Matthew West 'Into the Light: 'It's going to be a great night'
By James Beaty Senior Editor
Grammy-nominated contemporary Christian music recording artist Matthew West says there’s a special, personal bond between him and people in the McAlester area.
“We’re excited to be back in McAlester,” West said in a conversation with the News-Capital. “The people are so kind to us.”
West is bringing his Into the Light tour to McAlester for a concert set to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Southeast Expo Center.
He’s bringing two other major acts to McAlester with him — Sidewalk Prophets and Jason Castro.
“We’ve got great artists with us and a great crew,” West said.
The concert is benefiting the Ryan McAfee Memorial Scholarship fund. By coincidence, Thursday would have been McAfee’s birthday.
“I have a really special family connection with the McAfee family,” West said.
“The connection is that boy’s life is still inspiring others, because of the way he lived his life,” West said, referring to the former McAlester resident and Canadian student who inspired West’s song “The Reason for the World.”
“He died too soon,” West said of McAfee, who died in an automobile accident in 2009. He hopes his Thursday McAlester concert “will be more proof of that young man’s legacy.”
This will mark the fourth time West has performed in McAlester to benefit the scholarship fund, having previously performed in McAlester in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“We’re really planning for a great night,” said Linda McAfee, Ryan McAfee’s mother. “I think this will be the best one yet.
Linda McAfee, who is known in the Christian music community because of her family’s association with West, said she’s heard from individuals as far away as Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Joplin and Dallas, who have told her they’re traveling to McAlester for the concert.
Many of her acquaintances are known as the Storytellers — others whose stories West has told through his songs.
“Ryan’s been gone 4 and a-half years now,” said Danny McAfee, Ryan’s father. “God’s still using his birthday in a great way. It’s amazing.”
The artists perfroming in McAlester Thursday have been topping the charts.
West’s most recent single “Hello, My Name Is” spent 17 week in the number one slot on the contemporary Christian music charts. West said he’s been told the song set a new record for topping the charts at 17 weeks.
“What an incredible ride,” he said.
Ironically, Sidewalk Prophets had the number two single for 14 of those weeks, with their song “Help Me Find it.”
Other huge hits for Sidewalk Prophets include “The Words I Need to Say” and “You Love Me Anyway.”
The other guest, Jason Castro, is known for his single “Only a Mountain.” He’s also known as the dreadlocks- bedecked performer who had a strong finish as the third runner-up in n the seventh season of “American Idol.”
West said he’s written some new songs with the Sidewalk Prophets and he and Castro have become great friends as well.
The three acts have a chemistry that audiences seem to sense in their shows.
“It’s a great show from start to finish,” West said.
He and Castro became such good friends, that West’s band is performing with Castro during the “into the Light” tour.
“I wanted to offer audiences a chance to hear his music the way it’s meant to be heard,” West said.
In McAlester, West will have the same band with him that backed him last time, during his 2011 performance with Mandisa.
Why is contemporary Christian music growing in popularity?
“I hope it’s because the music is good,” West said. “Maybe they’re looking for something positive in their life, positive music and a positive image in the world,” West said of the growing Christian music audience.
West said his Into the Light tour has been different. Why?
“Part of it is having a hit song; that’s kind of cool,” West said. “It adds to the buzz.”
He’s also glad his own career continues to gain momentum.
“I didn’t expect it after five records,” he said.
Although West has been recording for about five years, it took years of work beforehand to reach the point where he could release his first album.
He’s just released a new DVD, with live performances from his “Into the Light” album.
He said his new single will be “Do Something,” an jumpy, up tempo number form “Into the Light.”
Although in the midst of a tour, he’s also busy making future plans.
“I have a lot on the horizon,” West said. “Next year, I’ll be a guest speaker and performer at the Women of Faith conferences.”
West has kept his performances fresh and judging from the audience reaction, exciting, during his previous McAlester appearances.
“I want to sing every song like it’s my first time,” he said. Although he may have performed a song many times, he realizes it may be the first time someone has seen him perform it.
West also talked about living in Nashville. While known as a center for country music, it’s also the base for a number of contemporary Christian and gospel artists.
“I think it’s a neat environment overall,” West said.
“The creative community is all around you, great songwriters and producers.”
What about his input on the production of his records.
“When a painter paints, he’s putting the paint on the canvas,” West said, while giving a nod to his own producer. “He’s not asking someone else to tell him what color to use.”
Who inspires him today?
“There are so many artists that continue to inspire me, “West said, citing “the timeless ones, some of who are in their 50s or 60s today.”
He specifically mentioned James Taylor and fellow contemporary Christian music artists Steven Curtis Chapman as huge inspirations.
West is well-acquainted with Ryan McAfee’s brother, Lance McAfee, who has previously toured with West to tell Ryan’s story.
Ryan McAfee is the former Canadian Cougars basketball standout who died in 2009 in a tragic accident west of McAlester when a piece of heavy equipment fell off a truck and into the path of the car he was driving.
Following the accident, Lance McAfee, found some lyrics he hadn’t seen before on his brother’s computer. He later learned that the words were the lyrics to Matthew West’s song, “The Motions.”
West’s Grammy-nominated song speaks about doing more than just going through “the motions,” not only in trying to live a Christian life, but in other aspects of life as well.
The family decided to have the song played at Ryan McAfee’s funeral. When someone later e-mailed Matthew West about what had happened, he decided to reach out to the McAfee family.
West then offered his support to the Ryan McAfee Memorial Scholarship benefit, and scheduled his first McAlester concert in 2009.
In addition to the concert, there will be a silent auction Thursday for sports, music and movie-related memorabilia, much of it signed or autographed, according to Kellye Medley, one of the organizers of the event.
Portions of the proceeds will go the Ryan McAfee Memorial Scholarship Fund and the rest will go to another charity, Medley said.
The silent auction will be held at the Expo Center and will begin at 3 p.m. Thursday, Medley said. Plans call for it to continue through the concert intermission. Winners will be able to take their items Thursday night, she said,
Meanwhile, what would West say to someone who has never attended one of his concerts?
“I would say follow the tail lights to the show,” he said.
“We believe something special is going to take place.’
It will also be an opportunity “to remember one of our own who was taken too soon and to remember what’s important, such as family,” West said.