I Need You to Lead Me
About the Guest
Matt Hammitt's career was taking off as lead singer for the band Sanctus Real. Life was exciting, until his wife Sarah left the road life to be a stay-at-home mom. But even after multiple awards and accolades, he had to make a decision. Do I lead a band? Or do I lead my family?
Matt HammittMatt Hammitt is an American singer, songwriter, speaker and author. For almost twenty years, Matt was the lead singer for the band Sanctus Real. During that time, the band released eight studio albums with Sparrow Records, toured internationally and released 14 top five and number one singles to Christian radio, earning them a household name amongst Christian music fans worldwide. Matt has been the recipient of three Dove Awards, has been nominated for two Grammys for his work with Sanctus Real,...more
Matt Hammitt’s career was taking off as lead singer for the band Sanctus Real. But after multiple awards and accolades, he had to make a decision. Do I lead a band? Or do I lead my family?
I Need You to Lead Me
Bob: There was a significant moment that happened in Matt and Sarah Hammitt’s marriage. Matt is the former lead singer of the group Sanctus Real. This turning point is something Matt remembers very clearly.
Matt: About seven years ago, my wife sat me down in the midst of all this chaos. I would have liked to believe things were pretty good between us, but it wasn’t the truth—not for her. What she said to me was: “I need you to be a better leader to me. You’re here, but you’re not here.”
Bob: This is a special edition of FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll spend time today catching up with the guy who wrote the hit song Lead Me today. His name is Matt Hammitt. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We don’t often get a chance to do this, but we happen to have with us for today’s program a live studio audience because we are onboard the 2016 Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise. [Applause] Those are some pumped-up people right there; huh?
Dennis: I think the cruise has been going on for awhile—they’re fresh! [Laughter]
Bob: It’s always great to have a studio audience, and it’s great to have our guest joining us today.
Dennis: It is. Matt Hammitt joins us on FamilyLife Today. Matt, welcome back to the broadcast.
Matt: It’s good to be back!
Bob: Would you guys welcome Matt Hammitt as well? [Applause] So, is your wife joining us on this cruise?
Matt: I wish she was. She actually pulled out a few weeks ago because we’re going to do a conference next week in Greenville. We’re taking the whole family in the RV for two weeks; and she said, “I want to stay home and get the kids ready.”
She said, “I’ll be stressed out, you know, if I have to go home and in two days have to get everything ready.” So I actually ended up bringing my dad with me—it’s been awesome.
Bob: That’s cool!
Dennis: That is cool.
Well, for those who don’t recognize the name, Matt Hammitt—for a number of years, he was the lead singer in Sanctus Real. You go way back in music. We have to hear how you started your music career.
Dennis: Were you singing—we found out before we were on microphone here that you didn’t play sports in high school.
Matt: No, no. I think what ended my sports career was that I sat on the bench in soccer in junior high school. My best friend’s dad was the coach. I was like, “I never get to play.” We’re just goofing around the bench; and one of the kids says, “Hey man, I really think you should try putting this Icy Hot® on your eyelids.” [Laughter] So of course, you know, I give in to this dare. The minute I put it on my eyes, I get called into the game—[Laughter]—like right away! I’m out there, running around with my eyes half swollen shut, tears coming down my face.
I knew my sports career was over.
Matt: So, thank the Lord that music came on the scene. So I was 16.
Bob: How old were you when you got your first guitar, and what were the circumstances around that?
Matt: Oh, that’s a good story because my parents pulled the classic Christmas—all the gifts are done. I’m sitting there, grateful for what I got; but in my heart, wishing I would have gotten the guitar. Then Dad says, “Wait a minute, there’s one more,”—you know—and I looked behind the couch. There it is—my very first Samick Strat. I pulled that out with the new little amp they got me. Right away, I knew that I was going to be writing songs—that was what my passion was.
Bob: And how old were you?
Matt: At that time, I probably would have been 15 / almost 16.
Bob: Had you wanted a guitar and music? When did that kind of get birthed inside of you?
Matt: Yes; I’d always loved to sing. I would sing in vocal groups at church, growing up, and played in a band with my brother.
I really looked up to my brother a lot and thought trumpet wasn’t really my thing either. Then he picked up the acoustic guitar. As soon as I heard him in the house playing it, I knew—that’s, “I want to do that.” I could already hear the little melody in my head, and getting song ideas even before I picked it up. So, it was pretty natural once I had it in my hands.
Dennis: So you literally started from the very beginning, thinking about writing songs.
Matt: Oh, that was it.
Dennis: Right out of the gate!
Matt: Yes, that was it! Man, I was just song ideas all the time.
Bob: So, could you play for us an early Matt Hammitt song—
Matt: Oh, absolutely!
Bob: —something you wrote back—that nobody’s ever heard of before, maybe?
Matt: Sure; sure. Let me get up on my stool here. So, sitting in my bedroom, I’m 16 years old. I’ve never written a song before, and this was the very first song that I ever wrote. It’s very deep; okay?
Oh, drinking the coffee of life,
Smoking my candy cigarettes.
Ruling this world full of man sense
And Marilyn’s looking for love,
‘Cause they don’t love themselves.
And passing by is my life.
Do you see me, the way I am innocent?
Won’t you jump into my couple rocket ship?
I’m going somewhere you’ll never forget,
And to my magic time machine I’ll take you
Somewhere you’ll have no regrets.
You’ll have no regrets.
I could play the whole thing, but I think that’ll give you a little—
Dennis: Wow; wow! [Laughter / applause]
Matt: —you get the gist.
Bob: So, coffee, and candy cigarettes, and rockets—that’s where you were back then?
Matt: Super deep. Super deep; yes—super deep.
Bob: Has kind of a Plain White T’s vibe going; don’t you think?
Bob: That’s right.
Matt: Yes, but we played it much more punk rock than that, back in the day; so—
Bob: Did you?
Matt: —the song’s grown up with me a little bit.
Dennis: So, did you use music—tell the truth—did you use music to get to go out with Sarah? [Laughter]
Matt: Well, you know, I’ll tell you—I’m actually really glad that, in a way, music did bring us together because I was always a pretty shy guy. I didn’t really do the whole dating thing in high school—I was always so scared.
I remember being just out of high school—19 years old—in Columbus, Ohio. We were playing a music festival with Third Day and Audio Adrenaline. We weren’t a signed band yet—we played that early morning slot when nobody was there.
We stuck around, and during—I want to say it was during Audio Adrenaline’s show—I remember, on the outskirts of the field in the festival, just seeing this girl who just seemed so carefree. I think something about seeing her freely dancing and laughing, and it was like her smile just captivated me.
Dennis: Out of how many people?
Matt: Oh, I mean, it was probably 5,000 people at this thing, at least.
Dennis: You spotted her?
Matt: Yes, just kind of on the outskirts. I felt this kind of connection—I didn’t say anything—this is Columbus / it is two-and-a-half hours from home. I go home that night. The next morning, Sanctus Real was playing a community worship service. Turns out that her parents’ church and her grandmother’s church were part of this, and they drove back to Toledo that night too—her and her brother.
I get up to lead worship; and there she is in my hometown, two-and-a-half hours away. I’m looking at this girl, going, “I cannot believe that she’s here!”
So, of course, I didn’t care about my nerves at that point, I was going to—I bee-lined straight to her afterwards / I am not letting it go this time. We hung out at her parents’ house; and from that point forward, it was—
Bob: When you got married, Sarah knew she was marrying a guy whose career was music.
Matt: Oh yes.
Bob: You were full-time with this—the band had been on the road for a couple of years. Had you signed a record deal yet?
Matt: Yes, we were kind of in the process of being courted by record labels. We kind of made our decision with Sparrow that we were going to be moving forward. So we actually, right after we got married, together went on our very first national tour.
You know, those tours were crazy because, back in the day, a lot of us artists, you have seen now on the ships and out at the music festivals, were all on those tours together. We actually—us, Jeremy Camp, Mercy Me—all did our very first national tour together. I think Toby was out there with his first solo thing that he ever did on tour.
So we all went out in this thing—in a van and trailer—with no money for hotels / barely enough for gas. I think we paid two of our wives—Sarah and our bass player, at the time / his wife—we gave them five bucks to run merchandise for the day. She put up with all of this, even through the first trimester of her first pregnancy.
Bob: You said she was carefree, and relaxed, and not uptight about any of this.
Matt: Oh yes. Oh yes.
Bob: So, I’m thinking that those early years—she probably just went along, and pretty easy-going, no tension—
Matt: Yes; yes. [Laughter] I see where you’re taking me here, Bob. [Laughter]
Dennis: So when did her personality change?
Matt: Oh, yes; man, we had our moments. I remember that was the hardest part about it. I remember it was—I want to say it was my birthday, and we had gotten in this argument. It was one of the worst arguments we’d had up to that point.
I remember we had nowhere to go to work this out. So we’re sitting in the parking lot of a music festival, in our van, just hashing it out. She’s crying and I’m like: “I cannot believe we’re out here. We just cannot—how do we do this?” You know—no privacy whatsoever. Those were some big lessons, back then—early lessons.
Bob: I don’t think you could have imagined, and I don’t think most folks realize, the strain that there is on a relationship in doing what God had called you to do in music.
Bob: It really is a challenging life for a married couple.
Matt: Yes; we’ve seen a lot of marriages struggle through the chaos of travel schedule with artists—and us being one of them. Probably six/seven years into our marriage was when it really started taking a massive toll on us, relationally.
Dennis: Give them an idea of what’s taking place. I mean, you’re spending 24/7—
Matt: Yes. So I’m gone Thursday through Sunday most of the time—out in the van and trailer in the early days before we had a bus—driving through the night, setting all our stuff up, performing, hanging out with people, then tearing the stuff down. We’re talking four hours, maybe, of good sleep on a night per weekend. She’s home, with the young kids—at that point, they’re just toddlers. She’s like ready to pull her hair out because she’s like: “I don’t have my husband here. He’s gone all weekend, four days in a row.”
By the time I get home, I’m exhausted / she’s exhausted. She’s ready to throw the diapers at my chest—kind of like: “Your turn, buddy!” I’m coming home, like: “Oh my! I actually can sleep in my own bed.” What you have here, obviously, are two people who, in essence, are feeling this sense of duty to what we feel called to do. However, we know that it’s taking a pretty massive toll on our relationship and our intimacy.
So, it was a real struggle.
Dennis: Well, and on the road, you’re a rock star.
Matt: Yes. Oh yes.
Dennis: And at home—
Matt: Yes; exactly. So you know, you’re out—and it’s true—because we’re out there, you pull into a town and everybody’s there to serve—right?—and cook you meals. If you’re in a hotel room, it’s always clean. And then you go home—right?—and there’s stuff everywhere, and she’s not wanting to cook anything. You know, it does—it messes with your head. You can get frustrated and think, “Well, what were you doing while I was gone?”—right?—“Everything’s a mess,”—right? You know, you get in that mentality. She goes, “Well, what were you doing while you were gone—sitting around?—doing nothing?”
Matt: “You know, you play one night for two hours and what do you do the rest of your day? You get in this tit-for-tat contempt situation, where—
Matt: —you start to lose sight of the grace.
Bob: And a guy in that situation will think, “Let’s see—the last four days, I’ve been everybody’s hero.”
Bob: “I come home and all I get is this.”
Matt: You got it—yes.
Bob: “Let’s book a few more days on the road next year because that’s pretty nice to be out there and be admired rather than being home and being the goat.”
Matt: Yes. When you’re in a position where—whether or not you realize it—because I think a lot of folks, and at times in my life, I didn’t realize when you’re in that self-serving/self-centered young-man mindset. It does not serve you well when it comes to that.
You’re right because you think: “Well goodness gracious. I come home; and I’m getting this earful about this, that, and the other thing. And I’m already tired.” It does—it takes a toll on you. So, instead of really doing the right thing, which is having the servant leadership mentality, you’re really screwing everything up because it’s exactly the opposite, like you’re talking about.
Bob: You had a wake-up call that came from Sarah, at one point, that led to a transition in how you managed all of this. It also led to a number one song; right?
Matt: Yes; craziness. So, about seven years ago, my wife sat me down in the midst of all this chaos. Things were—I would have liked to believe things were pretty good between us, but it wasn’t the truth—not for her. So she sits me down at our dining room table. She—I don’t know what it was about that day in particular because, at that point, I think I probably was pretty defensive because of some of the issues we were having. I think the Lord had mercy on me and allowed me to take my guard down and really hear what she was trying to say to my heart.
What she said to me was: “I need you to be a better leader to me. You’re here, but you’re not here. If you’re here, I need you here. I need you present, emotionally and spiritually, serving me and the kids.” She just called me—she was like: “When’s the last time you opened the Bible with me on a regular basis and led me like you’re supposed to lead me?
“When’s the last time you consistently prayed with me, even over the phone, from the road?” It just hit me so hard.
Dennis: Was she crying?
Matt: She was crying; absolutely. I remember—after that conversation, she got up. I’m not sure what she did, but I literally picked up my guitar. I remember that we had our wedding photo sitting on a table next to us. I looked at her in that photo. I remember seeing her face, and her countenance was so hopeful and innocent. It was such a stark contrast between that and what I saw sitting across from me—that her spirit was actually broken and crushed in so many ways. It devastated me. That was the day and the moment that I actually wrote the very first draft of the song, Lead Me.
Bob: Now I hope you weren’t sitting there, thinking, “Oh man, I’m going to get a great song out of this.”
Matt: Well, I didn’t even—here’s the funny part—I wasn’t even going to show it to the guys because it was really personal to me.
It was just something for me and my wife to have. Sarah told me—she says: “You know what? I think that other people need to hear this song.”
I played it for the guys and they thought, “You know, I don’t know if it really fits,” because obviously it wasn’t fully developed—it was just a little work tape at the time. But then, the president of our record label, Peter York, got his hands on that song. He said, “This needs to be heard.” Between him and my wife—that encouragement—we said, “Okay, let’s do it.”
I think once we gathered around the song and finished making it what it is today, we all knew. We were walking out of the writing session with me—I brought out guitar player, Chris Rohmann, and then we were with Jason Ingram. I remember, after writing that song, Jason saying: “Guys, we have to pray right now because I just know that this song is going to impact so many lives. Let’s just pray over it right here, now.”
Bob: And you’ve seen that happen.
Matt: Oh, man; I still can’t believe the amount of feedback that we get as to what this song has sparked in people’s lives.
Dennis: Men needed it.
Matt: Oh, absolutely—even artists / that’s the crazy thing. You know, there are a lot of artists—we get a little competitive with each other. You don’t want to admit you’re a big fan of another guy—right?—sometimes. I’m not so much like that, but I think a little bit of that exists. But you wouldn’t believe some of the artists who’ve come up to me and said, “Hey, man; you know, that song changed my life.”
Matt: Even just from this cruise. I had one of the guys, even before the performance, say, “Hey, I want to let you know that that song really sparked an entire life change in me as a husband and father.”
Bob: Would you guys like to hear Matt sing Lead Me? [Applause]
Matt: Alright. So, men, maybe this song will speak to your heart like she spoke to mine. She really deserves writing credit on this.
[Singing Lead Me]
Now sing it with me; alright?
Bob: Well, that, of course, is the time we were able to spend with Matt Hammitt, back a few months ago, onboard the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. Matt was one of our guests this year; and actually, the conversation went longer. We talked about his son, Bowen—got an update on his medical condition. If our listeners would like, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and hear our ongoing conversation with Matt Hammitt / get the update on his son, Bowen. Again, you’ll find the special web-only conversation with Matt Hammitt when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
And speaking of the cruise, we are about 75 to 80 percent sold out for next year’s cruise. The cruise will take place February 13 through the 18th. We’re leaving from New Orleans this year on Monday morning, February 13, getting back on Saturday the 18th. We have Paul David Tripp, who’s going to be joining us—Kevin DeYoung / H.B. Charles are going to be with us.
We have music from Jeremy Camp. Michael, Jr. will be aboard this year. It’s going to be a great lineup of folks. David Phelps is onboard.
If you’re interested in joining us, now is the time to make your reservations while we still have cabins available. I have been told by the team that, this weekend, the rates go up. So, give us a call at 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’d like to be part of the 2017 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. Join us for a great week of Bible teaching, music—it really is a great event. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com if you have any questions about the cruise; but if you want to take advantage of the special rates available this week, call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week.
Thanks for being with us. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk about the things that you can do to help make faith stick in your kids’ hearts and lives. Kara Powell will be with us, and we’ll talk about what makes a faith a sticky faith. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
©Song: Lead Me
Artist: Matt Hammitt, formerly with Sanctus Real
Album: Pieces of a Real Heart (p) 2010, Sparrow Records
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