Matt Daniels currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, with his wife Toni, daughter Alejandra, and cat, Sara.
From his unpublished autobiography (actually, it’s from his unwritten autobiography):
I was born Matthew Zathe Daniels on 17 November, 1973, in Sacramento, California. The whims and wiles of two parents experiencing all the glory of the drug-laden, post-Viet Nam, pre-yuppy 70’s moved us every couple of years or so to different towns and cities all over the United States, until I, my dad, and two sisters ended up in Memphis, TN in 1983, in the city which would soon become home.
I received my first guitar on the last Christmas my family was all together, and later would move to the violin before moving to electric guitar before moving to the bass guitar and before (finally) moving back to the Washburn acoustic I bought for $120.00 my freshmen year of high school. Wayne Leeloy (meet Wayne here, book him at email@example.com), Joey Holland, and Ron Fortner did a short-lived garage band called Mana-Mana (yup, after Sesame Street fame). We played one party, and then I got kicked out of the band because I got religion. Actually, I don’t know why I got kicked out of the band, but I just know that at the second gig there was a different bass player and I didn’t get invited to any of the rehearsals.
But then I did get religion in a big way, and hauled by big ol’ bass over to the Fountain of Love Pentecostal church and tried to pound away some notes while everyone else hollered about in tongues and other ecstatic spiritual excess. It’s funny how lost you can be for someone so found.
In high school I wrote my first story about a guy named Tom (most of my characters start out named Tom and then I have to beat them with a big stick in order to get them to tell me their real names) and people in my family laughed at some of my inaccuracies (play your violin here, I AM the victim!), and I put away the pencil for a long season.
I still wrote volumes of poetry which I safely hid away as I got more and more religious, tried to quit looking at pornography, and found out just how much of your free time can be absorbed by the church.
My vague sense that something was utterly, horribly wrong with the world and that we ought to do something about it was coupled with some great opportunities to travel the world (Australia, Kenya, Mexico) and with an “altar call” to give my life in service to the Lord (i.e., becoming a vocational missionary). The sixteen year old that heard God’s voice (God only knows if it was his or not) laid it out there (defining “laying it out there” as living in a foreign country winning converts to “GEE-sus!”), hooked up with an equally dedicated (did I say, “dysfunctional”) and passionate young woman and together they set off on their quest!
We duly went through university and seminary studies and moved to Uruguay in 1997 with lots of passion and faith and a willingness to listen and learn and for what it was, it was enough.
The next three years were spent resettling in Memphis, finishing seminary studies, making a baby, going to language school, and permanently settling into Montevideo in time for my first (and only so far) nervous breakdown (precipitated by lots of stress, more attempts to stop looking at pornography, and a few days of hanging out with Lamont Moon.
2002 was about waking up and realizing that deep down inside is the heart of an artist and that it was time to open up my eyes and ears and listen and see and write and speak back the gift that I had been given and of which I was scared to death.
2003 up to 2005 has been all about some massive battle between the ego and the gift in trying to define what creative work was supposed to look like while all the while trying to understand and live more faithfully the pastoral vocation that has also been given to me. In 2006 I met Fernando Font and have continued the creative adventure as I have lived and listened and gotten fed up and frustrated and re-resolved time and again in my friendship with him. In 2006 we also shifted and made a 10-year delayed decision to work with Christian Associates International to further foment a grassroots movement of multiplying Christ-communities among the emerging global culture in southern South America (particularly here in Montevideo). As we sat and watched the tattooed, dread-locked, all-out, wine-sipping and cheese-eating Jesus lovers at the Staff Conference in Holland in July 2006, we knew we had found our tribe.
The safety of a community of friends around me, chief of which are my wife, my friends Rodney and Solea, John and Lisa, Jake, James, John M. (and more recently Diego, Leo, Nicky and Ale), has been a fundamental factor in giving myself permission to settle down into my own weirdness and enjoy what I’ve been given.
The song “Medicated in Buenos Aires” was written in 2003 and only put (finally) to music in 2007. It is the first thing I have written where I am starting to hear “me.” There are quite a few more brewing inside, and I am learning more and more to cease defining what the gift needs to look like. It only needs to be.
2007 is all about the Gift, and living the gift and serving God and the Gift and the World and not trying to shape things. That is what I picked up from Fernando Font. The growing community of Christ-followers in the Christ Church sponsored “El Living” is a place where you can regularly find me honing the craft and inviting others to do so as well.