Matt Gilman comes from a pedigree you might not expect for an artist best known for his work with the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Gilman’s father and grandfather were both Lutheran ministers and the young artist grew up in a more structured, liturgical setting. While in that setting, he was the only one of his family to truly stick with the piano lessons his parents pressed upon him, turning a two-year mandatory set of lessons into ten, and when he heard the sounds of Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name,” Gilman found a new path in life and just three years later he was on staff at IHOP.
His time at IHOP has allowed the artist to develop his artistry quite a bit, whittling his gifts to a finer edge.
“Someone did the math the other day,” Gilman recalls, “And found that IHOPKC worship leaders lead more in a week than most worship leaders do in six months. The amount of training we get here by doing what we do in such a small, condensed period of time is awesome. It has helped me understand chemistry between musicians, navigate who’s doing what, call certain things out, and pick out harmonies. It has helped a lot.”
Gilman makes full use of that experience, and draws from his deep background as well on his debut solo praise and worship project, Awaken Love. Harnessing a plethora of lyrics from Scripture and couching them in a warm, musically adept setting, the artist brings a set of intimate, worshipful tunes to bear. Gilman makes a solid use of the piano, keeping it at the forefront and lets his solid and soulful baritone do much of the work, his voice at times reminiscent of Scott Krippayne, coaxing the listener deeper in.
Highlights on the record include a soaring rendering of the popular worship track, “Holy,” Gilman’s voice holding his own and launching into some powerful registers while the music swells around him, the percussive beats pounding the message home. “You Made a Way” is another strong track, starting slow and pensive but building into a rousing crescendo, celebrating the glory of eternity while Gilman’s voice imbues the song with ample emotion. “Fairer” is a similar track, although the arrangement is more radio-friendly than its predecessors, the guitar-driven riff plowing a ready way for the artist’s declaration of praise and surrender.
Gilman’s work is less dynamic than many bands out there, opting for more reflective notes, as on album closer, “Closer,” and his lyricism at times comes across with a “been there, done that” sort of vibe, invoking some familiar phrasings and concepts. But, Gilman admittedly has plucked many of lyrics directly from Scripture and, let’s be honest, that’s every praise and worship songwriters starting point, and that’s a good thing. And while some of Gilman’s phrases may be familiar, his delivery is honest and compelling, appealing to a wide range of listeners.
Matt Gilman is off to a great start with Awaken Love and the future looks very bright for this humble artist.