by Angela Noel
May 30, 2016
“Snow is falling, winter’s calling. I am far from home.” Matthew French sat in a coffee shop on New Year’s Day and the words of a song, his song, whispered inside his mind. Would he listen?
Inspired to pick up a guitar by a youth minister years ago, Matthew composed songs with a purpose. He wrote for church services or youth group sessions, but never for himself. Not exactly. Much like a thriller writer assigned by a local newspaper to cover a band concert, Matt had the skills but the form and content were predetermined. Which was fine, nothing wrong with that. But then, the Big Bad happened.
Why pain and loss can set us free is something of a mystery to me. “Suffering points up areas within ourselves where we have not yet grown,” said Father Anthony de Mello in his New York Conferences. Perhaps that’s why so many artists take dark paths. Believing, as Elizabeth Gilbert points out in her bestseller Big Magic, that without this kind of perpetual font of adversity to rail against, the creative ghost will depart from our lives forever. But when Matt’s marriage abruptly ended, something else happened.
This Atomic Thing
Matt sat at Spyhouse Coffee on that dawn of 2015 filled with what he called “this atomic thing” roiling within. He knew he needed to diffuse it with constructive things or else succumb to darker stuff. He went there to read, to sip, to think. When the words came to him, a song in the half-light of a winter’s day, he would not let them go. What he could not talk about, he found he could sing about. Crafting each song became a means to construct a new understanding of himself in his post-marriage world.
Some would compose for themselves alone, a type of self-therapy not meant to be shared. But Matt realized that his experience, though unique in his own life, was not so unlike that of others he knew. His story was also their story, our story. A human story. He wanted to share.
Each morning, he took the bus to his day job at Target HQ in Minneapolis. At 11 a.m., Matt and friends could be found, as often as not, at an early-bird lunch at the local Whole Foods. But always, his music was there, percolating. In between meetings, on the bus, in the evenings the melodies and lyrics found him. With the help of a close friend, Matt recorded his first six songs for his debut EP “Home.”
A few months ago, I attended Matthew’s EP release party at a local coffee shop. Friends filled the rustic space as Matt sang, “You might say there’s ups and downs. You climb a mountain then you fall back down. But I guess it takes some time to figure out, so I might fly away from this town.” Suddenly I had tears in my eyes. Was it the words? The connection between his life and mine? Or was it his iron vulnerability there on stage? I have learned that my body intuits what my mind is slow to grasp. Words fail, but the heart knows.
The Next Chapter
Recently, Matt asked me to write a short bio for him to use for an upcoming show at the Aster Café, a well-known local music venue. “Of course,” I said. “That’s a big deal! How’d that come about?”
“It’s kind of interesting, really.” He smiled enigmatically. “I wanted to tell this woman, a waitress, that I thought she was very beautiful. But I hesitated. Would she think I was hitting on her? That wasn’t my intention.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“I did it anyway,” he replied.
Next thing he knew, a conversation happened. Right there, at the tables of the Aster Café where she was working and he was listening to another local singer/songwriter play they talked. She, as fate would have it, was also the venue’s booking agent. And that’s how magic happens. A seed of something, an inkling, a good intention rises from all of us. But, the difference is in what we do next.
It’s a risky thing to replace the mask we wear as armor against the world–the armor that says, “don’t do it,” “you might fail,” “you might get hurt,” “you might look stupid”–with our real selves.
Matt did, Matt does. So can I, so can you.
Your turn: When have you taken a risk? What was the result?
15 thoughts on “Do it Anyway: Explore the Edge of Your Comfort Zone”
What an awesome first blog about the fabulous Matt French! Relatable. Inspiring. Awesome. So excited to read your future blogs.
Thank you! So glad you enjoyed it. Matt is one of my favorite awesome people. Can’t wait to share more stories with you!
For most of my life I have loved writing, but have done it in an almost furtive, secretive way. I am trying to open up and be brave in sharing my thoughts, and putting it out there.
I remember reading a book called ‘Fear the Fear and Do it Anyway’ and it has stuck with me. We don’t know what we’re capable of until we try.
You are doing a fantastic job of being brave and sharing your thoughts! You have great thoughts and I’m glad to have met you.
Love his voice! Listened to him as I finished reading this. Go Matt! I hope he makes it huge!
Thanks for listening to his music! That’s awesome.
I’ve taken a few risks in my life, but I don’t think enough. And since I’ve become a mother I’ve become completely risk averse. Maybe it’s time to start pushing myself again?
Yes! Even a little something changes the whole game if you ask me. Thank you for reading!
That is so cool how he found his voice in music. We found ours in writing! I think my readers know me better than my friends who never stop by my blog.
I totally agree. Though I never expect anyone to read my writing. It is a very unique window into my brain. Matt definitely has found his groove–his passion for other creative types is absolutely infectious.
You never know what might happen when you step outside your comfort zone!
I found an article yesterday that I am pretty sure you would love, (it was related to cognative bias and sooo interesting!) but when I came to send it to you this morning I lost it. Dagnammit! I’ll try to find it again tonight!
Do try and find it! You know I’m just a sucker for this stuff and I learn so much!
You are always stepping into some new adventure, you could probably right this post about yourself!
Lovely post, Angela. Reading about Matt’s song bringing you to tears, reminds me of myself. Music just gets to me – as does writing, art, and other things. It’s amazing that just hearing or seeing something that someone is passionate about can bring the outsider to tears. Anyway, this past year has been a big awakening for me with my writing and painting. I finally feel like I’m doing what makes me happy. I’m hoping to take risks this year to bring these passions to the next level. We shall see what happens.
I’m so glad you’re discovering your creative side once again. You really have so many talents and its amazing to watch you blossom in the garden of your own making. (Oh, that’s quite a fun image really.)