by Susan Lloyd
Sanctus Real Interview, Part 2
a peace you just have to learn to find in life that says we are human
and God is God and that's that. When you find that,
you can just rest. " --Matt
In part 1 of our interview with front man Matt Hammitt of Sanctus Real, we learned of the band's new tour, their involvement with Mocha Club, and their hopes for what God will do with new songs while they are on the road. In part 2, Matt reveals more about the tour experience and how God is using the diffulculties and healing of his marriage to minister to other people.
is a song on your album called “Take Over Me” about
complete surrender which reminds us that we need to belong completely to
Christ. You guys are doing your album start to finish on your tour which
for you must be interesting. Are you seeing people respond to that song
and to the album in general?
-MH: The past few nights have been tremendous, especially lyrically. The first place we went we were able to put the words up on the screen. You could see people “get it”. You could watch their faces and as they watched the words and could hear them played there were a lot of really cool moments. There would be a connection and you could see the light going off. A certain lyric would come up on the screen and everybody would cheer. There was a sense of people saying “I go through that, too”. That's all you can really ask for---that the song you write makes somebody feel the same feeling that you had when you wrote it. It draws the community even closer to Christ. There might be some sort of revelation in the lyric of our struggles or our humanity that is drawing us closer to God. It's pretty huge to have a a sense of redemption in the room and people celebrate with you.
-TT: That is the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of what God does through music and what He's doing through you guys. I have to ask about one more song, but before I get to that, there is this burning question I must ask. There is such a huge variety of music out there for us to listen to, is there anything on your iPod that would really surprise us?
-MH: I'm actually a sucker for pop-country music.
-TT: Oh wow...so you're all about Taylor Swift? Is she on your iPod?
-MH: Yeah...she is...I do like Taylor Swift and also Lady Antebellum. Especially Lady Antebellum. Their songwriting is incredible. I'm a real sucker for lyrics, and they take lyrics to the next level of crafting in that industry. But I don't know, what might be a surprise to find on my iPod? I'm always changing music on my iPod, but I think that pop-country thing is something that people will find a surprise (laughs)
-TT: We have so much to celebrate musically and there is so much great music out there. And you guys have put out such a solid album with Pieces of a Real Heart. There are several Sanctus Real songs that mean a lot to me, but this is the first time I've really listened to an entire album of yours and paid close attention. “Lead Me” stopped me in my tracks, and I had to stop what I was doing and listen to it again. It was just that powerful. I'd love to hear more about that song and the story behind it.
-MH: My wife and I
have been married for almost nine years and we have two little girls;
Emmy who is four and Claire who is one and a half, with
a third baby on the way. Right now, my wife and I are in a season where
we are really enjoying a thriving marriage emotionally and spiritually.
We are just very connected. And you know I usually tell people that at
a concert right off the bat but then I say, “Well, guess what...I
can say that with confidence now but it wasn't always that way.” Years
ago we went through some really hard times with unresolved conflict in
our marriage. A lot of it was because I was on the road and I would get
home and I was really tired. And I would totally be feeling needy. And
I would get home and she was needy too. That's just not a good combination
when you have two people who are feeling empty looking at each other
to give something that the other one just doesn't have and and as much
as we wanted to believe it was true, Christ just wasn't at the center
of our family and our relationship. It really put a huge strain on our
marriage. I specifically remember more than one time during an argument
where one or the other of us would actually say to the other, “I
just can't do this anymore”. It's like the moment of truth because
for my wife and I, we've always said divorce isn't for us, so you know
in that moment there is no other option but to fix this. And so as messy
and painful as it is to go see a counselor and begin to tear your chest
open and start digging into the root of all your failures and insecurities
it had to be done.
It's really hard to face all your downfalls and weaknesses. But we started to do this and about eight months into this journey, early last year my wife sat me down and said, “We've started digging in to the journey towards healing and we've learned a lot of things in counseling. Take your good intentions and put them into action. I need you to be a spiritual leader at home. I need you to be the rock.” I just wept. I went to the Lord and said, “I want peace in my home. I want so badly to be the man you've called me to be, a man of integrity who can lead this family spiritually. But there are so many ways I feel incapable of fulfilling this great task of being a great husband and father. In times like this when there is conflict. It's so hard to feel like I know how to resolve this. Lord I want so badly for you to lead me in that.” And that afternoon I wrote the guts of that song....the cry of a wife to be loved by her husband, the cry of our children to be loved by a father, and then the prayer of a husband and father given up to Christ to help him accomplish the task that we are called to as men. I feel like that day I had a decision. Am I going to keep living like a boy? Or am I going to live like a man? Am I going to keep dreaming about what I'll be some day or how I'm going to lead my family daily spiritually, daily...or am I going to do it? I stepped up to the plate. With God's help, I really started doing that. It was a long, hard road to work through a lot of the things that build up between a husband and a wife in a relationship and to get to the root of all those issues and find the healing. But man, when we started putting Christ at the center of it, it started taking shape and it became everything He had always wanted for it to be.
I look back at the start of our marriage, and I thought that was really good. But now I look at all this stuff that we've been through and how the Lord has healed us now, and I wouldn't take it back for anything. We've made it through that time and we are growing spiritually and emotionally together. It's such a blessing to be able to tell other people, when we sing the song, you know we still struggle, we still fight about some things, but we are committed to putting Christ at the center of everything we do as a family. As a man asking other men to join with me to being committed as well to being that spiritual leader in their families, trying to change the trend of brokenness in our homes. There's a lot of broken homes even within the church. We are doing what we can to reach out to people and say, “We can make it. We can have the kind of marriages that please the Lord. We can have wholeness within our families.” That's the kind of change we want to be a part of. That's one reason for playing the song.
-TT: That's a huge
blessing for your children, having a healthy marriage. That becomes their
standard. I think your story is amazing and I can
see God's hand in it. I think sharing that story is going to have a huge
impact. And before I leave you to enjoy your day off, I have to ask one
more question, and that's how can your fans support you through prayer?
-MH: Our families give up so much to let us come out for days and weeks at a time. Pray that the Lord will keep them safe. Pray that He will bless them and give them peace in our absence. And of course, pray for our safety...that's a huge thing. Every time we go out and we are on the road or we are flying so often, there is always a chance that something could happen. Just pray that the Lord protects us and brings us home safely to our wife and kids. And then the big thing obviously is that the songs are things that the Lord will use...that they will be heard in the moments that people really need to hear the message in them. Our hope is that they will be used to bring people closer to the Lord.
-TT: Well, I thank you so much for what you do and I appreciate your families for sharing you guys with us. And I thank you so much for your time today. It's been great to hear more of your heart about the tour and your new songs. God bless you as you continue on your tour!
Sanctus Real is on tour through May 7. You can learn more about the band
and their current tour by going to http://www.sanctusreal.com/. You can
learn more about Mocha Club and how to be involved by going to https://www.mochaclub.org/sponsor/sanctus
TT: So you have a day off today...that's awesome! I'm sure you're glad about that although tour just started Wednesday, is that right?
MH: Yeah, tour started last Wednesday. We were in Albuquerque, NM. It's definitely been cool to be with all the guys again; Addison Road and Above the Golden State, they are friends and it's great to be with all of them for sure.
TT: I saw that Addison Road had tweeted a picture of something on fire yesterday. Did they have an issue with their van or trailer or something?
MH: Yeah, oh man, they've had all kinds of issues over the past week. It's been really tough to watch them deal those things they've been going through. Ryan and Jenny who are married in the band, both their cars broke down before we left for tour. Then they borrowed this RV and it broke down the second night of the tour. It was terrible because they were so overwhelmed. They were trying to have a sense of humor about it saying “There's no way it could get worse than this” and then the next night the RV went up in flames on the side of the road. They weren't in it but a lot of their stuff was. It had been left by the side of the road to be repaired, and then as the driver was bringing it to the show yesterday, it caught fire. What a frustrating chain of events. So we've been trying to gather around them and love on them and encourage people to love on them.
TT: That kind of brings to mind a song called “These Things Take Time” off the new album. We have so many things that come into our lives that frustrate us, and we find ourselves asking a lot of questions. As a band, what are you hoping people gain from the lyrics of that song in their Christian journey?
MH: I think there are things that we know are true, things that the Bible tells us, but beyond that there are so many little questions. Even with Scripture there are some things that we don't clearly understand, especially a lot of the things that happen in life to us and to other people. Some of those situations that we find ourselves in seem unreasonable for people to have to go through. It's always a question of “How could a loving God allow this to happen or that to happen?” You get in a whole conversation of good and evil and at some point, you just have to say “look I just understand what the Bible says and I believe it, and I have to have enough faith to believe that I serve a good God.” Sometimes, as simple as it sounds, that just has to be enough. I think there have been points in life where we've gotten frustrated about things and wanted answers for things we may not be able to understand, but I think now we are at a point in life where we can say there are things in life we might never know the answers to and as frustrating as that is, we're okay with that. And there's a peace you just have to learn to find in life that says we are human and God is God and that's that. When you find that, you can just rest.
TT: One of the things I appreciate about that song is that you do, in a way, give people permission to ask those big questions. And then to know that it's okay. That kind of honesty is a hallmark of your music. Is there a danger in the lyrical ambiguity that some artists prefer or do you feel like there's a place for it in your industry? I know you guys are pretty straight-forward, but what do you think about that kind of issue?
MH: I think the response we get from people from just being vulnerable has been so large. People's hearts are opened up for a specific reason. There are songs that we sing like “Lead Me” off the new album that are about some of the things my wife and I have been through in our marriage. And when I open up about that people want to share. It's amazing what people are willing to tell you in return. There are masks that are so easy to wear, and we all do it. So many times we all try to act like spiritual giants when we are really not. We try to always say the right things, and we all want to desperately please God. But when we are open about the times when we fail and the struggles that we have, it's incredible to experience the wall come down between you and somebody else. It's just an incredible freedom that we experience and joy to know that we are struggling together. That we are a community of believers and we know we can help each other now. It's crazy because you don't feel that encouraged by that super spiritual talk people try to give about issues. You just want to hear someone say, “Yeah that's not good. That stinks. But I've been there. And I'm here with you now.” Sometimes you just need someone to say “I'm going to just cry with you. I get it. I understand. We're struggling. We still believe that God is good so let's just try to hold on together.”
TT: Do you feel like that kind of vulnerability is missing in the church today?
MH: I think it's missing in too many parts of culture not just the church.
I think in general whether it's the church or whatever religion or group
of people you find yourself in it's a natural human instinct to put your
wall up. It's really all we want to do. We just want to fit in. And a lot
of times I just want to say the right things and be loved. The weird thing
is, I think it's a little trick the devil has up his sleeve. He loves to
tell us that people don't want to know who we really are and what we are
going through. It's funny because it's really the exact opposite. It's crazy
when people do speak real words to us about the reality of life and what
they are going through takes those walls down. That is when people really
connect. It's funny how people think we aren't free to speak our true minds
and just be ourselves.
TT: There are two songs that I feel really touch on that idea. You've already mentioned one which is “Lead Me”, and I want to get to that later, but “Til I got to Know You” is the other. We want to fit in with people, but we also have this idea that God wants this perfect performance from us. Can you tell me a little about that song?
MH: Yeah, I think I'm just as guilty as anybody else of thinking that God loves me for what I accomplish and don't accomplish for Him. I remember being in high school, and I was a student who was involved in church and I wanted to please the Lord. I got caught in this cycle of legalism. I remember being involved in discipleship courses that graded you on how much Scripture you read or how many minutes you prayed during the day. There's nothing wrong with saying we're going to challenge ourselves to pray more or read more of God's word. And I think that was the intention of those programs. However in my immaturity as a teenager I assumed that God must love me more. Then it made me feel good to think maybe I am especially loved by God if I can give him this service. You trick yourself into thinking those things. There came a point where shortly after I was married in my early twenties I had a major break-through when I realized not only was I judging myself very harshly on a scale that probably wasn't totally reality, but I was judging other people in the same way and it really broke my heart. I realized I missed the point and I hadn't really loved people the way Jesus really wanted me to. That reality made me want to weep because I thought how many people have I not loved properly because I was so caught up in the wrong mind set. I had to learn to accept his grace and forgiveness in that and extend that to other people. And I thank God that he taught me to love properly. And that's what happens when you really get to know him. You learn that he loves you for exactly who you are. There's a background vocal in that song that you can barely hear. It says “I was insecure, I had something to prove. But now I know that I've been loved by you”. We are insecure, but we can come as we are before Him.
TT: There's a freedom in living like that. You are free to love people and not worry so much about yourself. You guys have found another way to love people. I know you have been involved for a while with Mocha Club, and I love what they are all about. I'd love to hear how you became involved with them and what you dream of for that organization.
MH: It's pretty incredible. The first tour we did with them we met with Matt Barrett, one of their directors for Mocha Club and Larry Ward who runs African Leadership. You know Mocha Club is a project of African Leadership. We just loved their heart and the desire to do something that could appeal to all people and collectively make a large difference from a small amount coming from a lot of people. A lot of child sponsorships organizations which I fully support, they cost $35-$40 a month and there are a lot of young students, college students who literally can't afford that. And this is like $7 a month to be a part of something like our project which is building wells. That's easy for anybody. Anybody can give $7. We love that it appeals to people of all ages. The first tour we did we were able, with the help of Sammy Adebiyi coming out and speaking, increase the membership by 20%. Over two thousand people signed up over the course of 30 days. We provided water for over 50,000 people as a result, and after that we were just pumped. The second time around we envision beating those numbers and doing something even bigger. Sammy is back out with us, and in the two shows we've done so far, we've had over 160 people sign up. We hope that people will continue to join us and be a part of our team as we build a well in Darfur. We want everyone who lives there to have clean water...that's like 70,000 people.
Come back next week to read the conclusion of this conversation with Sanctus Real. Matt digs deeper into song lyrics off of the new album Pieces of a Real Heart and also reveals some surprising information about what's on his iPod!
Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com