By Matt Conner, CCM Magazine
For the last 12 years, Matthew West has enjoyed the presence of an actual Dove Award sitting on a shelf somewhere in his house. The little-known anecdote is that it didn’t actually belong to him.
This October brought West his first actual Dove Award win for Songwriter of the Year for “Broken Things,” a full decade-plus after his wife won an award for helping to design the music packaging around his debut album. Now, he says with a laugh, “We get to balance the bookshelf.”
“It was a humorous point of contention in my house, because my wife actually had more Dove Awards than I did and she’s not even a musician,” laughs West. “Back when I first started my career, my first album was nominated for seven awards. It was a huge year for me and one of the nominations was for music packaging—which means design, wardrobe, layout. It has nothing to do with the music itself. By the end of that night, we’d lost every category that had to do with the songs, but we won Best Music Packaging.”
West’s career is not without accolades, of course, given his resume filled with hits like “The Motions,” “More,” “Forgiveness,” “Grace Wins,” “Hello, My Name Is” and so many others. But the 41-year-old artist says the songwriting angle, more than the rest, is what means so much about this particular first Dove win.
“The reason it’s significant to me—and no offense to the other categories—but songwriting is the one close to my heart,” says West. “To have the honor of being recognized for the songwriting portion is very special to me because I take it so seriously. It makes the award mean that much more on a personal level to me.”
For West, the craft of songwriting has become a discipline for him, an act of obedience and real work rather than some magical moment of inspiration that strikes at odd hours.
“I want to get better at the craft of songwriting,” he says. “At this point I’ve written thousands and thousands of songs. You learn that it’s okay if a song early in your career has more success than the one you just put out. All you can do is stay faithful and develop the gifts God has blessed you with. I hope the Lord is pleased with the talents that he’s given me.”
In order to get in the right mindset, West refers to himself as a “blue-collar songwriter,” and thinks of his trade as one that requires him to show up just like any other job.
“Some people will write when the mood strikes or when they feel inspiration. I try to write songs specifically when I don’t feel like writing them. It’s the same going to the gym when I exercise and don’t feel like it. Even more significantly, when I read my Bible even though I don’t feel like having a quiet time, the Lord shows up. He honors that. It’s more than a feeling or desire but an act of faithfulness doing it. That’s how songwriting is for me.”