Michael W. Smith
Michael W Smith is one of the most popular and most successful singer-songwriters in the world of Contemporary Christian music. Almost always touring, Michael W Smith will bring his inspirational and entertaining sound to Florida on March 5th to the Youkey Theatre in Lakeland. Michael W recently spent time with Full Access Magazine to talk about his musical longevity, his joy of performing and his ever-growing family.
“I always make family first. I made a ‘two-week rule’ that I’m never gone for more than two weeks. I was playing for years where I would come off stage, a car would take me to the airport, then I’m on the jet, on the midnight, then I’m back home the next morning. I did that for years. It was expensive, but it paid off,” Smith explained. “All my children now are married and they all have kids, which is mind-boggling. We just had our eleventh grandchild…crazy. They have all just turned out amazing! We are all so close, so to me, to measure success, all the Grammy Awards and the millions of records sold, all that…I have this amazing family that is the greatest achievement of my life, by the grace of God.”
Smith has had his share of success during his career, which started almost 35 years ago. He has sold over 15 million albums and is a three-time Grammy Award winner. From his 14 Gold albums and 5 Platinum albums, 29 of his songs have gone to number-one. He is also a writer, having 12 books published. Now in his mid-fifties, Michael W talks of adjustments made during his career to keep his energy level up with his demanding schedule.
“I think I’ve just sorta been pretty positive and energetic my whole life. As you get older, you have to work at it just a little bit harder. The days of eating pizza on the bus after a show is over for me. I take care of myself. I eat pretty well and I exercise. I have a trainer and keep my body in shape, everything from your body and mind, emotionally and spiritually trying to keep a balance,” Smith said. “You have to put the work into it as you get older and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling like my best work is yet to come. I’m excited about the World Tour this year. I have a lot going on. I get asked a lot: ‘when are you slowing down?’ It doesn’t seem like I am.”
It doesn’t seem he is slowing down at all. In 2014 alone, Smith released three albums, “Hymns,” “Sovereign” and his fourth Christmas album, “The Spirit of Christmas.” He loves to tour and play all across the globe, finding joy and inspiration while he feels a connection to his fans.
“I feel like I’m connecting with people every single night. You watch a song really connect and know that it was a part of the fabric of their life somewhere. I sing a song like “Friends” and there’s somebody crying out there. They’ve either lost a brother or lost a loved one or a son or a daughter or a friend. That stuff doesn’t get old for me,” Smith explained. “I love to sing in places like Bucharest and Budapest, places that were under communist rule forever. They have only been free for 25, 26, years or so some of these countries, that’s pure joy for me! It doesn’t get any better than that. They’re on fire and they think they’ve died and gone to heaven because I came all the way over there to sing for them…it’s just a totally different thing than in America. That’s just a couple of instances where the music is connecting. That’s pure joy for me every single night and it doesn’t get old.”
Smith’s career started in the early 1980’s when he was a writer for successful singers such as Bill Gaither and Amy Grant, among others. Soon after, he began to tour with Grant as her keyboardists before eventually being her opening act. By the time he released his second album in 1984, he was headlining his own tours. Smith talks about some of the differences in his audiences now that maybe he hadn’t seen in years past.
“The audience is not as young! There’s still a lot of teenagers out there as well, which is fun. The big difference is, and I don’t see this too often, I see families every night, the mom and dad listened to my music in high school and now they turned their kids onto my music,” Smith noted. “The kids are into it, so that’s pretty rare. I’m not saying that happens across the board, kids listen to all kinds of crazy stuff these days…its interesting. Some of it I don’t understand, but it is fun when you see families out there. Like I said that’s pretty rare.”
Smith says he seems to always have a melody pop into his head and is always inspired to share with fans. He keeps his iPhone handy to record any new sounds he may have while he’s away from his piano in his studio. He explains his process of writing new songs, which sometimes includes inspirations from world events, as well as the impression he tries to make on his fans.
“I just really write what’s in my gut, what I’m dealing with. There’s certain times I’m inspired by events. I wrote a song called ‘This Is Your Time’ that was inspired by the Columbine Tragedy. I wrote ‘Friends’ for friends of ours that was leaving town or ‘There She Stands’ about 9/11. Once in a while there are certain events that you just have to write about. Most of the time, I never know what’s gonna come. I’m not very good at saying ‘today at 9 o’clock, I’m gonna sit down with one or two country writers and try to write a hit song,’ I’ve never been very good at that,” Smith explained.
“I think if it’s the first time that they have seen me, I hope that they would say ‘what took me so long to get to the Smitty Show?’ You always want to surprise people. I see every night there’s someone that feels like someone just drug them along. They don’t even know who I am. Usually I’m fine with that, but we have about 225 songs from our catalogue to play. I just think if we play all of these songs that people have never heard, you’re hoping those songs are gonna connect. I say this with all humility, but I obviously want to ‘wow’ people to a certain extent.”