded an acoustic version of it about the prodigal son (It’s going to be on the new album in full production and we are re-releasing it.) I received a letter from a woman once who told me she was going to kill herself because her life was so miserable. She had a gun and it was 3am, and she said out of nowhere, God put that song on her streaming radio, and spoke to her through it. She said my song saved her life because she could relate to it and felt it was God talking to her. That’s success. If I saved one person’s life and I never touch another soul with my music, I’ve already been successful.
What is your favorite album of all time?
Oh man… that’s too hard. Ha ha. Would it be narcissistic if I said it’s the one I’m working on right now? ;-). My favorite album and artists are always changing. And in a few years it will be my new next one.
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
This seems like my typical daily life when I was living in Florida. It depends on the time of day and what mood I’m in. I can be moody and I’m not a creature of habit. Why does Keith Urban’s “Long Hot Summer” come to mind? Lol, but I wouldn’t choose that one, although it fits the hot island theme. Maybe I would choose an island song to match the heat? Do you remember the band, Christafari? They had some great hot beach music. Or maybe I would choose something chill and acoustic. Don Henley’s Boys of Summer comes to mind, too. Why are all these summer songs coming to me? Let’s go with Burlap to Cashmere’s Eileen’s song. Good stuff. Great beach tune. Yup, that one.