Stories Behind the Songs: In Defiance by Matt Sassano

Matt Sassano recently released In Defiance, his debut EP as part of the Rockfest roster. The EP includes “Not My Name,” a powerful single about identity that rocketed to #1 on CMW’s Christian Rock chart.

In addition to being an artist, Matt is a valued contributor to Rock On Purpose. I had the chance to chat with him about some of the thought processes and inspirations behind each of the songs on the new EP.

“Dear God”

For years, when I was suffering through depression, when I was being abused by my father, when I was in a place where I didn’t think there was any hope for me because of my upbringing and my disabilities, I questioned: is my life going to go anywhere?

During that time when I was suffering with isolation, I would spend a lot of time alone in the house. The only way I figured out how to vent was to write letters to God, asking Him what His purpose was for my life. Vent my frustrations about past abuse. About why every person that I know had been surpassing me in every major milestone. I didn’t know what my calling was.

So I just wrote letters to God, venting in the frustration and loneliness of my bedroom.

This song is the cry to God about the things that we go through. I think that we live in a time right now when people are really questioning God. I think that’s a necessary part of growth. A lot of people have lost people, COVID took a toll on their mental health, and that’s what this song is about. That time of questioning.

I did a video in Nashville with Joel Burris and Jake Jones. The premise of the video is me, in my bedroom, writing these letters to God. It’s this dark, dreary house. When I’m writing the letters, I’m having flashbacks of abuse in my life and different things that I’ve had to overcome. There’s a scene where my father holds up a baby, and on the forehead, it says dyscalculia— which is one of my disabilities. My father never wanted to look at my disabilities. The baby gets dropped on the floor, discarded.

We worked on this video all day, up until 2:00 at night because we had to wait til it got dark. It’s very unique. It all goes back to that message: in your time of isolation, in your time of doubting, just continue to pray. Keep the faith in times when it’s tough.

“Sorry is a Dirty Word”

This is basically a song about that person in your life that you can’t get closure with, because sorry is the one word that they won’t say.

I’ve always talked about really bad issues with my dad. We always had an estranged relationship. So this song is talking about that one person where it’s impossible to gain closure, because they just won’t say sorry— because to them, sorry is a dirty word.

My girlfriend Faith, Azariah, is featured, which is cool. She also struggles with narcissism in her family. So we were able to not just do the song because we’re dating, but because I felt like there was this genuine sense of camaraderie on the message of the song.

“Not My Name”

For “Not My Name,” when I take the stage, I have this hoodie. The hoodie has all these labels, these negative things that people carry around with them or are called throughout their life: loser, retard, moron. I ask the crowd, what labels have you come in here with tonight? And I get a chance to share my experience of the labels that have been put on me through this illustration.

By the end of the show, we not only have people who have disabilities who have been bullied and mistreated, but labels stretch a long way. So I’ve had people that were abused by their fathers and called worthless, or fat, or shamed in many ways.

People have just really resonated with it. I know that we’re on to something with this song. From coast to coast, I’ll have people come back to the merch table and be like “dude, that profoundly made a huge difference.” It’s really a crazy experience.

A lot of times, parents will come in with kids with disabilities. Really, the Christian music scene is amazing, and we’ve addressed so many things. But disabilities are one of the things that are just now being talked about through this song, and in a way that people want to listen. Disability or not, and it’s something everybody can relate to.

“In Defiance”

I think there’s a general outlook in the past few years, with how dark the world has gotten— there’s been an awakening to stand vigilant. To be spiritually awake, to be politically awake, whatever that means to you. I think there’s an awareness of people being awake and aware and wanting to stand in defiance too. Whether it’s personally, or on a global scale. That’s the overarching message of the EP.

The song “In Defiance” features Josiah Prince. It talks about spiritual warfare, standing vigilant against the things in this world that rise against us. 

“Guilty Pleasure”

This is a song about porn addiction. Online porn addiction leads to human trafficking, and can be destructive in so many ways. So in the song, it sounds like I’m talking about a relationship. But there are all sorts of lyrical double entendres. Throughout the story, it talks about a relationship, but as you listen, you can actually kind of tell it’s talking about a porn addiction.

I thought that that was an interesting way to go because it’s something that I’ve struggled with for years. But no one wants to talk about it. It’s not only an issue in the Christian world, but we’ve seen artists like Billie Eilish come out and talk about the damage it’s done to her. We’ve seen Terry Crews talk about how pornography almost destroyed his marriage. It’s something that people outside of church circles are seeing and going yeah, maybe our outlook has been too naive on the subject. In this age of technology we live in, it’s going to be an ever-growing problem. 

That was another song where I was like, “how do I take this theme and make it where people want to listen to it?” It was one thing to take a song about disabilities and make it palatable to the public, and I feel like I had to do that again with “Guilty Pleasure.” Like how do I do that and make it something that people want to listen to?

Get to know Matt Sassano by finding him on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music. Listen to his debut Rockfest Records EP below.

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