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Sarah Gambles
Gospel/contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Mat Kearney performs at The Venue in Salt Lake City on Monday.

SALT LAKE CITY — Mat Kearney garnered his fame by writing music about love and finding God in his life, with one of his most popular songs being “Nothing Left to Lose.” The gospel/contemporary Christian singer-songwriter performed Monday night in Salt Lake City at The Venue.

As a reformed partyer, Kearney became interested in writing and performing music as a means to dedicate his life to finding God.

“I think I became more refined,” Kearney said. “With that seed comes hope and redemption and this idea of there’s more to this world than I had experienced before. When I first started writing music, it was to express that. I was trying to find God and trying to find meaning in my life. That’s what my music was about. It wasn’t to entertain. That’s still a big part of what I do.”

The fun-loving, dance party-starting native from Oregon married his wife, Annie, in 2010 and said that being married adds a bittersweet quality to touring.

“As much as you’re setting out to conquer the world, it’s just part of life, when you’re a part of someone else, to make sacrifices for them,” Kearney said. “She realized she was signing up for the circus together. But on the plus side, we do get to see the world together.”

Kearney said one of his favorite stops on his tour was Salt Lake, and he mentioned enjoying the golfing opportunities in the city. He also visited the Salt Flats to film part of a music video for his song “Ships in the Night.” He said one of his favorite parts of performing is the bond he forms with his audience.

“I love that shared moment,” he said. “You record an album, and it means something to you. They both come together for the show. The songs become bigger than the both of you.”

During the show, he reminisced about a time before his record sales started picking up in which he was just sitting in the bed of his pickup truck with a friend and wondering where they were to go from there. He told the Deseret News that the more his music gets out there, the more vulnerable and open he feels to the world.

“I’m living in my boxers in front of the world a little bit, all the while trying to get people to come to shows and see that I’m true to what I know and believe,” Kearney said.

Throughout the show, Kearney mixed in Utah shoutouts, especially when he freestyled during his song “Undeniable” and mentioned the University of Utah being in the Pac-12.

Fans appreciated that. Carmen Dunford, an audience member from Colorado, said it was her second time seeing Kearney perform and said it only made her love him more.

“I really loved how Mat personalized the show for Salt Lake City,” Dunford said. “I felt like he was really excited to be there. A lot of times, the artist will say that, but I actually believed him. His shows motivate me to buy his music, which I did after the first time I saw him, and I’m going to now after seeing him again.”

Kearney played up the performance, at one point jumping into the crowd and having to be cradled by a security staff member to get back on stage. He also called up a random fan in the audience who said he could drum and let him come up on stage to strut his stuff.

Dunford, along with Sara Jenkins, a Las Vegas native attending BYU, waited for an hour and a half after the show to meet Kearney. When he came out, Jenkins said she was impressed with his sincerity in wanting to make every fan feel welcome and appreciated.

“I really appreciated how genuine he was to each individual that met him,” Jenkins said. “Even though he had been performing all night and was probably sick and tired of meeting people, he was still willing to stop and talk to each fan. I even asked him for a hug, and he gave me one!”