Reason, Unpoken's new album set to release June 21, will mark the band’s first full-length record in three years. Working with producers including Tedd T. (for KING & COUNTRY), Chris Stevens (tobyMac), David Spencer (Hunter Hayes), and Jeff Pardo (Ben Rector), Unspoken poured their personal stories and vulnerabilities into this new batch of songs, all of which, unintentionally, pointed to a central message. Recently, Chad Mattson, lead singer of Unspoken, shared with us the inspiration behind these new tracks and the meaning of the collection.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of Unspoken’s new album, Reason! What emotions are you feeling leading up to release day on June 21?
Funny, my first thought is “relief…” Ha, but I’m excited, I’m expectant, and I am relieved because it was a lot of work. I’m excited and looking forward to seeing what the Lord is going to do with the songs.
Can you share the meaning behind the album’s title?
It seemed to be an underlying theme through all of the songs. Every time we’ve finished a record there is an underlying theme— not that we’re smart enough to plan that on our own ahead of time…And the trick is, can you stand back and catch that theme. I was sold on this being the title when I really understood that God’s love is the reason we can do anything and everything. If you put the thought that His love is the reason behind almost any title or theme of the songs on the album, you’ll see that it all points to that idea right there. His love is the reason that we can do anything. It’s the reason we can persevere, or love ourselves, or love others, or walk in the freedom and forgiveness that God has given us and walk confidently as children of God, believing that these truths aren’t just for somebody else but they’re for us as well.
Which track are you most excited for listeners to hear and why?
With songs you write, each one of them is meaningful, answering a question like this just kind of depends what kind of season or mood we’re in, it’s based on what we need to hear. But if I’m going to put a blanket statement on it right now, I’d say “Can’t Love Myself.”
I think all of us have felt this emotion of feeling unworthy of God’s love and even feeling unworthy of the people around us who love us. But if we as children of God want to love people well, we have to learn to love ourselves, because we have to understand that we, too, were made in God’s image. The Lord Jesus died for me, and all of these things are proving the fact that I am worthy of love, not only from God, not only from others, but from myself. Jesus talks about ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ being the second greatest commandment, right there with the first, to ‘love God with all your heart.’ So I think the idea is we can’t love people well if we don’t love ourselves.
This song doesn’t necessarily give an answer to that emotion or to those lies that come in, it’s really just a song that speaks about how we feel in those times when we feel unworthy and unlovable. It’s a Christian song, but it’s also just a song about emotions. One of the things that Christian music does well and not well is that we often try to end every song with some big answer, some big climax, and I think it can be exhausting for the listener. Sometimes a song can just speak about an emotion and how that feels. And so this song is reminding the listener they’re not alone when they feel like that because we felt like that too.
What is one message you wish you could have shared with yourself while you were in the middle of the hard times that you, your family, and your band experienced that you were first able to put into words through the creation of this album’s tracks?
I think the biggest thing is to believe that what God says about me is true and what God says about Himself is true. I could tell many stories about how I thought this or that one situation was going to ruin us or I would ask ‘Why is God doing this?’…and then seeing on the other side of those things that God really did have something better for us. He really had a plan I didn’t see, a plan that fights for my good and His glory. I think the big statement I’d tell myself would be--You can trust Him. You can trust Jesus. I know it’s simple, but you can trust Jesus with the biggest and smallest details of your life and know he’s working these things for good and His glory.
With this album being born out of so much hurt and vulnerability, how are your expectations different, if at all, for how it is received compared to previous releases from Unspoken?
I think it’s hard, because as believers we’re called to have some kind of expectation, but seeing that with a surrender to whatever God has planned for us. It’s trusting that if He loves me, which He does, and if He has big plans for me, which He does, then He would use it according to His wisdom and His love, and then help me accept whatever that may be. So there’s the one side of the answer which is believing God to do big and crazy things, like Ephesians 3:20 says-- more than we ask or imagine. It’s really a partnership between trust and surrender. And for God to do something bigger than I could have imagined doing on my own. His will be done, whatever and however.
What were some of your biggest inspirations, spiritually and musically, in developing this collection of songs?
Spiritually, it’s walking through the seasons that we’ve been walking through, along with hearing the stories from people we’re sharing our lives together with, seeing and sharing how God is working. And I think the inspiration is just life. From the start of writing the record to the finish, there’s a lot of time that lapsed, about a year and a half, so there’s a lot of life that’s lived in there. I think it’s just kind of shining a spotlight on some specific seasons we went through.
And then musically, I was inspired by TobyMac's show in Nashville this spring, how fun the record and music were. We didn’t get as many fun songs on ours, but we believe we got the songs we were supposed to get on there. I’m also always listening to 90s hip hop. Plus a lot of inspiration came from Sam Smith’s record. There’s a lot of choirs in there, and the sound seems real and honest, transparent and emotional, and there’s something that moved me about that record. Those would be just a few.
What is one key message that you hope listeners take away from this album as a whole?
The more I live life, the more I am drawn back to the very basics of the Gospel, the good news, which is Jesus died for us when we were still sinners. And that He loves us, that He’s with us, that He’s for us, and if we could really live like that is true, we’d all be doing a lot better. And also despite the low times and the high times, through all of the different emotions the different seasons bring us, there’s nothing we can do to make Him love us any less, and when we’re doing well, there’s nothing we can do to make Him love us any more. He’s completely and utterly in love with us. He proved it on the cross. And that is the reason we wake up every morning and put our feet on the floor and continue to take the next step, even if we don’t know where that may be going. Because He loves us, He is with us and He’s for us. It’s funny that 16 years later, after connecting with Jesus and becoming sober, the things that changed my life back then are still the things that are changing me now, and it’s not that difficult, it’s just the love of God shown through his son Jesus.