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Matthew West Shares the Bittersweet Inspiration for New Song ’18 Summers’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Listen to the Grammy-nominated Christian singer's inspiring new song — out April 26th!

This is the time of year when the fact that life is short becomes all too palpable for parents. Yes, it’s graduation season and people all over the country are looking at high school seniors and asking, “How did it go by so fast?” Award-winning Christian singer/songwriter Matthew West wrestles with those emotions in his poignant new song, “18 Summers,” which will be released April 26th.

18 Summers by Matthew West
Matthew West 18 SummersMatthew West

“It’s like a prayer for family. Don’t stop praying for your family. Don’t stop praying for your kids,” Matthew tells Woman’s World. “It’s not written in the form of a prayer. It’s more written in a form of just that aching feeling you get as time flies by before your eyes, and you wish you could get it back. It’s about making most of the time you get with them.”

Matthew and his wife Emily live south of Nashville and have two teenage daughters. He has always been intentional about balancing family life and work.

Amassing 31 No. 1 radio singles (12 as an artist, 13 as a songwriter), the 5X Grammy nominee is known for such hits as “You Are Everything,” “More,” “Hello, My Name Is” and “The Motions,” as well as writing songs for Casting Crowns, Scotty McCreery, Rascal Flatts, Amy Grant and others.

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Matthew’s current radio single, “Don’t Stop Praying,” is climbing the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart. He plans for it to be the title of his new album, coming later this year, but he decided to release “18 Summers” to the public on April 26 because it perfectly captures the moment he’s living in now.

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Matthew West and his inspiration for 18 Summers

“I talk a lot about the power of story, but this song is literally written in real time in the exact chapter of the story that our family is in right now,” Matthew says.  “It’s graduation time. My oldest daughter is getting ready to graduate from high school, and my wife and I are both just in our feelings about that.

“We’re dealing with all the heart feelings and emotions of, like, ‘Wow! How fast did it go? This is unbelievable.’ We just had her graduation party last night. We’re cleaning up after the party today — I can’t believe how fast it’s gone.”

Matthew West with his wife and Lulu at her graduation party
Matthew West with his wife and Lulu at her graduation party@matthewjwest

The song’s title was inspired by a conversation with another father as they were musing about the passing of time.

“When you measure time in different forms, it can highlight the brevity of life,” he says. “I was having a conversation with another dad, and he said, ‘Yeah, I heard it said once that we only have 18 summers. When you think about it, not as 18 years, but 18 summers, it all of a sudden it feels so much smaller and so finite.’

“I thought ’18 Summers’ was a great title for a song. So as I was thinking about my daughter getting close to graduation, that title kept popping up to me. Right now is the perfect time for me to write that message, because that’s what I’m living.”

Matthew co-wrote the song with Jeff Pardo and AJ Pruis. “They’re two of the main guys that I write with,” he says, noting that sometimes they are writing for his albums and sometimes they are looking to get songs recorded by other artists. “When you’re with your buddies and they’re your go-to writers and you’re in the business of writing radio singles for other artists, that can be your focus. ‘Do we have the radio singles?’ It can be that kind of thing.

“But when I had the idea for ‘18 Summers,’ I was, like, ‘Guys, I don’t think this is a radio single. This just feels like something that I want to say right now, and it’s got to come out right now. There ain’t no waiting!’ And so we wrote it, and I love every bit of what the lyrics says.”

Matthew and Lulu when she was a little girl
Matthew West and Lulu when she was a little girl, inspired 18 Summers@theluluwest

Matthew admits playing the finished song for his wife Emily was an emotional moment. “The part that made Emily really cry was: ‘Dorm room number 205, a grown man trying not to cry. Can’t wait to see all you’re going to do. Your mom and me and two aching hearts driving home in an empty car, thanking God for the gift of raising you for 18 summers.’

“Parents dread that. It’s like, ‘Okay, we moved her in and now it’s time to get back in the car and head back home.’ It’s hard to leave your kid on a campus somewhere. That was what made the dam break when I played it for her.”

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Matthew West admits that when he played it for Lulu, she also “shed a tear, but I think she’s more excited about the next step ahead. She’s excited for freedom and independence, but music has always been a really special thing with me and Lulu. We’ll get in the car, and she’ll play me music that she’s listening to, and I’ll play her my new song demos. We’ve really bonded over the years through music.

“So, sitting down and playing her a song is kind of a regular thing at the West house, and this one just had an extra layer of meaning and significance. So, we shared a really special moment together.”

Matthew West playing 18 Summers for his wife and daughters for the first time

A father’s love is endless

“18 Summers” isn’t the first song Lulu inspired her dad to write. She and her younger sister, Delaney, have long been a source of inspiration.

“Years ago, when Lulu was born, I was sitting outside the delivery room writing a song to keep my mind off of the pending delivery and all the nerves that go along with that,” he laughs. “I wrote a song called ‘Safe and Sound’ that was a little lullaby for my daughter. Now here I am 18 years later, playing her a song about her going off to college. Time really does fly.”

Even though the song is really personal to Matthew and his family, it’s also so universal. “For all our differences, there are certain common experiences that we have as moms and dads and kids and families, and just human beings in general,” he observes. “When I’ve played this song for people, there’s such connectivity. It just fits into a moment that so many people will experience in their life, both the parents and the kids. I think it’s pretty special.”

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Having a child head off to college is a big step and Matthew West has advice for other fathers. “Ask the Lord for extra doses of patience and sensitivity towards your wife as you both navigate this path of transition,” he says.

“Emily called me not long ago, and she was crying. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ She’s, like, ‘I just drove by a soccer field and there were little kids playing.’ And I said, ‘Well, why are you crying? Honey, our kids didn’t play soccer.’ And she says, ‘I know, but they could have.’ And it was just the funniest moment. You don’t know what’s going to make you tug at your heartstrings. And we kind of laughed about it.”

Cover of the Christian Singer's My Story Your Glory book
Matthew West

In addition to working on songs for his upcoming album, Matthew has been touring and will be performing at the National Day of Prayer on May 2nd in Washington, DC.  He also recently released his sixth book, My Story Your Glory.

“It is a 30-Day devotional inspired by the themes on my last record,” says Matthew West, who also has a Christmas book coming in the fall. “My Story Your Glory is really unique in the sense that every chapter is basically examining every part of our lives and our stories and asking God to invade that chapter just to say, ‘How can God impact my past? How can my character give God glory? How can the way that I spend my time reflect what’s important to me?’

“It’s just an assessment of your priorities,” he continues. “Every chapter is sort of praying that prayer, ‘God, step into this part of my story and show me what your plan is.’ So it’s a really cool devotional for small groups and things like that. It’s actually a cool concept for graduates, too, as people are stepping into a new chapter of their story. It’s been fun seeing people get this book in their hands and take that 30-day journey.”

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