Matt Redman Brings Worship To Abbey Road

Posted by Craig Borlase on 15 June 2015

With a discography that starts with studio albums before leading on to a run of live offerings, Matt Redman’s latest release - Unbroken Praise - is a hybrid: recorded live in a studio in front of 350 highly excited worship leaders, musicians and friends.

And what a studio. Abbey Road is to music what Wimbledon is to tennis. Kanye West was strolling around the corridors when Matt and team were prepping, and the band got to use the 100 year old piano (Steinway, obvs) that appears on The Beatles’ Lady Madonna.

But Matt’s decision to record there was not about nostalgia or rubbernecking the rich and famous. “A lot of people think of the crossing and the people writing on the wall and assume that it’s a nostalgic place, a souvenir studio. But it’s a really amazing working environment. There’s so much going on there.

“I’d worked there a few times in the past and loved it. I always wanted to do something in that big orchestral room - where they do all the film scores. I thought it would be great to have church.”

He got his wish in February.

“We’ve recorded the last couple of albums at a conference in the USA with close to 2,000 people. But at Abbey Road it was nice to do something different – being in my home country and looking out seeing friends and family, people from my church. In a funny way, to know a third of them all by name made for more pressure.”

Pressure, yes. But it also intensified a vital ingredient: the sense that every worshipper in the room has a part to play.

Everyone attending the recording was asked to contribute to the artwork: a graffiti-tagged London street sign mockup covered in the signatures of those attending. It was a deliberate decision. “I’m always so conscious of the fact that people think I did it all because it’s my name on the cover, but it’s not me, it’s a huge team thing. There are so many people involved: I didn’t write any of the songs on my own, they’re all co-writes, and then there’s my band, the string section, the extra singers, the 350 worship leaders and label people, plus the Abbey Road team. Everyone giving their heart, their time, their best. All their names are on the cover.”

For all involved, these are encouraging days for the world of worship and Matt’s clear that production and presentation have both improved within the church over the last fifteen years. “We need to be more confident about what we have done, the fact that churches have moved on greatly in music. As well as taking it out into the world we’ve got more people coming through the doors.

“I think it’s a good change as long as we make sure that we’re running everything through the filter of the heart of worship. The heartbeat has to be the same.”

When it comes to worship, whether recording an album or leading thousands in an arena, the idea of everyone having a part to play runs deep within Matt, just as it does in the movements he has been associated with like Passion and the A21 Campaign. His ‘heart of worship’ metaphor is a good one. Just as hearts exist to power the rest of the body, Matt knows that worship exists for a bigger purpose, not just exist for the sake of it.

“When we released the 27Million single I didn’t mind giving it a push as it was for a cause, to make noise about a certain issue. But when there’s an over emphasis on getting Christians into the media and an under emphasis on having Christians who are teachers that worries me a bit.

“Why does it have to be that it’s a Christian singer? Why not Christian engineers, label heads and designers? When the kingdom of God is functioning as it should you’ll see Christian stuff in every area of society - in politics and journalism, in music that plays in clubs and pubs and schools and so on. When you’re part of a bigger picture you’re shaping society.”

To quote one of Matt’s earliest influences, Vineyard founder John Wimber, when it comes to the Holy Spirit, “everyone gets to play”.

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