Matt Simpson could have taken his musical talent into any genre when he was first breaking in. However, his heart was anchored with his Christian roots.
Now, more than 10 years later, he’s providing lead vocals and rhythm guitar for a band ironically named My Heart Remains.
Simpson and his band mates, Tony Gargano of Cincinnati, Dan Cress, Georgetown, and Zach Hunter, Lanesville, Ind., make their brand of music anywhere and everywhere they can.
They’ve played at the hugely successful Icthus Festival, an annual Christian rock festival in Wilmore, Ky., and are now working on a CD that Simpson hopes will be finished by the end of the month.
Although he’s only 28 years old, Simpson has plenty of trials from which some of his song writing has its roots.
At only 9 years old, Simpson’s father Gary died, and just four years ago, his mother Carolyn died of cancer.
With his dad’s guitar strapped over his shoulder, Simpson began plunking out his first chords.
He had found a piece of worship music on the ground. The sheet had chords across the top that gave Simpson a place to start.
From that day forward, Simpson had found his niche.
He tinkered with other genres, country, rock and roll, ballads and folk, but still, his heart remained with Jesus.
He wrote some solo music and came away with his first recording project.
He was living in Indiana then, serving as a youth minister and trying to finish his first record.
“After Mom passed away, I needed a vent and I started writing harder music.”
He didn’t finish the project until he moved back to Cynthiana to be closer to his sister, Kim Pickett, after their mother had died.
When the band decided it wanted to record, Simpson turned to Mikey Howard, who had worked with Simpson on his solo recording.
Soon the band had its “Savior” extended play (EP) recording.
“That was the beginning of what My Heart Remains would turn into,” Simpson said. “Mikey honed us into what alley we needed to travel down.”
MHR members soon decided they’d play a live show a month. Soon it evolved into an every weekend commitment.
“It was snowballing,” Simpson said.
Then, the original drummer decided to pursue other things. In came Hunter.
When they started looking for a bass player, it was a little tougher.
“We could never find the right fit,” Simpson said. “They were dedicated to the music, but not necessarily the ministry we wanted to pursue. We had to protect our ministry.”
Out of the blue came a call from a childhood friend and bass player.
Cress had no idea MHR was looking for someone with his talent until that just-checking-in phone call.
“I had no question that Dan would be in our band,” Simpson remembered. “He was a sure thing.”
Fellow MHR members agreed and Cress was on board.
When they started thinking about their next move, it was inevitable that they think recording.
Simpson went back to Howard who advised MHR to go all out this time. Make an investment, he said.
“Spending $10,000 scared us to death,” Simpson said.
They knew they wanted to get the message out from their ministry.
Simpson headed to Nashville to meet up with fellow songwriter Josh Brown.
“I thought Josh was perfect,” Simpson said, noting that MHR wanted to be able to put out some music that would speak to the people without judging.
“Josh had seen both sides,” Simpson said, explaining that the writer had overcome a heroin addiction and the stereotypical life on the road lifestyle.
The writing session started with Brown asking Simpson what made him angry.
His one word reply: Sin.
What drives the world? Success.
Thus the birth of Virtue and Vice, the MHR album that should be wrapped up this month.
“God said he does not want us to be lukewarm,” Simpson said. “Pick a side.”
Simpson said the music on the album reflects the band’s message, which is “We need to worry about our own sin and not judge others.”
The back half of the album offers hope.
“That’s what we all need,” Simpson said.
In the midst of all the band’s growth and revamping, Simpson was also changing his “day job.”
After serving a full time music ministry at Highland Christian Church in Maysville, Simpson was coming home.
He needed something part time that would allow him to build on his music career.
At just the right moment, Antioch Mills Christian Church minister Evan Meyer called to see if Simpson was interested in a music ministry in Harrison County.
“Evan called right when I needed him and here I am,” Simpson said after serving nearly a year as worship leader at Antioch Mills.
Simpson said it has always been his goal to be as honest as possible with his music.
He hopes that the MHR album can convey that feeling.
MHR is on facebook and has its own website at http://www.reverbnation.com/myheartremains.
Anyone interested in booking the band can contact Simpson at MHR@gmail.com.