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For a band named Unspoken, Chad Mattson, Mike Gomez, Jon Lowry, and Ariel Munoz have been making a lot of noise. With two straight Top 5 singles (Who You Are and Lift My Life Up) and successful tours with bands like Sanctus Real and Bid Daddy Weave, Unspoken has built steady momentum through their last two EPs, even as they’ve grown as a band. Lead singer Chad Mattson reflected on this season of growth. “The more you work on something and devote yourself to a craft, I think the better you become at it, especially as you are surrounding yourself with people who are good at it.”
The timing is therefore perfect for the band’s first full-length album with Centricity Music, “Unspoken.” Mattson and the band jumped at the chance to release a complete, full-length album with all the elements in place. “We got to complete the pieces of what a record could and should have. We have a couple of acoustic drop-down pieces that we love, we have upbeat stuff, we have a radio mix. That’s exciting to me, how diverse the record is.” It’s a diverse record befitting a diverse band, which features members from Maine, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. The mix lends subtle flavors to the music beneath strong pop sensibilities.
Through this musical diversity, a strong lyrical theme emerged. Mattson and mates were spending a lot of time studying the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 and 6 while writing for the album. The messages in the Sermon on the Mount have become the messages of the album: do not worry… make seeking God your primary concern… don’t hide your light but instead burn bright like a fire. “A lot of the songs are about getting back to basics,” Mattson explains. “The basics of just hanging out with God. The more success you get, or the more wealth, or whatever it is, it never seems to satisfy like you want. God has set it up so we realize that He is the biggest blessing. Just to know him, to love him. It’s what changed my life 11 years ago, and what continues to change my life now.”
That decade of life change follows a dark valley in Mattson’s life, when he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He found freedom during a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and he heralds each new day as a chance to learn anew the sufficiency of God’s grace. A series of songs tells his story, and the story of so many who find new life in Christ. Who You Are marks the first step, when we come to the cross and realize we can be changed. Next, in Lift My Life Up, we encounter the step of surrender, saying to God, “Have Your way in me.” Then, we let God do his great work in us, and He starts a fire in our souls that cannot be quenched.
The song Start a Fire is already kindling excitement in listeners and motivating them to live out a series of Scriptural truths. As he started writing the powerful song, Lowry drew from Matthew, 2 Timothy , and James to exhort listeners to stir up and rekindle the fire that’s in us, to keep burning the gracious gift of God. Mattson says, “Our desire for that song is that we wouldn’t settle in our salvation, but that we keep an open heart for what God wants to do through us.”
Continuing the theme is another song of bold encouragement, Good Fight. Unspoken gets a groove on as the lyrics speak God’s truth: “I’m never gonna leave you, always gonna see you through to the other side / Keep fighting the good fight.” The tempo slows on the next track, as the album reflects on the essential element in this journey of faith in Call it Grace: “Some may call it foolish and impossible / But for every heart it rescues it’s a miracle / It’s nothing less than scandalous, this love that took our place / Just call it what it is. Call it grace.”
Ultimately, we need daily discipline to stay close to God, because we are unsteady while He is unchanging. Tomorrow is a fresh look at a new day, and a new chance to leave the future in the hands of God. It’s only when we seek God first that everything falls into place, and our fears for the future vanish.
The concept is also cleverly expressed in Bury the Workmen. “We were in a church service,” Lowry recalls, “when the pastor said this quote, ‘Bury the workmen, but the work will go on.’ It reminds me of Mark 13:31, which says heaven and earth will pass away but his word will remain forever.” The idea became a powerful blues song that chronicles the work of Stephen, James, Peter, and ultimately Jesus, and the eternity of God. When the band didn’t feel like their production of the track was fully expressing the roots of the song, they decided to gather around a mic in the studio and record it live, all together. What you hear is that raw session, with all its handclaps and harmonica wails. “It’s kind of like an anthem for the church,” Lowry notes, “as being part of something that’s bigger than ourselves. Death can’t stop it. It goes on whether or not we are there to do it, or someone else. Triumph in life, and triumph and death.”
“Unspoken” closes with a stirring ballad that punctuates the journey from darkness to light. My Recovery is the story of redemption for anyone who, like Mattson, has been rescued from a dark past. Mattson speaks from experience: “James 4:8 says, ‘Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.’ It’s letting God do his part. Lay yourself at God’s feet and God will do the changing. There’s no way you can have a relationship with Jesus Christ and not be in recovery, because that’s what His Spirit does.” Acclaimed songwriter Andrew Osenga co-wrote the song with the band back when they’d first arrived in Nashville. “He was gracious enough to write with a no-name band,” Mattson recalls. “We were talking through this idea, and I’m telling my story. We had come up with these verses – ‘There was a light that found me in darkness, failing and hopeless, barely alive’ – but we had no chorus. Andy looked up after we were talking though all that and just sang the whole chorus, right there.”
Much has changed since those early days when bandmates from three different countries started sharing their hearts in music. Through it all, the reason they chose their name still holds: to live lives that are unspoken testimonies to God’s love and power, and to speak what oftentimes goes unspoken. In those paired desires are born songs of hope that celebrate the journey of every believer and provide a bright hope for each new day.
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