Matt Maher Saints and SinnersFor his latest album, Saints and Sinners (Essential), Matt Maher collaborated with everyone from NEEDTOBREATHE‘s Bear and Bo Rinehart and Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman to singer/songwriter Thad Cockrell and The Vespers. In a recent interview, he opened up about his collaborators, his influences and meeting Taylor Swift at Nashville’s GRAMMY® nominee party. Here’s what the award-winning singer/songwriter/worship leader told us on the record…

ON RICH MULLINS: “One of my greatest influences was Rich Mullins. Rich, I think, as a songwriter had a tremendous amount of respect from the songwriting community, and his band was made up of people who weren’t in the typical Christian bubble. I think Rich, in some ways, was motivated by the gospel where Jesus basically took a bunch of ordinary guys and did something with them.”

ON NEEDTOBREATHE: “Whenever I got to meet the NEEDTOBREATHE guys… I just immediately had a heart for those guys in the sense of going, I wish the Church could find a way to celebrate their achievements more, and I think we have. I mean, for a band to release a record and then be opening up for one of the biggest stars in the country, Taylor Swift, that’s pretty amazing. I met them at a Christian festival and their tour manager at the time was like, ‘Hey, I think these guys would benefit a lot from just hanging out with you.’ I wasn’t thinking about, Oh, how [can] I manipulate this for my own career? I was just thinking, How do I be an authentic person and support them just as human beings and then also as fellow believers? And I also happen to be a massive fan.”

ON SWITCHFOOT (AND “MEANT TO LIVE”): “I remember where I was the first time I heard ‘Meant To Live.’ I was in a Starbucks drive-thru two miles from the church that I worked at for 13 years, and I remember hearing that song and going, Oh wow, this is a total game changer. The only thing I could compare it to was the first time I heard Jars of Clay or the first time I heard ‘Jesus Freak’ by dcTalk. It was just sort of the sense of like, Oh wow, this is next level.”

ON JON FOREMAN: “For some reason, I think Jon Foreman has always struck me as a St. Francis-type person in the sense that here’s this guy who has universal appeal as an artist and here’s this saint who has universal appeal as a human; and they both have been advocates for peace. So obviously, Switchfoot has tried to use their platform in major ways to talk about peace and to promote a less combative relationship between the Church and the world.”

ON THAD COCKRELL: “Thad and I have known each other for a couple years, and we just connected on a human level. I thought he was just an amazing guy with a beautiful heart and obviously an insanely talented musician.”

ON PAUL MOAK [who co-produced Saints and Sinners]: “I think a great producer meets an artist and says, ‘I just want to help you become the best version of yourself and express yourself in the most authentic way.’ It’s been a real process of growth for both of us over the years, which in some ways also means learning how to argue. Like this record, we wrestled back and forth on some stuff, which was actually really, really great. It’s healthy, you know?”

ON MARK HALL: “I think particularly in the Christian world, we’ve kind of turned artists into pastors; and I don’t necessarily know if that’s the best thing in the world for the Church. I think they’re two distinct roles. I think occasionally a pastor can have a good voice and pastor and write good songs. I think Mark Hall from Casting Crowns is a great example of that, but I don’t think everybody’s meant to be a Mark Hall. And I think if the Church [thinks] that, we’re foolish. I think if we demand a 22-year-old to have the same level of maturity as a 45-year-old man with four kids [and] a mortgage, there’s just a problem.”

Matt Maher_Taylor Swift

Matt and his wife pose with Taylor at the Nashville GRAMMY nominee party. (photo courtesy of Matt Maher’s Instagram)

ON TAYLOR SWIFT: “She’s an incredible artist… Her ability to be present with people is really remarkable. She’s very, very, very engaged with every person she talks to. [At the GRAMMY® party] I kind of watched it more from a professional standpoint of like, I’m curious to see how she works the room; because I’ve been in, not in similar situations, but I’ve been in situations like that where you have to kind of walk the room, and she was so incredibly ‘on,’ focused and engaged [with] every single person that she met. Most people don’t think about it, having to walk through a room of 150-200 people and having to stop and take photos and talk to at least half the room and make it meaningful to them, to each person that you meet. It’s a real gift. I applaud her for it. I get it. I understand why she’s a big deal.”

For more info, visit www.mattmahermusic.com.