As a Filipino-Christian songwriter, it is only natural that I am bound to have influences when it comes to my songwriting. There are many, many amazing Christian songwriters out there, including Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall, MercyMe’s Bart Billard, Aaron Shust, Nichole Nordeman, Nicole C. Mullen, Rich Mullins, and the incomparable Bill and Gloria Gaither. I started listening to Christian music in 1990 – even though I only really got to know Jesus in 2001 – and have been writing music about and for Him ever since.
These are my five favorite Christian songwriters, just to share:
1. Steven Curtis Chapman. Chapman has won the Dove Award for Songwriter of the Year 10 out of the past 20 years, which is testament to the quality of his material (and to the predictability of the GMA members, ooh, burn). Chapman writes primarily for himself; his most popular work is arguably I Will Be Here, a wedding staple. Other popular Chapman singles that topped the Christian charts include Live Out Loud, Magnificent Obsession, Yours, and most recently, Heaven is the Face.
2. Michael W. Smith. Smith is probably the most popular crossover Christian artist of the 1990s, thanks to his breakout hit Place in This World. Other popular songs that hit the Hot 100 include I Will Be Here For You (co-written with Diane Warren), For You, and Love Me Good. I have every single Smitty album since Go West Young Man; that’s how much I love Michael W. Smith.
3. Cindy Morgan. A Dove Award winner in 2008 for Songwriter of the Year, Cindy is a prolific songwriter and singer in her own right. She has actually topped my chart four times (without my knowing it), being one of the songwriters behind Michael W. Smith’s Christmas Day, Mandisa’s He Is With You, Brit Nicole’s Set the World on Fire, and Mark Schultz’s phenomenal Letters From War.
4. Ronnie Freeman. Ronnie Freeman is an independent singer and songwriter who has created some of Christian AC/Inspo’s more enduring melodies. He is responsible for Mandisa’s He Is With You (co-writing it with Cindy Morgan) and God Speaking. He is currently #1 on my personal Top 10 as of this writing, having co-written Ashmont Hill’s Show My Love.
5. Matthew West. I saved the Christian songwriter I love best for last. Matthew West is my hero; it is my dream is to one day meet Matthew West. Matthew has this God-given ability to take a lyric and give it the perfect melody in such a way that it just hits you – WHAM! – in the gut, and knocks the wind out of you as you realize the sheer depth of what he just communicated in song. Matthew can do it all – he can sing, he can write, he can play instruments – and do it with excellence. He can write humorous, tongue-in-cheek songs; he can write gut-wrenching ballads; he can write stadium-rocking anthems. He’s had several chart-topping songs, including More, Only Grace, You Are Everything, Something to Say, Save a Place For Me, and his biggest hit to date, The Motions. He’s also written hit songs for some of Christian music’s more popular names, including Natalie Grant (Perfect People), Mandisa (Only the World), and Melissa Greene (Next Step).
Who are your favorite songwriters, Christian or otherwise?