Christian singer Matthew West says he's excited to return as host of the 2021 K-Love Fan Awards after last year’s cancellation and opened up about the successes and challenges he faced in 2020 as he trusted God to help him lead his family.
"We're back. It definitely feels like, as a country, we're all sort of feeling that to some extent. Hopefully even more so in the weeks and months to come,” West told The Christian Post. "That chance to gather together with people after such a long time [of] being told that we couldn't do it, it's really hard to describe how special that feeling is. So it's really with great anticipation that we prepare for The K-Love Fan Awards.”
The faith-based awards show will air Friday on TBN and bring together the biggest names in Christian music. West said this is going to be the “most special show."
"I think people are ready; they're ready to be together. They're ready to worship the Lord together. To be a part of that, and for me as the host, I kind of get a front-row seat to that experience,” West said.
"Our whole community of artists are excited to get back on the road, excited to play music, and it's just excitement and anticipation for this season ahead,” he continued. "As artists, we love to connect with the audience. When we only get to do that through the radio and through social media, it just feels like there's just more of a disconnect than we're used to. There's no substitute for that experience of being in front of a live audience and everybody lifting their voices together.”
The fan-driven event brings together people from all around the country who travel to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend the show at the historic Grand Ole Opry.
"The all-around excitement for people is a really special thing, the excitement to travel, stay in a hotel to feel normal,” West said.
"I would say, in general, there's not one specific performance that I'm going, 'Oh, I can't wait.' Every single performance, I can't wait because I feel like every performance is just going to be that much more special. Because I think the crowd's just going to be ready, and I know the artists are ready. When both the stage and the audience come into that room with great anticipation, I mean, it's going to be like fireworks,” he gushed.
The “Hello My Name Is” musician said everyone was affected by what came about following the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
"2020 was really hard for everybody,” West said. “I think on a personal level, it was a weird mix of, I had these career highlights in the midst of really hard times. It just all felt kind of surreal. It was just weird. I had two number one songs in the middle of a pandemic and it was just like, it didn't matter one bit.”
"I'm not saying it didn't matter; I hope the songs impacted people's lives. But when a nation and a country and a world is going through something, the trial the likes of which we'd never seen before, it puts life into perspective,” he stressed.
West disclosed that he spent the year getting a grip on “staying encouraged” while being intentional about being a good example to his wife and his daughters.
"I was more concerned about leading my family than I was about singing to the masses,” West said. “I think if I had to boil it down to one sentence, that's what 2020 felt like for me. It was like, 'Lord, just help me be a good leader for my family through this crisis. Help me be a good leader for my team. And help me remember that I can't make it through this life without you. I certainly can't make it through a pandemic without you.'”
The global shutdown actually gave West the opportunity to launch a new podcast, titled The Matthew West Podcast. The podcast has been a big hit for him and is coming up on a million downloads in less than a year.
"Even out of those tough times, it's just been really cool to see how the Lord still used me in ways that I never would have expected,” he added.
The songwriter acknowledged that the podcast "never would have happened” if he had stayed on the road last year.
“Nothing surprises God. When we're caught off guard, I feel like we act as if God's caught off guard, too, and He's not! He's not surprised. He's in control. He's on the throne,” West testified. "I'm thankful that He's answered my prayers this past year and helped me to lead my family. That's been my prayer all along.”
The awards show host believes the Body of Christ had to refocus their faith following the restrictions that came with COVID-19.
"I would hope that this past year has maybe brought us all home in a sense,” he added. “Obviously, it brought us home physically and kept us home physically. But I love the thought of how this past year has brought us home, spiritually, hopefully. For us to come back to the reminder [of] that old song, 'I'm coming back to the heart of worship.'”
"I feel like this year could be that return to home, in those simple, but profoundly life-changing reminders that I am not in control,” he added. “I can make it through anything. I have learned the secret of being content, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. That's the scripture leading up to Philippians 4:13 that says: 'I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.' To me, that's been a real homecoming to the truth that God offers us as hope in difficult times.”
West said he also worked on a comedic song for the opening monologue of K-Love Fan Awards that will serve as a recap of the year that 2020 was. He disclosed that the entire event is going to be dominated by performances from his Christian music peers.
As society begins to head back out and attend social events such as The K-Love Fan Awards, West said people should not be led by fear.
"We've all been through the same thing. And yet, we all look at it from different perspectives. Vaccinations and all the, ‘what should I do?’ I'll be honest, I got a lot of questions myself, and as a parent too,” he told CP. “I've been really clinging to just that reminder that I can walk by faith and just to be faith-driven and not fear-driven.”
"Those are the kind of cliches that we talk about as Christians a lot of times. But they're cliches for a reason. That's because they're true,” West insisted. “God offers us that opportunity to put our trust in Him.
"We're just not going to let fear take over our lives. And we're going to live, and we're going to hopefully be healthy and just know that the Lord is going to take care of us.”
The Illinois native ended the interview by sharing what he’ll be working on in this new season. Along with his thriving podcast, West will be back to playing concerts and he's working on a new book.
"I'm going to make a Christmas album this year,” he shared. “So lots of good stuff. I'm feeling creative and I'm loving writing songs. I get to write a lot of songs for other artists too. Some of those songs are hitting the radio right now, which is fun.”