Writing the lyrics to the next song in his life, Kansas City social entrepreneur Father Justin Mathews is pushing the boundaries of indie rock through a new album and breakthrough single.
The debut track “Even the Sea,” released by Mathews’ social venture platform, Not Made By Hands, is out now. A full album — “The Math of Love Unreconciled” — is coming soon.
While Mathews, an Orthodox Christian priest, is best known for his faith — as well as projects flowing from that faith, like the nonprofit Reconciliation Services and the pay-what-you-can restaurant Thelma’s Kitchen — the new album isn’t limited to Christian rock.
Its lyrics delve into wide-ranging aspects of the human experience, touching on topics like mental health, love and loss.
“A lot of times, because I’m an Orthodox Christian priest, people assume that all of my songs are going to be directly on the cuff about my faith,” said Mathews. “But, we live out our faith in the context of our lives. If God cares about everything, we can speak about anything.”
Mathews expects to launch his album through Not Made By Hands, a social venture platform focused on music that goes beyond the conventions of a typical record label or studio. Not Made By Hands is fueled by his commitment to making a positive impact on communities through music, art, and collaboration, he said.
“I envision it becoming an artistic social venture that explores that intersection between creativity, commerce, and community impact,” said Mathews.
The first single — a melodic rock banger — gives a taste of what’s coming in his anticipated album, Mathews said.
“Even the Sea” is a result of teamwork between Mathews and Kevin Clay. It features a talented group of musicians, Mathews said, with Billy Brimblecom Jr. on drums, Chris Foley on bass, and Kevin Clay on synth and programming. Mathews provides vocals and plays guitar.
“The lyrics to Even the Sea are a reflection on how people deal with trauma and view themselves; it really has to do with how they can learn to survive and find healing,” explained Mathews.
“Sometimes it’s a lot easier to hate yourself, and live in survival mode than it is to unpack all the lies that you’ve been told about yourself,” he continued. “So we live unreconciled with ourselves, God, our families, and one another.”
In the song, Mathews likens people to the sea and their connections to hurricanes, emphasizing the complexity of individuals. The single suggests that just as the waters ultimately break free from storms, individuals can release negativity and find inner peace and reconciliation.
“Even the sea lets go of the hurricane eventually, and there’s a sense of calm and peace that comes when you really see the sea as it truly is, ” said Mathews.
The “The Math of Love Unreconciled” album reflects on Mathew’s quest to help others find reconciliation — connecting themselves not only with their faith, but with other people; forming deeper relationships.
“My experience has been that oftentimes it’s more painful to be unreconciled with your brother or sister than it is compared to the original offense,” said Mathews.
He describes his work at Reconciliation Services — a nonprofit that strategically addresses community needs for affordable food access, safe environments to gather to combat social isolation and build positive community connections, and increased access to social and mental health services — as aimed at making reconciliation more possible today than it was yesterday.
“My art is an extension of that desire,” Mathews said. “But it’s also an acknowledgement of how difficult it is, and how painful it can be.”
Reconciliation begins with acknowledging the other person, and coming to understand their story, their pain, their trauma, and then also their hopes and dreams, he said.
“From there, it’s seeking mutual understanding as we come to know one another and our various experiences, and then it’s a willingness to forgive,” said Mathews.
“Today, you have a choice. Our choice is to choose reconciliation, to choose freedom, to choose to become who we truly are, or stay stuck where we are.”
A vision to amplify, empower
For Not Made By Hands’ next moves, Mathews has set his sights on strengthening the partnership with Reconciliation Services, while fostering collaboration with fellow artists within the community to amplify their collective impact, particularly in the realms of mental health and reconciliation.
“I believe in the power of art, to empower communities, and to help us envision a world different from what we see now, ” said Mathews. “I don’t think that just happens through policy. I don’t think that just happens through nonprofits. We need to encounter goodness, beauty and truth in order to have our hearts changed.”
As Mathews promotes “Even the Sea,” he hopes to drop his next single from the album next month.
He is also working on other social venture collaborations, his ultimate goal being to to extend his impact far beyond the music industry.
“But it all starts with good music,” Mathews said.