When our fair organizers decided to bring Christian artist Matthew West to the stage on the final night of the 2015 Appalachian Fair, they may have thought this would be a quiet, peaceful, calm way to end a very exciting six-day fair. If that is what they thought, they were wrong. Matthew filled the Main Stage area with excitement, energy, personality, and awesome music. After five fantastic nights of new country artists, country legends, country/rock, country that could pass for pop music, and even two bluegrass acts that shared the stage on the same night – Matthew was really that breath of fresh air at this year’s event.
Any of you who listen to Christian radio are already familiar with Matthew’s music. People who walked through the Main Stage area on their way to the midway just might have thought there was a ‘sing-a-long’ going on over there. During his entire show, Matthew’s fans could not seem to keep themselves from singing along. Including little Preslee [pictured above], who was sitting right behind me. I didn’t ask her parents how old she was, I wish I had. But, I don’t believe she could have been older than three. She knew the words to every one of Matthew’s songs; she has those wide-open eyes during the entire show; and, she reached out to Matthew when he walked down the catwalk and got close enough to touch her hand. I believe little Preslee made a memory at that show.
Matthew does a lot more than just put on an awesome show. He has a very impressive resume. He is a multiple-ASCAP Christian Music Songwriter/Artist of the year winners; a four-time GRAMMY nominee, and was awarded his first American Music Award in 2013, and a Billboard Music Award in 2014. I have a feeling there are a lot more wards in his future.
Matthew’s stories, his music, his prayers, even his personality are all inspirational. He met with fans before the show at his Meet & Greet. He was not in a hurry. He would sign as much as you carried in to have signed. He posed for a picture with each of us. And, he talked to us when we were back there. Unlike most M&G lines, there was not the all too familiar rush to get us out of there. He doesn’t just say ‘Hi” – He says, “Hi, how are you?” Or, “It’s nice to meet you”. And, readers, when Matthew West says any of those things to you – he means it. He isn’t just asking “how are you” so he has something to say. I honestly believe he asked, because he wanted to know.
I have a sign on my refrigerator, I’ve had it there for more than 20 years. The sign says, “There are 86,400 seconds in a day. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’.” I just smiled when Matthew sang “Live Forever”. When you hear the song, you will know why. It reminded me of the sign on my refrigerator. And, how important it is to make every second count. My favorite song of the night is probably “Hello My Name Is”. If you don’t know Matthew’s music, I would really like it if you would head on over to YouTube and watch this video. If you watch it once, you are going to be singing with it the next time you hit that little ‘play’ button.
At one point in the show, he brought Kayla [pictured above] on stage with him. She is a cancer patient who has spent some time at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. There were people in the grandstands, behind the fenced in reserved seats. Matthew ran to the end of the runway, jumped off, and walked over to the fence to get closer to those folks in the grandstand. He did everything he could think of to let the fans know that he was on that stage for them. He even stayed after the show to sign autographs for a very long line of fans who were not part of the Meet and Greet before the show.
When he sings “Do Something” and “Forgiveness,” he is doing more than just sing a song. He is delivering a message. He’s a talented writer, musician, and vocalist. And, he’s a talented story-teller. He tells stories with his lyrics. Stories that people want to listen to. Or maybe, these days – they are stories we all need to listen to. I believe Matthew accomplished everything he set out to accomplish with this show. It was enjoyable, uplifting, inspirational, and powerful. There were a lot of smiles, and there were some tears. And, I’m sure Matthew had to feel that his being in Gray, Tenn., tonight accomplished something. If he doesn’t feel that, I’d like to be the one to tell him that he should.
He wasn’t alone on stage. Matthew took the time to introduce his band to us, and I’m going to do that, too. Performing with Matthew were David Childress, who they have nicknamed “Chili”, has been with the group the longest. Jacob Widenhofer, Mikey Wilson and A.J. Pruis play guitar. A.J. also plays keyboards. And Sean McDonald was on drums. I had a little camera problem, and the beautiful images and videos Matthew had playing behind him on stage were wonderful to watch, but, I did have a little trouble with that when I was taking pictures.
I am going to end this with a few more photos from tonight’s show. We’ll try to include some of the band, the Meet & Greet, the autographs being signed afterwards, and even a photo of Matthew and a member of the audience up on stage together, taking a ‘selfie’.
In addition to Matthew’s web site, visit his Facebook page, and please remember to “Like” it while you are there. He has a lot of photos for all of you to look at on his Instagram. there are a lot of videos up on his YouTube channel. You can follow him on Twitter @mattthew_west. If you aren’t already following Country’s Chatter on Twitter, we’d love to have you! You will find us @countryschatter.
That was Saturday night’s show. The fair is over for another year. We haven’t yet told you about the great bluegrass show we had on Friday night, so we’ll do that real soon.